Why Nigerians in America come home to marry

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The United States Embassy has data indicating the number of Nigerians who come to join their spouses in the US every year. In this instance, no attempt was made to collect such data. However, several trends were deduced from several exchanges that took place with friends and friends-of-friends and acquaintances in several enclaves in the US. Some of the patterns that emerged include the fact that no fewer than 310 folks embark on this voyage – of which eighty per cent are women. Of this, about two-thirds are Christians with post-secondary education; and two-thirds are between the ages of 25 and 37. Of the base number, eighty-five per cent are from the southern region, with eighty-seven per cent appearing to come from financially-disadvantaged homes.

What is true of the US also seems to be true of Canada, the United Kingdom and various European Union nations. What’s more, the percentages of Nigerians who go overseas to join their spouses, fiances and fiancees have increased twenty-five per cent in the last two decades. It is instructive to note that the immigration process can be trying and costly. Frankly, it is a process that demands a lot of resourcefulness, wits and perseverance. It is a process that, more often than not, results in rejection and depression. Even so, many and many more are willing to undertake this mentally and physically-draining exercise.

But why do Nigerians go though this tortuous immigration process? Why do Nigerian women, living in Nigeria, agree to marrying men they, in most cases, hardly know? And why do Nigerian men go home to marry instead of marrying the women they’ve romanced here in the US. After all, most of the women who are already in the US are well-educated, well-read and well-travelled; they are well mannered and have, in most cases, proved their trustworthiness. These are women of two worlds: they know Africa and also understand the Western society. But in spite of their advantages and pluses, the vast majority of these women are likely to lose their boyfriends to women back home.

In significant numbers, Nigerian men would rather go home to marry the “unknown and the greenhorn” rather than marry the proven and the reliable. Granted that a thousand men have a thousand reasons for going home to marry, there are common threads as to why they do what they do: one, because they can; two, most men are under the illusion that women back home are innocent, un-spoilt and virginal; three, it is an ego-boosting exercise; and four, it allows some men to mask their shortcomings since the women who are already in the US can tell where these men stand on the social and economic ladder. Additionally, some men want their women to look up to them since it makes them appear more than what and who they really are. Other men go home to marry because, as some have stated, “Nigerian girls in the US are rotten, too exposed, too independent and/or too aggressive.”

I am reminded of a friend in Washington who once told me that there was nothing he could teach his girlfriend in terms of romance and sex and everyday reality. Sex, for instance, was awe-inspiring and earthshaking. In the end though, he went home to marry a “village girl,” who pretended for a while before proving that “everything a Yankee can do, a Naija woman can also do.” Shortly thereafter, he also realised he was her one-way ticket out of the misery and poverty that have come to characterise Nigeria. In any case, the majority of such marriages start collapsing within 18 months. The American society has a way of Oprahlising girls from Bauchi, Timbuktu and Aba.

And, of course, there are the traditionalists, the purists: men who don’t mind dating and/or cohabitating with girls from other ethnic groups. But when it is time to start a family, they’d rather a girl from their own ethnic groups. In spite of modernity/westernisation, the majority of Nigerian men living in the US prefer women of the same ethnic group. Ethnicity, as it turns out, is a superseding factor when it comes to marriage.

When it is all said and done, the Nigerian male can be perplexing. His life is full of contradictions. In so many ways, he is a wounded animal as a result of his historical past. There was a time when he was the primary breadwinner, head of the household. He was the man who moved mountains. But that was a time long gone. He misses the past; he misses the era when most men were sheriffs. And frankly, the modern era has not been kind to men (particularly those who have refused to assimilate or acculturate). And even though the outside world is depriving him of his manhood, he has found a way to make parts of his world his playground. In this playground, he is the sole captain. Or so he thought! To make his thoughts a reality, he marries a greenhorn.

More often than not, most of these marriages are not based on love or affection. Most are not even like the marriages of yesteryear: a union between two families. On the part of the greenhorns, it is mostly about the need to escape the prevailing poverty and despair that have engulfed the country. Most of these women are seeking a way out of the misery that Nigeria has become. Therefore, when presented with the opportunity to hop, they pack and run! It should be noted here and now that it is not all the women who come to join their husbands fit this profile. A good number come for the right reasons.

In the end, most that came to join their husbands become disillusioned, disappointed and unhappy and are likely to seek divorce within three years. As for the men, well, some will plead with, cajole or trick their wives into going into the nursing profession. The nursing profession, they believe, is a sure avenue for making money and living the good life. Be it in Houston, Seattle, Dallas, Miami, New York and every where in between, African nurses abound. They are everywhere working mostly the night and graveyard shifts, toiling day and night and away from their husbands and children just to make ends meet. With no time to smell the roses or to wonder at the beauties that surround them, they become strangers in the world they live in.

In the end, a simple question becomes germane: if you find a woman you love and respect and can get along with, what is the point returning to the continent to find the inexperienced? If you already have a woman, here in the US, who makes your heart skip beats and you fancy her worldview, what’s the point in abandoning her? And after several years of putting up with your eccentricity, infantile behaviour and messy bedside manners, what’s the point dumping her for the greenhorn?

Abidde writes from Montgomery, Alabama, USA, vide Sabidde@yahoo.com

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