Nigeria: Lessons From the Arowolo Saga

3 December 2017

Recently, there have been high profile cases of domestic violence, of spouse against spouse. One In Ibadan earned a lady lawyer seven years imprisonment for killing her husband. Also in Abuja, the son of a former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was allegedly murdered in cold blood by his wife who stabbed him severally. Before now, what was more common was the killing of wives by their husband.

However, who gets killed and by whom is not as important as the fact that domestic violence in whatever way it rears its ugly head must not be condoned. Its impact on the family, especially the trauma it visits on the children, is incalculable. The stigma it leaves behind can trail a family for generations.

Some years back, when a similar incident took place, we had cause to speak up against it then. As at that time, our argument remains the same as we recall that particular unfortunate situation.. We hope that prison terms will help in deterring couples from choosing that path as the way out of whatever is the problem. We can only add that before the harm is done, a visit to a marriage counsellor can save an ugly outcome of a messy marital relationship. That editorial is here reproduced.

Akolade Arowolo, as a young man, newly married, had plans for the future with his banker wife, Titilayo. But that plan was derailed on June 24, 2011 which curiously was his birth day. On that day, he was alleged to have stabbed his wife and mother of his only child 76 times till she died. But that dastardly act ceased to be an allegation as soon as Justice Lateefat Okunnu of the Ikeja High Court, Lagos, after a 31 month trial, and based on overwhelming evidence by witnesses, found him guilty and sentenced him to death.

Before that fateful day, the couple who were barely two years old in their marriage, were reported to have had a stormy relationship causing his late wife to flee on 10 occasions as a result of the man's perceived fiery temper. But on each occasion, she had to come back home, much against the warnings of her father, because she believed that her seemingly remorseful husband was indeed repentant. It was also said that she was, indeed, planning to divorce her husband. This was inexplicably delayed and it turned fatal.

A lot has been said and written about domestic violence. The most familiar is wife battering or a woman poisoning her husband's food. But this particular incident of a man being so furious to the point of giving his wife 76 knife stabs and killing her in the process is unprecedented and bestial in its cruelty.

However, we are also persuaded to ask, did this lady not know this man before deciding to live with him as his wife? Was the marriage a product of one of those child-like infatuations based on the stupid aphorism that the first impression is the best impression? Was there no courtship during which period the couple would have found out things about themselves? Were their parents well-disposed to the relationship and were satisfied enough to give their consent? Again, are we just to run with the impression that it was all the man's fault, that the woman did not play any role in the circumstances that led to her untimely death? Could she have provoked him to the point that he could not be placated? Much as we are stridently against murder under any guise, some of these questions are germane to the issue. But they are academic now because the lady is dead and the man is on his way to death.

We are repulsed by the immensity of this wickedness regardless of what might have taken place between the couple that led to the unfortunate incident and therefore agree with Justice Okunnu that the society is better off without the likes of Arowolo. Even if his wife was a monster, he had the option to return her to her parents. Terminating her young life ought not to have been part of the calculation.

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