“Bolanle, battered wife of deposed Deji of Akure dies.“ – July, 13, 2011.
“Akolade Arowolo stabs wife to death, cuts her into pieces.” – June, 29, 2011
“How lawyer stabbed husband to death in Ibadan.” – February, 3, 2016
The similar thread in these tragic headlines is that death became the by-product of violence, suffered at the behest of a hitherto loving husband or wife.
Marriage is reputed to be a sacred institution. By faith, it embodies a lifelong commitment commanded by God, not a death sentence like many would assume. Our faith also emphasizes the sanctity of marriage, be it monogamous or polygamous.
The BACKSTORY to this piece, as reported by a Nigerian newspaper reads thus:
“A certain man identified as Oyelowo Ajanaku Oyediran was on Tuesday, 2nd of February, 2016, stabbed to death by his wife, Yewande Ayediran nee Fatoki, in Ibadan, Oyo state capital.
According to reports on Havilah Magazine, Yewande, a lawyer, is the daughter of a Venerable and had been married to Oyediran for three years without a child.
On Monday night, she heard her husband had a son outside wedlock.
This, reports alleged, generated into a heated argument between the couple which resulted in a squabble and the eventual stabbing of her husband on the shoulder.
Oye had gone to the hospital to be treated and the stab wound on the right shoulder was stitched.
Thereafter, he went home to sleep. However, at the early hours of Tuesday morning while he was still sleeping due to the effect of the drugs he had taken, his wife reportedly slaughtered him and locked the door refusing to call for help and ignoring his weak plea for help.
After a while, reports say his aggrieved wife called on the Landlady who upon response saw him in the pool of his own blood. He died few minutes later.
The lady, having the powerful backing of her family is reportedly on the run and hiding from the police.
According to claims by her alleged powerful political family, she is mentally unstable. The general belief is that the Fatokis are presently using all their influence to cover the story surrounding the death of the deceased.
As at press time, the story has taken a new dimension as Yewande is allegedly claiming to be innocent.
Meanwhile, there is yet to be any official confirmation of the incident from the police.”
This sad occurrence – another needless death – thrusts upon us (society) the need to be proactive when one of our own is challenged in a violent marriage. This story underscores the significance of a timely intervention by law via Judicial Separation or ultimately, a Divorce – when violence is prevalent in marriage.
While many crave a marriage filled with love, fulfilment, beautiful memories and a promise of a better tomorrow. In spite of this lofty aspiration, if this never materialises, should anyone be condemned to a life of nothingness and death? The law provides an answer.
Realists are forthright with describing marriage. They opine that a perfect marriage is sentimental fiction. They believe that marriage is never a joyride but an institution whose strength will continually be tested. I accept that it is a noble gesture to ensure it survives turbulent times. But, when is it reasonable to give up on a troubled marriage? I hold the view that it is safe to walk away when sanity and life is threatened by violence.
From my experience as attorney, there is a thin line between love and murderous hate. Violence makes the difference. Domestic violence is intentioned intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another.
The Prohibition Against Domestic Violence Law No 15, 2007 of Lagos State attempts to intervene. Under the law, spousal battery, forceful ejection from home, forced financial dependence or economic abuse, harmful traditional practices, substance attacks such as acid baths, spousal abuse and sexual assault are offences. However, very few people seek refuge under this legislation, they are wary of airing their private affairs in public. How do victims rationalise having their partners arrested and charged to court?
In Nigeria, the society thinks you should fight to the death for the sustenance of an ailing marriage. Religious, cultural and traditional systems have entrenched this belief. In addition, marriage confers cherubic garbs on persons lucky to have contracted it. The pressure heaped on eligible spinsters and bachelors is palpable. They are continually reminded of their single status at every turn; on social media, at place of worship, institutions of higher learning, family shindigs, etc. In contrast, divorce is a destroyer and spoliator. People whose marriages fail are treated with derision, and condemned to a life of guilt.
The society comprises the father, mother, brother, sister, uncle, aunty, pastor, boss, counsellor, doctor, police officer, lawyer, co-worker, judge, friend etc. They are privy to the challenges encountered by reason of their relationship to the people married, but are hardly honest to deal with the issues of domestic violence vis-a-vis the inevitability of a separation or divorce.
Oftentimes, the victims of forced death in a destructive marriage understood that something had to be done for self-preservation. They saw danger hovering around as they stayed back in their tumultuous relationship. They conferred with more experienced people, they were admonished – to be more submissive, fast and pray, be quiet and be more given to bending over backward to please their better-half. They weighed all options. They gave their best to make it work because they knew where the shoes pinched. But fate still dealt a fatal blow in the end.
In Nigeria, couples have the choice of having a customary marriage or a statutory marriage. A customary marriage is a marriage contracted under the native law and custom. A statutory marriage is a marriage contracted under the Matrimonial Causes Act.
The legal implication of this choice is that, while a statutory marriage can only be dissolved by statutory grounds provided in the Matrimonial Causes Act, a customary marriage can be dissolved by the customary court.
Grounds for Divorce
By virtue of Section 15(1) of Matrimonial Causes Act of 1970, a court has the jurisdiction to make an order dissolving a statutory marriage only on the sole ground that, the marriage has broken down irretrievably. To arrive at a conclusion that a marriage has broken down irretrievably one must prove the scenarios set out in sub-section (a) to (h) of Section 15 (2) of the Act:
- That either party has wilfully and persistently refused to consummate the marriage.
- That either of the married party has committed adultery and the partner can no longer tolerate his/her partner.
- That either party can no longer tolerate the behaviour of the second party.
That either of the married party has been abandoned for up to one year from the day the petition was filed
That both parties have been living apart for a period of two or three years from the day the petition was filed and have no objection with regards to the dissolution.
- That either party has failed to comply with restitution of conjugal rights for at least a year.
- That either party of the married couple has been missing for such a long time and has thus been presumed dead.
- An attempt to murder or unlawfully kill the petitioner.
- Found to be of unsound mind and unlikely to recover.
- Rape, sodomy, or bestiality.
- Habitual drunkenness.
- Frequent convictions for crime in respect of which the respondent has been sentenced and imprisoned for a period not less than three years.
If a victim of domestic violence considers divorce too abrasive an option, he or she could consider judicial separation in the mean time. During this interlude, parties could still stumble on redemption for their union. But the sad reality is that violent spouses are rarely rehahabilitated.
I hold the humble view that there is no justification for society’s expectation of a perfect life in matrimony. I also believe that the love for religion or traditional beliefs should not keep people shackled to a marriage easing them to a morgue.
What do you think? Please feel free to use the comment section below.
Editor’s note: This article was initially published by the author on www.hightowerlawyers.com on February 16, 2016.