The Economy of Nigerian Marriages

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

At thirty-five, and almost past the age most Nigerian women would have settled into matrimonial homes — with one or two kids — she was just starting out. Well read, well mannered and with an array of diplomas from two Ivy League institutions, she was steadily climbing the American corporate ladder. She is also unusual in that she is one of those who had not had her heart severely broken, and her faith in men shaken. However, how she got into the traps and tricks of a run of the mill Nigerian remain the talk of the town in my neighborhood. Sadly, she is not alone. There are thousands of men and women like her who get taken, and used as a free ride to the UK, Canada and the US.

Today, a sizeable number of Nigerians who return home for a spouse do so at their own peril. Danger and deceit abound as marriages have become business ventures. Poverty, unmet needs and desperation are the force behind why the vast majority of those who are propositioned agree to say “I do.” Coming to America is a ticket, an investment that may yield countless returns and benefits for in-laws. Rare is the woman or man that would reject, say, an American-based suitor — not minding whether the suitor is financially able, educated, or a product of a good home and of good moral character. Or whether there is an iota of rapport. What matters, what really matters, is the destination: to escape the poverty and fetidities in their lives.

Believe it or not, Nigerian metropolitan areas and campuses of higher education are a breeding ground for semi and professional prostitutes, and for call-girls and gigolos who would not have survived the harsh Nigerian economic landscape — save for the services they render money-bags, sugar daddies and sugar mommies and politicians and rogues. It is from this puddle that most return to find partners. You see, these are men and women who are used to being pampered. Their wants and needs are taken care of. Most do not have legal means of income other than the sexual and sex-related services they provide. See for instance, areas in and around UI, UNILAG, UNIBEN, UNIJOS, UNIPORT, NSUKKA, LASU, EKPOMA, and ABU and the rest.

The really affluent ones even take summer vacation abroad. They vacation in Germany, France, the UK, South Africa, and the United States and wherever else that may catch their fancy. Some have seen the world three times over. Most have tasted the best food and the best wine money can buy. They wear the best clothes from Milan and all spots in between. They have the cars and jewelries and fat bank account to show for their deeds. Spoiled and rotten; yet, it is from this pool that many struggling Nigerians return to marry from. Sadly, most of such marriages do not survive for long.

But really, what does a struggling Nigerian have to offer a woman who has seen and done it all? By the time they get here, the novelty and wonder of sex and relationship would long have dissipated. And most of the spouses would come to meet their partners in a one or two-bedroom apartment, driving a jalopy, working the grave-yard shift; and working just to pay the bills. Seeing all these “abnormalities” would make them wonder “which kind yeye life this asshole dey live sef?” And they would call their colleagues (back home) to complain and wonder why they fell for a struggling laggard.

True, some would adjust and accept their fate and make do with what they have. They will “cool down,” cooperate, and plan their future in concert with their spouses. Others would feel bitter, feel betrayed and start scheming. With their greencard or citizenship in hand, they will take flight. Whether they stay or not — for most of these spouses — their primarily goal becomes how to take care of their mom and dad and siblings.

For those who fail to understand, and fail to work around the harsh reality of life in the West (especially in America), depression and bitterness will set in. Some will feel trapped and die a slow death. Others will find ways to kill or maim their spouses.

That is life. Life in the West. Life in America. As I said a while back, “America is the land of God and gods, a land for the believers and non-believers. It is a land of dream merchants, of fabulists, tale-spinners; and of high and low achievers. It is also a land of pipe dreams, broken dreams and untold anguishes.”

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chichi September 18, 2008 - 4:38 pm

this article is well written but not very fair to nigerian girls livin in nigeria,

its an unfair generalization. many of these marriages have worked and are still working.

i live in nigeria and most nigerians who live in the us assume imaginary airs of affluence and wealth when they come into nigeria to look for wives. they give a false representation of what they are not , not that marriage should be all about the money but honesty is something that should not be compromised with.these guys in my opinion definitely share part of the blame

Andrea October 2, 2006 - 1:23 pm

Well said. I am Jamaican and have been dating a Nigerian man for almost 3 years. I thought our relationship was great because he does just about anything for me. He's very caring, respectable, god fearing, generous, hard-working, and the list goes on. To my surprise, i just found out that he's going to Nigeria to marry a girl there. When i ask him about it it, he says it's not true, Yet, the source that told me about this marriage was his cousin. I hope he ends up with one of these women in the article. They say not to wish bad on people but when i feel hurt, i want for you to experince the same-3 times my pain.

Tina September 27, 2006 - 5:00 am

You are very correct. I have a friend who went through this. It seem like you wrote about his story. I don't know why Nigerian men (espeically the men) and women keep going home to find these men and women who eventually reap them off when there are tons of good Nigerian men and women in American.

dagogo September 25, 2006 - 5:42 pm

painfully true yet sad for the honest struggler who falls victim to this matrimonial scam,and they are many…

Reply September 19, 2006 - 4:46 pm

Why don't Nigerians believe us diasporans when we tell them the streets of America is not paved with gold?

BIGFEST September 19, 2006 - 7:40 am

Good write-up.Marriage has turned into a business venture where all sorts evil acts like juju,blackmail,infidelity,hyprocrisy etc abound while love has been thrown to the dogs,though there are still some good women.Every man now is a potential mugu to these women looking for who to devour.May God save us.Amen


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