Shooting in Connecticut and Matters Arising in Nigerian Families in the US – By Paul Omoruyi
The grotesque and senseless killing of 20 innocent kids at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut in the United States is something every parent dread daily in the US. Early reports already show that the shooter’s parents were divorced since September 2009 and the mother had custody of the shooter. The mother had exposed the shooter to guns!
With the unprecedented divorce rate in the Nigerian community in the US, Nigerian families in the US are increasingly becoming engrossed in all the family related patterns and miasma leading to these kinds of incidents.
Early this year, I wrote an article in an African Abroad newspaper that was widely published in the New York area. This writer has been disturbed for some time now about the state of the Nigerian marriage and family in the United States. Below is the original article:
Saving the Nigerian Family in the US – Nigerian Men Regretting Getting Married to Nigerian Women in the US?
My phone rang. It was a call from my buddy that we started life together in the US. We talked about those early days when we just immigrated. Those are the days that will remain etched in our minds and indelible in our memories. Like so many Nigerians, we worked and went to college full time non-stop for many years concurrently as if we were machines. The impetus to achieve the American dream and not disappoint our families was the catalytic enzyme running through our veins. Till this day, we still cannot fathom how we did it. But we did anyway. It’s one of those kinds of experience that you can only say “if not God”.
We were in our twenties with all the Adrenaline and testosterones running wild. The stories of Nigerian men that have been messed up by “child support” because they got married to “akata” were sufficient enough for us to respect ourselves and control our sexual drives. My friend would always say “I go just die or go back to Naija than for me to find myself in a child support situation. Akata no go fit cook Naija food and then she go come still take me to child support? Over my dead bodi”. These concerns (or should I say fear?) were reasons my buddy did not go into any relationship with some of his college female friends who were not Nigerians. He wanted a Nigerian woman as a wife so they can speak pidgin English together, eat Egusi and Okro soup yanfuyafu (otherwise with Akata wife, na Burger King go kill am!). It was all too common a joke back in the days.
Many years have since passed. My guy is married now with a degree attached to his name and has a middle-class job. Obviously, you can say he’s living the American dream. As we reminisced and laughed about those Kodak moment days, in a split second unguarded moment, he suggested that there was nothing special anymore about getting married to a Nigerian woman in the US. “They are now even worse than the so called akata”, he said. The comment struck me and I pushed a little for him to elucidate. I listened in awe as he told me what he’s experiencing at home. While he poured his heart to me, he kept asking me “do you think say Akata or even Caribbean woman go behave like that”? Apparently, it appears his expectations have been dashed.
One that struck me most was the story of a young Nigerian teenage girl living in the shelter. Her Nigerian parents are now divorced. According to her, her parents’ marriage broke after her mother systematically stopped cooking for the family, became increasingly narcissistic and disrespectful to her dad. As if that was not enough, her dad was infuriated when he discovered that her mom had secretly bought a piece of property in Nigeria without his knowledge. Two years later, the parents divorced. Unfortunately, the young lady became pregnant while still in high school. “I just could not stand my mom and live with her. If my parents were still married, I would not have fallen for this stupid crap”, she was quoted as saying, as tears rolled down her eyes.
Although I understand that these narratives might be loop-sided but it seems to typify what most Nigerian men are complaining about lately behind closed doors. There are numerous cases of marital fuss and upheaval that have permeated Nigerian families in the US in recent years. Some people say it is the American culture shock that is rocking the boat of traditional Nigerian family structure in the US. Others claim that it is Nigerian women narrow-mindedly over stretching the American provisions. While some lay blame on Nigerian men refusing to wake up to the realities of the disparities between the American and Nigerian approach to marriage.
It is heartbreaking to hear a Nigerian man refer to his wife as my “baby mother” and a Nigerian woman says my “baby father”. Just some couple of years ago, this was a taboo terminology in the Nigerian marriage. It was actually used to surreptitiously mock the so called “akata”. Now it’s becoming a common mantra in the Nigerian community as single mothers and fathers balloon to an alarming and astronomical rate.
This is no time to pass blame or point fingers or to clamor over who is right or who is wrong. The hand writing is on the fall. This writer is whole-heartedly concerned and perturbed by the downward spiral of our marriages and families in the US. The younger generation is watching, confused and scared to death of what to expect from taking that marriage bold step.
In the spirit of finding a solution, I will proffer the following suggestions to reduce this scourge that is eating deeply into the fabric of our families:
1. Each spouse should not think that the world revolves around you only –Either my way or no way mind set is a recipe for marital failure.
2. Think twice “welu welu” before you let loose the heavens and lock that door against your spouse – you might be endangering your children’s future for life!
3. Marriage is a symbiotic and not a parasitic relationship.
4. At life’s end, the fight over dollars will be no more. Your spouse and your children will become more important than anything else.
5. There is no perfect woman or perfect man. The only perfect marriage is one that the man and woman have learned how to resolve their differences and work together through thick and thin.
People, we are better than this. Let us all fine tune our dispositions and propensities to make our marriages and families happier right here in the US. We have come too far away from home to kill ourselves in a distant land. The system is ready to tear us apart if we open that door. Do you have an opinion or experience that you would like to share? Shoot me an email. May God bless you, your family and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.