How Western Philosophy Ruins Nigerian Marriages

Newly married couples in Nigeria on the day of celebration wear a cheerful
look. This is because every marriage is procedural in the country. There is
no form of enslavement marriage, neither is there a slave nor a slave
master anywhere. Women are not sold off. Marriages in Nigeria are
committed. Co-habiting is never called marriage.

Marriage is one of the things that define our humanity. It is an
enlightened combination of man and woman. The man and the woman get better
in marriage when they complement each other. The bride is revered because
of the biological roles she plays. In some traditions the bride is believed
to be the connection between the unborn and the ancestors.

Investigation reveals that lack of marriage is the death of a nation and a
people. Such a people become debauched and self-disparaging with an
assortment of communal, financially unviable and health issues. Nigeria as
part of history of human civilization has traditions of marriage that have
stood autonomous of time.

This varies from race, geography and culture of the different ethnic
groups. Marriage in Nigeria has been used to unite tribes and nations to
secure peace, trade and development. Marriage in Nigeria is a serious
cultural affair. It brings the families of the bride and the groom
together. The woman automatically would change her name to the man’s family
name and becomes part of his family.

Irrespective of the community where it’s taking place, marriage calls for
big occasion. Singing, merriment and dancing characterise marriage
ceremonies in Nigeria. Such items as goats, palm wine, chickens, cows,
tobacco, salt, rice, wrapper, yams, kola nuts and many others are among the
rituals that are expected from the groom before he could be given the bride
to live with.

The rituals last for months depending on the tradition and culture of the
community that is involved. Men and women are not much revered in the
society till they are married. Women above the age of 30 who are not
married get pressure from family and friends to get a suitor. The men above
35yrs are also not left behind the pressure. The society sees them as
irresponsible people till they are married. Public offices and sensitive
positions can then be entrusted on them because they are married. But all
these are changing for Western philosophy.

The culture of getting married in Nigeria in the traditional way is fast
fading away, now becoming more like the Western-style church weddings. Many
couples prefer the weddings in the Mosque or Church than the traditional
marriage where the two families involved do not need any external hand to
give out their son and daughter out in marriage. Suffice it to say that
Eurocentric and Arabcentric missionaries have really influenced the
Nigerian families that sometimes a lady who has been duly married in the
culture and tradition of her people would not see herself as a married
person till the husband takes her to the altar. Except she is wedded on the
altar, she will not be given her place in the church.

Nigeria is a religious country with Mosques and Churches littered
everywhere. In some churches, the lady who is not wedded will not be
allowed to baptize her child or receive the Holy Communion. Other wedded
women would make jest of her and talk to her in unprintable manners. This
compels the ladies to tell their husbands to even forfeit any traditional
form of marriage and make sure that they are taken to the altar to evade
insults. Even though that couples who go directly to marry in the Church
are not recognized by their families and friends and the entire people
because they do not pass through the Traditional Marriage rituals of their
ethnic group first, a lot of people would rather prefer to be ostracised
instead they will not wed in the church.

In the good old days, the clerics themselves will not give consent to such
marriage because the couple didn’t recognize the family first. But things
have changed. The clerics themselves will be the first to approve of the
wedding. Hardly is any cleric observing the Marriage Act, Chapter 218, Laws
of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 thus: A minister shall not celebrate any
marriage if he knows of any just impediment to such marriage, nor until the
parties deliver to him the registrar’s certificate or the license issued
under section 13 of this Act. They say that the country is applying the
1999 Constitution.

The celebration of Marriage under the Marriage Act, Chapter 218, Laws of
the Federation of Nigeria 1990, states that marriage may be celebrated in
any licensed place of worship by any recognised minister of the church,
denomination or body to which such place of worship belongs, and according
to the rites or usages of marriage observed in such church, denomination or
body: Provided that the marriage be celebrated with open doors between the
hours of eight o’clock in the forenoon and six o’clock in the afternoon,
and in the presence of two or more witnesses besides the officiating
minister. There has to also be a legal registration of the couple.

Before, it used to be the parents of the parties involved that would
investigate the groom and the bride and attest if they could live together
as husband and wife. In some cases, the parents find suitors for their
children following family ties and relationship of families. But the
Pastors and the Imams have taken over that role and are playing it.
Although, the traditional rituals are observed, but they are insignificant
before the so-called men of God if the marriage is not dedicated on their

Initially, the bride must be a virgin before getting married, either
traditional marriage or the Eurpean style. However, that tradition is seen
by many as an old order. Unlike before pregnancy outside of marriage was
considered shameful. It has become a fad today. Some men say that they
would want to impregnate their wives to ascertain her fertility, because of
the rate of infertility that is being experienced among many married
couples. Some have married for ten and above years without any sign of baby
still coming soon. So, people prefer pregnancy before marriage or wedding
and the families and their men of God do not shy away in giving their nod
to the couples.

It is not an easy thing to raise a family in Nigeria. This is the reason
polygamy is merely in vogue. Nigerian homes are patriarch and the men find
it very expensive to feed one wife, let alone, two wives. Even though that
polygamy is legal in Nigeria, the Christian religion outlaws it. Polygamy
is not prohibited in the Muslim marriages. It is a fad. It even qualifies
one to be a good Muslim. Unlike in the Christian setting where it is one
man to one wife, a Muslim is entitled to take up to four wives. It is the
responsibility of a man in such a marriage to provide for his family.
Marriage in Nigeria takes many shapes and forms. But in all, no marriage is
said to be complete without dowry in monetary terms paid.

Dowry is a serious aspect of the marriage culture in Nigeria. It makes a
woman to be valued both at her place of birth and at her matrimonial home.
She is expected to respect and be submissive to her husband. In return, the
husband should love her. This is applicable to polygamous marriages. The
harsh economic situation in Nigeria is making a lot of men to frown at
getting married; hence retinues of spinsters are increasing in number. If
the economy is good, a lot of men would not see anything wrong in polygamy.
After all, polygamy has been characteristic in not only Africa, but the
world at large. This can be found to have expressed itself in the Jewish,

mic and the native traditions.

Women have their rights in any of these traditions and the laws protect
them. It was Colonialism which Nigeria saw in the hands of the British from
1861-1960 that made polygamy become a taboo. With its mingy nature for
exploitation, Colonialism brought with it Capitalism. This disintegrated
families due to Shylockic mindset to sharing of large families’
inheritance. In some theories, Nigerians are not primordial with the
traditional belief in polygamous marriages. It was the Western philosophy
of “one man, one wife” which Nigerians have bought deeply into that
churlish the practice. The Christian bible to a large extent supports
polygamy, albeit the bible frowns at this form of marriage very little. It
is not a taboo with many Christians.

Theologians authoritatively say that the New Testament does not explicitly
deal with the probity of polygamy. This text however, states in the bible
verse of 1 Timothy that certain Church leaders, like a Bishop, should have
but one wife and he will be not apportioned with blame. In chapter 3, verse
2, a bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant,
sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach. It is also
evidence in verse 12, where deacons are admonished to have only one wife.
This admonishment did not end there; it is repeated in the first chapter of
the Epistle of Titus. The 1 Corinthians (chapter 7, verse 2), however
writes, “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let ”every” man have his own
wife, and let ”every” woman have her own husband.”

While many see polygamous marriages as not ideal, African theologians of
the Roman Catholic wing, have bickered that polygamy can be a legitimate
form of Christian marriage following what the bible says about polygamy.
What matters most is that every form of marriage should build spiritual,
material, and intellectual capacities around it. But modern marriages in
Nigeria hardly see anything truthful in that. This is also to say that
division of labour in the homes is not adhered to as wives (do not expect
their husbands) to look at them to do everything those before them did as
they relate to family chores. They expect a 50/50 ratio of these works with
their husbands. This is evidence in the fact that men are not 100% the
breadwinners of families in the recent times, women most times earn money
more than the men. This is causing havoc in homes coupled with the
imbalanced western philosophy called human rights.

This 50/50 ratio with the men that Nigerian women are clamouring for has
made couples to be less tolerant with each other. This intolerance in
Nigerian marriages has brought about divorces, a sign of a flawed system,
hypnotised by Western mentality. It has become a culture especially, with
celebrities celebrating their divorces on the pages of the newspapers, this
act once seen as a taboo. Initially, no matter how a couple quarreled they
make up without the help of an intruder.

But the case is different today. A quarreling couple rather than settle
amicably would prefer the help of their Pastors or Imam. The issue of
inviting kinsmen known of our forebears in a case like this has been
relegated to the background a long time replaced with the cultures of
shamelessness and indignity. The Christians especially, hardly associate
with anything that has to do with our tradition and culture. The
Pentecostals among them masquerading as “born again” were hoodwinked to
believing that anything African is satanic, voodoo and every other thing
that represents negativism. But this is shear untruth. It was the creation
of the Western philosophy as is evidence in the bible.

Harmony in Nigerian marriages used to be more than 100% harmony. But this
was lost when our people started to see marriage from the periscope of the
West. Today, instead of at least 100% harmony, the issue of 100% gender
egalitarianism characterises Nigerian marriages. Men and women hardly
conduct themselves. Family structures have collapsed. Many scholars have
captured the loss of virtue that is gulping the African, saying that the
overall African philosophy is that life and the reproduction of life sit at
the core of human society.

Men and women have children who ritualise their parents and ancestors.
Individualistic societies selfishly place emphasis on personal rights and
so-called freedoms over the rights of the unborn, or the community. Choice
begins with birth control and using a condom. There are situations (rape,
incest, severe deformity, health risk) that lead to abortion. But abortion
in Western societies with its over sexualised conduct is more of a birth
control, which is used as the last resort after a irresponsible night of
lustful pleasure. Why should the life in a woman’s womb be destroyed
because of low maturity or lack of sexual control between consenting adults?

It is regrettably that many Nigerian children are not living with both of
their biological parents because of the arrogant culture of divorce.
Illiteracy is a disease of proper marriage relationships debilitating the
proper marriage relations among Nigerians. The story of sexual health
issues such as gonorrhea and syphilis among married Nigerian couples is not
sugercoated. Some people have even questioned why is it that the rate of
HIV/AIDS among married Nigerians is also increasing. Is it economic
disparity, social instability, poverty, gender inequality, sexual violence
and so on that are making couples not to settle their flaws in marriage?
Some would say that it is caused by high mobility, rapid urbanisation and
modernisation, and ineffective leadership of husbands.

Written by
Odimegwu Onwumere
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1 comment
  • “Harmony in Nigerian marriages used to be more than 100% harmony. But this
    was lost when our people started to see marriage from the periscope of the
    West.”- What is the original view of Nigerian marriage? What made Nigerian marriages more than 100% harmonious? I am asking because the western way is not working for my life and I am looking for solutions. Thank you