“Domestic violence remains one of the most vicious wars that humanity has ever ignored” – Adewumi Oluwadiya
On the front row, Pastors sit on the left and the immediate family on the right. Abimbola’s husband cuts a fine picture of bereavement in a somber Dolce & Gabbana 3-piece suit and dark sunglasses. Incidentally, Abimbola had bought him the suit on her last trip to Dubai. ‘That was the only good thing about her,’ Seun thinks magnanimously of his dead wife, ‘she had good taste.’ Every so often, he unfurls a handkerchief from his pocket to dab at his face without lifting the sunglasses off his eyes. The handkerchief remains dry. He wonders when this circus would be over. For two weeks now, he’d been bombarded by all kinds of elements – the police arresting then releasing him after a hefty bribe from his parents; Abimbola’s parents wailing hysterically and hurling accusations at him; the pastors agitating and insisting on ‘a befitting funeral; ‘and the children crying for their mother. To increase his aggravation, the dailies blew the situation out of proportion blasting headlines – “Lawyer beaten to death by husband!” “Famous Lawyer falls Victim of Abuse!” “Domestic Violence Claims Life of Prominent Lagos Lawyer!” ‘Gossip-mongers, all of them!’ he grouses, ‘None of them knows what they’re talking about.’
Sitting next to his dad, Seun Jr. is as smartly attired in a dark suit and tie. He’s wearing his first pair of sunglasses. He is not restless but as depressed as a 6-year old could be grappling with the loss of his mother but not fully comprehending the grim finality of death. He misses his mom awfully. He thinks, ‘if she was still alive, she would have allowed him to wear his batman sneakers and to have Rice Crispies for breakfast instead of the nasty yam and egg that Aunty Jane had forced him to eat.’ ‘Who even invited her to their house, anyway?’ he questioned in his mind.
Teni is sandwiched between her paternal grandmother and her father, and leaning heavily into her grandma’s side. A pretty picture in a flowery blue and white dress, she’s sucking her thumb and starring unblinking at the coffin in front of the church. Her unwavering gaze suggests she’s puzzling the chaotic events of the last two weeks which has culminated in this funeral service. What she’d most like is her mommy. Indeed, if she’d been here, Teni would have crawled into her lap and fallen asleep, at peace despite the tumult all around her.
‘Why does this child still suck her thumb at 4 years old?!’ Seun’s mother gripes as she surreptitiously pulls Teni’s thumb from her mouth. She heaves a weary sigh noting one more thing she’d have to correct in the children’s upbringing. ‘’Mrs. High-flying Abimbola’ was not much of a mother at all. And she definitely was not what one would call a good wife. Look, how she’s turned our family into a spectacle,’ she bellyached. ‘May God deliver us from abami eda.’ She shakes her head. Dressed in a blue and green ankra iro and buba, she’s tied the same cloth as headtie to keep a low profile. Indeed, she’s keeping her head low so as not to draw untoward attention. She didn’t need anyone having more to say about her family on account of that no-good woman.
Sitting to her left, Seun’s dad matches his wife’s low-profile ankra plus he’s donned only the buba and not the full agbada. It was the same andco they’d used for the third day of his mother’s week-long funeral. Holding his fila in hand, he dozes; lulled by the Pastor’s carrying on. ‘God knows he’d warned the upstart to make the service short and to the point. We still have to bury the woman and drive back to Ogbomoso today,’ he muses. ‘Traditionally, mummy and he should not be here since the person who died was like a daughter to them and it is bad omen to bury one’s children. But Mummy had insisted they attend in order to support Seun lest people tried to stir up more trouble. The boy has already been arrested and taken to jail; what more did he have to suffer?!’ he submitted.
‘‘Ina jo mi!’ moans Abimbola’s mother sitting on the other side her grandson. Silent tears stream down her face as a thousand recriminations scroll through her mind. She mops her face with her iborun. ‘I should not have told her to go back to her husband when she came home three weeks ago with that frightful gash across her face.’ ‘I should have told her to go get her children and come back home.’ ‘I should have called his parents again, to rein in their rabid dog of a son.’ ‘I should have told their pastor to counsel him again.’ ‘I should have confronted him myself and warned him to stop beating my daughter. I should have been like a market woman, cursing and fussing, to put some fear into him.’ ‘I should have followed my sister to the Baba as she suggested; we would have sorted him out.’ ‘In fact, I should still follow my sister to the Baba; this boy needs to be taught a lesson…”adiye da mi l’agbo nu, ma a fo l’eyin.’ These thoughts of vengeance brought her some comfort.
‘Hmm,’ Abimbola’s father sighs deeply, ‘the children of these days… What could have happened between a husband and wife that would result in the husband killing the wife? I mean, these boys of nowadays have no patience to handle marital relations with care. You talk to the woman; if she does not listen, you could slap her but don’t leave your palm print on her face. I mean, I only had to slap Abimbola’s mother twice before she always acquiesced to anything I said. And I told Abimbola, when she came home, crying, “Humble yourself before your husband. No man wants the headship of his home questioned.” And she obeyed. So, what could have created a reason for Seun to beat her to death?’ So much is going through his mind. ‘That’s what I tell these kids, ’ he despairs, “if you bring home a hooligan, there’s no way your mother and I would know to prevent you from marrying him. I mean, you make inquiries of the boy’s friends and neighbors about what kind of family it is but who will tell you the truth? So, you bring home a hooligan, it is you who will bear the consequences of your choice.” ‘But death?’ his thoughts circle back to his daughter’s demise, ‘it is simply overwhelming.’
On the second row, directly behind Seun attired in an elegant Michael Kors complete – suit, bag, shoes, and accessories – is Miss Jane Ogiri, Seun’s girlfriend calmly taking in the proceedings. She has come to support her man in this trying time for him. She recalls their last conversation before ‘the incident.’ He’d told her he would get rid of Abimbola because she slept around and was quarrelsome. “She thinks she owns me because she makes more money,” Seun complained. Jane understood and assured him she would support his decision and whatever he decided to do about the children. She was onboard. To her, Seun has always been good - loving, protective, and generous; a perfect gentleman.
‘Ojo buruku esu gb’omi mu; the devil had been on rampage that day. Thank God, she’s gone to a better place,’ thinks Deaconess Comfort, Abimbola’s Women’s Mission Leader. ‘Who knew it would be Abimbola’s last day on earth?’ she muses, remembering her admonition to the young lady only a few hours before her murder. She is indeed the last person to advice Abimbola to go back and submit to her devil of a husband. But the deaconess did not waste time ruminating on how she might have contributed to Abimbola’s hasty brutal departure for the ‘better place.’ She didn’t acknowledge counseling Abimbola to be “more submissive,” or telling her “the woman is the shock absorber in a marital car.” In fact, she’d thought her analogy was particularly apropos except she’d not reckoned that even shock absorbers break. ‘Thank God, her friends are here to bid her a befitting farewell,’ she mused eyeing the elegantly dressed lady on her right.
‘This is a regrettable situation,’ Pastor Saul muses as he walks up to the pulpit. He’d spent many sleepless nights on his sermon for this funeral service. He’d combed the internet for an appropriate topic, asked his mentor, and of course considered the warning he’d received from Brother Seun’s father. Finally, God had given him a breakthrough. ‘This is a funeral,’ he thinks. ‘A funeral is a sad occasion regardless of how it came about.’ “As the scriptures say, we are in this mortal body for only a little while and then, we will be caught up in the sky to be with our Lord. Oh, what a glorious day that would be when we behold our savior face to face. Sister Abimbola is in a better place,” he began his sermon gloriously, “beholding the face of her savior.” He pauses, looking out at his audience, and continues. He preached about heaven and a better life, completely oblivious to his culpability in producing this specific funeral at this particular time in this exact season of this woman’s life.
They say, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Interestingly, it takes the same village to abuse a woman – a village which fosters a culture of abuse, viewing domestic violence as par course between a man and his wife. It takes villagers who turn away, pretending nothing untoward is happening even when the abuse reaches egregious proportions; villagers who cajole, counsel, and browbeat the victim into returning time and again, to her assailant until too late. And lastly, villagers who blame the victim; who say, “She was too… proud, haughty, flashy, unbending, sharp-tongued, stupid, dull, doormat-like, permissive…“ and imply, she deserved what she got.
Which villager are you?