Mr. & Mrs. Abroad Nigerian
By: Deji Yesufu
I have long suspected that all was not well with marriages of Nigerian couples outside Nigeria but I didn’t know that it was this bad. Pastor Sola Kolade of Vine Branch Church, Ibadan, gave me the hint when he suggested, many years ago, that many Nigerian marriages would have still been together if the couples had not travelled abroad. That sentiment was further cemented by a Daddy Freeze video on YouTube I stumbled on.
Freeze is not an individual I recommend anyone watching but like Balaam’s donkey, he happened to make some sense this one time. Freeze had a couple of men on his program recently. Most of them are men living outside Nigeria with their spouses and these men are suffering. The title of this video is “My Wife Drove Me Out of My House and Threw Me in the Cold”. The title tells the whole story: Nigerian couple get into marital crisis, the “system” is involved. The marriage is dissolved. The man loses the house he bought to the wife, he’s still paying mortgage on the house and must pay child support. While a few of these men have handled the situation well and moved on with their lives, others have not. It is the reason stories of Nigerian men killing their wives abound outside the country.
My little findings, asking the female folks what the issues are with Nigerian marriages abroad, reveal that the women have their own grouse too. They say that Nigerian men take their families outside the country and rule their homes with the same patriarchal mindset they used to have when they were in Nigeria. They expect their wives to cook, care for the children and make the home, while at the same time the same woman heads outside to work and earn money. The woman does this for a while but soon discovers that the “system” favors her. She realizes that she does not have to slave around the house like she used to do in Nigeria. She discovers that if her husband does not man up, she can throw him out of the house and at the same time get him to still pay for the house and care for the children. One day, and that day always comes in a marriage, there is a little disagreement. A woman that already has a penchant for decision making based on emotions, sacks the husband. He finds himself in the cold, being cared for by a friend. In some extreme cases, the woman replaces him with a boyfriend in the house.
To be fair, the story with Nigerian couples abroad is not all gloom. There is a tiny fraction of marriages that do make it outside the shores of this country. There are Nigerian couples that have learnt to work things out between themselves. The problem however is twofold: first, there is a secret behind the success of the marriages of these couples. The second is that it appears this secret is not being shared well enough among Nigerians because the statistics I have shows that many more marriages are failing, and couples are simply not learning how to deal with their problems. Before I attempt at providing what I think may be the secret behind the success of marriages of Nigerians abroad, I will like to give a little background.
I realize that many Nigerians go to live in countries where they know practically nothing about the dominant worldview of those places. We know practically nothing about their histories, nor are we aware of the things that make their societies what they are today. Many centuries ago, the dominant worldview in the Western world, this will include America and Western Europe, was the Christian worldview. A Christian worldview gradually gave way to liberalism – where a Christian culture remains but where the name of God and his Christ are carefully removed. This also means that the Bible and it dominant viewpoints are frowned against in the West today. It is so bad that Christian groups accuse western governments of being more sympathetic to Islam than to Christianity. One of the worldviews that the West has waged war against has been the patriarchal bias that the Bible brings to family life. The idea of the man being the head of a home or the woman submitting to a man are today regarded as antediluvian ideas in Western cultures. So that when laws are made for marriages, there is a calculated attempt by godless lawmakers to undermine the authority of the man in the house. This is why the laws in western marriages appear to favor the woman than the man.
Now, as we consider this question, let us look at the reason why marriages in our cultures have succeeded: I mean the marriages of our parents and grandparents. Our forefathers in Africa were not Christians and their culture were not based on a Christian worldview. However, nature has a way of dictating the culture of a people. Men, being the stronger of the sexes, have always been the head of homes in the African society. Therefore, just as it is in the Bible, the African culture is patriarchal. Laws on marriages here have also tended to favor men here. The result is this: marriages in Africa have always been more viral and children raised here have been more stable. Where marriages fail, they owe more to the intrusion of a foreign culture. My argument here is simple: patriarchy is not all-together evil. There is good patriarchy and there is a bad one also. Society should simply aim at doing patriarchy right and I believe that this is where the wisdom of the Bible cannot be discarded in a workable society.
In the western world, where our people are running to, there is a culture within the liberal culture that has long preserved marriages: that culture is the Christian church. Churches that aim at being biblical, pursue making their men exercise godly, healthy and workable patriarchy in the home. In America, for example, if a woman in a biblical church suddenly brings a lawsuit against her husband without the permission of the church, she will be placed on Church discipline and she could be excommunicated. The Christian Church in the west is a different culture within the overriding culture many Nigerians experience over there. Unfortunately, when our people go abroad, they do not join these churches; they either go to some dumb Nigerian church, or they begin to mingle with other Nigerians in night clubs and learn their ways.
Western churches teach their men to be godly men. They train their men to be leaders of their homes. They teach them to be godly examples to their wives and children. These churches are very concerned with family life. In fact because of the high rate of infidelity, and the need to nurture children at home, some of these churches encourage the women to be stay-at-home mothers. The home runs on one income – the man’s income – and the matter of division over how money is spent is almost non-existent. In cases where a man may be unfaithful, the church comes down very hard on the man. He is placed on church discipline; and in extreme cases where the man leaves the church and the family, the church takes up the up-keep of the woman and the children. The Church creates a working culture within a debilitating culture. The Church teaches their men to be responsible men and they guide their women on how to be submissive to their husbands and how to be home-makers. In fact, I learnt of an institution that simply trains women to be home-makers in the USA. It trains young ladies to be full-time housewives.
The japa situation in Nigeria makes it almost impossible for Nigerian couples that go abroad to be able to join healthy Christian cultures. There is the need to make money to meet ever-increasing needs, to send money back home to parents and siblings, and to be able to provide for one’s own needs. One friend told me that when the church that he joined in the USA suggested that his wife should not work, he told them he could not afford it. He has bills to pay, while the average American family has some old-money they are living off. He does not have such advantage. But the pursuit of money also has its down sides. And at the root of the break ups in the homes of Nigerian couples abroad is the matter of family finances. There is never enough money made to pay the bills. And too often husband and wife are not agreed on how money should be used. The healthy part of putting resources together – having a joint purse – is almost never encouraged because of a deep distrust that exist among these couples – most times planted within them by extended families.
The Nigerian couple abroad can succeed in their marriage if they realize early that there are roles in a marriage, and that the new culture they exist in demands often that there should be role changes. Sometimes it would be the woman making most of the money, while the man is the one taking care of the children and the home. At such a time, a woman should never make her husband feel less than a man for not being able to provide. If such a woman reasons deep enough, she will realize that the role the man is playing in the home cannot be paid for. Also, the lax sexual culture of the West must never be indulged by Nigerian couples. The marriage bed must be regarded as sacred. It does not matter the money either of the couple is making, the question of another woman or another man should never enter a marriage. Lastly, I do sincerely hope that Nigerian couples abroad can find Christian churches that will help preserve their homes. Everything in the western culture is against family life. children’s minds are being bombarded with all sorts of nonsense on TV and the internet, and parents have to go the extra mile to protect them. Couples have to stay together and pray together to be able to achieve this. A broken home leads ultimately to broken children.
The other option is not to go to the West at all and then preserve your home.