In what she describes as “A Hell Called Marriage In Onwuliri’s Home”, the embattled daughter in-law to former Minister of State for Education and later Foreign Affairs, Lady Viola Onwuliri has granted a detailed interview based on her experiences from marriage and domestic violence.
Christina Onwuliri (Nee Amaefula) who is married to the former Minister’s son, Chukwuemeka Osmond Onwuliri explains why her documents were seized, and to what really led to the detachment of her two daughters.
Most people are wondering why such issue became a public affair. Why?
Some people kept asking why this matter became a public affair. What would I have done when I tried all I could to hide this issue from my dad and close family members? There was nobody around my husband’s place that I didn’t talk to. Some were unable to speak. Some were scared to get into the matter because of his mother. Some were looking out for an opportunity to cause more harm to our marriage. The one that pains me the most was when I took it to our marriage sponsor. I expected a better resolve towards it. At least when disagreement occurs in marriage, one would either try resolving it, or to even talk to a family member that understands. But here, I protected it from my family, to an extent that they will call to know what was happening, yet I will pretend to the very high level that nothing happened just to keep my home. When it ran out of hands with abuse after abuse, I went to see our marriage sponsor. He claimed to understand the whole situation, but later, I was disappointed to see him trying to seduce me. He promised to offer anything that will bring happiness to my life only if I will go to bed with him. What happiness? When my home is on fire? When I can’t even enjoy the joy of marriage? I felt highly disappointed and depressed. It was as if nobody was around for me. I could have called my family, but their option may not have been the best then, because the treatment I was getting is a total insult to them, especially to my dad.
When your family later knew of what you were passing through, what did they suggest or do?
When my dad later knew of what happened, he silently called my husband, asking him to secretly dissolve the marriage in Canada since it wasn’t working. And I knew why he told him that. He never wanted our problem to be at the public. He made that suggestion to save the image of my husband’s family, especially the mum who was serving as a Minister then. But, my husband didn’t oblige to it till when we returned to Nigeria.
What led to your return to Nigeria?
It was in one of the interferences of my mother in-law. She said that my husband is not obliged to keep me in Canada where we based or elsewhere in the world. And after this encounter with her, my husband told me we will be visiting Nigeria in February. I had no misgivings about it.
When we arrived to the family house in Owerri, I noticed the presence of a Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Jude Onuoha, a serving Honourable member at the Imo State House of Assembly, Hon. Mike Iheanetu and few others that I don’t know their names. Later, I noticed that my husband picked up a bag and was leaving without prior information to me. Cautiously, I approached him to know where he was going, but to my greatest surprise, he violently pushed me into a room and locked me up.
At that point, I saw those men taking my children away without my consent. Then, I started screaming and was helpless but had no option than to start breaking the window panes in the room to get myself out. When they saw I was breaking the glasses, one of the drivers opened the door and I came out shouting for help, and then my children were nowhere to be found.
What exactly will you say made them to seize your papers?
You know I have dual citizenships. Through marriage, he came to Canada on Immigrant Status basis. They don’t want an immediate termination to all these benefits, and that’s why they are working so hard to paralyze from taking steps at least till their consultations. I have been used here. I have been humiliated. I have been traumatized. But I kept asking, is he not the same man that promised to love and cherish me as a wife? What went wrong? What did I do to him? Even if every other person fails to understand the challenges we faced as a family, why will his case be different? I have sacrificed everything to keep this marriage, yet, he kept frustrating my efforts with his actions. Is it when I die from domestic violence that I will be appreciated as a wife?
From the pictures released by your husband, one would be wondering how you went about to cause that number of damages. How true were those pictures?
When I saw them, I got surprised at it all. I wondered how it all happened. But no matter the circumstances, I like being truthful to myself first. One is that I told you I damaged the window pane to get myself out of the house when I got locked up. It’s self-defense. What surprised me most after all that happened were numbers of photos released. I saw areas I didn’t even visit. I saw damages beyond what I placed my hands on. I never did all that. Heaven knows, I didn’t. It was their own buildup to make their claims look real and strong. Besides, how could they have allowed me to cause that number of damage when they were all around? They are out to destroy me and the image of my family. I never did all that.
He even accused you of being mad?
You read it! And we are here now, at least you asked for this very interview probably to hear from me and to observe if I’m mad as he claims. You are now in a better position to read his lines of accusation one after the other, and then refute them yourself based on the true fact you’ve seen. I am not mad. I never suffered from madness. And I will not suffer from one. Remember, this is a man who came and asked for my hand in marriage. Traditionally you know what it is to enquire about somebody you want to marry, and which after being satisfied with it all, you boldly go on to ask for the person’s hand in marriage. He did all that, and we also did ours. We are not here to accuse anybody of anything in the past we saw before going into our marriage agreement. But why are they accusing me and my family wrongly? What is our offence? They took away my little daughters. They took away my traveling documents, passports and academic certificates. What for?
He claims that his late father gave your dad his job as a lecturer. How true is it?
No single truth around it at all. They did nothing. Even when his mum took my credentials to get me a job, what happened? She kept misplacing them. Whether she was saying the truth or not, I can’t tell. But I know she never took anything about me serious because she hated me. I’ve been called to represent my husband at most family meetings, but she will walk me out saying I’m not a member of her family. Or is it the one that concerns my family? The only time she visited my father’s house was during the traditional wedding where she spent just four hours and left. Since then, she has not visited again. We even had issue of who visits our home from my father’s family house. They enlisted names of people they would want to come to the house or not to come. When I questioned that, they said they never wanted my people to finish their money. What money? These were people coming to visit their sister and daughter who left home for marriage.
In Port Harcourt as well, whenever his mum will be visiting us, she will come with her own food in a flask. At a point, he told the son that whenever she will be coming to Port Harcourt and finds out he is not at home that she will not stopover. What did I not pass through? I passed through hell in their hands.
Please, don’t forget, my dad got employed as a lecturer in 2006, and then we’ve not met any member of their family before. Remember, we met around 2011. And till this time, I’m yet to find out how they gave my dad his job.
When did the attitude of your mother in-law changed towards you?
She never had it comfortable being with me as the son’s wife. I noticed it, even as I stood not to accept the marriage, but then, my husband was so desperate to get me into the family. Even when I confronted him over the mum’s discomfort towards me, he would cover it up with words like I’m getting married to him not his mum. And then, I would wonder what I was coming into the family to do when I can’t see his mother as my own my mother. But something solidified my position of acceptance. His late father did. The late Prof stood against all wrongs in the family that we were all afraid to dare his principles. Well respected man with great values, he gave me all confidence to be a member of his family. But when I went through abuse, depression and rejection, he was nowhere around to stand by me. He was nowhere to consolidate on his words to me and to my family. I think his death caused the biggest damage.
What further happened after the death of Professor Celestine Onwuliri?
My mother in-law took over everything by becoming a mini-god. She decides who stays and goes. I couldn’t even suggest what my husband could listen to. Even all advises ended up in the mother’s ear. It was as if I had no confider again. At slight issues, he would raise his hands and will beat me like a common criminal. Between 2011 and 2014, while I was living in Port Harcourt with my husband, he physically and mentally abused me. For example, when arguments concerning on way forward in the marriage, he gets infuriated and physically beats me and locks me up in the toilet for as long as he wishes. I will cry and cry, but tears will dry without anyone consoling me.
Do you think your husband cheated on you?
It depends on the type of cheating. If you mean the kind of cheating that involved him with another woman, I wouldn’t know. And I can’t accuse him wrongly. But if it’s based on the fact that he masturbated while in my presence, and even as he moves with some male friends as if they were dating, I think I will agree to it.
Masturbated in your presence?
Of course, he did. It irritated me so much that I didn’t know what to do. I felt a time why he would engage into such. I mean, I’m his wife and he had me around. What stopped him from taking me to bed to catch some relieve of whatsoever? He would just be masturbating, while I will be there crying. Most times he would travel after my mum would have sent sum money for my up-keep and that of the family, but he will disappear with it only to return looking so weak. The truth is that he is a gay. He lied to his mum just to stay overseas, because he knew that’s where he can only stay to indulge in such habits. While in Canada, he was bringing men to our home, even as he would sleep with them on our matrimonial bed.
Why was your mum sending money for the family’s up-keep?
You know my husband lost his job at Schlumberger, and his papers were stamped unemployable. Since then, we have tried getting another job for him but no way. Even his mum who was a Minister could not get him a job. At least to tell you how serious it was.
Why did he slap the French woman?
He said he can’t work under a woman. And at slight times, he would brag of his mum being a Minister. He even said that if the French woman tries misbehaving that the mum will use her contacts against her. When he lost his job, I wondered why his mum couldn’t save the situation again.