Although it is buffeted from all sides by a concatenation of forces, chiefly neo-liberal ideologues, Marriage - the union of a man and a woman – continues to soldier on. Indeed, one can safely say that most adults in the world still fancy the idea of settling down in marriage.
Despite the increasing influence of neo-western ideas in Nigeria remaining single when one is deemed “ripe” for marriage could elicit trepidation in family members who would then pile pressure on the single, male or female, “to settle down” in marriage.
Single ladies are especially picked upon by these family members, perhaps in view of the female biological clock wounding down as the fairer sex ages.
Interestingly though, the family is the major stumbling block on the way to conjugal bliss for some spinsters in Nigeria as elsewhere in the world. Hajiya Kaltume Buba, 37, comes from a well-to-do family in Maiduguri, Borno state. While this beautiful lady has no problem of men asking her out with a view to settling down with her in marriage, her family background appears to be her albatross.
She said: “Several times, I lost my suitors by bringing them to my parent’s palatial house. I’ve come to understand that I lost these potential husbands because of my upper class origin.
“The problem, I think, is rooted first in the closed nature of the upper class families and their expectations from our would-be suitors or husbands. The upper class live in Government Reserved Areas (GRAs) and similar exclusive residential areas, effectively shutting themselves, including us, their matured daughters, away from the world.
Gentlemen from the middle class, for instance, do not have access to us in our gilded fortresses; we are only exposed to our likes in the upper class and of course the pool of prospective suitors is limited. You also know that there must be some sort of chemistry between you and whoever you want to marry, which one might not get within the upper class.”
To brighten her chances of landing a suitor and keeping him long enough to want to stay forever, Buba decided to switch residence.
“I decided to stay with an uncle in the town, leaving my parents’ home for the time being in order to keep the present guy around until the D-day,” she stated.
Also, a 39-year-old divorcee from Adamawa state, A’i Maina, (not her real name) said her current status of a single mother of two was foisted on her by her family’s 'meddle-someness' in her dissolved marriage.
She traced this back to her courtship period when members of her family opposed her choice of suitor on grounds that he was not from “high society.”
With a tinge of regrets, Maina said: ‘‘I was happily married to my husband, but my family kept complaining about him basically because they saw him as unfit to be their brother-in-law. This brought about a lot of problems that resulted in the termination of our marriage.
“At the time, I was fooled to think I was loved or that I was being favoured until when it was quite late and I realised that I wasn’t. They are now living happily in their respective homes, leaving me here lonely without husband or children because the children are living with their father.”
Maina lamented that she was living in pains even as she wished her former husband would come back. “It is a forlorn wish because it seems my former husband is not willing to come back due to the bad experience he had with my family.”
A high taste for the easy life and an obstinate search for the man who can provide it had also led many single ladies to end promising relationships, or not even trying to start any with a man who cannot provide “the finer things of life.”
While some “lucky ones” have found their spouses despite this approach to dating, many also have their fingers burnt in the process, ending up “being used and dumped by rich playboys and Sugar daddies.”
Miss Mary Ogochukwu, 46, appeared to have led the life of putting her love for ostentatious living ahead of bagging her “Mr. Right.”
The Enugu-born Miss. Ogochukwu said: “I am having it hard now to settle down. In those days, I thought I was living the good life through the expensive gifts my rich dates were providing for me. But now I know that most of the men that were ready to meet my needs were doing so to satisfy their He-goat desires. As soon as they were through with me, they moved to the next lady available.”
But Miss. Waliyat, 34, from Osun state argued that there was nothing wrong with a lady living off a man in a relationship she hoped would lead to marriage.
Waliyat, who is still single, said: “Any guy who cares about me must look after me or he takes his leave. Although I am not waiting for a man to pick my bills because I have a thriving business, a man must be able to contribute to my business as long as he wants to marry me.”
Also, the conservative culture of many ethnic groups in the country appears to be working against the marital quest of single ladies. In Northern Nigeria, for instance, ladies are expected to be reserved, even introverted, and it is a taboo for them to make advances to men first, however smitten they might be with their love interest.
Instead of considering encouraging her, a woman who betrays her love for a man before the latter makes advances to her is immediately considered “a cheap stock” and is invariably ‘rewarded’ with indignity.
Miss. Asabe Baba, 34, from Kaduna suffered severe abuses from her parents, friends and colleagues because she made advances to a male office colleague whom she fell in love with.
“He spurned my advances and went for my friend who was not even ready to listen to him. And my friend was not better than me in any way, ‘am sure about that’’ she said.
The lax moral latitude that appears to be prevalent in the country has also made sex, which many cultures in the country only allow in the marital context, cheaply available, thus putting some men off marriage.
Dr. Stan Jerome, a consultant psychologist, observed: “Cheap sex makes men reluctant to get married. The way women appear these days exposing their bodies in order to attract men’s attention has led to cheap 'commodification' of sex. Marriage involves a lot of responsibilities which our young men are not ready to shoulder. So long as men get cheap sex, a lot of women will not get married.”