Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Being Unmarried is almost a Crime in the Nigerian Society

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Jane (not her real name or picture) is a beauty; a sight for sore eyes. In her thirties, Jane who comes from Imo State can boast of the modern equivalents of what Chinua Achebe described as ‘solid personal achievements’ in his novel THINGS FALL APART: a sound education, a well-paying job and lucrative private practice on the side; a de luxe apartment in Ikoyi and a car.

Jane is the solid backbone of her family; she set up her unemployed brother in business and takes care of her parents. You would think that Jane’s family and friends will leap over the moon whenever her name is mentioned. Alas, this is not the case. You see, Jane has committed the ‘ultimate crime’: remaining unmarried at thirty-plus.

Our paths crossed years back when we met at the university to register for our post-graduate diploma programmers. Jane’s intelligence and warmth impressed me, though we were not in the same department. A strictly platonic friendship which was enhanced by the fact that we are from the same state developed.

‘Why does our society treat women like rags simply because they do not affix ‘MRS.’ before their names?’ she asked me over lunch in one of the school’s cafeteria. I had no honest answer for her. Poor Jane was not looking for intellectual succour; her Bible-quoting mother was close to consulting their village dibia to find out if some enemy had put a spell on their daughter.

Jane’s question flashed across my mind after reading a blood-curdling account of how a thirty-eight year old woman, Bolanle Abiola, slaughtered her mother for allegedly obstructing her chances of getting married. (SUNDAY SUN, APRIL 8 2012. p.10). In brief: Bolanle and her male accomplice showed up at the old woman’s and she welcomed them, thinking her daughter had brought home a suitor. In the night, during a downpour, the cruel couple ‘murdered sleep’, thus fulfilling Bolanle’s past threats to deal with her mother for ‘tying up’ her marital chances. This allegation was brought to light by Abudu Abiola, Biola’s elder brother, following his sister’s arrest. Bolanle allegedly owned up to the killing.

While this account does not presuppose Bolanle’s guilt or innocence - that is the law’s business - I have been disturbed since I read it and followed a programme run on the story by Nigeria Info F.M. Radio on April 9.

First, why must any human being be defined by his or her marital status? Is an unmarried woman less of a human being than a married one? Nobody should try to convince me with misinterpretations of the holy books or outrageous cultural beliefs. Even the Bible makes it clear that marriage is voluntary. Unless you accept other texts that seek to explain Jesus Christ’s earthly life such as ‘The Da Vinci Code’, he was single while on this side.

‘Marriage is the crowning glory of a woman.’ ‘A woman without a husband is incomplete.’ You hear these statements from our parents, even supposedly educated ones. This reveals one factor about the typical Nigerian, nay Black African: for all his claims to Westernization, he is largely bound to his ancestors’ way of life. This is not necessarily bad because one must have roots with which to grow in the world. But then we tend to have selective memories of the so-called glorious ways of our fathers. For example, how many modern Igbo will recollect that in certain traditional communities that had priestesses to powerful deities, usually the earth-goddess (Ala), these female ministers were single, probably as a result of their calling? Try telling that to parents who argue that it is a taboo to be an unmarried woman.

In this day and age many crazy teachings and practices are being passed around in our society. Satan and all his demons must be so occupied in Nigeria that I wonder when they have time to perpetuate mischief elsewhere. Not doing well in business? Demonic attack remote-controlled by your grandma in the village. Not married if you are a girl and over twenty (in some areas, below twenty)? Satan is masking your face from suitors through an enemy, including-as Bolanle’s case would indicate- your own mother! As a Christian I do not doubt diabolical operations on earth but I postulate that the greatest diabolical mayhem unleashed on most Nigerians is on their reasoning.

There is no justification for pressuring anyone, male or female, to get married. Marriage carries a lot of challenges and is a ballgame which some people, in all sincerity, are not prepared for. It has nothing to do with money in the bank, degrees, love for children, religion, etc. There will always be some people, though a minority, who take a dim view of surrendering their identity or freedom to someone else for life.

Then there are people who have been hurt so much in what Don Williams, the country music legend, described as ‘love’s endless wars’. Do they deserve further hurt? Sadly, our sisters often get the short end of the stick in these brawls of the heart. If a woman comes through one and decides to keep her sanity by remaining single-either unmarried or divorced- her right should be respected. Same for men.

The hogwash about immorality and promiscuity being prevalent among unmarried women is just that: hogwash. Who has the data to prove that in good old Naija unmarrieds/divorcees are more licentious than the married ones? One must not generalize or use personal moral parameters to judge others. A woman who is in a relationship with a man, perhaps bears his baby, but is not married to him may not be more immoral than the married woman who sneaks into the pastor or Alfa’s bed for ‘counselling.’ A guy who cares for his kid and the mother in all aspects but is sincere enough to realize that they cannot live as man and wife is, in my opinion, more honourable than a married lecher.

Marriage is beautiful and if you get married for the right reasons, it is great. But quite a few people are finding what we married folks have outside the institution: love, companionship, appreciation, family, etc. Must they be condemned?

The organs of the Nigerian state are blatantly anti-unmarried people, especially women. A single lady, to my knowledge, cannot post bail in our police stations. State assistance is denied unmarried women. The society’s mindset is set against a woman who opts out of an abusive marriage or worse, refuses to marry. Even in some Christian circles girls who opt for reverend sisterhood and its stated celibacy are looked upon doubtfully. Ironically, many of the doubtful eyes are female.

I am not discouraging marriage. But it must not be the beginning and end of anyone’s life. Havoc is being wrecked on our society because of the marriage-at-all-cost mindset. Check out the bogus marriage/dating agencies in town; a number of frustrated 419 fraudsters have resorted to online marriage scams to fleece our ladies of cash and sex. Quite a few well to do women who in saner climes would walk tall and get hitched on a basis of mutuality end up bowing to and hooking up with egoistic, complex-riddled men. Though our cultural setting makes things fairly easier for men yet, at a certain stage, if they refuse to marry society unleashes its fangs on them.

Last I heard from Jane, her mother ceased developing high blood pressure when she visited home with a Ghanaian boyfriend. The old woman is busy putting together a marriage list for the intended bridegroom. I pray whatever Jane and Kwame share is strong enough to end in a marriage so that both mother and daughter can have some peace. But what if it does not? Oh dear!


First published by Henry Onyema -


  1. ThesewordsaremyownJune 19, 2013 5:29 AM

    Oh dear indeed! LOL

  2. I have found most unmarried women in their 30s to be very problematic, in the office they are prima donas, in relationships, they are manipulative, tag me whatever you can but if you are in your 30s and unmarried, a red flag goes up in my head and working together or knowing them for a period of time actually reveals they usually have ISSUES. VIEW PHOTOS FROM ARCHBISHOP IDAHOSA'S 70 DAYS CELEBRATION TO CELEBRATE 70 YEARS

    1. Who doesn't have issues? I think it's your expectations from the unmarried 30s that is problematic. Because they are single and over 30, you expect them to mask their personality, to shuffle around silently and to be so so so humble to show you that they don't have a problem o.
      I bet you would say the same thing about a housemaid who dares not fit into your stereotypes. It's because they are evil that they remain poor.
      Have you not met married women that are prima donnas, have you not met women that are manipulative with their husbands? Sadly, you are one of the reasons why our society does not progress. I can only imagine how you would blame a rape victim for dressing seductively.

    2. Have you considered that you're the one with the issues? If your male married boss gives you wahala, I doubt you'll give the same reasons. People are mean or problematic not because of their gender or marital status.

    3. problematic manipulative prima donnas with issues?!... YOU MUST TALKING ABOUT YOUR MOTHER?!

  3. almost a crime? no it IS a crime. see the comment above for proof

  4. TheChronicled I think its a cultural flaw. If a woman is not married its like she is horrible product. Every woman old enough to marry is always desperate to settle down and sh*t happens.

  5. Most unmarried women above 30 become "angry" at the world because of the bad experiences they've had from relationships,negative comments relating to their relationship status,high expectations from family and society;and of course a desperation(or anxiety)to become hitched.Not their faults but it happens and then people point fingers at them and accuse them of not being marriageable

  6. A wowman should focus on fulfilling her dreams before worrying about fulfilling a man's. Men are angry with women who choose not to marry; especially if those women are accomplished, beautiful, and have it together in life. Let every woman fulfill her own needs in life and if her need does not include marriage then let her live her life in glorious peace.

    Why should a woman's worth be measured by her conneciton to a man? Not even her connection to her Supreme Creator, but her connection to a mere mortal man. It is men who need marriage, it is they who need someone to take on their name to make them feel important, and it is they that need to be taken care of and pampered, it is they who need a woman's uterus to carry on their generations to keep their name going on the earth. Men are the ones who derive the greatest benefit from marriage, so women like Jane make men upset, make communites upset, make mothers upset because Jane's interest in her own life means some man is missing out on his

    Women like Jane make me so proud, she dug herself out of the gutter and used her talents and ambition to make a grand life for herself. So good is her life she can stretch a hand and help other family members to come up in life. Why not sing Jane the accolades she deserve. Too bad for a culture that measures Jane's worth based on her taking a man's name and pushing out children.

  7. @anon 11.29 u could not have said it better. In as much as I would love to get married, I don't necessarily think marriage defines or completes a woman,its definitely a plus for her, but it shld not be a yardstick for measuring her success in life.

  8. Nigerians are even more exposed and better cultured than illiterate and semi illiterate people in England. Single women are usually bullied since bullying is not a crime. The worse bullies are of immigrant origin. The government has done nothing about it.

  9. To b married or not is a choice which everyone is entitled to make and live happily regradless of what choices you make in life.

  10. sometimes u dont even choose to be single...but u still are! Some women truly desire to be married and long and enjoy the male company - but rather than end up with the wrong person, let her stay patient and get it right. Or almost.

    I am ready for marriage and in my early 30s, but the only 2 men I have come very close to marrying have disappointed and I cannot kill myself. The next person who's loving me like crazy has a 6 yr-old son, was deported from Spain 2 yrs ago and just told me he was one of the leaders of the Buccaneers in UniLag back then.
    I was a choir leader in my chapel for 2 yrs back then, I hav spent my entire life studying and obtaining academic degrees to make my life and that of my family better - not to mention the unborn children. Do I marry this guy whom Im neither attracted to in any way nor matches my background - all in the name of marriage? That's simply insanity.

    I feel very sorry for the bearer of the second comment. (s)he has distorted views about life and needs urgent help.

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  12. why do you guys make this seem like targeted at women. it is the same thing with a 'successful' man in his late-thirties. Everyone disturbs you to get married and thinks you have a problem. Ladies younger than you call you "Young Man" to spite you.

    ditto for an unmarried guy who has a child, who is taking care of both baby and mother but refuses to marry mother. people think he is wicked even when he is simply not interested in marriage.

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  37. So true. I have always thought that men need women more. Marriage commits women to unpaid slave labor albeit benevolent dictatorship depending on the disposition of the man. Women seem to be so blind to the facts that they are the ones dying, fighting to get married. After marriage, you see the same women crying about the unfairness of the institution which was always clear to anyone who would look.
    Women should only tie their lives in with and allow only one who loves them into their lives through marriage.
    Without love, marriage is just sexual and physical slavery that opens one to physical, emotional and mental abuse.

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