Recently, the Ondo state deputy governor’s wife, Seun Ayedatiwa, shocked Nigerians when she spoke of how her husband, Kenneth Odusola, abused her.
Ayedatiwa said she had endured physical, emotional, and mental abuse from him – beatings, torture, and constant mistreatment. Aware of the consequence of her decision to speak up, she swore she was not falsely accusing her husband but needed to break free from the pain she suffered in silence.
While domestic abuse is rife in Nigeria, it is a topic that is hardly heard of amongst those within the corridors of power.
Ayedatiwa’s incident throws up the memory of a similar incident in 2023 in Cross River State, where Deputy Governor, Efiok Cobham, was reported to have commanded his wife to kneel and apologise to Asikpo Okon, his protocol officer, for accusing him of bringing other women to her husband.
In a slight twist, in 2021, Kezia, wife of former Akwa Ibom State House of Representatives Member Robinson Uwak, reported that he attempted to kill her. She revealed that when she tabled her predicament to the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and Other Related Matters or NAPTIP, she was gaslighted into going back to him only for him to resume his abuse.
She also said that she wanted the world to hold her husband responsible if anything happened to her or her family because she believed he could carry out all his threats.
These incidents are only the tip of the iceberg. Domestic abuse has become alarmingly common in Nigeria, with even wives of high-ranking politicians as victims, leading to many relationships' failure. In extreme cases, it results in even death.
So, what exactly is domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse is primarily described as domestic violence and can manifest in various forms, including physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, and economic violence.
This destructive behaviour occurs within intimate relationships, where one person seeks to dominate and control another. Such actions cause physical, psychological, and sexual harm to the victim.
Physical aggression like slapping, hitting, or beating; psychological abuse such as intimidation and constant belittling; forced sexual intercourse; controlling behaviours like isolation from family and friends, monitoring movements, and restricting access to information or assistance are all examples of abuse.
What do the numbers say?
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, approximately one in four women over 18 has been a victim of physical domestic violence, compared to one in every seven men.
The World Health Organization or WHO says this violence occurs mainly among intimate partners. In Nigeria, the number comes down to one in three women experiencing physical or sexual abuse by their intimate partner.
The WHO also states that approximately 27% of women aged 15-49 years in a relationship have reported experiencing abuse from their intimate partner.
Across Africa, there is a 33% prevalence of lifetime intimate partner violence, according to the WHO, compared to 20% in the Western Pacific, 22% in high-income countries and Europe, 25% in the WHO regions of the Americas, and, 31% in the Eastern Mediterranean region.
What fuels abuse?
While both women and men can be victims of domestic abuse, it is evident that women tend to suffer more. The underlying causes of domestic abuse are multifaceted and include factors such as poverty, unemployment, lack of education, anger, depression, cultural influences, alcoholism, and suspicion of infidelity.
Where is the place of children in all this
Children exposed to domestic violence within their homes also suffer physical and mental abuse. They are at a higher risk of developing long-term mental health problems and may repeat the cycle of violence in their future relationships.
Despite legal provisions and efforts by organisations to prevent and address domestic abuse, it continues to persist. Society must come together and take intentional measures to prevent such acts. Constant awareness and education are necessary to empower individuals and prevent them from finding themselves in abusive situations.