African Marriages As Business Ventures (2)

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

The United States of America is full of Africans who came to join their spouses and then unceremoniously abandoned their marital homes. One would suspect that that’s also the case in Canada and in the United Kingdom. Nigerians, more than other Africans, are masters of “taking off.” For whatever reason, there seems to be more female culprits than men. Within my circle of acquaintances, never a month goes by without new stories of wives or fiancée who absconded within a year or so of arriving in America. But the really “smart” ones wait until after securing their greencards or citizenship, before bailing out.

There are a dozen and one reasons why such unions fail; but generally speaking, there are five reasons why: (1) dishonesty on the part of the suitor; (2) ulterior motives on the part of the propositioned; (3) the pull-push effect of the new culture and environment; (4) the inability of some spouses to navigate the vagaries of married-life; and (5) the insidious effects of modernization and globalization. And in some cases, sheer stupidity. Whatever the reasons for such failures, the African community is brimming with estrangements, bitter divorces, abandonment, depression and other forms of marriage-related neurosis.

Meet three Nigerian couples…

Somewhere in Texas is a Nigerian couple with mixed-raced twins. The children were not adopted. But how could this be? Well, no one is in doubt as to who their mother is; but not so their father. Even before the beans were spilled, those in the know knew the children are the product of extramarital affairs between their mother — a married Nigerian nurse and her Caucasian lover. Her Nigerian husband was one of those who went home to scout for nurses and doctors. In his case, he found a registered nurse. Including overtime hours in multiples facilities, she earned in excess of six figures. He was a county social worker with meager income.

Their combined income afforded them two-garaged five bedroom home in the suburb. Along with the home and cars, were the toys — the type of toys the wealthy and affluent can’t do without. And in spite of her busy schedule, she found time for a plaything, a playmate. This was how she rationalized her behavior: “My yeye husband is not a man…he isn’t the sort of man any woman would look up to. He was insignificant when I agreed to marry him. He still is a nobody. Whatever he is today, I made possible. Without me, he still would be living in a one-bedroom apartment in the North part of town…if he leaves, or if I leave him, he will fall to pieces. He should be grateful, keep quiet and tag along…”

How could a man, well, how could any human being stay in such duplicitous marriage when one partner, while still legally married, have an affair and then bore children for the lover? And indeed, nine years later, they are still married. Lucky for the aggrieved husband, the wife later bore him a daughter. It so happen he is not totally foolish and incurable: his coworker (a Venezuelan damsel) is the mother of his two sons, born after his wife started pissing on his head.

Five blocks from where I live is a casual acquaintance. His father was a powerful politician during the Second Republic. They had money, and basked in power and whatever else money and power could buy. Intellectually, he was less than a feather weight. And if commonsense was a product to be bought, he wouldn’t know how to buy it, or how to use it. He wasn’t good looking. Ok, you could say he is ugly. And every bit a ruffian. He was expelled from UNILAG for academic impropriety. And he couldn’t stand the academic rigor at the University of Jos, so he quit. That was then. And so it was that after several years of perseverance, he finally earned an associate degree in retail management, somewhere in Canada. To his credit, he is a one-woman kind of a fellow. But if allowed, he could smoke up seven acres of marijuana in seven nights.

On nearing his fortieth birthday, he retuned to Nigeria to marry a twenty-eight year old University of Ibadan trained medical doctor he’d met on the internet. After scaling the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) assessment process, and upon securing a plum position with a medical center in the Boston area, she suddenly realized “I didn’t love him…don’t love him and shouldn’t have married him…he is too old, too scruffy, archaic in so many way; and too conservative for me.”

Was she not aware of the age difference? Did she not notice he could barely construct 12th grade grammar in succession? Did she not perceive the stench that was spewing from his mouth as a result of the marijuana regiment he was on? The questions are endless. In the end, one couldn’t reach any other conclusion other than that she used him to escape the inconveniences and uncertainties that abound in Nigeria. He was her ticket to the new world — a ride out of the nothingness that envelopes Nigeria.

It has been three winters since she left him. And every time you see him, the pain and the anguish and the sore are still open and raw. A group of us asked why he left his then girlfriend, who was an assistant store manager at a Walgreen Stores. He answer was simple, simple but disturbing: “My friends in London and Nigeria, and even those in the US, are all married to nurses and doctors…they are all professionals; and they all live a comfortable life.”

Mutual Hatred and Suspicion…

Sneaky. Audacious. Sinful. Injurious. That’s how I would describe a Nigerian who played on the intellect, and on the emotion of a Nigerian female spinster living in the Seattle area. She was taken. Used. Abused. Dumped. Ridiculed. And in the end, make to look like a desperado and the greatest fool this side of the Atlantic. But really, she is not a fool; and neither was she desperate. Truth be told, she was just unlucky! She was close to thirty-seven and was finding it difficult to find a husband. To those of us who knew her, she was herself and was composed at all times.

She was the owner of an import-export company and was in the process of setting up a fish farm in Nigeria when she met calamity and misfortune. The perpetrator passed himself off as a medical doctor. He claimed to be an importer and supplier of medical equipments to hospitals in the southwestern part of Nigeria. He talked the part. Walked the part. Dressed the part. And people believed him. On her third trip to Nigeria in the spring of 2004, they got married. Eleven months later, he arrive the United States. Five weeks after he received his greencard, he walked. He walked while she was pregnant and away to Germany to finalize business deals. He left her with huge credit card debt. He left her standing on the quicksand, holding the wind.

To be sure, there are successful marriages within the Nigerian and larger African community in the Diaspora. In fact, successful marriages far outstrip the fake, the failed and failing unions. In increasingly however — and no one knows the precise figures — divorces and separations are gaining ground at an alarming rate.

For several years now, the African communities in the US has been slurring the African-American and the White community for their astronomical divorce rate; and also looked down on them for having children out of wedlock. They couldn’t understand why those communities are quick to separate and quick to appear before the courts. Today, Africans have arrived, or are increasingly approaching the state of dissociate. What they rejected and despised is now a way of life. Sad, isn’t it?

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Mike E. January 20, 2007 - 3:06 am

I feel that there is a tendency for Blacks, Africans, and Nigerians (in particular) to view their issues as somewhat special. I'm prepared to bet my rent that we (Africans) have/will continue to have it much better than other communities (such as the Europeans, Arabs, Asians, etc) in terms of the quality of our marital, or any other sort of interpersonal relationship for that matter. I'm currently married to a European whom I've been with for 11yrs. I consider mine to be the horse's mouth.

ezenwanyii udenze November 19, 2006 - 10:51 pm

I know this to be true. I am African American, my husband Nigerian. I became an RN after not feeling satisfied with my previous career choices. My husband had no input on me becoming an Rn. On the other hand I have a single sister, who has never been married, no children. an RNNNN and beautiful as well. When ever, a single Nigerian man, hears that I have a single sister, they always say, "introduce me to her."

when they find out that she is an RN, they bug the heck out of me to introduce them. I never do though. My sister deserves true love. In addition my father and brothers would run anyone away who would try to use me or my sisters!

Nsikan November 7, 2006 - 9:13 am

As much as I do not say what is happening is good, it is hardly surprising considering the fact that manhood has been decapacitated psychologically. The bottomline as I see it here is that as long as society in the name of equality keeps promoting and ingeniously putting in place circumstances where the man is reduced to nothing but a boy, these things among others will continue to happen. The way to curb these social ills is for men to awaken themslves through a process of self-realisation and as Bob Marley once said – emancipate yourselves from mental slavery – the situation will not be corrected. I must however stress that men are in dire straits, and an explosion is imminent.

Reply November 6, 2006 - 11:57 am


These are scary stories. I am currently being wooed by a doctor in Nigeria. Although he is soft spoken and well mannered. I am being forced to take a second look at this whole arrangement.

Godwin Kwushue November 6, 2006 - 12:07 am

Men and women who tend to rush to Nigeria to get married to professionals they hardly know are self centered set of people, they do not go into such marriage for the sake of love, they do so for the sake of benefits that might accrue to them as a result of the relationship. They see their partner as the easiest means to climb their financial ladder at high speed.

However most people involved, tend to realized too late in the game that they were only being clever by half, each relationship always has the potential of being another case of cunny man die cunny woman bury am. If you are smart enough to want to make money out of somebody by pretending that you are in love when you are not, if the other party decides to tag along and make you his or her mule to the US by pretending to be in love when he or she is not , who is at fault? It is the originator of the idea.

Here is a piece of advice for such business minded people, before you make effort to bring anybody here, try as much as possible to make sure you and your partner are already making babies, you would have raised things at stake by so doing and with such liability your partner will think twice before eloping to Alaska or some out of the way state.

Anonymous November 5, 2006 - 11:38 am

Sabella & Enitan,

You both are literarily saying the same thing. Our community is in shambles and like I tell anyone when asked about the shameful state of things within our community snd the larger black community, I tell them it is the age old curse from the tower of babel because I am tired of trying to find an answer.

Reply November 5, 2006 - 4:35 am

When you lie to another, it is a bad thing. When you lie to yourself, it is a deadly thing. We have lied to our own selves for too long. We say there is no divorce in Africa when in actuality our fathers with their many wives and many women have been abandoning our mothers for generations in a culture where after 20 years of absence and no child support a man is carved a high seat at his child's wedding that he didn't pay for because we say it is his right. The point is that we have little experience with the one man one wife thing and even less with fidelity and real commitement.

Some of our mothers stayed under our fathers' roofs purely to save face although they worked and scrambled to feed and educate us. Some of our mothers left quietly under the guise of going to take care of grandchildren never to return to their matrimonial home. Others simply left quietly and forged another life for themselves forever bound to the "husband" of their youth in name alone. Those women who saught divorce were branded rebellious in days when it was considered better to die at the hands of your husband than to be alone.

New generations new things. Since many of us are children of such circumstances, we aspire to do better than our parents. We wish to have a better position in this marital game. Since our parents are our first teachers, we have their example and the rest we obtain from movies and books. So we go on to mimick our parents in the worst possible ways. We calculate new ways to win in the marriage market place where the currency has changed and the stakes are higher.

Many of our parents are silent as long as we bring the profits home. They remain blind to how our profit is gotten. An extravaganza wedding to a high profile spouse and escape from financial discomfort is all that counts. Give something to gain something is the rule of the market place. There are many who stand ready to sell their children and many children waiting to be sold.

Divorce! One more piece of artillery in this marriage war. Leaving has become more acceptable where marriage is a simply a game. You marry for the documents, the name, the money, pro-creation or just so you can say you've done it before. You divorce for any inconvenience. So what?

Where anything goes and egos are fragile, anything can get thrown out of the window (including the children). Your papa ain't your papa and your papa don't know. No woe here. No shame or scandal in the family. So marriages end and children are scattered. Your sister is your cousin and everybody knows. It's only the beginning of a brand new Nigerian ghetto.

After the divorce, how do you know whom to trust? Do you go for the one whose name and age you're not sure of because he/she did a change of name and age to get a new passport to obtain passage to America? or will you choose the one who married John the trash collector to get a green card? or will it be low profile Janet who seems to have a stash and no propects in sight?

My dear fellow Nigerians,the secret is out. Strange as it seems we really are not superior to anyone else. We just need to stop pointing fingers and to get our acts together. He who is dishonest in "seemingly" little things cannot be trusted with much.


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