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?