Editor's note: The issue of husband scarcity is not peculiar to Nigeria alone, rather, some women around the world also face the same problem.
In this analysis, Wale Akinola dug deeper into this issue, had chats with some affected women who shared their experiences. He also talked to some experts and religious leaders on how to find a lasting solution to the predicament.
After many years of effortless search for a man who would seek her hands in marriage, a 37-year-old Khadijah resorted to her fate. To her, being lonely is not her plan but when the suitors refused to come; she decided to move on in her life.
A Masters’ holder of electrical and electronics from one of the universities in the north said the issue is not peculiar to her as some of her friends also suffer the same destiny.
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Unlike in the years back when men swam around a lady like bees and compete to have her as their partner, the story is no longer the same now because women have outnumbered men and the few ones are not ready for marriage.
Narrating her ordeal, the beautiful Khadijah who graduated at the age of 25, said she thought she would get married before she reached 30 years of age.
She noted that when things could not work out as planned, she had to enrol for a masters’ programme when she clocked 31.
According to her, she had been into two relationships but opted out when she realised that the supposed husbands were not ready for marriage.
“It is not possible for me to beg men to marry me at all cost but what do you do when your expectations are not met? Do you kill yourself? No, you have to go back to your God and seek His mercy. This issue of scarcity of men here in the north is a great concern for the parents and guardians.”
Khadijah stressed that she never thought she would be single now, adding that as she advances in age, no man is ready to propose to her not because she is ugly or uncultured but for the reasons she is yet to understand.
In her submission, a 35-year-old Oluwaseyi, who lives in the Ikorodu area of Lagos state, said she sees the inability to get a husband as a great problem because of internal pressure from her family, friends and relatives.
She noted that she is not finding life easy because of her predicament, saying that there is no happiness in the life of any woman without a man.
Oluwaseyi said that in the last three years, she had dated about four men but the relationship crashed because of their lack of commitment.
She stated that she cries every time she sees her mates with their husbands and children, lamenting that it is sad that she doesn’t have a child or a permanent man at age of 35.
Speaking with Legit.ng, a Lagos-based gender counselor, Adewunmi Kemi, noted that searching for husbands has become one of the major challenges faced by many young girls today.
She said the fact that in many prayer houses, the majority of the intentions are a prayer for a life partner, calls for great concern.
Adewunmi wondered whether their mothers and grandmothers really faced the problem of husband scarcity or if there were adequate corresponding numbers of both genders during their time.
Causes of the scarcity of husbands
She identified unemployment as one of the major causes of the scarcity of husbands in Nigeria, saying that it is no longer news that the unemployment situation in Nigeria is becoming worse on a daily basis.
According to her, the situation has led some men not being ready for marriage because of their inability to achieve financial success while the lady advances in age.
She stressed that few women are willing to marry a man who earns less than they do, adding that, as female earnings increase, women see men with less earnings as being unfit to marry them.
“What we face today is that the descriptions by most ladies of who their ideal man should be are always the same. If for instance, the opinions of 100 ladies are sampled on different occasions concerning marriage, we will find out that they want almost the same thing from men. But the reality is that the person who has their dreamed qualities is just one, so where do the remaining 99 ladies get their own husbands.”
A level 12 officer at the federal ministry of trade and investment, Abuja, Abdul-Hakeem Olawoyin, said the level of insecurity in the country is another factor that contributes to the scarcity of husbands in Nigeria.
He said that many able-bodied men have been killed especially in the northern part of the country in the last few years due to insurgency by the Boko Haram sect.
Olawoyin noted that some soldiers have been killed in the battle against the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents, adding that women who have become widows in the process are now finding it difficult to get men who are ready to marry them.
He also noted that there are more single women in the southern part of Nigeria because of their religious creeds, adding that while Islam which is the predominant religion in the north allows a man to marry more than one wife, Christianity which is popular is the south preaches one man one wife.
What are the implications for a woman without a husband?
Olawoyin, however, said that Islam as a religion does not permit a woman to live without a husband to avoid any form of adultery or fornication.
He said in some parts of the country, any woman who lives without a husband may be accused of being promiscuous, adding that if a woman’s husband dies, she should be allowed to marry another man of her choice.
Olawoyin added that any woman who is above 30 years of age in Yoruba culture and refuses to bring her would-be husband to his parents would face some forms of abuse, insults from the people within and outside her family.
What will happen in the next few years if the problem persists?
An economist and social psychologist, Gbolahan Olayiwola told Legit.ng that the numbers of single women may double the current figure if something crucial is not done by the government, the parents and the religious leaders.
He said that gender norms are central to shaping how the status of singleness is interpreted, adding that if compared with men, women experience greater pressure to conform to the ideology of marriage and family because conventional constructions of gender emphasise caring and dependence as a central element of successfully performed femininity
According to him, the high rate of single women in society may contribute to the increased rate of social vices like fornication and lesbianism.
Marriage is boxy and restrictive; women’s success is not attached to it
However, a Lagos-based legal practitioner, Damilola Ajisafe said that the societal belief that marriage is a must is boxy and restrictive; hence it is a choice for her.
In a chat with Legit.ng, the lawyer noted one could achieve the condiments of the marriage commitment, partnership, love and respect without necessarily being married.
She explained that her knowledge of the fact that marriage is a choice liberates her from societal expectations.
Damilola said that marriage is not the ultimate goal even as this fact is popularised among women who realise their potential.
According to her, the belief that society has for the longest time infused into women that marriage is the ultimate achievement, without which, a woman can never truly be happy is not correct.
She said marriage is really about commitment, partnership, love and respect, saying that a person can get all of these without being “married” to the other person.
Damilola said knowing that marriage is a choice liberates her as a woman from what society expects of her and definitely makes a large number of the society uncomfortable.
“Marriage isn’t the ultimate goal for me and so many amazing women out there because we are capable of so much more and are fully aware of this incredible fact.”
How can government, Mosque and Churches be of help?
Speaking on the solution to the problem, an Islamic scholar, Ustadh Ibrahim Tijani, told Legit.ng that the menace would be tackled if male Christians are also encouraged to marry more than one wife.
He said apart from the fact that the number of men who die annually keeps increasing; the birth rate ratio of female children outnumbers the male children.
Tijani noted that Islam permits a man to marry a maximum of four wives if he has the capacity to cater for them equally, adding that if every man marries at least two wives, then most women - unmarried, divorced or single would eventually get their own partners.
He advised that the pastors should also encourage their men to marry more than a wife based on the reality on ground.
The cleric also said the government at all levels should provide gainful employment for the citizens and that there should be a board in each state that will cater for marital affairs.
He said any man or woman who is ready for marriage could approach the board for possible spouse searching and assistance from the government, saying that the decision would help in reducing the high rate of single women in Nigeria.
Finally, most single women who are currently in search of men to marry may soon achieve their aims if the parents and the religious leaders start changing their (single women) perspectives on polygamy.
Also, the government at all levels should also borrow a leave from a state like Kano, which some years back, approved the sum of N240 million to organise a mass wedding for singles, divorcees and widows. If this is done, most unmarried women would get their husbands and the men would be inspired to take up marital responsibilities.
Meanwhile, Legit.ng had previously reported that some single women in Gombe state cried for help over their inability to secure men who would seek their hands in marriage.
It was reported that Oba of Yoruba in Gombe, Abdulrahim Alao Yusuf, said that 60% of the non-indigene population in the state is made of people from the southwest part of the country.