Africa viewpoint: Nigerian weddings, money and babies

An Igbo wedding in Nigeria (Photo sent in by BBC News website reader Dozie Okpalaobieri)

In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, Nigerian writer Sola Odunfa argues that many men see marriage as a financial burden.

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.

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Women who seek freedom via divorce courts are the God-fearing ones ”

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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.

'Husbands murdered'

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.

Nigeria's Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola (archive shot) 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 imbibed 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.

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Many families demand that their son's girlfriend be pregnant before marriage”

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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.

'Ungodly and unAnglican'

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 last week 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.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Its sad and disheartening that women are still treated this way in 'some parts',but that does not also mean that they should be abused by their husbands.Don't get me wrong,i do not belong to the school of thought that encourages expensive bride price, but its what it is 'tradition' and any man who takes it out on his bride, am sorry to say doesn't deserve the right to be called a man.

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    Comment number 54.

    Mr Odunfa and the bbc needs to get their facts right. I am from the south east residing in the Uk and the pride price I paid for my wife was just 1000 Naira (less than 4 pounds). Mr Odunfa can not stay in Lagos and just write on hearsay. One fact remains...marriage all over the world is costly. What you did not pay in bride price you will pay in wedding dress(in the UK) . or in party and ASO EBI.

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    Comment number 53.

    2 @Yomi If the family choose accept the man's dowry knowing he have to other wife, and he choose to use her as a sex slave the man should not be blame. The woman must blame her own family who put her into that situation.

    the western values and the ancestors are on a head on collision.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    @Yomi, our mother's got less than they deserve because like now its about GREED and MISCHIEF. The woman's family will present a long laundry list of what they want and how much money. In my opinion only greed and mischief will fuel the action of a people who can sold their daughter into a so call marriage knowing the man is already married to two other woman.

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    Comment number 51.

    Now 10yrs in the UK, my recollection of the Nigerian family is that the wife had little voice in her home. In Sola's/previous generations, the man was never to be challenged. If he chose to have affairs, his wife had to remain 'totally loyal and respectful'. We saw our mothers given much less than they deserve. Thank God for 'Western values', we now insist on being treated as more than sex slaves.


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