In this report, Osby Isibor examines the lives of ‘live-alone’ husbands in Abuja, missing link between their family members, who live in villages or other cities, and how they are contending with challenges:
It is a common sight to notice him in markets – a corporate gentleman haggling with the market woman pricing pepper, fish, okro, garri and vegetable oil. At other times, you see him in the high brow areas of major cities doing his shopping at the mall.
If he is the high society type, he spends much of his time at the Club house. He lives a relatively quiet life at home – no chattering or running around of children. Except, perhaps, for the occasional female visitor, that is for those who want to keep body and soul together.
The house environment has an uncomforting serenity. They learn to cope with mundane jobs; cooking, ironing washing and other domestic chores. Loneliness, depression and unshared responsibility are among their other problems. Although a few claim they enjoy cooking, many of the live-alone husbands say they don’t find it funny going to the market.
The above scenario typifies the changing times for the family set-up, especially for ‘live-alone’ husbands in Abuja. These ‘forced bachelors’ on daily basis, bear the burden of their new found life and the missing link of not having their wives and family members around, with unusual equanimity.
Economic factor, especially employment, has largely been responsible for dispersal of many families, for example, a husband works in Abuja and the wife in Lagos, with dire consequences for family cohesion.
With Nigeria’s worsening economic problems, many of these ‘forced bachelors’ find it difficult to keep two families. The situation has created a huge financial burden on them running two homes.
Engr. Olukoya, a civil servant, falls into the category of men living without their families. Having lived in Abuja for about 20 years now, he shuttles between Abuja and Ibadan. In 2009, I decided that I wanted to return to Ibadan. My teenage children, born in Lagos, refused to relocate to Abuja. Of course, they have their education to think about. My wife stayed with them and so I became a ‘Married Bachelor’.
So I had to do my shopping, cooking and cleaning. House-helps, not reliable, second wife, out of the question, being a Christian. The loneliness was reduced by my involvement in church activities. I do travel regularly to see my family members. However, I still miss the presence of my wife and children”.
Mr. Kayode Adeyemi, 45, an engineer with a construction company was transferred from Benin to Abuja early this year. One of his problems is that he finds himself discussing what he cooks for supper and breakfast with male friends. Loneliness is also the problem highlighted by Mr. Adeyemi.
He has had to struggle to make ends meet. ”Some men are actually using the opportunity of their job to run away from a woman that has never been there for them; if a woman has been good to the husband, no man will prefer to stay away and miss her wifely intimacy, love and affection. I won’t trade the care of a loving wife for anything! But you know, this is about my job and the family must go on. I love my family and I am always in touch with my wife,”
One amazing phenomenon about this category of men living alone is that many are not contemplating taking a second wife. Even those in their early 50s who can still fool around avoid serious relationships, while those who contract temporary marriages soon abandon the venture. Check revealed that the decision against taking a second wife, for many, is generally financially based, given the rising cost of living in Abuja.
According to 60-year-old Alhaji Musa Ibrahim, whose wife and children are in the US, “How do you expect me to start training a child at this age”? He said he draws inspiration from more elderly people who are in their 70s and in a similar situation. He, however, conceded that he feels the absence of his family most during festive seasons.
Mr. Owen Okparakwu has been living in Lagos for the past 20yrs, but now relocated to Abuja. With his family still in Lagos, Owen finds it difficult to cope with his new environment.
“Since my job separated me from my family, it hasn’t been a pleasant experience at all. I had to get up early, prepare my breakfast before getting off to work. Then, when I’m back from work, I also prepare my dinner, which has been my daily routine. Weekends were not any better as I have to take care of other domestic issues. Sometimes you could fall ill and nobody is there to attend to you. This can be disheartening and dangerous.
“Even though it wasn’t an easy task being alone, I however, got used to the lifestyle as I had no choice. I am able to cope well because my neighbours are understanding and sometimes give me some assistance. All the same, I still miss my family.”
Prof. AdelaniOgunrinde, a former Vice-Chancellor, National University of Lesotho, while delivering the Second Commencement Lecture of Bowen University, Iwo on October 16, 2008, highlighted, almost in lamentation, this phenomenon of the dispersed family using his family as an example: He lives in Lesotho, the wife in Abuja and the children in North America.
He died about two years later, with the family still dispersed. In many cases, families are being fractured where men went about life without their family.
By Leadership’s Osby Isibor