For Unmarried Nigerians

One gnawing problem of young Nigerians today is their inability to “settle down”.  By the time they complete tertiary education, they become quite eligible to marry – most of them complete the NYSC at between age 25 and 28.

Young women are not getting suitors because the men are not getting ready. Not everybody is a Prince William or Prince Harry. The average Nigerian has to find a job first – a stable job even if it’s not well-paying, not one that could be lost in three months. Then, he has to save for his accommodation, furnish it, and buy a tokunbo car. Only the lucky few can accomplish these in 10 years. Many don’t get any job at all in 10 years — economic recession did not start last week.

Besides, there are more women than men. What gave the 1991 census away as a sham was its declaration that males were greater in number than females. I did not need to read other details of the census’ results. The National Population Commission’s staff and ad-hoc staff, who compiled the names, were perhaps more familiar with the names of males. A visit to a primary school will show there are far more girls than boys. At markets, the result is the same. In churches and wherever else males and females are found together, the picture is clear. By my own calculation, there are six females for every four male Nigerians. And what this implies is that, other things being equal, about one-third of young women may not find husbands; that is, if one man married one wife.

In the days of my forefathers, the traditional religion permitted them to marry as many wives as they could. That’s why my grandfather had four, my great-grandfather three. I’ve not learned of any of my ancestors, up to the eighth generation, except my father, that took only one wife. But I struggled to have one when I was racing towards age 35 – and would have gladly lived with half a wife if there was one! In the predominantly Muslim north, this problem may be less pronounced because a man is permitted to marry as many as four wives. But even in the north, the economy is compelling everyone to cut his coat according to his cloth.

Though nature is said to be producing almost equal number of males and females, it is known that female babies survive more easily than males. Most miscarriages are males. Even as kids, boys are more susceptible to danger. Men’s number is constantly depleted by wars, political violence, crimes, and diseases like HIV/AIDS. Not many men make it to 90 years, apparently because of the heavy burdens they carry. In fact, some give up or take to alcohol by the time they become too incapacitated to fend for their families. Is that not why there are too many widows these days? I don’t think another census is needed to determine whether we have more widowers than widows in Nigeria.

By the time a woman clocks 32, she would be on a cliff edge. They should now learn to accept things they cannot change: remaining celibate is an option. I believe one can still lead a happy life and achieve one’s goals without having a husband or children. In Western society, the number of women who remain unmarried by choice is not small. I know our own society doesn’t permit that, but culture is dynamic. For instance, the importance attached to male children is fading; and couples are reducing the number of children they have, not because of the jingles played on radio and television but the hard times.

Sometimes, the women are to blame for missing their chances. Many that are now 35 or older turned down offers from men when they were in their 20s, thinking that “better” suitors would keep coming. Usually, a woman’s most productive years are the early to mid-20s. After then, she starts losing her beauty – and men’s attention starts shifting to the younger ones. Fibroids could invade a womb that has been lying “fallow” for 35 years.

Often, however, the women are not to blame. At a young age, they are inexperienced. To them, the world is a bed of roses. Only the best man (Mr Right) is good enough for them. They live in a world of fantasy, not knowing that Mr Right does not exist in the world of reality. They can’t find a bachelor that is tall, well-behaved, caring, good-looking, and who has first-class intelligence, a posh car and a beautiful home at the same time. Even when they find him, they can’t bet on other qualities: Is he God-fearing? faithful? honest? fertile? young?

Nor does Mrs Right exist. This may sound controversial, but, in Nigeria today, there are more good men than good women. Even in homes, it is women that cause most problems. Nevertheless, young men shouldn’t wait indefinitely. They should tell women the whole truth. Money doesn’t come from heaven. If truly love is blind, why won’t she accept to marry a poor man?

Young women should be less materialistic, for nobody knows tomorrow. The rich man of today could be the poor man of tomorrow and vice-versa. When she finds a young man that is compatible with her, she should go for him. It is best to marry when both of them have nothing – they could even be in school. And I don’t recommend courtships that are longer than six months.

Who wants to spend a lifetime with an armed robber, a drug pusher or 419 fraudster? Only such criminals can provide the material comfort that most women seek. Experience is the best teacher, but a wise person learns from the experiences of others.

Parents, communities and religions should come to the rescue of Nigeria’s unmarried young men and women. The limitation placed by Christianity (one man, one wife) may never be removed, but the church should fight against evil traditions and practices that restrict suitors. Bride prices, lavish parties and other obligations could be reduced drastically. Only the blessings of both families are necessary in a marriage.



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