Nigeria police widows – widowed and wounded by Mike Onwukwe

Being a woman in a patriarchal society like ours is a tall order let alone being a widow. Knowledge monopolists owe us an explanation as to why this is.

Whenever the cold hands of death snatch away the family bread winner, immeasurable consequences, untold hardship, misery and frustration set in to buffet the bereaved family.

It is even worse when the widow is a police wife, and this is what I observed recently in Lagos paying condolence visit to the wife of my former colleague in the barrack.

It was as if her world has snapped and the rug pulled from under her feet, and indeed it was.

The onerous task of fending for the family, being a single parent of the kids is something a young and unprepared widow was not ready to handle.

Of course, we live in a society possessed by a few privileged thieving class and the land is so wicked that a woman with two children is left with one, and the woman with only one child is left empty handed.

Permit me to explain by breaking it down a little bit. Being a widow marks the harbinger of poverty and suffering and when it happens, even hitherto decent wives join the pigs to roll the dirt.

As they say however clean and perfect it was, a finger that runs through the butt never smells the same afterwards.

In Nigeria where widows are automatic murder suspects whenever they lose their husbands, the manifest open hatred from the immediate family and rejection all combine to further drive the depraved family into doldrum.

This practice is terribly otiose, utterly primitive and regrettably atavistic and of course, there are supporting narratives brimming with blissful ignorance to justify these unladylike inhuman treatments.

You will hear that widows who cry easily are the first to remarry; there are three classes of people you must not provoke: customers, officials and widows etc and these types of beliefs deepen their anguish. We don’t need to return to the mud, we are already in it.

Yet these gallant officers paid the supreme price in line of duty, took our own bullets so that we can live, used their bodies as human shield so that the society will be better of.

There is no purposeful and corruption-free, humanitarian driven safety net to look after their families upon death.

Like the early caveman, the average cop jumps out very early in the morning to put food on the table while his wife and children are still asleep but when the bell tolls, children drop out of school, the boys become common criminals stealing petty items from the barracks they once treasured, and the girls succumb to the unavoidable temptation of the flesh.

In some cases, they gate crash social events and position themselves in vantage places to corner left over food once the party is over. This group is worse than the ones that do domestic chores just to keep their head above the water.

In worst cases, the kids hawk sundry items and beg for living and if their mother is connected, she will be opportune to erect a makeshift shop within the perimeter wall of the barrack to sell local gin and beer thereby perpetrating the already brimming locale.

And this constitute a real and existential threat in this era of vicious violence having clustered shops mushrooming along the immediate precincts of police barrack.

At every police barracks, widows must sell out their limb and arm for a startup small scale business outlet. And that marks the onset of the locust years and a rapid descent to extreme poverty.

Back home in the village, the widow contends with greedy and heartless brothers-in-law intent on grabbing the only land of the late policeman.

Some may even try and succeed in coveting and marrying the widow forcefully because failure will result to stripping the widow of all that she inherited from the marriage.

Head or tail, the widow and her children lose, suffer huge mental and emotional trauma.

As if all these are not enough, the police authorities are on her neck to vacate the barrack because the flat has been assigned to another person.

The police monolith is quick to add to her problem but slow or blind to act on the compensation claim and pension of the fallen hero.

Why does the society punish the innocent reward the wicked? Little wonder these days, one is buffeted with sights of police widows in black faded clothes clutching placards and banners appealing to the authorities to pay their husbands’ benefits.

In rare moment of lucidity when they get paid, the pathetic amount of N1m can barely take the family afar.

Their plight is no different from extremely painful condition suffered elsewhere by the widows of other uniformed personnel. Losing a breadwinner by whatever means ruffles the family cohesion.

Is there any modicum of shame left with police authorities and federal government? The monolith gets almost a billion monthly as overhead and running cost and cannot spare a fraction of this mouthwatering sum to equip and make the force more resilient to the rising tide of violence and robbery.

The most visible arm of the government is the police and the government is duty bound to support them to be able to fight crime.

Rather, the government treats them as sitting targets willing to be sacrificed at the altar of mismanagement and cronyism. Or is it a case of not stopping an enemy intent on destroying itself.

In my opinion, this is unimpeachably wrong and neither helps the system nor anyone.

Of course, the police top dogs and fat cats are staring down from their comfort zones, embellishing facts unbeknownst to them that leadership positions come with problem-solving roles.

Even when we are supposed to be mad, we are contended with being sad. Nigeria should get angry and start eating the fat cats.

Go check out what police stations look like in African countries like Ethiopia, Rwanda and South Africa and compare them with the sordid and laughable sight of a regular police station in Nigeria.

Am I going to talk about the office furniture, stationery and computers in our own case that are obsolete, and lice infested or the absence of security and CCTV cameras that should capture real time crime incidents? What is the Marshall Plan of the police in the next 5-10 years from now? It is only a matter of time the wife-batterer would show his true color.

When the hyena wants to eat its children, it first accuses them of smelling like goat.

The snail it is said, never mounts a tree and abandons climbing it midway. We are in our true element, a typical dystopian society where past is sordid, and present is pathetic.Read More

• Onwukwe, Security Officer – Unmiss Dpko wrote from the Great Lakes region, Juba South Sudan

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