Marriage is the source of family and the family is the cornerstone of societies in the world. It is also the bedrock of socio-economic and political development. Its progress and maintenance symbolizes harmony, while crisis and divorce in the family always portends dangers and problem in the society.
Even though Nigeria is not among the top 10 countries with the highest divorce rates in the world, according to the Guinness World Records – with Maldives, Russia, Aruba, Belarus and the United States leading the chart respectively – it is worthy of note that cases of divorce are rampant and common especially in Northern Nigeria.
In Northern Nigeria, cases of divorce are hardly ever discussed in public. Family members are often unwilling to admit that a marriage is in murky waters. To put it mildly, divorcees tend to be stigmatized, not just peddling an improper divorce status but for bringing shame to their families. In fact, the idea of divorce is considered a taboo and unfit for public discourse.
Despite the aforementioned facts, the cases of divorce remain rampant and common. Reports of divorce cases trickle in on daily basis throughout the North. Though divorce is permissible under the Nigerian laws but it remains poignant and unwanted.
In the Islamic parts of Northern Nigeria, men are permitted to have more than one wife, so losing one is often not a sad thing for them. A woman’s rights are rather limited in other areas of social life.
Most women in Northern Nigeria are totally dependent on their husbands financially. Men are the only source of income in the family, while women care for the kids, prepare meals, wash clothes and so on. Often if the husband wants to have another wife, the woman will have no right to kick against the matter because she has to feed her children and she cannot go against her husband. The only thing that can free her from an unsatisfactory marriage is a divorce case.
Causes of Divorce in Northern Nigeria
A number of factors are seen as the major causes of divorce especially in the North where it becomes a source of concern and cause for alarm. Muslim Hausa Society (in Northern Nigeria) has one of the highest rates of divorce in the world. Sometimes, divorce is a solution to otherwise unacceptable pressures, especially on young women, in a society that requires them to be loyal and marginalized within the extended family.
The myriads of reasons why people break apart after a long-term or a short-term marriage, in Northern Nigeria, are many. They are: unacceptable behavior from a spouse, bad habits, cheating, alcoholism, incurable disease, criminal convictions, mismatch of characters and beliefs. They also include dissatisfaction, lack of love, jealousy, lack of preparation, lack of courtship, forced marriage, infertility, broken expectation. Lastly, poor communication, dearth of tolerance and patience, domestic violence and viewing marriage as mere sexual adventure can contribute.
From my research and understanding, the major factors that polarize marriages in Northern Nigeria are nothing but incompatibility and infidelity.
Merriam Webster Dictionary defined infidelity as, “the act or fact of having a romantic or sexual relationship with someone other than one’s husband, wife, or partner.” This factor and even mere suspicion of it, leads to divorce.
A consultant psychologist, Prof. Toba Elegbeleye, said couples need to stay away from all traces of infidelity and refrain from temptations so as not to lose their marriages, considering the negative effects it could have on their marriage.
He said, “This is a major cause of marital problem and it can be biological or social. There are some people whose personality make-up predisposes them to having very high libido.
“It could be a product of excessive hormone secretion, and if they have a partner who cannot cope with their sexual demands, they tend to resort to cheating. Also, there is the social factor, which could be as a result of peer influence. Therefore, couples need to avoid it.”
On another hand, incompatibility causes serious destruction to marital union especially in the Northern part of Nigeria. Vocabulary.com defined incompatibility as, “the inability of two sides to exist in a harmonious relationship with each other because of their different outlooks and beliefs.” Lack of compatibility really plays great role in separating uncountable couples in Northern Nigeria.
Elegbeleye, on the issue of compatibility, said, “Several people take the issue of compatibility lightly, but it is a serious factor that people should pay attention to. There are a number of discoveries people make after marriage that would not be in consonance with their expectations from that person or what they are used to from that person.
“For example, differing preferences or it could be that the man or woman snores. As simple as it may sound, not everybody can put up with snoring. Over time, being faced with such a situation could lead to irritation and even hatred and that could be the beginning of their trouble. Or it could be that one of them is naturally dirty but the partner didn’t notice this until they got married. When couples make such discoveries and they find that they can’t cope with it, it might lead to a crack in the marriage.”
The last but not the least factor that prompts divorce is lack of emotional, psychological, and even intellectual preparation before getting married. No understanding of the obligations, responsibility, care, and communication causes a total divorce.
Divorce has significant social consequences. Many studies have found that divorce produces numerous negative outcomes for younger children and adolescents across various contexts. It engenders academic difficulties in children, including lower grades and prematurely dropping out of school, and greater disruptive behaviours (e.g., recalcitrance, aggressiveness and bellicosity, theft, as well as drug and substance abuse).
Children and adolescents who experience the divorce of their parents also have higher rates of depressed mood, lower self-esteem, and emotional distress.
Children of divorce are more likely to face poverty, educational failure, early and risky sexual activity, non-marital childbirth, earlier marriage, con, marital squabbles and divorce. In fact, emotional problems associated with divorce actually increase during young adulthood.
Recent finding in Kano has shown that it is the disruption in the family system that leads to number of social problems such as juvenile delinquency, prostitution by young ladies, drug abuse by youth and high rate of divorce not only in the state, but within the entire Hausa/Fulani communities across the country.
Ways To Reduce The Numbers
Premarital counseling and counselling during marriage: the sessions can also give the couple the tools they will need to listen to each other and learn to compromise for a healthy marriage. They can also help a couple to identify their problems and learn how to tackle them. If both parties are willing to make modifications and work for their marriage, this type of counseling can aid in salvaging a marriage from heading for divorce.
Marriage workshops: most of the conflicts that occur in a marriage can be resolved through education if both parties are willing to do the work. Some marriage workshops help couples to learn to confront these issues peacefully and harmoniously. Some workshops allow couples to choose the areas that they need to work on, such as conflict resolution and parenting skills.
In conclusion, divorce cases is on the rise in the North. And this scourge of divorce requires the government and societies to bring the issue under control especially by implementing the aforementioned recommendations.
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