Increasingly, and in greater numbers, Nigerian men are marrying non-Nigerian women. In droves, they are marrying Caribbean nationals, White-Americans and African-Americans. They are marrying, not for the primarily purpose of acquiring “greencard,” but for other noble reasons. They marry, not for the curiosity, but because they are bonded and are determined to make a success of the marriage institution; they are bonded by love and faith and a commitment to one another to live their lives as one in a happy matrimony.
The more I notice this phenomenon, the more I wonder about some Nigerian men. I wonder. Culturally, Nigerian men are overbearing, controlling, and paternalistic. They relate to their fathers and mothers differently. They believe it is “a man’s world” and so they have the tendency to relegate women to subservient roles. True, things are changing. True globalization and modernity and westernization are impacting the Nigerian culture. In cities across Nigeria, these changes are noticeable; but over all, the effects of these changes are minimal. A Nigerian may be well read, well educated and well traveled, in the end though, he will succumb to the weight and influence of the Nigerian culture.
We have a society where anthropological and sociological behaviors are still paramount. For instance, a great many Nigerians still practice levirate and sororate marriage, and they also engage in polygyny, bridewealth, and matrilocal and patrilocal living arrangements. And in spite of westernization, Nigerians are still not comfortable with public display of affection, i.e. kissing and verbal declaration of love; and neither are they comfortable with open and public discussions of abortion, sex and exotic sex acts. That Nigerians are not comfortable with such public declarations and have not completely embraced westernization is due, to a large extent, on the hold the traditional African culture has on the vast majority of the populace. At the core of every Nigerian, and indeed every African, is the thumbprint, the umbilical cord of their ancestors.
This non-public declaration and display of love and affection is not unique to Nigerians living in Nigeria. No! The vast majority of Nigerians living in the United States are loath to engage in such practices, too. Furthermore, most Nigerians do not engage in endearing practices like candlelight dinners, flower giving, romantic walk by the lake or park, or even running the bath for their wives or lovers. It would surprise most westerners to know that a typical Nigerian father or mother would rarely, if ever, utter affectionate or confidence-building words like “I love you…” to their children; yet, the children have no doubt that their parents love them. Children are the crowing glory of any respectable Nigerian family.
Haven digressed a bit, I return to the issue of Nigerian men and their foreign wives. I am stunned, perplexed, taken aback by the transformation Nigerian men, married to non-Nigerian women, have gone through in the United States (and perhaps all over the Western world). My goodness, here are a group of macho men, fiercely independent, with a burgeoning sense of entitlement who thinks the world belongs to them; and that women are made to be at their beck-and-call. Here they are; they have suddenly or gradually gone soft and sensitive and romantic and wide-eyed. How did these groups of men become “oh baby, oh baby” kind of guys? How did they become “yes honey, yes sweetheart, yes darling” kind of fellas? What has happened to them? What got to their hearts and soul?
How were they able to adjust to living under a different set of rules and matrimonial conventions? How is it that a breed of men married to their fellow countrywomen would behave in a given and predictable manner; but then adjust to a different matrimonial lifestyle when married to foreigners? When they are with the Nigerian women, these men are all about control and power and they expect their wives to cook and clean and raise babies and provide sex on demand; but with the foreign wives, their balls shrink! Such men live by schedule. They have daily and weekly schedule of when to do the laundry and the dishes; of whose turn it is to empty the thrash; and of whose turn it is to sweep and mop the floor; and of when to eat out and cook at home.
These men — especially if married to White women — feel lucky and grateful and mightily blessed. These men meet and exceed all matrimonial expectations; but would rubbish and dominate their Nigerian women. What is it about a White woman that makes the Nigerian male lose his senses? Could it be because of their skin color and their supposed sensuality and submissive attitude in bed? Could it be because they engage in all kinds of mind-altering sexual acts that, understandably, the Nigerian woman would NOT engage in? Or perhaps it has to do with the warped mentality of some Nigerian men who thinks everything white is good and desirable and so must be had!
Why are Nigerian men afraid to turn control over to their Nigerian wives? Why are they averse to showing their sensitive side? Why the need to control and dominate? Why are Nigerian men reluctant to take their wives on a romantic walk to the parks and beaches, buy roses and cards? Why the need to bottle up their romantic side? Why have they refused to do for their Nigerian wives what they would heartily do for non-Nigerian women? After all, Nigerian women, unlike their foreign counterparts usually do not demand to be co-captains of the house. They usually do not demand for more than is earthly possible. And way more than their foreign counterparts they understand what it means to be a wife and a partner; they understand what it means to be part of the extended family.
When it comes to matters of life, love and death, Nigerian women have stood by their husbands. They are there during the passing of their in-laws; they give succor in times of crisis. These women understand what the African family is all about. But not much can be said about non-Nigerian wives who may not even find it necessary to visit or attend marriage or burial ceremonies in their husbands’ ancestral homes. For non-Nigerian wives, life begins and ends in American. For these women, marriage is not about marrying into another family; it is about “us and us alone.” And in fact, they would rather you not bother them with stories about your extended families and the need for the monthly or quarterly remittances.
Yes, some of us can’t help with whom we fall in love; but to the extent that one can, I would rather a Nigerian. A Nigerian woman is not likely to throw you out of your home; she is not likely to call the cops on you based on flimsy reasons; she is not likely to drag you through the judicial system; she is not likely to throw the divorce papers at you at the slightest provocation; she is not likely to turn her backs at you in times of financial difficulties and other crises. In order words: Nigerian women are likely to stay and be loving and generous and supportive for the long haul! Again and again and again, they have proven that of all God’s creations, they are the very best. And indeed, they are!
Sabella Ogbobode Abidde
Please, do not ask me about religion. I get the evil look every time I tell people I am an agnostic who teeters on atheism. My world resolves around ethics and the rule of law. That’s it. I have no use for religion: religious convictions are not part of my existence -- the laws of man are good enough for me. I have lived in several cities: Seattle, Miami, Norman, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Saint Cloud, the District of Columbia, Houston, and Mankato. I am not sure where I am going to live next. And I have never really had a profession, only jobs: been a cook, a dishwasher, a civil servant, house cleaner, university instructor and researcher and so on and so forth. Every so often I get questions concerning the role and place of the African woman. Well, I don’t know; at least not with any certainty. What seems to work best is when both partners work as a team: cooperate, coordinate and collaborate their marital efforts. And they should be mindful of the insidious effect of modernization on the African family.