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Let’s talk religion, and thereafter interrogate the actions of late Mrs Osinachi Nwachukwu in relation to her Igbo marriage.

Osinachi is another example of how we crucify justice, truth and compassion in the country. But at the end of the day, she won, and we lost.

Ogbuagu Anikwe

The late gospel singer qualified to be called and addressed as nwa Jesus. Ndigbo brand Christians who genuinely strive to be holy and upright as nwa Jesus  (son or daughter of Jesus). The tag is a fulsome praise for folks living exemplary lifestyles anchored on Christian ethics. Nevertheless, Ndigbo equally use the tag as a backhanded salute to the hypocritical who seek to impress with hollow displays of piety. In Osinachi’s case, Nwa-Jesus is positive praise for this God-fearing woman ‘martyred’ during the Holy Season of Lent in 2022.

Her life and death mirror that of Jesus Christ in many ways. Her suffering and death also reflect her name. Loosely translated, Osinachi means “destiny” In Igbo. It is a declaration that who we are and what we become are subject to God’s will. Thus, humans experience things in life to fulfil a purpose. Instinctively, she saw it as her destiny to suffer. Marriage became the cross and crucifixion that she bore with equanimity. This is why, in a sense, her death looks like pre-ordained martyrdom.

Viewing her passage from this window of martyrdom opens a world of parallels between hers and the life of Christ. Because death happened during the holy season of lent, characters that witnessed to her death assumed biblical associations. The characters are all of us, who are spouses, pastors and relations in marriages.

Biblical Actors

Spouses are central characters in a marriage setting. Spouses that abuse their partners are the Pharisees and High Priests of our time. They have antiquated philosophies of what it means for two persons to come together as partners in marriage. In different Christian denominations, separation and divorce attract terrible consequences for the female partner. Some have suggested, for instance, that if Osinachi separated from her husband or asked for divorce, her career would crash . This was how one member of her sect explained it to me:

“No Pentecostal church will invite a separated singer or divorcee to perform at their events. What kind of message would we be sending if we allowed that? She knew this consequence. It explains why she begged everyone not to trigger an action that potentially leads to separation or divorce.”

Wives, like floormats

I have heard more than one pastor preach about husband-wife relationships and the role of the wife in that relationship. Listening to Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, for instance, the wife can as well be a foot mat for the man to step on. Again, most churches preach against divorce. But there are nuances in their approach to divorce and separation that differentiate the Christian denominations. This is a subject for another day.

For our purposes here, let’s leave it said that Osinachi’s pastors carried on like Pontius Pilate on the matter of her avoidable death. They washed their hands by pretending not to be aware of the plot to have her crucified.

Finally, what about the Congregation of Christian acquaintances that saw her serial abuse? Friends, artiste colleagues and church brethren. They witnessed the abuse are like the Biblical Peter. Most stood by and watched and, like Peter, denied many times the opportunity to identify with a suffering soul. This is what modern civilisation has done to us

Increasingly, urban Nigerians are no longer their neighbor’s keeper. Ironically, elsewhere in the world that we imitate, neighbours report to the authorities those who mistreat humans and animals. Those authorities also make – and enforce – laws for abuse of human and animal rights. Unfortunately, our case is that urban dwellers express outrage depending on how close to us an abuse victim is. When victims are not close, they become like logs fed into a bonfire. We sometimes lose the meaning of sanctity of human life.

The late gospel singer Osinachi is not Jesus the Christ and can never be. But like all of us,she’s created in God’s image, and is therefore like God in all things minus sin. Yes, she used her songs to play with our emotions and to connect us powerfully to the creator. Yet, she remained a sinful pilgrim groping in darkness, like all of us, to find a pathway to eternal life.

Igbo Marriages

The Igbo recognize that physical abuse happens in marriages. Spouse abuse demonstrates levels of maturity and tolerance at a given point in a marriage. But at some point, everyone draws a line. The Igbo wife flees to her father’s house to escape physical abuse when it reaches the point.

Ogbuagu Anikwe

The Igbo culture does not lionize a wife abuser, and a woman abusing her husband is an abomination. A man who raises his hand on his wife acquires the image of a coward and a loafer. He is a coward for leaving the “stronger sex” with whom real men test their strength to turn on his wife. And he is a loafer because only idle men abandon onerous family responsibilities to bicker and fight at home. What we’ve read thus far gives Osinachi’s husband out as a loafer and coward, a true ambassador of wife beaters.

Because this was an Igbo couple, it is difficult to appreciate the conduct of both Osinachi and her relations. Her people, like Jews of Old, watched from the sidelines and did nothing to save her. Modern social convention forced them to play sympathetic but largely inactive roles. As close acquaintances, its not enough to offer sympathy, sighs and a sense of resignation at her attitude to the oppression. Doing this is negligent conduct. The Christians among us who do this are biblical Judases. They accept 30 shekels of silence to helplessly watch their relation suffered unto death.

That this was an Igbo marriage makes it not only annoying but downright wicked that she had to die. Both Osinachi and her relations misconstrued or chose to forget custom and conventions that nurture Igbo marriages. Every public account we’ve read so far about how Nwachukwu allegedly abused his wife is a desecration of Igbo tradition.

The Igbo recognize that physical abuse happens in marriages. Our wise old men know that they demonstrate levels of maturity and tolerance at a given point in a marriage. The husband undergoes informal counseling from older, more experienced folks. But at some point, everyone draws a line. The Igbo wife flees to her father’s house to escape physical abuse when it reaches the point.

Separation & Divorce

Fleeing from an abusive marriage triggers various remedial community actions in Igboland. Although not encouraged, persistent wife abuse rouses incensed brothers to waylay and beat the living daylights out of their brother-in-law. What the community encourages is for a repentant husband to go with relations to plead for forgiveness. They take wine and colanut as peace offerings. Doing this demonstrates that the wife beater was acting under influence and actually adores his wife. Expectedly, he also undertakes never to lay hands on her again.

However, where a husband decides not to beg for her return, she lives in separation, and is free to re-marry. When she finds a new husband, her family returns  the brideprice paid by the abuser-husband and the marriage formally ends. Similarly, the husband’s plea hits the rocks if his wife refuses to return to the marriage. Separation begins for a woman at that point. This separation ends only after she remarries or her her family refunds the bride price. In Igbo culture, separation and divorce are therefore clearly established.

From the foregoing, it is possible that both modernity and Christianity figuratively murdered soul-lifting singer, Osinachi Nwachukwu. When tragedy results from criminal silence, eyewitnesses can become accessory to murder. We spit on the body and grave of abused spouses with every attempt to tell the truth of what happened, after enabling it with our criminal silence.

Osinachi is another example of how we crucify justice, truth and compassion in the country. But at the end of the day, she won, and we lost. She is a winner because God lifted the crown of suffering she wore to the bitter end. We lost a powerful voice for moral and ethical change, for justice, truth, and compassion.