The story of a 64-year old Igbo man in the United States of America, Chukwudubem Agha Okafor, associate professor of English and Literature at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, who killed himself after killing his wife in the afternoon of Sunday, August 15, 2010 signposts an emerging trend of Igbo men killing their wives in the United States.
Dr Chika Onyeani, Editor-in-Chief of US-based African Sun Times, who decried the rate at which wife murder was fast becoming a trademark of Igbo men in the USA, described the case as one too many. According to him: “With the exception of Nigerian-born pharmacist, Olufemi Ademoye, who bludgeoned his wife to death with a baseball bat in June, 2010, all the killings have been by Igbo, and their victims have been registered nurses; again with the exception of Ademoye. On Februry 1, 2007, Mr. Kelechi Charles Emeruwa, 41, an Igbo, was charged and convicted first degree murder of his estranged wife, 36 year old Registered Nurse, Chidiebere Omenihu Ochulo; on Saturday March 25, 2007, Mr. Theophilus Ojukwu, 46, an Igbo man, used a hammer (mattock) to bludgeon his registered nurse wife, Melviina Ojukwu, to death; on August 19, 2006, Mr. John Onwuka, an Igbo man, stabbed his registered nurse wife, fourteen times and killed her; on Thursday, July 24, Michael Collins Iheme, an Igbo man, shot and killed his 28-year old estranged wife, Anthonia Iheme.”
On the likely cause of the rising incidence of wife murder by Igbo men in the USA, Charles Uzoaru said: “We are dealing with a clash of cultures, and this is because back home, the men most of the time earn higher wages than their wives; they are the breadwinners back home. Back home also women have accepted the cultural issue that they should submit to and respect their husbands. They come into different societies and all of a sudden the women are making more money than their husbands, and they begin to question the wisdom of women obeying and respecting their husbands, according to the tradition back home. What happens, the man begins to feel threatened, that this is not what he is used to; the wife is becoming superior to him. It begins a circle of dissatisfaction and the men can’t handle it.”
Meanwhile, there are reports that the couple had records of domestic violence in the past. In May 2002, Cheryl had alleged that Dubem shoved her during an argument, hit her and threatened to kill her. On that basis, she had obtained a temporary protection-from-abuse order against Dubem.
On his part, Dubem had sought a counter-order, alleging that she threatened to harm him. They, however, withdrew their complaints two months later. All these happened before they were married. Five years later, Cheryl obtained another temporary order, following her allegation that Dubem called her names, made false allegations about her to the county children and youth services agency, and physically assaulted her.
Before Cheryl met Dubem, she was married to Alfred S. Philmore, currently in jail in a state prison in Fayette County, PA for third degree murder. Alfred battered her for years before they separated, and after their separation, he shot and killed her boyfriend, Osmond D. Walker, as Walker was leaving Cheryl’s apartment in the 500 Block of South 171/2 Street on September 29, 1998. Before then, he had been jailed four times for harassing, stalking and physically assaulting her, and violating several protection-from-abuse orders.
Prof. Okafor, one of Nigeria’s most respected poets, a renowned scholar whose scholarly interests and activities included African Diasporic literature and modern African poetry, obtained his Ph.D in Cultural Studies from the University of Minnesota and taught world literature and African and postcolonial literatures at the Kutztown University since 1995. He had authored four books: My Testaments, (1980), The Dance of Death: Nigerian History and Christopher Okigbo’s Poetry, 1998, Meditations on African Literature, 2001 (co-edited by Chinua Achebe), and Cycle of Doom: Selected Essays in Discourse and Society, 2005.
Cheryl Okafor (born Cheryl Moncrieffe), 37, artist, educator, and master’s level mental health clinician, was originally from Jamaica but had lived in the United States since she was nine years old. She worked as a contract employee with Child and Family Support Services and was active in community outreach programs. She had a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in art education from Kutztown University. Described as very talented, creative and nurturing, she was also involved in the founding of ACOR, the African American Coalition of Reading, which has a gallery in the Goggleworks but has its roots in a dialogue that started around 2001.
Until their separation, the couple lived in Exeter, PA and had four-school age children. Cheryl had a son by a previous marriage, and Dubem Okafor had three grown up children through a previous marriage.
It would be recalled that Prof Okafor, cousin to the late Christopher Okigbo, on Sunday, August 15, 2010, apparently distraught that his wife had left him a few days earlier, arranged to meet her at his sister’s, where he shot her several times with a 380-caliber handgun before shooting himself shortly after they arrived separately at the home of his sister, Patricia Ofilin, in the 300 block of Pear Street, Reading, Pennsylvania.
According to Mr. Joel Bonille, deputy coroner at Berks County Coroner, the tragic incident was a case of domestic dispute, resulting in homicide and suicide..though the matter had long been closed, the tragic incident is still raising concern over the rising cases of deadly domestic violence. Reports say the death of the Okafors is the 36th fatal domestic violence in Berks County in 10 years.