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openinh new Why do men delay marriage? By John Chuks Azu Victor, 35, works in a blue-chip company with mouthwatering benefits. But his girlfriend is…

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Why do men delay marriage?

By John Chuks Azu

Victor, 35, works in a blue-chip company with mouthwatering benefits. But his girlfriend is frustrated with him on only one issue: the fact that he is not discussing marriage. She has confided in friends about Victor’s deferral of popping the big question.

But it appears Victor is not the only person in the hesitancy trap. Uche, a 36-year-old interior decorator, who has so many deals to meet and has established his brand in a highly competitive and volatile sector, has pronounced that he is not interested in marriage for now.

“Until I achieve some key things in life, I don’t want to go into marriage,” he says.

A look at the wider pool of ready, matured single men, who rather than engage in the formal union of marriage, prefer to lead freer, more informal relationships invites inquiry into the underlying issues. Are the men shying away from the complex terrain of marriage with its responsibilities or do they simply crave for freedom and convenience?

“It is ignorance of what marriage actually means that has caused the situation,” says Okoro Ugochukwu, a businessman. “Marriage is meant to further complement and build you up as a man. Many of the young men and women want to acquire so much before settling down. But that is not correct.”

Ugochukwu also attributes the problem of delayed marriage, especially in the southern part of the country, to westernisation which has influenced the wedding celebration.

“In the past, if you perform the traditional wedding rites you are seen to have married. But now it is no longer seen as ‘real marriage’ until you perform the ‘white’ or ‘church’ wedding. Many men want to save enough to be able to engage in all these,” he says.

This so-called westernisation is also responsible for the increasing cases of delayed marriage in Hausaland, according to Malam Usman, a civil servant.

“Nowadays you see a lot of young men who tell you they are busy either with their education or careers,” he says.

Hajiya Amina Umar Usman, a public servant reinforces these regional differences in marriage expectations, saying the delay is mostly observed among the Igbo males. She however attributes it to their quest for economic emancipation.

“There are so many factors that cause delay in marriage in the country. But it is more among the Igbo. You know, they want to make money. They want their wives and family to look well so they struggle hard to make money before marriage,” she said.

She explained that many families in the North particularly, the Ebira in Kogi State want their female children to marry between 23 and 25 years of age and they would support their males to settle before 30 by connecting them to cousins or relations and shoulder the expenses.

Malam Usman adds to the cultural dimension by insisting that for the Hausas, marriage is both a cultural and religious obligation.

“About 90 per cent of Hausas are Muslims. In Islam fornication and adultery are grave sins. Also, everybody wants to be seen to meet the moral dictates of the culture by getting married,” he said.

This position is supported by Hamza Idris, a businessman who says it is the custom in his native village in Kano for males to marry at 25.

“In my village in Kano, you hardly see an unmarried 40-year-old except he is resident in some distant land. No matter your status you must be assisted to marry. There I no delay in my area,” he says.

Indeed marriage, like other stages of life, comes with its social tensions. It is not surprising that it comes with pre-wedding fears. Thus the disappointing deferments often associated with it. But it is important that the individuals to take adequate time to think through and prepare for a step that will affect the rest of their lives.

For Daniel Adike a media consultant, economic reasons are central to how ready a man is to settling down because of the patriarchal nature of the society which still places big burden on the man to maintain the home.

“Young people complain of lack of funds to fulfill the various obligations required. You must have income earning activity, have a roof over your head, provide feeding, clothing etc. And of course by the time one graduates from school, the quest to get paid employment and settle down takes a long time,” he says.

While Adike also believes that the psychological factor comes secondary in the reasons for men’s marriage delays, Godwin Tsa, a journalist expands the circle beyond socio-economic factors to the female gender’s high expectations – which makes them lower their estimation for young, struggling men.

“Also, the cost of living for families in Nigeria today is very high so young men prefer to marry working class ladies, who are not easily available. Because of the economy there is the fear that ‘if I am married I cannot be able to cope; I cannot take care of the home’.

“On the part of the ladies, they set standards to marry ‘already made’ persons. They will say: ‘I have suffered from my family, I don’t want to go and suffer a second time.’ Men avoid them when they give this kind of red flag,” Tsa submitted.

There are also spiritual and religious explanations for avoiding marriage. For instance in Christendom there is provision for celibacy – where the individual male or female offer themselves solely for the work of God on earth. This apart, many reasons for avoiding or delaying marriage are mostly material.

Sociologists believe that individual behaviour traits and choices are the function of their overall sociological conditioning. Thus, within Nigeria, the different cultural orientations across the society may offer different expectations for a wedding ceremony and marriage itself.

Within this context, Dr Bridget Onochie, a gender activist, agrees with this school of thought and Ugochukwu, who commented earlier, that regional expectations for marriage differ in the country. Thus, factors contributory to delay in marriage would not be the same for the Yoruba and Hausa male on the one hand and the male from the South East or South South especially, the Igbo.

“I will look at it from the economic, personality and socio-cultural factors. On the socio-cultural factor, I would say the ethnic background of the male is also a factor,” he said.

“For instance, it is easier for a man from the South West to get married than the man from the South East or the South South. The reason is that for the south westerner it is cheaper or less expensive to marry. The man enjoys the support of the family and the bride’s family, making the burden less cumbersome for the man.

“It is not so in the South East where the man will have to show that he is a man by solely bearing the burden of sponsoring the marriage to his wife.

“Also, there is the high bride price there. In the South West, the man is not expected to pay huge amount for the wife, elsewhere you pay what you have and use the rest for the celebration.

“Also, ‘the list’ given to the suitor in the South West contains very small items like yams, honey, sugar etc for marriage,” Ugochukwu said.

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