When the news broke that Houston-based Nigerian man, Martin Ebegbodi shot dead his medical doctor wife, my friend, Olisa Adigwe, called me from Lowell, Massachusetts.
I thought Olisa wanted bring to my attention another of our This American Life stories. But he had more to say. He knew the 63-year-old man long before he went to Nigeria to marry the 36-year-old Isioma, over ten years ago. They lived in the same neighborhood in Lowell for two years after Martin came back from Nigeria with his new wife. He saw the couple at Nigerian events. Before they packed out of Massachusetts for Texas, Olisa saw signs that things were not going very well with the marriage.
There is no comprehensive statistics on how many Nigerians have killed their wives in America. Our statisticians are busy scrapping cars in US junk yards for spare parts; visiting flea markets for second hand clothes; buying nails and used tires and used laptops and stuffing them inside 40 feet containers to ship home. But if there were statistics, it would show that there is a great chance that your U.S. based in-law, that one that showed up from nowhere and said he would want to marry your daughter, would kill her in America.
Would he do it with a gun or a knife? Would he crush her with the family car, he put in reverse? Going by the aggregate of the weapons of choice, most likely he will use a knife. Nigerian men appear to prefer knives over other weapons. Recent Nigerian men who killed their wives, however, made use of guns. I guess the National Rifle Association (NRA) has reached the Nigerian kind. If your daughter and her husband live in the Southern states, like Texas, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, North and South Carolina, well, you can be sure that he will use a gun. It’s a cultural thing down South.
Yes, things are that bad. In the last ten years, if you try to put a dot on a US map for every incident where a Nigerian man killed his wife, the map would be covered by dots. If the dot is red, it would show a US map that is dripping the blood of Nigerian daughters. It has happened in cities and it has happened in the suburbia. In each case, death comes as the end.
In a rational world, there is no reason a husband should kill his wife, the mother of his children. But America the beautiful is not always a rational world when you look deep into it. For instance, in America, corporations are people and guns don’t kill people. And that your daughter, the one you brought up so well, has no power to make America rational. Because her value system, the ones you imbibed in her, could not moderate America’s irrationality, they end up enhancing those irrationalities.
Your daughter may not tell you this, but the moment she got into America, she encountered a culture shock. It is like no other she has ever seen. It is steeper than what she imagined it to be. It is a total inverse of the world she used to live in. How she reacts to it will literally determine if she would stay alive or be dead.
What am I talking about? The first person that encountered that culture shock was your son-in-law. In more ways than one, America is a different world from the one he knew. His decision to come back home to find a wife is the ultimate acknowledgement of that fact. It is an escape. It is a last spirited attempt to reject the uncomfortable and embrace the familiar. The trouble is that a man who could not adapt within the new culture thinks that the solution is to bring a wife from his culture into the same alien culture. It has worked for those men who could adjust. It has not worked for those who could not.
So the odds are stacked against your daughter, right from the beginning.
You did not help matters when you failed to follow the traditional marriage due process. You waved them off because the man came from America. It didn’t matter how old he was. It didn’t matter if there was compatibility or not between him and your daughter. If he were to be living in Nigeria you may not have let him marry your daughter. I know. You just want your daughter to join those American brides. Instead of asking the normal questions about pedigree, profession, passion, you were imagining your vacation in America to visit your grandchildren and shop and show off to your friends whose daughters only married men in Lagos and Abuja.
Because there was no time for dating, your daughter was also jumping into the marriage essentially blind. She was afraid to ask too much questions. She didn’t want to find out so many things. She didn’t want to miss the chance to go and live in America. Even when she found out unpleasant truths, she waved them off. “Lets get to America first,” she said. She will work things out as soon as she got to America.
But America always has a different idea for those she lets in. It often throws a lot at its immigrants that many are lost for a long time while trying to juggle things coming their way, sometimes in silence. They are silent about it because they do not want to disappoint those at home. They do not want it to be said that they got to the river head and still are thirty.
America is full of thirsty daughters. How the daughters decide to drink the water that will quench their thirst will determine whether their husbands will kill them or not.