By Francis Ewherido
Last Sunday, we read about a 60-year-old man, Mr. Cletus Agulaka, who killed his 20-year old daughter, Onyinye Agulaka, over—wait for it—a missing torch light. Onyinye, it was reported, was due to do her traditional marriage the next day. The father, who came back home drunk from an outing, murdered Onyinye in cold blood with a machete while she was asleep.
Two days earlier in Ikorodu, Lagos, a 24-year-old teacher and mother of two, Olamide, had stabbed her husband to death “in self-defence,” according to her. She said her husband habitually beat her at the slightest disagreement and she would run out of the house. But on this day, he locked the door, so she had no escape route. She had to defend herself with a knife and dealt a fatal blow, even though he had no intention of killing the husband. Issorite. The husband is not alive to tell his own side of the story, but neighbours did corroborate her version that her late husband was wife beater.
This knife-related death had been preceded by another in May in another part of Lagos, Sangotedo, where a lawyer, Udeme Odibi, slammed a frying pan on her husband’s head before killing him with a new set of knives she just purchased. She did not stop there; she ripped open her husband’s bowel, cut off his penis and placed it on his hand. I have been wondering why she did that. Third parties’ account said the three-year-old marriage was riddled with domestic violence, fuelled by accusations and counter accusations of adultery. Even if the man was the adulterer, why cut off his genitals after killing him? Once he was dead, his penis was also gone, so there was no way he could have committed more adultery.
Finally, there was also the celebrated case of Maryam Sanda, who allegedly stabbed her husband, Bilyamin Bello, to death in Abuja as a result of unbridled jealousy and anger.
These cases got me thinking; does it mean if majority of Nigerians have access to guns, there will be more domestic deaths? Guns are certainly more lethal than knives. Like guns, should we now require people to get permits before they can own knives and machetes? Of course we all know this is impracticable. Knives, especially, are so important to our daily living that life would grind to a halt without them. There are very few meals we can prepare without using a knife at one stage or the other.
So what do we do? People need to control their mental state. The knife belongs to the kitchen. It is to help prepare meals basically, not a weapon for self-defence or to threaten our family members. If you look at all the cases above, they all boil down to the mental state of the accused. The family of Agulaka said he was stone drunk that night and has been behaving abnormally and molesting family members, although he had the presence of mind to know the enormity of his crime and sought to escape through the window.
In the case of Olamide, the husband had been abusing her, but she stuck around because “he is husband of my youth and we already have two children.” Even when her extended family saw danger and advised her severally to divorce the late husband, she refused. Now, the husband is not only gone, she faces an uncertain future, so where is the marriage she cherished so much? I remain an apostle of the indissolubility of marriage, but once domestic violence and abuse are involved, marriage loses its saltiness. It is only good to be trampled under the foot. Her family should have been relentless in ending the marriage.
Our third case is pure spousal rage and madness. The husband saw death coming, but did not act. His extended family knew his life was in danger, but decided to allow the couple sort it out. Even Udeme’s family probably knew her capacity for unbelievable violence, but decided to respect the couple’s privacy. I have said it many times here; once there is threat to life in a marriage, loved ones, especially family, must intervene. The outcome of non-intervention does not do all parties—husband, wife and the extended families—any good. This was also the case with Maryam and we have talked about it here before.
Now, before you stay in a marriage to the extent that you begin to see knife as a weapon of defence or attack, sort out the mounting resentment, anger, hate or simply walk away from the marriage. I have said it before, marriage is meant to be enjoyed not endured. Marriage is serious business, but do not take it too serious, lest you hate, resent or go into a rage.
Those who enjoy their marriages look in all directions, but focus mainly on the positives. If all spouses were to focus on the negatives only, no marriage will survive. The happiest of spouses have the good, bad and ugly traits. They throw clothes and socks all over the room like little babies, they are bad cooks, they lie, they cheat, they do not accept their faults, they have problems apologising when they are wrong and instead behave like the victim, they take their spouses for granted and they mess up the bathroom and the kitchen. They have all the horrible traits and habits that tear other marriages apart.
But you know what? They are also loving spouses, kind hearted, great cooks, good providers, trustworthy spouses and so on. So what does the other spouse do? He/She focuses on these wonderful attributes and pays less attention to the negatives. He/She also realises that he/she is also not perfect and that makes him/her less critical of the spouse.
When you have this mindset, a knife remains what and where it is: a tool for cutting food items, not a weapon and its home is the kitchen, not other parts of the house. Nobody can convince me that there is love in marriages where there is domestic violence or where knives are seen as weapons, not as utensils. How do you strike somebody you love, how can you raise a knife to stab a loved one. It is not just rage taking over people, there is no love and what is marriage without love? Carcass!
People will treat you the way they like, but your response is 100 per cent yours.