In Ebonyi state, first wives demonstrate their anger against their husbands for taking second wives by setting the ‘intruders’ ablaze, and making sure they are burnt to death, writes ONYEKAOZULU OFOMA in Abakaliki.
Women are generally cast in the mold of meek, compassionate and in fact weaker vessels when it comes to emotional issues and tasks requiring practical display of energy. But that gentle and fragile mien pales into insignificance when it comes to defending their territory in matters of love and matrimonial relationships.
Even the Holy Bible warns of the fury of an injured and jealous woman, which is comparable to a tempestuous and destructive storm.
In less than one year, Ebonyi has been hit twice by the tragedy of crime of passion committed by jealous first wives against those they suspected had any love dealing with their husbands. The first wives descended with fury to their suspected husbands’ lovers and the suspects are not alive to tell their stories.
The most recent tragic event occurred two weeks ago at Akpoha community in Afikpo North local government area of the state, when a house wife simply identified as Ogeri allegedly set her husband’s lover ablaze.
The fire burnt the co- wife to death. Tragically too, when the alleged offender was arrested by the police, her one-year-old child died probably out of shock. Ogeri’s husband, Mr. UroObasi, a commercial motor cycle operator was also arrested.
The victim of the recent Akpoha tragedy, a 22 year-old girl, whose name was given as Miss Felicia hailed from Igbo in Abi local government area of Cross River State. It is not yet clear if she was ever married to Obasi, as the first wife is claiming.
The marriage theory appears to have crashed when family members described it as false, baseless and misleading. Rather, they said that Felicia came to the Apostolic Church Akpoha to seek solutions to her numerous personal and psychological problems and had on arrival, requested Obasi, a member of the same church, to assist her secure accommodation, and even provide her with food items.
LEADERSHIP WEEKEND gathered that instead of getting accommodation for Felicia in a different location in the town, Obasi asked her to move into his matrimonial home.
Thereafter, he reportedly explained to his mother Mrs. Virginia Oko, and his wife that Felicia was stranded and he decided to assist her by bringing her to their matrimonial home.
Apparently, his wife didn’t believe the story. She was said to have interpreted her husband’s kind gesture towards a visitor “in dire need of assistance” to mean a veiled arrangement to take a second wife.
And filled with fury over her husband’s action, Ogeri, according to an eye witness, emptied two litres of petrol through the back window of a room occupied by Ogeri at about 11am while she was asleep, and discreetly set the room ablaze.
When the fire started, the cry of the victim attracted neighbours, who broke the door before she ran out stark naked with fire all over her body. The neighbours could not save Felicia’s life as she gave up the ghost on the way to the hospital.
Narrating the incident, Obasi’s mother said: “He (Uro) came to my house and collected food and gave her (victim). My daughter-in-law (Ogeri) came to me the next morning and told me that my son wanted to get married to another woman.
“I replied her that my son was not going to marry the said Felicia, insisting that she was my only daughter-in-law. I explained to her that the girl in question was only a visitor and wanted my son to assist her settle down in our town.”
She said that on the day of the incident, her son had gone out to operate his okada (commercial motor cycle) business when a relation told him that fire had gutted his house, and in the process burnt his visitor to death.
“My son did not know all these; his intention was only to help her. He didn’t suspect that there would be danger in trying to assist somebody,” she said, amidst tears.
A neighbor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated that Ogeri had on several occasions quarelled with her husband over the presence of the deceased in their matrimonial home, a development which forced some people living in the neighbourhood to appeal to Obasi to drive the deceased away from the family house before she ruined his marriage with Ogeri. But unknown to the concerned neighbours, the suspect had concluded plans to take Ogeri’s life.
Before taking Ogeri’s life, the suspect had sent all her children within the premises on different errands before sending a neighbour’s child to fetch her petrol to burn the other woman.
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Ebonyi State Police Command, Mr. John UkieEluu, an assistant superintendent of police (ASP) confirmed the incident to LEADERSHIP WEEKEND.
He described the incident as a homicide case, adding that it had been handed over to the State Criminal Investigation Department, CID. But he couldn’t say whether the suspect has been charged to court.
“I can’t say precisely whether the suspect has been charged to court or not, but I know it will be handled expeditiously,” he said.
It will be recalled that last year a 32 year- old woman, Mrs. Ijeoma Ogbonna from Echara Unuhu Nkaliki community in Abakaliki local government area of Ebonyi state was arraigned before an Abakaliki Magistrate court on a four-count charge of murder after allegedly setting a nursing mother and three of her children ablaze. The suspect was remanded in prison custody in anticipation of trial.
Mrs. Ogbonna was reportedly arrested by the police while she was boarding a public transport to escape arrest. It was gathered that some passengers who recognised the woman alerted the police who arrived the motor park shortly after to effect her arrest. She is the first wife of her husband, but is yet to be blessed with the fruit of the womb.
Mrs. NwankwoaguNwaokpuru , the suspect’s mother –in-law, who lives next to the house where the victims were burnt, told reporters, that Ijeoma started behaving strangely after the traditional wedding ceremony of the second wife was concluded three weeks before the incident. She was said to have started sleeping outside the compound, only to return home every morning.
Nwaokpuru said: “I was in my room one night when I heard someone shouting Jesus …Jesus…Jesus… I quickly rushed out to see what was happening though before then the whole place had been covered by smoke … I saw someone, a woman, run out of the room, still shouting Jesus…Jesus…Jesus…and she happened to be Felicia”.