The Wigwe Family Opera

by Chude Jideonwo

So over the blogosphere and Twitterverse, the story had been going round about the Wigwes – Nigeria’s ambassador family to Kenya – a messy tale of wife battery, bodily harm and a diplomatic embarrassment for Nigeria. It was difficult to pay it mention at first. For one, you consider the source: Twitter and Facebook, while incredibly useful tools for conversation and information, churn out a merciless bread of armchair criticism that neither waits for facts nor perspective.

The story was too surreal, and many were too quick to rush to conclusions. Did the Ambassador (Chijioke Wigwe) really beat his wife that savagely? What kind of man would do that to a woman, especially when he is so highly placed? And what about the stream of incredible stories that followed – that the stains were from tomatoes and not from blood, that the woman (Tessy) watches the Crime and Investigation Network and that all of her complaints were well choreographed and delivered for the cameras. It’s the kind of story reserved for Nollywood movies (perhaps the biggest proof yet that, when it comes to Nigeria’s movie culture, art imitates life).

Until, first, the dear ambassador was called back home, and he became a punch-line for Nigerians who had heard this strange story. Then, two days ago, it got more painful: the son of Chijioke and Tessy, took a look at the wreck, and took it upon himself to write “the true story”, purportedly to repair his father’s badly battered image.

Now, that caught my attention.

One can only imagine the pain under which the son wrote that piece – there can only be two scenarios: one, he is under pressure from a malevolent father who chooses public perception over the integrity of his family unity, or he is actually correct and his mother is a shameless vixen, who is ready to tear apart her own family to gain a narrow short-term advantage over her husband.

But what is most striking in reading the son’s touching tale is the fact that, for him, the fact of spousal abuse was a common incidence, something to be excused, something he had no reserve in revealing. In trying to position his father as a benevolent provider unfortunately stuck with an impossible woman, he unwittingly revealed not only that his father did beat his mother, but that this was no big deal.

So, the question arises – if both parents were so terribly unhappy in that marriage; if the man married the village wrestler like he said, and was stuck with a woman whom he knew had the capacity for such malevolence, why did they stay married, for heaven’s sake? Or on the flip side, if the woman was convinced she was married to an unfeeling, philandering brute, what was she still doing there?

I hear enough of marriages that are forced to remain due to religion, consideration for parents, divorce as taboo, economic considerations or “because of the children” and I cannot understand the logic of it. Never have, and never will. If, indeed, like Nelson says, his brothers and sisters are devastated by what their parents have become, then what children were they fighting for then? The son that called his mother a liar, a thief and a charlatan outright, or the one that revealed his father as a brute? And what were they protecting in the first place – is it not all out in the open, mercilessly trashed out for strangers to stand in judgement over what should be a personal matter?

The Wigwes remind me of Nigeria, and the silly considerations that keep us stuck in an imperfect union. We refuse to reconsider the terms of our engagement, and stubbornly stick with a marriage that kills and batters everyone that is in it, whether for the sake of a perfect family picture, or because we truly don’t understand the cause and effect. The result is children like Nelson who, by no fault of theirs, believe that a violence-prone family life is just the way the world is.

It’s truly sad, and my prayers are for the Wigwe children above all else, and then for that family, in this time of pain and shame.

One comment

  1. My sister is going thru some of this now and I'm all for a good separation if it comes to it. The question is, is the man willing to play ball and do what he needs to do and quit being a pussy? 'cos my family and I are ready for the eventuality.

    In the meantime, can you share the Wigwe son's side of the story? I can't find a URL for it.

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