My story is Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood combined. But for the fact that I am living the story, I would have found it unbelievable especially that America is involved in such a scam!
Those were the words of Dr. Omolola Famuyiwa, a Nigerian-American who in this chat with The Daily Report discusses the plight of widows with special interest in her story.
The death of a husband for some women is a situation that automatically brings on very oppressive, injurious and degrading widowhood practices, evident in many cultures in Nigeria and in this Q & A, Dr. Omolola Famuyiwa gives a picture of her journey and a familiar story for many widows of Nigerian extraction.
What is your impression about Widowhood practices here in Nigeria?
The Marriage Act and Marriage Certificate is a scam IF these can’t protect women especially those who were married under the Act. It is sad that greed has been endorsed by institutions meant to serve justice to women who become widows. All who turn a blind eye or deaf ear to the wickedness endorsed as widowhood rituals or rites should be ashamed of themselves because what has happened to one, can happen to more. Those who believe they are protected because a living will has been written have no clue that there are only two things that truly protects – 1. Trusteeship, if this holds sway in Nigeria and 2. Joint ownership, having your spouse’s name on everything with a note of caution that where wealth permits, distribution should extend to worthy family members not just the widow and offspring (if any exists).
There are different types of widowhood practices faced by a lot of widows, how do you describe some of these practices?
Dehumanising! Debasing! Despicable! Denigrating! Demeaning! Borrow me more strange Ds that makes spousal death a sort of curse when it should be a solemn sendforth since we all would go the way of the deceased some day. A man on Twitter narrated how his father’s siblings who would usually spend gleeful moments with the family enjoying meals from his mother, were the ones exchanging blows (punches) during funeral! All for greed. Some widows are compelled to have sexual intercourse with their deceased spouse’s brother or father! How can that be sexual cleansing?!
What is your story and how much has this impacted you?
My story is Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood combined. But for the fact that I am living the story, I would have found it unbelievable especially that America is involved in such scam! Husband died. Greedy brother in law who is a member of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) wanted all. Lied that he has been made a co-administrator (the audio record of the meeting is online). Got his wife to collect death certificate with doctored details and his friend who is a lawyer used this on his behalf to impersonate me in the filing of an application in my name and his for Letter of Administration at the Lagos State Judiciary. Without verifying (or as accomplice), legal documents were issued by the judiciary. The documents made it possible for him to claim that I filed the application when I did not. He used this as basis to ask the New Jersey Judiciary to punish me. Cut a long story short, most of what we brought to Nigeria when we visited and inheritance in Nigeria were impounded and I was locked out of my home in the USA and all my belongings remain impounded. Let’s just say it was a sad ending to a marriage beautified by grace. Sadly an open appeal to the Vice President who was a close friend to my husband and I have yielded no result yet and the judiciary have refused our advocacy for justice. As a woman loved by God, grace and glory is speaking still and I am trusting God that the tide the enemies sent my way will sweep them up in a tsunami of vengeance.
Many widows have had to face untold hardship to take care of themselves and their children, how much effect do you think society has on the victims?
Very minimal. Widow’s parents, siblings, friends and alumni do more in terms of picking up widows and children. Government has zero plan and sadly agencies of security and justice further entrench abuse of widows. A petition was lodged with the commissioner of police which did not see the light of day. Petition which led to a criminal investigation at Area F Police Command was turned into civil case when I refused to pay bribe. Lawyers at Falana’s Chambers known for advocacy in matters of human rights abuse spoke to me condescendingly and wanted 5Million Naira and later reduced it to 2M Naira only for me to be told the person who negotiated left the firm. WARDC filed a petition with ICPC and we were assured it was within ICPC’s jurisdiction. Sadly months after, I received a negative response and investigations led to the discovery that the mandate of this agency that was previously proactive has been “secretly” changed. Many churches help with prayers and peanuts but not with setting up team of lawyers to fight and win. This would help even if it means getting a percentage of the inheritance. Many have questioned why I have not left it for God and I counsel them. How often do we ask men to leave it for God?! When Jesus was upset by the desecration of Sanctuary, he did not leave it for God, he ACTED. But for God, I will not be alive as diabolism was employed. Politicians now use widows and orphans as tools for public show (of shame) a la 2kg of rice they ask widows to lift up for the camera clicks! Society can help but not much has been done. Widow abuse have survived many republics. If our current leaders – a soldier and a lawyer cannot stop it, women would have to rise up to place a demand on their right to succession. My sermon to many especially women is that they should have a solid support network and never be enmeshed into “me and my husband” in such a way that ostracize others. When your spouse is gone, you need God and those He sends your way. I am forever grateful for family, friends especially men and women of God, alumni and other random people God sent our way.
What efforts have you made in your quest to get out the story, your story so that people can relate with it?
A lot beginning March 8, 2018. My beloved Bola Omoteso died on February 11 2016; I started late because I wanted mediation to work and did not expect that greed affects the brain so much so that reasoning becomes mentally deranged for the greedy. Sadly the advocacy has become like ariwo oja (market noise) with very limited response from those who matter. FIDA Nigeria came on board as a result of the advocacy BUT they chickened out. NTA came on board, chickened out. A few Twitter influencers came on board, chickened out. I must thank whoever is behind Maiyegun Dairy Politico on Facebook. He picked up the video right off YouTube (I believe) and used it on his handle on June 23, International Widows Day. This got the largest viewership, over 50,000! I also thank Vanguard Newspaper who carried a full page story on May 23. I thank radio stations – Top Radio, Traffic FM, Women FM, the story was aired with me as guest. I also thank LTV 8, an interview was recorded and aired for Sunday Watch. If a number of others did not chicken out, if we had a responsive government as it concerns widows in Nigeria and USA, the fraud would have been mitigated and perpetrators served what is due.
Many positive outcomes from sharing my story include that people, especially married men and women, are borrowing brain and shinning their eyes based on the insights. I also began initiatives to lift others. You see, I have a combination of three things many widows do not have 1. God 2. Education 3. Mouth (laugh out loud) I mean, voice. As Mrs. Pam Teevan said, “What better PR Ambassador can God have than you!” One initiative is called Walk With Widows and we hold clinic where we consult, counsel during a colloquium aimed at helping widows survive abuse and threat to their lives. In one of such events, a widow presented with 200+ blood pressure, she was literally walking dead! I have also randomly picked out children of widows from Twitter and other sources and sent the widows or children money gifts. A recorded interview was recently aired on YouTube by a Nollywood actress, Ms. Stella Damascus, We are trusting God that this will do more than mileage but reach the necessary quarters to get justice. I strongly believe that if Lagos State and New Jersey takes up the prosecution, justice will be served. Those just reading the story here may join the campaign on Twitter and Facebook using #JusticeforOmolola #EndWidowAbuse and #ReformProbateLaws
Inlaws play a significant role in the lives of their children, what was their role for you and how did you manage through it?
Before marriage? They were just there. Acted nice but there was no coziness as they had begun to show themselves. For instance only one sibling attended our engagement. The eldest said she had another wedding! Your brother is getting married in his 50s but because you have confined him to satanic never-marry order, you avoid his traditional wedding! None of them brought a gift to the wedding even the money they supported me with was from their father’s inheritance account! But as Christians, we have a way of forgiving and forgetting so much so that when they now begin to show chameleonic traits you start looking shocked. During marriage, his brother was a pain as he did everything to create rancour to scatter the marriage but I prayerfully deflected all as a Christian. What I did not realize is that, the plan had been mapped out for the takeover of his wealth since he never married into his 50s, falling in love and marrying me was a clog in the will of a malicious plan and so I became a target of hate by those who pretended to be family. After his death, you would expect they would let me be but the fact that his life work and acquisition was seen as theirs, I have been served no peace. But God knows my name and has ensured that my joy of salvation remains intact.
From some of the videos that you shared, the stories are touching, are there questions that you asked yourself in the course of putting those videos together?
Like? Should I do this? The only one I asked questions about and had to put off until it became necessary was the appeal to the VP and this was for obvious reasons but like all others, the videos were stirred by the decision not to be part of the conspiracy of silence against me. None was scripted. I initially tried to script the one on the appeal but the day I was stirred to do the video, I didn’t have any script with me. I had gone to pray in a lone area by a church and I was stirred to record there and then. The one appealing to the leaders in NJ, I also tried to use a script but just gave it up. In all the videos, I spoke from my heart to God’s ears ALOUD and I hope it continues to reach those who need to hear them. There are a number of videos on YouTube with one recorded and uploaded in episodes.
Has there been any resolution with respect to your complaints about the action of locking you outside your home?
NONE from the appropriate quarters and they are now trying to change the title of the property which means it may have been sold! On my part I hired an attorney and I am getting stressed out because she keeps asking for money. It is injustice that the USA government allows lawyers to charge arms and legs literally or what do you call 200-500 Dollar bill per hour! This is FRAUD. Who earns that money? Why the greedy man gained mileage before is because I had no readily available source of income. He hired Caucasians who fronted for him so the fact that he is neither a resident nor citizen of America was never questioned. I was supporting my husband full time and so could not do a regular job so even with 5 degrees, my ability to earn income was limited hence when it happened, I was near broke. This is usually the case for many women, they are either not working at all or work in reduced income industry so they can have more time to support spouse or children. But thank God that I have skills which I readily translated into channels of income and God my source, supported me by raising folks who gave in thousands. Sadly most funds went into mortgage payments, repairs and renovation before I borrowed myself brain and began to focus on my health, the family and projects to help other widows as a way to keep the legacy of Bola Omoteso alive.
What are the Courts saying about this and what steps are you taking to get things right through your narrative?
It is fraud in which the judiciary in two nations are involved, lawyers are involved, judges are involved, NBA and NJBA as well as Police on both sides have connived, Police in Nigeria emotionally abused me while those in Edgewater and Englewood verbally and physically assaulted me. So, it is hard for them to say something until they are knocked out by God; you know He wields the biggest GAVEL. 😂 Also, they will be forced to act if someone of Mrs. Falana, Mrs. Buhari, Mrs. Obama etc. stature calls them out. I strongly believe that if REAL advocates take this up, justice would be served and even the property illegally hijacked by Wells Fargo Bank NA will be returned. Sadly many friends of Bola Omoteso, family members and few friends in the media also signed into the code of silence. The sad news is that USA acted because they believe Adeleke Omoteso fronted for by fraudulent Caucasian attorneys came to equity with clean hands with the aid of fraudulently issued documentary evidence from Nigeria. What is happening now points to the fact that sexism is real in Nigeria and the USA. And ethnicism/racism is still very much alive in Nigeria and USA. A light shone through the dark tunnel when a judge awarded judgement to me to have a tenant evicted from one of the homes. I previously rented this so I could raise funds to pay debtors as well as hire a lawyer but the tenant refused to pay. He claimed that lawyers acting for greedy husband’s brother harassed him. They gave him documents which my God turned into blank papers as judgement was awarded in my favour. With his eviction, I returned to the home but my things remain impounded so I am starting from ground zero to furnish. After picking things in the streets, good news is that God put a smile on my face by now opening a path to furnish the home divinely.
How do you think that stereotypes and narratives about widows can be changed?
It is in our hands – the media, civil society, the people… Cares Global Network, Bola Memorial Watch and others came up with a communique last year. It contains points the government and other stakeholders must note. In a nutshell, spouses should protect each other. Let people be aware you love your wife and vice versa, treat her with honour and respect so they have a frame to follow. All leaders including political, spiritual and community must condemn every form of abuse of the female gender. No culture asks a man to sleep on bare floor when his wife dies, why do this to a woman?! Restore the power in the Marriage Act, asking for living will is FRAUD! In his lifetime a man elected or selected a woman to be by his side for sex, sense sharing and more, how can a paper after he has died be more important than the act he performed in his lifetime. If the will is essential then men and women must be mandated to submit one as part of holding bank accounts, getting married etc and required to update it every two years so we can break the jinx about writing wills. This will ensure women are not left stranded and at the mercy of callous in-laws who are really outlaws. My husband’s siblings may have been there for him in childhood but none was there to sleep with him on cold and hot nights, stay with him in hospital for days, manage his health and bring him to complete wellness and help him find joy in living. It is robbery for any of them to want to take all by fraud. They have sown a seed whose harvest would sink and bury them, generations alive and yet to be born. The land of New Jersey and Lagos State will know more tears and all who were involved would face damnation. My God will NOT withhold justice. Justice will be fully served and it has begun. We all must work to #EndWidowAbuse.