A Rejoinder To NewYork Times’ “Entrenched Epidemic: Wife-Beating in Africa”

by Patrick Okigbo

Dear Editor, NY Times,

It is with great disgust that I read your cover story of Thursday August 11, 2005 titled “Entrenched Epidemic: Wife-Beating in Africa”. As I read through the story, I looked for facts that would show that this is an “epidemic” specific to Nigeria or Africa, but found none. This story, which could be set in every city in every part of the world, serves no purpose but to further malign not only Nigeria’s character, but that of an entire continent. To set the story in Nigeria, and to put it on the cover page of the New York Times with such a malicious title, cannot be justified as ignorance, but downright immoral.

Let’s look at some of the arguments you proffered in the story:

Wife Beating
A number of men beat their wives in Nigeria so all Nigerian men are wife beaters. Now, this would be true if you said that in a country of 130 Million people that you found 10 Million women with broken noses and black eyes, however, what you found is 2 shelters for abused women and 200 abuse cases (in a country of 130 MILLION PEOPLE). Using the TV program “Cops” as a reference, I can tell you that I have seen many episodes where the cops responded to a domestic violence call. Does that make every man in Minnesota a wife beater? By extension of your arguments, we can conclude the following
· Every African American is a Wife Beater. Proof: Bobby Brown (an African American rap star) beats up his wife, Whitney Houston (a soul singer).
· Every American President is immoral: Proof: Richard Nixon was involved in Watergate scandal. Bill Clinton had an inappropriate sexual encounter in the White House (just because he could). Thomas Jefferson fathered children with his “slave”.
· Every American Soldiers is a sadist: Proof: Abu Gharib prisons and Guatanamo Bay.
· Every New York City Cop is a racist animal always on the lookout for African immigrants to torture: Proof: The shooting of Mr. Diallo in front of his apartment.
· Every Young Muslim Man is a terrorist: Proof: All the 9/11 and London terrorists were young Muslim men.
· Catholic Priests are pedophiles: Proof: Many of American Catholic Priests have been indicted in numerous child molestation scandals (indeed, the rest of the Catholic world wrongly views the sex abuses in the Catholic Church as an “American Epidemic”.

Women as an Inferior Race
There is no doubt that in Africa (as in many other parts of the world), the male child happens to be preferred to the female child. This has a historical perspective, which is dying out with education and socialization. As Nigerian expectant parents (our baby is due November 28), my wife and I have no desire to find out our baby’s sex because it really does not matter. However, we have interestingly enough decided on the female names (not the male names). Maybe this is an indication of our preference. Or not.

Ndigbo (as well as other Nigerian tribes) have sayings/ adages that are replete with references to the exulted role the woman in our society. Please refer to Sylvia Leigh-Ross’s study of Igbo women (1930), which counters this illogical view that Africans regard women as inferior.

America is still a patriarchal society. How come we hear of the “Founding Fathers” and nothing of the “Founding Mothers”? How come we have not had a female American President in the 229 years since the American Revolution? May be, Larry Summers (President of Harvard University) may have a scientific answer for this. Let us also not forget that since Independence this country has had only ONE female African American Secretary of State. Based on Sharon LaFraniere’s flawed logic, a New York Times article, “Entrenched Epidemic: Women Haters in America” is long overdue.

Perception of Africa
The general American sentiment is that Africa (which most of you think is a country) is in that never-do-good part of the world where only tales of cannibalism, wars, and starvation emanate. That is why your correspondent describes her subject, a Nigerian woman, in these words:
“Ms. Isimeto-Osibuamhe does not fit that standard profile. Articulate, with a fashionable haircut and a sociology book in her bag, she speaks in a confident, even assertive tone of voice.”

This assumes that the average Nigerian woman is not articulate, has no fashion sense (how can she when she lives on a tree), and cannot read a sociology book. Interesting view of a country that has produced female professors, doctors, scientists, musicians, etc who teaching and conducting research in many of the leading institutions here in the United States and around the world.

I read this and wondered what the late, great Peter Jennings, one of the last of the remaining few champions of real news and responsible journalism in this country would have thought about such reckless disregards for a people.

In summary, by not exercising caution in your choice of stories and captions, you do your profession, the New York Times and the great majority of Americans who are ignorant of life outside the United States, a great disservice. If you want an “entrenched epidemic” to report on maybe you can publish a feature story on the moral decay of the American society. Or better still, vote Senator Hillary Clinton for President in 2008 and prove that you are not a nation of Women-Haters.

Furthermore, it behoves the New York Times to print a retraction and apology for this grossly offensive and slanted article. It is an injustice and slap (pun intended) in the face of all Africans (male and female).

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chima October 15, 2010 - 12:16 am

Coherenly presented and precise.Thank you bro. for education those white charlatans who want to discredit us always as a people.Thanks again.

Chukwuemeka January 28, 2009 - 2:13 pm

Well researched with points laid out. More of these people

Anonymous February 9, 2007 - 1:24 pm

very well written patrick, Its not an issue peculiar to nigeria alone, its a global issue, and this should not be used to show nigeria in a bad light. However, it is a widespread problem in Nigeria, that should be resolved

Emmanuel Agboifo October 18, 2006 - 2:15 pm

Very Impressively put toghether. This brings to terms the issue of "Africa, the Continent on a Tree?" with living in houses constructed with concrete blocks as against wood and sheetrock, I wonder who lives in a tree.

Anonymous February 21, 2006 - 8:32 am

blacks are often regarded as inferior and without directon by the whites perhaps cos' they were our colonial masters but time has changed the average black should work towrds proving this as a misconception.It is in this wise that i congratulate thie writer of this article for this stride.It is a fight for all of us…for africans…for the entire black race.Thank you.From,EZINNE.eudemadu@yahoo.com

Anonymous October 28, 2005 - 10:23 pm

Well said!

Anonymous October 23, 2005 - 1:49 pm
Anonymous August 21, 2005 - 4:58 pm

The author of this article is brilliant and i welcomed it in totality however i have a question for prince kennedy iyoha and thus; Did your dad ever beat up your mother considering that you have witnessed so many beating scene.

Febisola Olatunji August 20, 2005 - 3:55 pm

He is just expressing the views of nigerians.Im a Nigerian female based in Lagos and i hold a masters degree though we have our problems as a nation but we are not as bad as the foreign Press paint us

prince kennedy Iyoha August 18, 2005 - 12:40 pm

As i was growing up some years ago i experance and was even presente in many scenario of wife beating in my old Benin city. While maiduguri where i worked in the Oil exploration company for almost 5years after my studies i have also witness in many occasion the wife beating phenomena. Finally in my last days in Nigeria i was residing in lagos state and i promised to have seen a man after being drunk beating his wife removing her cloths and living her nicked in the street in the usual face me and face you houses in Ajegunle olodi Apapa Ajangbadi Oshodi surrandings and some areas around the old Ikeja agege…etc.

This is not to say that this phenomeno is taking place only in Nigeria. here in Spain more than 100 women has died so far this year alone in the hands of men that once called them sweetee lovee darlin and sweetheart. All over the world this phenomeno is going on and we should try not to encourage it anymore. The Spanish government has just passed a bill to help reduce the death of young women in its society from the hands of their husbands or lovers.

This same bill should be applicable in Nigeria even more a bill should be sponsored aganst man marring more than one wife in our society.

Anonymous August 16, 2005 - 11:55 am

My man is from nigeria and he has never even raised his hand at me in anger which is more then my sisters husband who actualy hit her and he's american.No way a white guy with anger problems thats a first right

Paul I. Adujie August 16, 2005 - 10:42 am

It is just more evidence of shoddy journalism by Western media where Africa and African issues are concerned.

There is so much domestic violence against women in the world; As there is sugjugation of women worldwide and this universal phenomenon is not peculliar to Africa.

August 15 2005

Pardon Set for Black Woman Executed in '45


Filed at 10:46 p.m. ET

ALBANY Ga. (AP) — The only woman ever executed in Georgia's electric chair is being granted a posthumous pardon 60 years after the black maid was put to death for killing a white man she claimed held her in slavery and threatened her life.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has decided to pardon Lena Baker and plans to present a proclamation to her descendants at its Aug. 30 meeting in Atlanta board spokeswoman Scheree Lipscomb said Monday.

The board did not find Baker innocent of the crime Lipscomb said. Members instead found the decision to deny her clemency in 1945 ''was a grievous error as this case called out for mercy'' Lipscomb said.

Baker was sentenced to die following a one-day trial before an all-white all-male jury in Georgia.

''I believe she's somewhere around God's throne and can look down and smile'' said Baker's grandnephew Roosevelt Curry who has led the family's effort to clear her name.

John Cole Vodicka director of the Georgia-based Prison Jail Project a prison-advocacy group that assisted Baker's descendants with the pardon request said he was elated with the decision.

''Although in some ways it's 60 years too late it's gratifying to see that this blatant instance of injustice has finally been recognized for what it was — a legal lynching'' Vodicka said.

During her brief trial Baker testified that E.B. Knight a man she had been hired to care for held her against her will in a grist mill and threatened to shoot her if she tried to leave. She said she grabbed Knight's gun and shot him when he raised a metal bar to strike her.

After Baker's execution in 1945 Baker's body was buried in an unmarked grave behind a small church where she had been a choir member. In the late 1990s the congregation marked the grave with a cement slab.

Supporters have gathered at Baker's grave every year since 2001 to mark the date of her execution and Curry along with a few dozen surviving family members hosted a Mother's Day ceremony at the graveside in 2003 the same year he requested the pardon.

State records indicate that 20 women have been executed in Georgia 19 by hanging and Baker by electrocution. One woman sits on Georgia's death row today.


Associated Press correspondent Dick Pettys in Atlanta contributed to this report

Anonymous August 15, 2005 - 4:55 pm

If many other educated Nigerians in America react intellectually to the Myopic perspective of Nigerians by the Americans perhaps things might change a little bit even though they sturbonly cling to what they want to believe.

Their younger generations may be the better for it.

Femi Lawal


Anonymous August 15, 2005 - 12:06 pm

It's about time someone cleared up these misconstrued notions of our great country continent…


Anonymous August 13, 2005 - 11:03 am

Perhaps the general "color" of the article hints at the usual anti-African bias prevalent in the Western press. However domestic and other violence against women in Nigeria is real and it is widespread. We may quibble about whether or not we have an epidemic on our hands. But the NYT headline hits the right note when it says that male on female domestic violence is entrenched! It is not taken seriously; moreover in many settings it is considered normal. Most women cannot find support from the police their families their in-laws and society at large. Ms. Isimeto-Osibuamhe's experience is not at all as unusual as your rejoinder suggests. Indeed as the article rightly states under the Penal Code applicable in the North it is permissible for a man to beat his wife as a corrective measure so long as he does not cause grievous bodily harm. Moreover instead of addressing the crux of the matter that the NYT article addresses your reaction seeks primarily to show that wife bashing is not a "Nigerian" thing. But is that the issue The issue is that Nigerians are not doing anything about it. So while it may be a global phenomenom Nigerians appear to have accepted its manifold local manifestations as par for the course. As widespread and commonly accepted as it is they refuse to see it as a problem the way for example that they see corruption. Instead of "bashing" (every pun intended) the NYT perhaps what we need to do is to address the issue — think globally but act locally. In any event a couple of days ago The Tribune a Nigerian newspaper reported on violence against women in Nigeria. See below. Moreover about a month ago there was a UN report also on high incidence of violence against women in Nigeria. So this is not an NYT only observation to discredit us. If we do not want to be discredited we should do something about the problem. So I strongly disagree with you that the article should be retracted or that the NYT should apologize. However I hope that the NYT will print reactions like yours so that readers also have the benefit of a different perspective from an articulate Nigerian American resident male. Thanks.

Here is the article from The Tribune

Wife Beating: Out of Control In Nigeria

Aug 04 2005 12:16 PDT

South East tops in wife beating – Research

A recent survey on harmful traditional practices affecting women and girls in Nigeria has shown that the southeastern part of the country leads other zones of the country in wife battering with 85.7 per cent.

The survey gave the southwestern part of the country 41.7 per cent to place second and the South-South 26.1 per cent to come third.

Minister of Women Affairs Hajia Maryam Ciroma who revealed the statistics at an advocacy meeting with members of the Niger State House of Assembly in Minna on Tuesday said the North Central geopolitical zone was fourth with 17.7 per cent North East fifth with 13.3 per cent while the North West had the least with 4.3 per cent.

Describing the situation as "precarious" Hajia Ciroma asked governments in the country to domesticate laws of the United Nations which would reduce the incidence to the barest minimum.

The minister was also disturbed that no fewer than eight million Nigerian children were engaged in child labour saying the movement from the rural to urban areas had aggravated the situation.

According to her middlemen thrived in the trade by capitalising on the poverty of the parents of the affected children.

She emphasised the need for the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation. She said they should also be shielded from any work that was likely to affect their physical mental spiritual or social well-being.

Hajia Ciroma also said that the great potentials of the country for growth would be realised faster where women contributed equally with men "and are empowered but not marginalised."

Addressing women groups at the Youth Centre Minna Hajia Ciroma said they should participate actively in politics so that more women could be elected into various offices in 2007.

She warned that to seek political equality with men would not be realised on a silver platter as "men are not gentle when it comes to politics."

State president of the National Council of Women Societies Hajia Ladi Shambo said women had been mobilised ahead of the

2007 elections adding "we are even asking for the slot of deputy governor."


Anonymous August 12, 2005 - 11:55 pm

insightful balanced relevant honest etc… you really made the Times look foolish and exposed a major problem in society today…deeply rooted ignorance devoid of facts and fairness…thank you!

marshalspark@yahoo.com August 12, 2005 - 2:23 pm

You have made my everything.It is hifh time somebody corrected these fallacies about Africa.

Anonymous August 12, 2005 - 1:31 pm

i am a nigerian female and he's right believe it or not. HE'S RIGHT

Anonymous August 12, 2005 - 11:39 am

Well Researched and points out the gross shortcomings of the factually sparse original NYTimes article

Anonymous August 12, 2005 - 12:46 am

Thank you for educating them my good brother.


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