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Divorce epidemic in Lagos, 30,000 cases in Badagry alone

•Clerics blame high rate of divorce on ‘civilisation’ •‘Economic hardship/poverty is to blame’

Some Lagos couples hardly live happily ever after. SHOLA ADEKOLA, AKIN ADEWAKUN, CHUKWUMA OKPARAOCHA, LEKAN OLABULO and AYOMIDE OWONIBI tried to unravel why couples aren’t keeping their conjugal vows.

 

Badagry, which is just one of the five divisions making up Lagos State, is a classical example of the epidemic ravaging marriages. Between January and September this year alone, it recorded 30,000 broken and failed marriages, officially known.

Marriage, according to Wikipedia, is described as a holy matrimony, wedlock or legal contract between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between them, between them and their children, and between them and their in-laws.

Equally, marriage is the intimate union and equal partnership of a man and a woman which comes from God, who created male and female in His image, so that they might become one body and might be fertile and procreate.

Therefore, marriage in Africa is taken seriously because it is an institution that has the backing of God. Many things are supposedly taken into consideration before a young man and a woman agree to consummate their relationship.

The height of joining a couple together as husband and wife is when the pastor asks the man and woman: Will you love him/her, comfort him/her, honour and keep him/her, in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, in sadness and in joy, to cherish and continually bestow upon him/her your heart’s deepest devotion, forsaking all others, keep yourself only unto him /her as long as you both shall live? and each party answers in the affirmative.

This vow seems not to mean much to Lagos couples again, given the rate of divorce in the state which has now climbed to an alarming level. Even though statistics about this unwholesome development is hard to come by, indications suggest that more people may have sought the dissolution of their union in 2016 than they did in 2010.

According to the coordinator of a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Family Reloaded, Mrs Sesi Sebinun, the major cause of broken homes in the Badagry area is negligence of duties by both parties.

“There are so many broken homes in Badagry and the number is going to increase if urgent steps are not taken to address the situation,” Mrs Sebinun said.

With this revelation, it has become obvious that the idea of family value is quickly being eroded with the high regard hitherto had for the marriage institution failing.

 

Why the high rate?

Although the issue of divorce is not peculiar to Lagos, it is generally believed that the rate at which it happens in the state deserves attention. Many people who spoke to Saturday Tribune attributed the situation where a couple who had earlier proclaimed love and affection for each other would suddenly develop hatred for each other and subsequently file for divorce to diverse reasons, beginning with the total departure from family values in view of the metropolitan nature of the city where civilisation has clashed with cultural ideology.

Mr Segun Oladipupo is a civil servant who has been married for 17 years and has lived in Lagos for the same length of time. Although his marriage to his wife, a nurse, has experienced some hiccups, what has kept them going is their determination to refuse to get carried away by the distractions of the city.

To him, it takes the grace of God for a woman or man not to get tempted by social distractions in the city. Following the bubbling nature of the city where different foreign cultures meet, to Oladipupo, it is not strange to see married couples pick up foreign ideas which in most cases contradict marital values. He particularly laid the blame on women, majority of whom, he said, have placed civilisation and city life above family values.

Many Lagos women, especially those of the working class, he said, have chosen career over marriage while many have regarded themselves as equals to their husbands.

“There can never be two captains on a ship. The moment a woman fails to know her limitation in the home, the ship is bound to fail and this is one of the major factors responsible for increase in divorce rate in Lagos State,” he added.

But experts in marriage issues, including marriage counsellors, clergymen and lawyers, have identified rising poverty, lack of love, domestic violence and infidelity as some of the commonest and leading reasons couples opt for divorce.

Speaking on the issue in a telephone chat with Saturday Tribune, a clergyman and marriage counsellor, Pastor Richard Egbetokun, expressed sadness over the development and insisted that a lot of people go into marriage without having knowledge of what it is all about.

Pastor Egbetokun pointed out that a number of men and women often fail to realise that love is the basis of a working marriage.

“Nowadays, a lot of marriages lack love, so how do you want such a marriage to last? If a marriage has love as its foundation, as instituted by God Himself, couples would stay together ‘for better and for worse’,” he said.

In his view, a legal practitioner, Mr Elliot Ehiewere, who claimed to handle no fewer than five divorce cases per week, identified poverty and infidelity as two key reasons marriages fail not just in Lagos State but also elsewhere. He stated that today, a lot of people, especially the females, cannot withstand a little pressure occasioned by financial difficulties.

“I have handled cases of ladies pushing for divorce just because their men could no longer meet certain financial obligations in the house. Perhaps what they thought they would see in their dream homes was different from the reality they met, and therefore, a lot of them wanted out.

“Many young women feel it is compulsory for them 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 the cost. But when reality dawns on them, they would want to back out,” Ehiewere said.

A cleric, Reverend Emmanuel Oluwapelumi, equally attributed the rise in the number of divorce cases in recent times to the foundations of most marriages presently being contracted, which he described as unholy.

Giving his views on the issue, Rev. Oluwapelumi, who is the General Overseer of the Apostolic Fire Ministries Nigeria, argued that besides throwing the basic biblical principles guiding the signing of such relationship between a man and a woman into the thrash can, some marriages are based on deceit on the part of the man and the woman.

“A man or a woman that is not ready to do a full disclosure to his or her partner before tying the nuptial knot will come back sooner than later to untie such knot, because the foundation of the relationship is unholy. I have seen marriages collapse just because the wife or the husband later came to learn some things that should have been disclosed earlier in the marriage, long after the marriage had been contracted.

“For instance, I have seen a mother of one who still believed she could hide a secret from her husband until an independent investigation by the husband proved otherwise. So, what do you think would happen in such an instance?” he queried.

He also attributed the rise in divorce cases to the fact that there is no adequate counselling before a couple decide to tie the nuptial knot. “For instance, some of these people don’t even know what the marriage institution is all about. The motivating factor for some is that because their friends are going into marriage, it has become imperative for them to do same. “Unfortunately, clerics that should have provided such pre and post –marriage counselling are too busy pursuing other things,” he argued.

He added that some couples have allowed the present economic recession to get the better of them. He expressed the belief that since many marry for the wrong reasons, especially because of the depth of either the man’s or woman’s purse, such marriage contracts could become vulnerable, especially at this period when the country’s economy is witnessing a downturn.

The cleric attributed some divorce cases to fake prophecy, while emphasising the need for believers to be discerning and spiritually mature. “Couples should know that it is not all the issues concerning the home that are laid bare before a pastor. Some prophecies can be dangerous and very toxic. Some homes have been destroyed through false prophecies and we can’t be too sure that some of these divorce cases you are talking about were not direct consequences of such spurious prophecies,” Reverend Oluwapelumi added.

Speaking on the development, especially as it affects Lagos State, a legal practitioner, Mrs Hannah Onosode, attributed it to urban living and high expectations between couples. “Lagos is a dynamic city and the hassle of living in an urban environment definitely takes its toll on marriages. When you have career couples that focus on work, neglecting the need for togetherness in marriage, divorce is inevitable.

“I have had the cause to advise couples to seek the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) means instead of opting for divorce. ADR can go a long way in finding lasting solutions to marital issues. But it is unfortunate that many couples still opt for divorce in the long run,” she said.

Also speaking on the high rate of divorce, a lawyer, Mr Ajibade Akinsanya, stated that many couples sign the marriage contract with too high expectations. “Marriage is a legal contract that needs to be carefully studied before the dotted lines are signed. So, many of the reasons why people want to divorce are avoidable. Some of the issues range from sharing of property, lack of care and maltreatment. The situation sometimes gets messier when children are involved,” he said.

For a relationship and sex issues expert, Juliana Francis, divorce being on the rise in Lagos and Nigeria generally can be blamed on issues ranging from ego to lack of understanding and infidelity.

Juliana said several reasons could be attributed to the incidence of divorce. According to her, separation is common in the Nigerian context, especially among the not-too-educated and even the educated that had just the traditional wedding ceremony.

“In Nigeria today, an alarming number of women are steadily becoming the breadwinners in their family. When a woman pays most of the bills, she begins to wonder what she is doing in such a relationship with the man.”

“The important ingredients in any marriage are respect, trust, love and understanding. The man begins to lose respect if he cannot take care of his family. The woman wants to be looked after by her husband, not the other way round. Today, even if a man is gainfully employed, he still leaves the bulk of the bills to his wife, because she is gainfully employed, too,” Francis added.

 

General observation

Generally, it has been observed that the high rate of divorce could be traced to the social status of Lagos where everybody allows themselves to get carried away under the pretext of relaxation and civilisation. Besides, financial hardship has been fingered as a contributory factor to the situation where things begin to fall apart when the breadwinner can no longer perform his role.

Because of the metropolitan nature of Lagos, it is also generally agreed that it is easier for a woman to get carried away and be lured into promiscuity as a way of living up to a particular standard. For the man, the sky is the limit with the presence of ‘babes’ and friends ever available to cool them down from the harsh pressure which has reduced them to mere shadows of themselves.

 

Solution

For Pastor Elijah Oladimeji, the only way out is for married couples to put the issue of money aside and allow God to be the foundation on which their marriages lay. For him, the time has come for married couples and the upcoming ones to understand the position of God on marriage. Marriage should be seen as a two-way thing, i.e., for better and for worse.

Alhaji Banji Badmus describes marriage as a lifetime institution which requires constant nurturing from both ends. Once couples begin to adhere to the principles of marriage and family values, he says, the issue of divorce will be greatly reduced.