Tonye David-West, Jr. presents a depressing picture. A vigorous debate should ensue. For the series archives, see http://www.utexas.edu/conferences/africa/ads/index.html
It's puzzling and exceedingly unsettling to see the increasing divorce rate amongst Nigerian couples in the US. It's indeed frightening that most Nigerians (in the US) know a Nigerian couple or two [also in the US] who are going through separation and divorce. I couldn't remember this being the case only a few years ago and one has to wonder what has occasioned this repugnant and untoward trend in the oldest institution sanctioned by God in the Garden of Eden.
Recently, my heart was broken when a friend (someone I had looked up to) intimated that he was divorcing his Nigerian wife of 23 years after four beautiful children, with the oldest already in the university. Twenty-three years of marriage, now that's a lifetime. I've been very fond of this couple and the news was tantamount to the announcement of a death in the family. Though I had been aware of their problems, I wasn't ready for this unceremonious conclusion.
As it were, the wife made substantially more money than the husband and this, essentially, was the crust of their problem. This fact made the gentleman irrelevant in his own home since the wife's income was used to finance most of the capital projects such as the house, luxury cars, etc. Even though she didn't flaunt her superior earning power willy-nilly, at least, not in public, he admitted to the awful feeling of inadequacy in this particular regard.
In the context of the male egoism, psychologists would attest that such a feeling makes one to be very susceptible to anger and short tamper-ness which often leads to endless arguments which itself lead to frustration and eventually divorce. And that was what happened in this case. Every tension resulted in endless arguments, culminating in unwarranted accusations further eroding the trust that was built over 23 years. If the wife expressed a different opinion on a given subject, it was attributed to her superior earning power. Ultimately, it came to an unbearable point for the gentleman and he opted out. This was very unfortunate circumstances for this lovely, seemingly made-in-heaven couple only in their mid fourties.
A sad story.
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The stakes are even higher when children are involved in these broken marriages. The children suffer as they are often delegated the responsibility of one parent and the other parent only offers an occasional visit. It gets even more complicated when one parent gets involved with another person and suddenly, one would see old feelings resurrecting and jealousy filling the air. Fights occur and the police are called, the children become the ultimate victims.
Another young (Nigerian) couple recently paid a scheduled visited to the judge because the gentleman didn't redeem his pledge of seeking higher education. The wife, a pediatric doctor, brought from home by the gentleman twelve years ago, stated that a condition for their union was the promise by the gentleman to improve himself educationally. The gentleman with only vocational training obtained in Nigeria and a failed attempt in the US to obtain a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering had reneged on this promise after twelve years of marriage and three beautiful children with the oldest at ten. The lady, tired of his excuses and unimpressed by his layman's profession and lack of "class", initiated the divorce which was recently finalized. Though she earned her medical degree in Nigeria, the gentleman worked hard (I remember him having three jobs at one time) to pay the high fees for her numerous exams in the US and provided the material support needed to be successful in such tedious endeavors.
Another sad story.
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Another could not wait to make the trip to downtown. The gentleman accused severally by his wife of emotionally abusing his wife is being asked to vacate the home he bought even before the wife made the one-way trip from Nigeria. The gentleman lost his case before the judge and with that, came a phone call to help him pack up the U-Haul truck with his personal belongings, saying goodbye to his three children in a teary and utterly emotion-laden farewell, albeit, temporary. His oldest daughter captured it well in the driveway, "Daddy, don't leave us, daddy, don't leave us..."
Another sad story.
* * *Sadly, Nigerian couples across America are heading for the divorce court in rapid numbers, more than it was only a decade ago. Somewhere, somehow, the floodgate has been opened. What could be wrong? Well enough, there are violence, etc, ridden cases which can't be salvaged and divorce seems the only solution. But there are also cases that are far from this point that can be easily resolved with some efforts? It goes without saying that the American society and its attendant pressures have a way of tearing marital unions asunder. But this is to be expected and couples must remain resolute.
In this community alone, eight couples (inclusive of the cases referenced above) in the last year (2004) have made a run for the divorce courts. A few more are mapping out strategies of getting there. It's hard enough that most are saddled in far-away land, walled from loved ones, but to compound this grilling loneliness with marital problems is a fatalistic endeavor. What soem couples do not realize is that marriage is a fulltime job without vacation - a work in perpetual progress. Compromise, tolerance and acceptance of faults and imperfections are essential to forging a lasting union.