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Maryam Sanda: Hanged For Love? By Ozodinukwe Okenwa

Last weekend love was generously in the air! Every 14th of February ‘lovers’ (real and unreal) around the world celebrate St. Valentine’s Day, an amorous event originating from the ancient Roman empire and dating back centuries. Annually, therefore, mundane love is on display, shared mutually among the descendants of Adam and Eve. Although the truth behind the Saint Valentine legend is murky the love feast is as popular as the abuse of same and as widespread as the scandals trailing the human sexual relationships between and among Homo-Sapiens of this beautiful vast garden mankind inhabits.

During St. Valentine true love is, of course, celebrated; the occasion equally gives opportunities to philanderers, pimping idiots and sexual perverts or predators to flex their sexual exploitative muscles. During the event it is always gift a-gogo — materially, financially and sexually. The true meaning of St. Valentine is often lost on the alter of sexual bliss!

There is something infinitely beautiful about love. The love of God for us, for example, is biblcally wonderful in the sense that He made us in His own image and likeness. The love a mother show or showers on her child could be magnetic in an organized disciplined family. 

We marry because we love one another or pretend to do so. By procreating we are not only responding to the divine exhortation of multiplying in kind and dominating the earth but reminding ourselves of how we came here and why the Adamic mortal sin associated with the “forbidden fruit” led to our eternal damnation.

Globally ‘love’ is in crisis of immense proportion. Yes, there is love crisis facing mankind like never before in this HIV/AIDS generation. Today we hear, here and there, how love is on decline around the globe, the manifestation of which could be seen in our daily existence. Yet the truth remains that loving our neighbours as ourselves is considered to be a golden rule in the relationship between and among us as the children of one God.

Apart from numerous cases of divorce and conjugal violence we are daily confronted with pimping business and proxenetism. Love is now at the market place, for sale, much like a commodity! Marriage, a universal product of love, is no longer sacrosanct. Some established stars, superstars and megastars (especially in the entertainment industry) marry and divorce and remarry at their convenience without any iota of moral guilt. Some had done it multiple times without qualms! The issue of celibacy is tearing the catholic church apart with priests and bishops caught in the web of sexual abuses.

While humanity is in need of love and social solidarity hate is gaining ground in a world of intolerance. Looking around the world far and near, wars, terrorism, anti-semitism and godlessness have conspired as it were to ‘kill’ love among us. Blood flows daily from Iraq to Nigeria, Syria to Libya. Yet a simple application of love could heal mankind of our impurities, sins and wickedness.

Ms Maryam Sanda was a nonentity in Nigeria few years ago before a deadly crime brought her out of national obscurity. Prior to the bloody criminal scandal she imposed on herself she could be said to be far from comparison with Jezebel. On that fateful night of November 19, 2017 she had stabbed her husband, Bilyaminu Bello, to death following an allegation of infidelity against him after seeing a text message on his phone! The late Bilyaminu was a son of former Peoples Democratic Party National Chairman.

She was charged to court for culpable homicide alongside her mother, Hajia Maimuna Aliyu, and their house-help, Sadiya Aminu. Hajia   Maimuna was charged for assisting her daughter to conceal the evidence of the crime by cleaning the blood of the deceased from the scene of the crime. A Federal Capital Territory High Court has recently sentenced Maryam Sanda to death by hanging for killing her husband after finding her guilty on every count. 

Ms Sanda’s trial has been emotionally dramatic and it has dragged on for years due to delays, multiple adjournments, failure of witnesses to appear in court among other technicalities. But judgement was delivered some weeks ago. The trial judge, Justice Yusuf Halilu, said Sanda was guilty of the offence and deserved to die. 

Lurid details of the homicide case which built on the rising trend of domestic violence in Nigeria hd grabbed public imagination since it began three years ago, inspiring screaming headlines and pulling public opinion apart between pro and anti.

We could mention two similar cases outside our shores to buttress a point here. The South African Paralympic athlete, Oscar Pistorius, had ‘accidentally’ killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on February 14, 2013 (St. Valentine’s Day!) after shooting four times through a locked toilet door! Pistorius, a six-time Paralympic gold medallist whose legs were amputated below the knee as a baby had said in his defense that he had thought an intruder was in there.

South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that the lower court that had tried him in September 2014 and found him guilty of culpable homicide sentencing him to five years in jail did not correctly apply the rule of “Dolus Eventualis” – whether Pistorius knew that a death would be a likely result of his actions. The Appeal Court had to change the verdict to murder in December 2015 reinforcing the sentence in good measure. 

Mrs Jacqueline Sauvage of Montargis, France, killed her violent drunk husband, Norbert Marot, by shooting him in the back three times with a hunting rifle on 10 September 2012. A criminal case was then filed against her that resulted in her being condemned to ten years in jail. Having been a victim of domestic violence the issue raised questions in France about revenge or self-help in the event of wife-battering. During the Yuletide season of 2016 the then President François Hollande granted her presidential pardon. And she was freed from prison as a result of the presidential grace.

In these two aforementioned cases neither Mr Pistorius nor Mrs Sauvage tasted the hangman’s noose. They are still alive and well today. The anti-Sanda mob could argue that laws differ from country to country. We concur. But hastily add that capital punishment is no longer fashionable in this generation and century. Two wrongs can never make a right! Hanging her would serve no useful purpose but allowing her to stay alive and having ample time to reflect on her gory action could lead to remorse.

While we recognise that Ms Sanda committed a heinous unpardonable crime by permanently taking out her husband in a particularly gruesome manner we believe that hanging her could be harsh and disproportionate a punishment. Sentencing her, instead, to some years of imprisonment could lead to penance. Besides, such long years behind bars could serve as enough deterrence to other Jezebels out there who could be tempted to assassinate their husbands for the sake of jealousy or whatever.

Let the judicial authorities in Nigeria, therefore, temper justice with mercy.

SOC Okenwa

[email protected]

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