By Olakunle Olafioye
They may claim the unenviable distinction of having set the record for the shortest marriage in Nigeria in recent years. Chibuzo and Juliet Igwe tied the nuptial knot on December 29, 2015 under the native custom and tradition in Akpugo, Nkanu West Local Government Area of Enugu. But while she had envisaged a blissful honeymoon, Juliet was shell-shocked when her husband dropped the bombshell two weeks after their wedding. Chibuzo announced his desire to return to Gabon where he resides without having to go with his young wife.
Since the second week of January 2016, when Chibuzo left for Gabon, his young wife claimed she had had to contend with life challenges alone including having to nurse her pregnancy to maturity.
When she approached an Aba-la-Ohazu Customary Court in Aba South Local Government Area of Abia for the dissolution of their union, Juliet came with her 10-month-old baby which the marriage produced.
The young mother in her application to the court hinged her resort to seeking divorce on abandonment by her hubby less than a month into their marriage.
Granting the petitioner’s prayer for dissolution, the Presiding Senior Magistrate, Diamond Olewengwa, agreed that the union had broken down irretrievably as a result of lack of love and care, denial of sex, irreconcilable differences and abandonment and consequently granted the petitioner the custody of their son until maturity.
In their own case, Fatai Badmus and his wife, Sade, residents of 12, Odo-Ado Street, along Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State, had it rosy in their union until two years ago when the husband began to notice what he considered a negative trend.
“My lord my wife is fond of leaving home for days without caring a hoot about the children,” Badmus told an Ado-Ekiti Customary Court Presided Mrs. Olayinka Akomolede, last Thursday
The 35-year old petitioner, who described his estranged wife as wayward said the respondent would leave home on the excuse that she was going to work as a caterer and would not return for two days, leaving her two children behind.
Badmus equally accused his wife of being in the habit of wearing indecent dresses and infidelity but the respondent denied the allegations.
In her ruling, the President of the court granted the petitioner’s request for dissolution of the union as both parties conceded to the prayer.
She awarded the custody of the older child of the marriage, a six-year-old boy, to the petitioner, while the second child, aged three, was given to the respondent until he clocked six.
Akomolede further ruled that the petitioner should pay N3,500 as monthly feeding allowance for the second child.
Also a Jikwoyi Customary Court, Abuja, on February 17 dissolved the union between a couple over the refusal of the wife to have protected sex with her husband despite being aware of her HIV positive status.
“My wife got pregnant and put to bed in 2012 but the child got terribly ill and died. Due to the ailment and death of the child, I insisted that my wife should get tested of HIV, which the doctor did and the result was positive.
“Because I still loved my wife, we used condom during intercourse. But as time went on, she refused me using condom, and insisted on intercourse without protection,” the petitioner told the court during the proceeding.
The presiding judge, Everyman Eleanya, who ordered the dissolution of the marriage, expressed regret that the court did everything possible to reconcile the parties but to no avail.
All over the world divorce rate has continued to remain on the upward swing. Couples seek divorce for different reasons ranging from the very ludicrous to the most highly sensitive. A recent survey in European Union shows upsurge in the rate at which couple seek and get divorce. The survey rates Britain and Finland as holding joint highest divorce rate in Europe. Ireland and Luxembourg have the lowest. The report equally projects that about 40 per cent of new marriages are likely to end in divorce.
Although such data is not readily available in Nigeria, findings by Sunday Sun show that the number of couples seeking divorce in Nigeria is alarming. “The rate at which people file divorce suits nowadays is worrisome and efforts by the court to frustrate their requests, for reconciliations between spouses often prove very difficult,” a top official in one of the customary courts in Lagos told our correspondent in confidence.
A sociologist, Mrs. Madumere Veronica attributes the upsurge in divorce rate to a number of factors. Notably among these factors according to her, is unrealistic expectation between couples. “Divorce rate remains very high because couples are expecting too much from their marriage. Women particularly set high and unrealistic targets for their husbands. For instance, every woman wants to marry a rich, godly, caring, loving and faithful man. For God sake, what you are asking for is an angel. But whenever the man falls short in one or two areas, problem will start. The same for men, she said.
Mrs. Madumere also identifies the changing role of women in the society as another reason for the growing rate of divorce in the country. She points out that more than 75 per cent of those seeking divorce are women and attributes it to the fact that more women are getting economically empowered and financially autonomous. “This suggests that they now have power to do something about their marriages when they are no longer happy with the way things are going. Many of them now find things they had tolerated earlier unbearable because of the feeling that they can now stand on their own,” she said.
Men also have their fair share of the problem, according to her. “The fact that less number of men initiate divorce should tell you that larger share of the blame for divorce emanates from them. As the aggressors in the dispute, men don’t grumble or shout rather it is the women at the receiving end that let out the cry for divorce. Men are largely culpable in case of divorce because of their propensity for infidelity, wife battering, irresponsible lifestyle, diminished interest in displaying affection or outright lack of love towards their wives among several others attitudes that are capable ruining their marriages,” she posited.
She admonished couples to show more love towards each order and focus more on things that bind them together rather than those that divide them.
Religious leaders who spoke to Sunday Sun expressed bitterness over the growing rate of divorce and called on couples to always embrace peaceful conflict resolution moves whenever they have disagreement in the interest of their children.
A Christian cleric, Pastor Timothy Adeleke, blamed the high incidence of divorce in the society on what he described as growing secularization. According to him, couples are breaking up as a result of the fact that many families are losing their spiritual stand.
“The Bible does not give easy leeway for divorce. By this, we can say the Bible does not support divorce in anyway. Rather, our Lord Jesus Christ placed more emphasis on forgiveness. Couples must be ready to forgive themselves anytime they offend each other. In the case of adultery, which is the only condition given for separation, the aggrieved partner has the option of forgiving his or her offending spouse and let bygone be bygone or settle for divorce provided they would both remain unmarried for the rest of their lives.
“The high rate of divorce is a function of the declining influence of religion on our society. This has led to marriages becoming less sacred and important. It has equally ensured that divorces are more widely acceptable to couples,” he said.
In his own submission, a Muslim cleric, Ustaz Abdulahi Yunus, lamented that more children are growing up in single parent families because of high rate of divorce, a development he described as an aberration. “Divorce has major effect on the children who are often deprived of adequate parental love and care. There is a limit to what a single parent can do in raising the children. Where you have a person performing the responsibilities of two individuals, lapses are inevitable. That is why the society is grappling with myriad of social challenges,” he said.
He called on women to strive harder in order to save their marriages from disintegration saying wives have more roles to play in preventing separation. “Women must show more commitment and determination to keeping their marriages. Some men will always come up with various allegations and excuses against their wives all in a bid to satisfy their selfish desires, but it is up to the woman to ensure that she doesn’t fall into those traps so that she doesn’t get booted out of the home and get replaced by another woman,” he said.