Mon­day Philips Ekpe ar­gues that peo­ple should not sur­ren­der their se­cu­rity to oth­ers


The story is sor­did. Even though it is still legally within the realm of al­le­ga­tions, as the court is yet to pro­nounce its ve­rac­ity, the graphic de­tails of the hor­ri­ble mur­der of Bar­ris­ter Otike Odibi ear­lier this month in La­gos are heart-wrench­ing. His wife, Udeme Odibi, ac­cord­ing to re­ports, killed her hus­band, tore open his bowel, sev­ered his gen­i­tals from his groin and forced them into his palm. There­after, prob­a­bly when the grav­ity of her ac­tions dawned on her, she at­tempted to com­mit sui­cide. Their neigh­bours then promptly in­ter­vened to save her life and pos­si­bly en­hance the chances of jus­tice de­liv­ery. At the mo­ment, the coun­try and fol­low­ers of this tragic, gory drama around the world are in shock, be­wil­dered by yet an­other tale of a spouse snuff­ing life out of the part­ner.

Apart from birth, there is no other ex­is­ten­tial phe­nom­e­non as cer­tain as death. Yet, the kind of pas­sage wit­nessed in the Odibi fam­ily is unique mainly for its para­dox. The home is meant to be a safety zone for its mem­bers, a place of refuge from the stress out­side. For cou­ples to truly ac­tu­alise their mar­i­tal ex­pec­ta­tions, they should be open to each other in many ways. For them also, the pledge, “to have and to hold”, is a re­quire­ment for emo­tional, so­cial and in­tel­lec­tual bliss. That means a rea­son­able level of vul­ner­a­bil­ity be­comes un­avoid­able. How­ever, mar­riage, like the thought pro­cesses and ac­tions of the per­sons in it, is not al­ways straight­for­ward. While shared or dis­cov­ered in­for­ma­tion about bank state­ments, landed prop­er­ties, con­tents of hand­sets and re­la­tion­ships draw some spouses closer, it can also tear oth­ers apart, some­times fa­tally.

No re­search is needed to prove that do­mes­tic mur­ders and de­lib­er­ate in­juries are gen­der-blind, so, no war of the sexes makes sense. It’s hu­man­ity that’s on trial here. Why should two hu­man be­ings who prom­ise to pro­tect and love each other be­come mor­tal foes? Does the de­gen­er­a­tion hap­pen grad­u­ally or sud­denly? Again, no two mar­riages are the same. It there­fore means that for what­ever pur­pose, even when some ba­sic facts cut across mat­ri­mo­nial unions, each case should be viewed and han­dled dif­fer­ently. This of­ten poses some chal­lenges to mar­riage coun­selors, many of whom are usu­ally armed only with lec­tures on for­give­ness. As widely ac­cept­able and in­dis­pen­si­ble as this virtue, its rec­om­men­da­tion for and ap­pli­ca­tion to es­pe­cially by part­ners who might al­ready be ir­re­triev­ably wounded in their souls could be tricky. There are nu­mer­ous ex­am­ples of cou­ples who pro­nounce par­don pub­licly but still strike like a co­bra soon after­wards.

No doubt, both spir­i­tual and ter­res­trial spheres of life can be en­hanced by un­der­stand­ing the kind of plea for for­bear­ance made by Rev­erend John Adeyemo at Odibi’s fu­neral. As he put it, “We may be think­ing of the cir­cum­stances that led to his death, but please leave ev­ery­thing to God. He is the owner of ev­ery in­di­vid­ual. He takes any soul that he pleases. I want ev­ery­one here to know that death is in­evitable. We thank God that our brother died in Christ. There­fore, I want to be­lieve that it is only God that can take a soul. When we all get to heaven, what a day of re­joic­ing that will be! When we all see Je­sus, we’ all sing and shout the vic­tory... Otike-Odibi’s fam­ily, I have just but one mes­sage: for­give­ness! Our Lord Je­sus taught us to for­give. He laid the heavy bur­den of for­giv­ing oth­ers upon us with such a clause when he says, ‘for if you do not for­give men when they sin against you, your heav­enly Fa­ther won’t for­give your sins.’”

That ad­mo­ni­tion does not negate the les­sons that should be learnt by the liv­ing. Odibi has left the scene in a grue­some man­ner. Go­ing by most of the eu­lo­gies from his daugh­ter, rel­a­tives, friends, col­leagues and clients, he was an easy go­ing man who could sac­ri­fice any­thing to bring hap­pi­ness to those around him, at his own per­sonal dis­com­fort many times. Un­for­tu­nately, his wife and sus­pected killer saw him oth­er­wise. To her, he was a wom­an­iser, some­one who had no re­gard for his mar­i­tal vow of chastity. Per­haps, the fate that be­fell the man’s man­hood was a prod­uct of his as­sailant’s wild imag­i­na­tion about his per­ceived sexual reck­less­ness. Now, he is gone. What made him stay put till he met his need­less, bit­ter end? The very night he was slaugh­tered, he called his mother, sis­ter and neigh­bour and in­formed them about the woman’s threat and ap­par­ently did noth­ing to shield him­self from harm. He seemed to put his trust in third par­ties who were clearly not in a po­si­tion to grasp the weight of his present dan­ger. Was he naïve or un­guarded like many oth­ers? I hope the late Odibi was not one of those peo­ple who over-es­ti­mate the opin­ions of oth­ers in tak­ing crit­i­cal, per­sonal de­ci­sions. The ear­lier one re­alises the folly in al­ways think­ing of what peo­ple would say, the bet­ter. Hu­man views are of­ten char­ac­terised by self­ish­ness, di­ver­sity, in­con­sis­tency, un­in­formed premises and sen­ti­men­tal con­clu­sions. The way to go is to seek coun­sel, lis­ten to and care­fully con­sider ad­vice but know that your se­cu­rity rests prin­ci­pally with you.

Time has come for in­di­vid­u­als to reexamine the is­sue of “till death do us part.” Mar­riage is a no­ble in­sti­tu­tion but in the hi­er­ar­chy of liv­ing, life it­self takes pri­or­ity. Di­vorce or sep­a­ra­tion should not be glam­ourised un­der any cir­cum­stance but the idea held by some peo­ple that the worst thing that can oc­cur in mat­ri­mony is be­ing rub­bished reg­u­larly. While it is true that the Bi­ble says that God hates it, there is noth­ing that in­di­cates he prefers blood­shed. No­body should con­sciously or care­lessly walk into the grave for what­ever rea­son.


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