Nigerian Weddings, Money And Babies


Reports from various parts of southern Nigeria suggest that marriage is losing its lustre among young men.

The men are staying single for much longer than their fathers did, while young spinsters are growing anxious as their golden age seems to fly past.

The picture is not much rosier among young married couples.

They break up the traditional home with such nonchalance that one wonders whether the institution of marriage meant anything to them when they were wining and dining their wedding guests.

The situation in the north is different – the Islamic influence and the very conservative outlook above the River Niger dictate that the institution of marriage is protected from Western permissiveness.

Here in the south, there are three types of wedding – Islamic, Christian and traditional.

Beyond the glittering ceremonies, marriages dovetail into one life shaped by economic and social influences.

It is the life after the wedding reception that is scaring many men away from nuptial commitment.

A man from the south-east in his 20s dare not think of marriage during his first 10 years of employment, even if he boasts a university degree, unless he has rich parents to foot the bill.

His headache is compounded if his fiancee is also a university graduate – the more educated a woman is, the higher the price placed on her by her family.

However, if the university graduate gets a job in an oil or telecoms company then, after a decade of working, he may have enough money to afford the luxury of a wife and, of course, what many men see as total authority and control over her for life.

Many Christians no longer see marriage as sacred. In the south-west, the situation is different.

The bride price is not the cause of headaches, but values and morality are.

To the young man here, his parents’ stories of wives being totally loyal and respectful are from a different planet.

He will find that his wife is imbued with the Western values of equality in the home and the freedom to choose her way of life.

He may fret and grumble as much as he chooses – if he is really serious about ending his marriage, the divorce court is next door.

Considering the huge economic implications, wise men ignore their wives’ pranks and cast out their own nets.

It is generally acknowledged that those women who seek freedom via divorce courts are the God-fearing ones.

Others consult spiritualists and have their husbands done in the traditional way – through murder.

Thereafter, they stage elaborate funerals and when the mourning period is over, they live on happily in wealth.

Many young men still walk down the aisle, even if their numbers are dwindling.

And in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, churches are abandoning traditions to allow men to marry their pregnant lovers.

This is in recognition of the fact that many families demand that their son’s girlfriend be pregnant before marriage.

These days, churches generally do not cast out such couples. Instead, they ask the bride not to wear a white dress and veil.

Churches which remain dogmatic tell the couple to wed at the registry and come back for blessing. Children are a gift of God, they say.

The Anglican Bishop of Amichi in the south-eastern state of Anambra, Reverend Ephraim Ikeakor, would not stomach such permissiveness.

He told the Synod of his diocese that conducting the marriage of pregnant brides was “unChristian and ungodly and unAnglican” and, therefore, banned in his diocese.

Far be it from me to question the bishop’s charge but I am happy Reverend Ikeakor is not the primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria.


•Sola Odunfa wrote this article for the BBC


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