Through the years, I have grown to expect less and less from our elected government officials, but there are certain things they do that still leave my lips hanging apart or make me go, Omo.

Some things in Nigeria are so ironic that they either bring laughter to one’s lips or tears to one’s eyes; like people attacked for eating in the holy month of Ramadan where we ought to spread love, like farmers beheaded in a country where the president keeps laying so much emphasis on agriculture, like a governor forcing a victim of domestic violence to reconcile with her abusive husband during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence.

Dr Ifeanyinwa, the wife of a Channels TV reporter, Pius Agbo, made a video accusing him of beating her up. In the video, she talked about not knowing peace throughout her 6 years of marriage. He (according to her) cheats on her, beats her up regularly, and he has, on more than one occasion, sat on her belly – when she was 3-months pregnant and barely 4 weeks after she was delivered of her baby through a caesarean section. In the video, the left side of her face was bloodied, and there were long marks from her forehead down to her chin. She looked like someone who was attacked by a wild animal.

For me, the most emotional part of the video was when her son said, “Mummy, sorry,” and she replied with, “Thank you.” That’s a realization that the son (and perhaps the other children) are in the know of what’s happening. They are already, at that young age, exposed to domestic violence and they know that daddy beats mummy.

Still, that is not the crux of this essay.

As everyone (on social media, of course) was amplifying the woman’s voice, tagging Channels TV to the misconduct of their reporter and calling for justice for the victim, the Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, and his wife felt that the best way to handle this case of domestic violence is to reconcile the abuser and the victim.

See, these pictures irked me; the hug, the governor and his wife’s smile, the whole press conference – I mean, TVC, AIT, NTA, Channels and Benue TV actually came to cover this ‘press conference’? – everything. How did a governor assume that a reconciliation is the best way to handle violence? Did it not occur to him that the man will (probably) beat her again and again. In fact, he could beat her for making that video and she won’t be able to cry out anymore.

Domestic violence is a big deal. During the lockdown, Nigeria recorded overwhelmingly high rates of domestic violence compared to other African countries.

It is appalling and worrisome that the governor not only handled this with kid’s glove by not ensuring that the abuser is cooling his heel off in prison, but he has also, in a way, forced the victim to live with her abuser. When a woman is beaten by her husband – especially to that extent – reconciliation is the last thing we need. According to her, this is not his first time and a whole governor – who is meant to protect the lives and properties of his people – choosing to be a part of this reconciliation is setting a precedence on excusing violence against women. What he has indirectly (or directly) said is that the abuses she has suffered doesn’t matter and that the violence against women can be disregarded. That woman might have just been trapped. If she chooses to leave that marriage, people of the world will say, “Ahan, the man has begged you na. Even a whole governor begged you, what else do you want?”

Where exactly are women safe in Nigeria? If a man can beat up his wife in such manner, sit on her belly after a ceastarian section and get a smile from a governor and his wife and a hug on national TV, then where exactly are women safe? Who can they run to for help?

The world is currently fighting against gender-based violence through the #OrangeTheWorld campaign, and it seems our dear governor has not caught up with the trend. This action by Governor Ortom is a huge setback for the fight against domestic violence.

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Photos and video from Twitter.

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