The rate at which couples in Nigeria are asking for divorce especially in the court of law calls for worry. What might be responsible for this act which is was not common in the past.

By Chris Onokpegu

Marriage is supposed to be a thing of joy, something to enjoy but for so many people, it is endurance all the way.

Innocent and Grace have been in a relationship for more than 5 years, until they finally got married. Unfortunately for the couple, Innocent met his first love, Stella who he spent most of his life with during his schooling days before they lost contact. Unable to handle the relationship with Stella, his wife, Grace knew about it and problems started until Grace sought for divorce.

For Gbenga and Funmi who were in a relationship for more than seven years, they never thought of endurance. After going through marriage counselling for a month on the dos and dont’s of marriage in a Pentecostal church, they separated one week after wedding because of toothpaste. Funmi was said to have called Gbenga a ‘village man’ because he pressed the middle of toothpaste instead of the bottom.

Gbenga did not take it as a joke and after serious argument which degenerated into fight and the following week, the couple sought for divorce in a law court.

Mrs Yemi Ajayi of Akintunde Chambers noted that sometimes, some couples sought the dissolution for marriages which were not up to one year, in contravention of extant laws. She claimed that the law does not permit the dissolution of a marriage below two years.

This was why Vincent Nwanna, a lawyer, urged presidents of customary courts and magistrates to exhibit a high level of discretion in handling divorce cases so as to minimise the menace of divorce.

Investigation shows that the rate of divorce is almost the same with crimes in the country. A source in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT High Court, said the rate at which people divorce baffles him. He said although he cannot give out the figure but it is as par with the rate of crime in the country. According to him, there are so many pending cases of divorce. He revealed that it is worst in other states of the federation where cases are handled almost on daily basis.

Worried by the spate of divorce, some lawyers in Lagos recently organized a press conference to address the issue. They called on couples to show mutual understanding and tolerance to check the phenomenon. They identified inability of prospective couples to determine their compatibility before marriage as one of the factors responsible for the alarming rate of divorce.

Vincent Nwana said a handful of individuals swing into marriage without taking into consideration their compatibility with their chosen spouse. As a result, they always swing out of the union, thereby creating a lacuna which ordinarily could have been avoided. “If every couple exhibited some level of tolerance, this would elicit mutual understanding among the spouses which would go a long way in reducing factors responsible for divorce.”

Meanwhile, the Pastor of a church (name withheld) where Gbenga and Funmi wedded, said they have extended the period of marriage courtship to minimum of three months depending on the maturity of the couple that wants to get married.

He said they also insist that the couple must have a ‘court marriage’ before they are wedded. According to him, it is to ensure that the woman has something to fall back to in the case of divorce. In the case of Funmi, she left the marriage without anything except her personal belongings.

There have been cases of divorce where the man goes away with all the properties including the one that is jointly owned with the woman. Most cases, the family of the man goes with the children and leave the woman with nothing but if it is a court marriage, the properties and others are shared depending on the judgement.

Taiwo Olanrewaju, a marriage counsellor believes that the marriage institution is gradually failing, due to divorce which is currently on the rise.

According to her, D-i-v-o-r-c-e! The seven-lettered-word was almost unheard of among couples some 50 to 40 years back in most parts of Africa, especially in Nigeria.  In the 50s, 60s and the 70s, the sanctity of the institution of marriage had not been corrupted; it was still very much intact and respected as a sacred institution.

“If a couple gets married then, it was for better, for worse, till death did them part. Marriage was a worthwhile venture then, especially among Christians, Muslims and traditional worshipers,” Taiwo said.

Alfa Abdul-Rasheed Delesolu, a member of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria, MSSN opined that divorce is a situation whereby a couple decide to part ways through a mutual consent, moreso when they sense that their marriage lacks love, which is a vital ingredient of marriage.

The advent of the Western culture has been attributed as one of the reasons why the marital institution is suffering setbacks. Divorce was seen as a taboo in the past especially amongst the Ibos. Parents are also seen as responsible for divorce as they impose spouses on their children. It usually happens when the parents want their children to marry from the people of their status or when the parents are looking mostly for political favours.

Pastor Abraham Ojekanmi of the School of Marriage International listed infidelity, finance and intrusion as some of the reasons. He explained that friends cause more problems for couples than the enemy, “because if you know your enemy, you distance yourself from him.”

A marriage counsellor, Dr Mrs Eunice Iheanacho believes immaturity, impatience, pride, lack of understanding, wisdom and inability to take to correction or correct one’s mistakes but Femi Awodele, a commentator said lack of spending quality time together as a family also contributes a lot to marriage failure.

Another reason is desperation according to Linus Okwara, especially amongst the female folks. Some women, in their desperation avoid marriage counselling and courtship so that the man would not change his mind. “Most young women feel, it is a must to get married at an early age while the older ones cannot stand the stigma of not being married. Therefore, they enter into marriages not minding what it may cost them in future.”

Poverty is seen as another factor; parents give away their female children in order to make money not caring what the child feels or wants for herself. They force her into an unwanted or unplanned marital life. Mrs Nkechi Amanambu, a parent, said that such couple would opt for a divorce by the time they realised that the union was against their will.

Findings show that Ifa, the Yoruba tradition recognises marriage and stressed that marriage should not be dissolved while Pastor Ojekanmi believes that the reasons why couple decides to divorce are not tenable before God since the couple are not imposed on each other in most cases. “God expects them to stand straight and continue the marriage till death separate them because God does not recognise divorce in marriage.”

Before the advent of western culture, women could not seek for divorce except in some few cases where the woman packs her belongings out of the house and which mostly were not always supported by the family of the woman. However, the Western and Arabic culture has changed that as women now institute divorce suits like their male counterpart.

According to Alfa Delesolu, a Muslim woman can institute a divorce suit against her husband if the husband does not cater for her needs or those of the children, if he fails in his duties as a husband or cannot perform sexually, which could make the woman commit adultery, which is an offence in Islam, known as zinah.

He claimed that the man could seek for divorce if the woman commits adultery. He, however, noted that the man is expected to tell the woman her offence, adultery; entreat her to stop the act, preach to her and show her love but if she refuses to stop, he can call a relation of the wife and one of the husband’s too and divorce her.

However, aside a court of law, a Muslim couple can divorce each other in the presence of members of their families, who would serve as witnesses. As soon as they both present their cases and the husband pronounces the union dissolved, members of the families could still mediate and the man would take his wife back in as much as the husband’s pronouncement is made on the first or second occasion, but as soon as the gathering is sitting for the third time and the husband makes the pronouncement, then the divorce is forever, it can no longer be reversed.

Investigation has shown that divorce has negatively affected the economy of the country. It has more effect on the woman and children. The woman is seen as an irresponsible person who is unable to keep her home while the children with single parent sees it as an opportunity to do anything or misbehave.

Research has shown that most people who engage in crimes are from single parents or orphan; because they don’t have guardians to put them through life, they engage in illicit acts that destroy their future.

Alfa Delesolu said the negative effects of divorce on the children of such union are enormous, from lack of parental care to lack of love, exposure to bad behaviour and such vices, which tend to turn them into street kids.

He noted that the couple are also affected negatively especially if one of the partners still loved the other. That could lead to lack of concentration at work and if possible eventual loss of job, illness and lots of other terrible things.

On his part, Musa Ahmed, a lawyer, said that the effects of divorce were particularly grave on the children of broken homes, adding that they also shared the brunt of the misdeeds of their estranged parents one way or the other. “Most children you find roaming the streets hawking are largely products of broken homes. The society is continuously put at risk if these children are not catered for. Eventually, they may turn out to be nuisance to the society.”

Ojekanmi however believes that divorce also affects the man psychologically, emotionally and socially, he will be disturbed. A study in the USA revealed that most of the unruly behaviour in the US is caused by people who have divorced; a man tends to misbehave when the wife is not with him again.

Most people believe that one of the ways to put a stop or reduce divorce is for couples to avoid suspicion, he or she should find time to confirm any allegation, they should not allow intrusion in their marriage and the couple should run an open-door policy, reveal every secrets to each other.

For Aare Latosa, most ladies marry because they think age is not on their side and not because they are prepared for marriage. He said for any marriage, perseverance, endurance, patience, humility and good character are needed. A man and a woman should be equal and respect each others’ views in marriage. It is when they refuse to respect each other that trouble comes.

In conclusion, a marriage counsellor, Adamu Dantata however adviced that the woman must think twice before going into marriage and must be prepared mentally, physically, emotionally, financially and be prayerful otherwise it will not be too long before she opt out.

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