As borrowed mores come, the increasing craze for divorce among young Nigerian professionals and entertainers ranks among the worst kind. Propped up by examples set by Hollywood celebrities--whose penchant for divorce and separation have made marriage out to be a comedy of the absurd--young professionals are throwing marriage and relationship longevity to the whims of selfishness.
Marriage, like language, is a universally constant amongst humanity’s myriad cultures. Though marriage structure vary across cultures, it is basically the joining together of individuals for the purpose of procreation and companionship, and is generally expected to last for life.
However, with the berthing of globalisation and the cultural interchanges that it facilitates, marriage as we know it is undergoing changes. In the past, people mate for life, and when divorce is allowed, it is usually as a last resort, and only when all other recourses have been tried and proven to not be viable.
In much of Africa, marriage used to be a scared thing that youths aspire to with all their heart and even when they chose to not partake in marriage -- as is sometimes the case when some ladies stay back home to procreate for a late brother, a father with a male hire, or as a result of religious dictate -- the high honour ascribed to them is primarily to ease whatever unease they may feel at missing out of what was considered a sacred union.
Nigerian music star 9ice’s marriage to his onetime sweetheart Toni payne was a bitter example of how trivial the marriage institution is becoming in Nigeria
The traditional societies were well structured -- unlike the haphazard arrangement that is modernity’s gift to the African -- with everyone conscious of his or her place. The women knew their duties and did it to the best of their abilities, the men did theirs too. This is not to say that everything was perfect and there were not conflicts in homes. Far from it, there were in fact conflicts, as is expected in all things that involve people co-habiting, but the society expected conflicts and made laws to check and address them if and when they occur.
Perhaps it is here that our youths miss the mark. Instead of treading the path their ancestors walked, by seeking solutions to quarrels within the family, they resort to modern courts, where they give strangers the power to settle intimate disputes or, as is becoming increasingly popular, dissolve their union.
The recourse to movie star style adjudications is now the norm amongst city-breed youths who turn up their nose at the thought of turning to older relatives for advice when the oil that allows the wheels of their relationship to move smoothly dry up. They instead turn to like-minded friends, who point them in what should normally be a last resort direction -- the exit door. However, relatives have been known to be the harbingers of many marriage woes, with ill-advised interferences that divide instead of heal.
While the blame for the current disregard of marriage as an enduring institution in Nigeria is not restricted to parents/sibling interference or the expected battle of the sexes, which globalisation have granted an expression that is far from being consonant with African norms, the fact that a growing number of them are choosing to back out instead of working things out should be a major cause of concern.
In truth, it would not do to compel unwilling bedfellows to continue habiting together if they find that they cannot in all righteousness cohabit. However, it is prudent to at this stage, begin re-educating our youths about the joy of marriage and teaching them the wisdom of talking to the elders, who have seen it all, no matter what we are wont to believe.
Also, our youths have to begin relearning restraint and resort less to ego trips that serves only to destroy any hope of resolving issues amicably. By so doing, they will once again gain the ability to enjoy marriage as they rightly should, despite the inevitable conflicts that are normal in human relationships.