The death of popular Christian worship singer, ‘Ekwueme crooner’, Osinachi Nwachukwu, has again brought to the front burner the issue of domestic violence.
As news of her death spread on Saturday morning, friends, members of her church and music artists and other Nigerians criticized her for staying in the marriage despite violent attacks from her husband.
Osinachi’s death makes it almost five of such cases this year alone.
Before Osinachi’s death, few days before Osinachi’s death, a 50-year-old man, Benjamin Ogudoro, was arrested for allegedly setting on fire his wife, Chinyere and his brother-in-law, Ifeanyi Edoziem, at their apartment on House 5 Oteyi community, Abule- Ado, in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area of the State.
The 46-year-old Chinyere just returned from Scotland the same day. The couple have had a series of marital crises prior to the incident. The husband had pretended to have reconciled with the wife carrying out the dastardly act.
This is not to say that men have not also had their own share of domestic abuse.
However, the gospel singer’s death has now opened up a flood of discussion on domestic abuse, with a major point of controversy bordering on whether a victim of spousal violence should walk away from the marriage.
Among the Christian community, divorce is not even considered a word to be mentioned, and this has been the major reason couples remain in abusive marriages, praying and hoping for a change of heart on the part of the violent partner.
Statistics from the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) showed that in 2021, the agency dealt with 2,584 domestic and sexual violence cases for adults, out of which women were the greatest victims with 2,349 cases. The data showed that Alimosho Local Council recorded the most number of domestic violence cases, closely followed by Ifako-Ijaiye, Ikorodu and Kosofe local councils.
The DSVRT data further showed that 143 cases were reported in January 2021 with women accounting for 133 of the total number of survivors. Most of the women were aged between 18 and 45 years. Again, Alimosho local council-led in the number of cases, closely followed by Kosofe and Ikeja local councils.
An Abuja-based lawyer and human rights activist, Deji Adeyanju, while airing his views, said victims of domestic violence should divorce as many as ten men than remain in an abusive relationship and die.
Speaking, Adeyanju said the only way to stop the issue of domestic violence was to punish those involved in the act, while stressing that victims should not be made to stay in such a relationship.
According to Adeyanju: “We like to tolerate bad behaviour in this part of the world; you can see in the west that once there is any physical assault, people start laying complaints, and it goes straight into your records. We need to start massive sensitization of the need for victims of domestic violence to be proactive and take steps.
“Social media is not a court of law; it’s only good for the fun, noise-making, it’s like what we tell rape victims; have you filed a complaint? You should file a complaint, and it should be in the record of the abuser.
“We have many issues of deaths in relationships because they have bottled-up domestic violence. Once somebody slaps, beats, or threatens you with a knife, run to the police station and file a complaint so that the person will be invited.
“The law places an obligation on the person who alleges that he must prove. When you make claims of domestic violence, it’s imperative on you that you must assert and prove it. I would say that it’s important we do a lot of sensitization for women, and some men suffer domestic violence in Nigeria. We need to sensitize the police also on the issue of domestic violence. Sometimes, you see people saying the police can be nonchalant when it comes to the issue of domestic violence.
“Under the Violence Against Person’s Prohibition Act, 2015, our law prohibits it and also the Protection Against Domestic Violence law. It’s important to note that the only way to prevent domestic violence is to make examples of those involved in it, so our legal system must be ready to punish perpetrators so that it serves as a deterrent to those who want to try the same.”
The blame game has not spared religious leaders who often encourage spouses to remain in such marriages.
However, a Lagos-based lawyer, Samuel Okoli, disagreed with such a notion, stressing that those blaming clergymen for domestic violence lacked knowledge of the Bible.
Quoting 2nd Thessalonians 3 verse 2, Okoli insisted that God is against victims staying in an abusive relationship.
He noted that Osinachi would still be alive if she had worked out on her abusive marriage.
He said: “I think it’s wrong to shift the blame of domestic violence on religious leaders; such a person does not understand the Bible. There is an issue in the Bible that you should not divorce, but when you can no longer cohabit with your spouse, then it’s better you leave because if you die in that condition, you will go and face your creator while your spouse will keep on living.
“So, even the Bible, 2nd Thessalonian talks about God delivering us from wicked companions. You can’t cohabit with someone who has the intention to kill you under the ground of marriage; it’s wrong because if he kills you, he has committed murder.
“Biblically, he would be punished, and by the law, he would also be punished. The law will not look at the Bible or Quran when they want to punish you. When you know that your life is in danger and the possibility of physical abuse by your partner, it’s best you leave the marriage. The Bible allows that. It says you should separate from such a companion. Your failure to leave means that if one person kills the other, the law will hold the person; the law will not look at what the Bible says because you have committed murder and even the Bible is against murder. Osinachi’s husband is in police custody now; if the woman had left, the husband wouldn’t be in the police net, and if he is found guilty, the punishment is life imprisonment or death sentence, depending on the court’s verdict. She would have fulfilled what the Bible commanded if she had separated herself.”
On what the law says, Okoli said: “The law stated that you leave; for instance, the Lagos State government has a department at the State command where if your spouse beats you, you can go and report; and it’s a punishable offense. The Lagos State criminal code faults it. The law is against it.”
The constitutional lawyer further blamed domestic violence on what he termed Psychological assumption and Stockholm syndrome of the victims.
“Why they stay in the relationship, you can look at it from the psychological perspective because domestic violence victims usually have feelings for their oppressors. I have been at events where some girls are saying they love guys that are hard on them, which is a psychological problem. I don’t know if you have heard about Stockholm syndrome? A situation where a person starts developing positive feelings for their abusers.
“Also, abusers are under the erroneous belief that once you are married, only on cheating can you depart; that is not true. The Bible has made it clear in 1st Thessalonians that deliver us from evil companions; if your companion is evil, then separate yourself.
“And once you stay, both the victim and oppressor won’t have it funny; it becomes a double-edged sword.”
Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, the Special Assistant on Media and publicity to the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, also makes remarks on the stand of the church about divorce in case of domestic violence.
Pastor Adebayo said that divorce is a sin in Christianity, adding that if a man/woman is abusing their partner, it means the marriage was not ordained by God.
“Domestic violence is unacceptable, ungodly and unbiblical as far as the church is concerned anywhere in the world.
“There’s no church that condones it and anything that’s not biblical is not acceptable in the church. There is no church that will preach divorce because the Bible says God hates divorce and the church can’t do otherwise. If you hear any relationship that ends up this way, ask if they sought the consent of God before they came together. The Bible says what God has joined together, let no man to put asunder; but what about the one God did not join together.
“The fact that a woman and man go to the altar to get married does not mean God brought them together or the fact that they go to the registry does not mean God brought them together. If you see a man beating or abusing his wife or otherwise, apparently God did not bring them together. In any divorce, it is either the couple or both were insensitive to God before they came together.”
He further appealed to singles to listen to God and be spirit inclined before choosing a partner as that is one of the ways to avoid abusive marriage.
“I appeal to the singles not to be blinded to generosity or the fact that a man is a celebrity or from a wealthy home, they should ask God and their spirit if it’s a man or woman they can stay with, but if they are blinded to sentimental things by the time those things are no longer there, problems will start.”
However, Pastor Honest Owunari of the Redeemed Christian Church of God said that in case of domestic violence, the church permits separation till the offending partner changes.
According to him, a woman or man being abused will be separated by the church not divorced because that is a sin.
He, however, added that such a woman while being separated prays for her husband to change his ways or remain single and never remarry for the rest of her life.
“As a church, we advocate separation in cases of domestic violence. This is the best time for the church to take a stand on it and tell the congregation that separation for a period of time is necessary in cases like this.
“Within that period, we hope the other party will change. In the case of Osinachi, if she had left the house, who knows the young man would have changed; divorce is not right but violence is a sin and could lead to murder. What the man has done is a sin and it’s not right and the solution is for the church to tell anyone going through such to be separated.
“For a woman that is separated, her duty is to pray for her husband to change his life, move on with her normal life but is not allowed to remarry,” he stated.
Also, Obed Minchakpu, a Christian activist advised the church to be more proactive and take up the challenge of educating young couples about domestic violence.
“I feel bad about the death of Osinachi. It is ungodly for anyone to take the life of another person. Osinachi’s death in the hands of her husband who should have been the person protecting her is tragic and should be condemned by all.
“I learnt that her husband is a preacher and is involved in Christian ministry. His character does not reflect the person of Jesus Christ. The Church in Nigeria and Christian leaders need to take up the challenge to end domestic violence in Christian homes.
“There’s a need for biblical-based teachings on marriage and matrimonial matters if the Church in Nigeria is to live up to the purpose of its existence, that of winning lost souls for Christ,” he said.
Similarly, a Roman Catholic Priest, Rev. Fr. Oluoma Chinenye John, the Parish priest of St John-Mary Vianney Trademore Estate, noted that Osinachi’s death was avoidable.
He said there was nothing righteous about enduring life-threatening violence in marriage.
According to him, whatever made the singer stay in the abusive marriage was ungodly.
“Death in marriage by the hand of an abusive spouse is avoidable, don’t honour it. We all woke up to the sad news of the death of Osinachi, a gospel singer, famously known for the song EKWUEME. Suddenly, the cause of her death started filtering. I’m now reading that she died from injuries from violence by her husband.
“The news going round now is that she’s been enduring this violence for years. So, her death, for me, was avoidable. Whatever made her stay in that marriage, despite constant life-threatening violence CAN NEVER be godly. There’s nothing pious and righteous about enduring this violence for years. So, her death, for me, was avoidable.
“There’s nothing pious and righteous about enduring life-threatening violence till death. The Bible never says “blessed are those who are killed by their husbands or wives, for theirs is the kingdom” nope, it rather says “Blessed are you when men persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account, rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in heaven,” Mtt 5:11-12.
“If spousal violence is the cause of Osinachi’s death, she won’t be the first, I don’t know if she will be the last, but I hope her case will help,” Father Oluoma said.