The Wife-Beater From Kenya


It is always very embarrassing to read stories of Nigerians who go abroad to give the county a bad name. Nigeria became known as a country of internet scammers and fraudsters not because all Nigerians deserve to be so labelled, but when a few bad eggs behave wrongly in other countries, it is every Nigerian that suffers from the profiling that results and the reputational damage to the country. It got so bad at a point that the Nigerian green passport became a badge of dishonour at many international airports where special attention was always paid to any flight from Nigeria. And yet this is a country of very talented and distinguished persons who have excelled in virtually every field of human endeavour. Those who bring disgrace unto the nation may get sanctioned for their offences or crimes, but that is hardly ever where the matter ends.

The latest story in this regard is that of a certain John Nwankwo Noko who was deported from Kenya on Saturday, May 4 by the Kenyan authorities, for beating his partner, identified as Ms. Pauline who happens to be a Kenyan. The story is all over the media in Kenya with the headline: “Nigerian man captured on CCTV assaulting Kenyan woman on wheel deported.”  The Nigerian was caught on a surveillance camera assaulting a woman sitting in a wheelchair. Two ladies were shown trying to restrain him, but he refused. The footage has since gone viral, generating outrage. The woman looked helpless. It was later revealed that John Nwankwo Noko even threatened to kill her and her domestic servants if any word about his actions got out, and in the event of a court case, if they dared testify against him. It was not the first time that Ms. Pauline would be subjected to such violence by her partner. She has children for the Nigerian who has been living in Kenya for years, and has a work permit.

Somehow, the video got out to the public. The matter was taken up by Senator Gloria Orwoba who reported it at the Karen Police Station. Kenyan policemen are like Nigerian policemen. They tried to slow down the case, quoting technicalities. Many would be familiar with what happens in Nigerian police stations. There is that story, probably apocryphal about a woman who had gone to a police station to lodge a complaint against her husband.

The uniformed man at the counter listened carefully to her, only to ask her: “Madam, did you say this man is your husband?” The woman answered in the affirmative.

The question was repeated. The woman again affirmed.

“This your husband, he paid your dowry?”

“Yes”, the woman replied.

The policeman reportedly drew himself to full length and said: “Madam, this is a police station, we don’t inquire into husband-and-wife matters here. Go back home and settle with your husband, or call your in-laws make dey settle your quarrel. Person don pay dowry, put you for house, you dey come report am for station.”

Kenyan policemen are probably like that too. But for the tenacity of Senator Orwoba who took up the matter with higher authorities. The matter went to court. The Ministry of Gender got involved. The Ministry of Interior too.

However, the Kenyan authorities didn’t bother to spend too much time on the case. John Nwankwo Noko was treated with the utmost contempt that he deserves. Assault and threat to inflict bodily harm or kill, as well as domestic violence are serious offences in Kenya as they are in Nigeria. Section 251 at Chapter 63 of the Penal Code of Kenya prescribes a penalty of five years imprisonment for “assault causing bodily harm”. Section 74 of the 2010 Constitution of Kenya explicitly protects both men and women from any form of inhuman treatment. Taking Nwankwo through a court process would have meant using the Kenyan taxpayer’s money to engage lawyers and the court system, and having to battle with “technicalities”.  A quick decision was taken to expel him from the country. He was thus sent away as a persona non grata, in the fashion of a good riddance. But there are questions: what then happens to the innocent children he has left behind, and the woman in a wheelchair that he has traumatized? He has also given his home country, a bad name. Nigerians are not particularly popular in Kenya. Quite a number of our compatriots have been implicated in money laundering and drug trafficking cases in that country. From Central. Africa to the South, Nigerian men are also not popular with the male folk: they are accused of competing for the attention of local women and acting superior towards their hosts. Whatever may be the legitimate reason for this, the very picture of a man assaulting a woman in a wheelchair is horrendous. Violent behaviour of any sort is unacceptable. Hitting a defenceless person is clearly animalistic. Even animals sometimes behave better.   

This is why I think the wife-beater of Kenya should not just slip into Nigeria and feel relieved that he has escaped the wrath of the law in Kenya. He may have escaped lightly also because as in Nigeria, women in Kenya in a marital situation may refuse to testify against their husband in court. Women often imagine that the man will turn a new leaf, and may generally not want the marriage to end. See for example, Piah Njpoki Kagwai vs. Jackson Kagwai, High Court of Kenya, Civil Case No 1897 of 1986 where a husband gorged out his wife’s eye. Church teachings and local traditions have also not helped. But I think here in Nigeria, anybody that disgraces the country and misbehaves in diaspora should upon return to Nigeria either by deportation or relocation be made to face sanctions. The rule about double jeopardy should not apply to such persons. Our laws should be amended where necessary to make sure that any Nigerian in diaspora who becomes a persona non grata in his or her place of domicile abroad, also gets sanctioned in Nigeria for bad conduct. This is perhaps the only way we can send a strong message to those Nigerians abroad who give the entire country a bad image. We are quick to celebrate Nigerians who do well abroad, including those who may have taken up the citizenship of their host countries, in any case, the Nigerian Constitution allows dual nationality. By the same token, Nigeria must begin to name and shame those who bring shame to the country abroad.

Thirty-four states in Nigeria have domesticated the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act of 2015. Two states, Lagos and Ekiti have domestic violence registers where they list the names of those who have been found guilty of gender-based or domestic violence.  I don’t know John Nwankwo Noko’s state of origin but here at home, his name should be in the black book containing the names of wife-beaters in states where such exists. Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chair of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) interacts regularly with Nigerians in Diaspora across the world and whenever she holds one of her interactive sessions, she always tells her audience that Nigerians have an obligation to respect the laws of the countries where they live. And of course, she always cautions against illegal migration. But there are persons in diaspora who will never listen or accept that they are Nigerian ambassadors abroad. The way to address the matter is to ensure that anybody that breaks the law abroad also faces the full wrath of the law in Nigeria.

John Nwankwo Noko was deported from Kenya on Saturday. He is probably walking free in a part of Nigeria today. There is no way the Kenyan authorities would not have contacted the Nigerian Embassy in Nairobi to report his conduct before taking a decision to deport him. We have various desks at our embassies abroad: Immigration, Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA) etc. On arrival in Nigeria, Nwankwo Noko must have passed through a Nigerian airport. He should have been detained at the Nigerian end, and subjected to serious interrogation. Kenya sends away a violent man, and he would just walk into Nigeria like that? His name should be at every immigration post in Nigeria. Persons like him must never be allowed to go out of this country again. In some other countries, he will be closely monitored. There is the argument about the freedom of movement and how Nigerians are free to choose wherever they want to live in the world, but if anybody is found to have shown a tendency to disgrace this country abroad, such persons must also enjoy the status of a persona non grata inside Nigeria.  Whoever finds himself or herself in such circumstances may go to court to seek enforcement of fundamental human rights, and that is why we need to firm up our laws. Rights under the law are not absolute. We must strengthen our sanctions to re-build the national ethos and value system.

The big problem we face however is the enforcement of laws. Nigerian state officials choose which laws to enforce and the ones that they would rather ignore. Our law enforcement officials routinely break the law. It is not that they do not know what is right, or their job, but there is an established culture of impunity that creates a crisis of moral turpitude. This is why civil servants will break the law and have the temerity to boast about it in the media; it is also why all kinds of men and women flaunting dubious wealth are among some of the most influential persons in society. The people of Kenya are happy that the problematic Nigerian who battered a Kenyan woman has been expelled from their country. They see the case as a milestone in their country’s fight against gender-based violence. Senator Orwoba who fought for the enforcement of Ms. Pauline’s right to dignity has been praised deservedly for her    intervention: a good case of a woman supporting another woman in distress, and a parliamentarian standing up for one of her constituents. Nigerian women in general have lessons to learn from her example, and all those SUV-riding lawmakers in Abuja and the states who only remember their constituents when they need votes should see what it means to be a lawmaker.

Togo, Faure Gnassingbe’s Dictatorship And Chad

One of the biggest problems we face in Africa is the sit-tight attitude of African leaders. We have seen leaders who turned the Presidency of their countries into chieftaincy positions and have worked hard to rule till death separates them from the office. We have also seen African leaders who change or manipulate the Constitution to extend their stay on power perpetually as in Guinea in 2001 and Togo in 2002, Gabon in 2003 and Uganda in 2005. They cling to power not to promote the people’s interest but to satisfy their own greed and in some of the worst manifestations we have seen emergence of dynasties in some of the countries: sons taking over from their fathers as in Gabon, Chad and Togo or watching in the wings to do so as we have seen in Equatorial Guinea. Democracy continues to suffer the hands of these leaders who plan coups against the people thus making Africa’s democratic consolidation a permanent work in progress. Some of Africa’s living dictators include Teodoro Nguema Mbasogo in Equatorial Guinea (44 years in power), Paul Biya in Cameroon (42 years), Dennis Sassou Nguesso in the Republic of Congo (38 years), Yoweri Museveni in Uganda (39 years), Paul Kagame in Rwanda (24 years) and Isaias Afewerki in Eritrea (33 years).  Most recently, President Macky Sall of Senegal attempted a “Constitutional coup” in Africa’s most stable democracy. He was stoutly resisted by the people and the Constitutional Court. The lesson of the Senegalese experience is that the people’s will prevails if the people take ownership of their democracy.

The people of Togo are however not so lucky. They have failed to resist Faure Gnassingbe’s impunity. Last Friday, the ruling party of Togo, the Union for the Republic (UNIR) was declared winner of 108 out of 113 seats paving the way for President Faure Gnassingbe to extend his rule in Togo.  He became President in 2005, after his father’s death.  He has done more or less what his own father did in 2002, by changing the constitution. The Gnassingbe dynasty has been in power in Togo since 1967.  In March, President Gnassingbe introduced a parliamentary system of government, which means he would be elected by parliament rather than through popular elections. The legislative elections were delayed twice because of protests by the opposition. Now Gnassingbe has had his way. He could remain in power till 2033, if he is re-elected in 2025, which is certain. It is most unfortunate what has befallen the people of Togo and if the Togolese opposition thought that their protests would make any difference, it did not. Unfortunately, dictatorship in African countries has never translated into prosperity for the people, rather, it has served as an ugly vehicle for stagnated growth, kleptomania and the abuse of the people’s potential. Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe was a place of misery. The Democratic Republic of Congo continues to be the theatre of one of the world’s most terrible conflicts.

Faure Gnassingbe needs to be reminded of the fate of Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon. His father, Omar Bongo Ondimba ruled Gabon from 1967 until he died in 2009. Ali Bongo seized power and was President for 14 years. In 2023 he was forced out by a military junta. The international community condemned the coup in Gabon, but the underlying consensus was that Ali Bongo deserved no pity. It is good to report history but African leaders appear to be tone-deaf. The next major theatre of power play is most likely to be Chad where interim President Mahamat Deby Itno confirmed his interest in the country’s Presidential election, and indeed was on the ballot in the presidential election in that country that took place yesterday. Chad has been under military rule since the death of Deby Itno’s father in 2021. The late President was President for more than 30 years. He was killed on the war front, fighting rebels. His son seized power and declared himself interim President.  Deby Itno is expected to win yesterday’s election thus creating another dynasty in Chad. He too will get away with it. Chad is about the only ally of France and the United States in the Sahel, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger having turned against the two countries.  Deby Itno may pretty much do as he wishes and the world will look away. Those who tried to stand in his way ahead of yesterday’s election were either co-opted or they died mysteriously. Sad.    

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