• Friday, March 01, 2024
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Economic pressure straining family cohesion in Nigeria


…Counsellors say, ‘people must be mentally resilient to survive’

A wife and mother of three by name, Nkechi, is currently frustrated and heart-broken, as the current economic situation has strained the relationship between her and the husband.

Narrating her experience to BusinessDay in Asaba, Delta State, Nkechi said that the family was living well before the economic adversity set in, causing a serious dislocation in their lifestyle.

“We used to live in two-bedroom flat that afforded us space to pack our household things. It also perfectly accommodated us. Ours is a family of five. So, it happened that my husband lost his job last year and we could no longer afford the rent. Early this year, our landlord gave us a quit notice when we could not raise the money to pay. He eventually threw us out of his house in August,” she said.

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She said that her husband, Moses, decided to rent just a room self-contain. Now, there appears to be a misunderstanding between the couple as the husband has refused to allow Nkechi bring into the new place some of their property scattered outside in their former compound.

“I know that the one-room apartment is too small to accommodate all our property, but there are very important things that are very dear to me, and when I see them rot away, my heart bleeds. But my husband has insisted it is only our bed, radio and television set that must be in the room. He has even said that I should go back to the village until things normalise. You cannot believe it, anytime we want to dress up to go anywhere, we run to the place we packed our cloth in our former compound to pick such cloth to wear. Such a lifestyle is eating me up,” she said.

According to her, all entreaties from friends and close family members to allow the wife and the children bring in the boxes containing their wears and personal effects have failed to move him change his mind.

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Nkechi, a nursing mother, said that the situation has caused a serious crack on the wall of their marriage.

Another woman, Elizabeth, who spoke to BusinessDay, said that problem started in her family when her husband lost his job early this year and took to hanging out with some jobless young men with questionable character and has since taken to excessive drinking of alcohol that is always available in those circles.

“I am a petty trader; I sell those small daily needs just to augment my husband’s earning. But early this year, things became so tough with his company that they retrenched over 50 percent of the workforce and he was affected. They promised to get back to them with whatever they are entitled to, but that has not happened. The sudden loss of job without money so affected my husband, that he turned into another thing. The once-loving husband and father, suddenly withdrew to his shell. He hardly smiles and laughs. He screams at everything at home as a result of frustration. The rosy relationship we once enjoyed has disappeared,” Elizabeth said.

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She blamed the husband’s woes on bad government and governance in Nigeria.

“This is what bad government has done to my family. I said bad government because for over eight years now, Nigeria has moved from bad to worse. The last administration wrecked the country. It was the effect of the bad governance that affected the company where my husband used to work. I do not blame the company because we could see that things were no longer going on fine because of government’s policies. The Covid-19 also played a role; it affected everything, but bad government and governance killed good dreams,” she said.

Andrew, a father of two, who resides in Warri, Delta State, told our correspondent that hos wife of seven years, decided to move out of her matrimonial home, because he failed to yield to her pressure to move abroad.

“I work with an oil servicing firm in Warri, though on contract basis. But we live averagely fine, until my wife began to mount pressure on me to consider relocating abroad. She would come and said to me, ‘you are too slow; I don’t know why I married you in the first place. Your mates are relocating abroad and you are not doing anything.’ She would say a lot of things, but I always told her that I was not in a hurry to leave my fatherland to permanently go live abroad. I came back home one day to see a note by my wife that she has moved out, and that until I change my mind, she would not come back,” Andrew said.

In an interview with BusinessDay Sunday, Kingsley Ogbonna, a transporter with a state-owned transport company in the South-East, narrated his own experience.

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“Yes, painful economic situation is largely contributing to crises in Nigerian homes, leading to increase in marriage crashes being witnessed these days,” Ogbonna said.

“As a transporter, I used to spend N15,000 on fuel, from Onitsha in Anambra State to Okigwe in Imo State and the same fuel takes me back to my base, Onitsha. With the removal of fuel subsidy, I now spend N44,000 worth of fuel on the same journey to and fro. Fuel consumption takes almost all the profits accruable from the journey. The scarcity of passengers has also worsened the matter as people now prefer not to embark on trips but do their businesses through waybills to save cost. As a result of scarcity of passengers, the 18-seater bus that was fully loaded to Okigwe would come back to Onitsha empty. That is how a driver and vehicle owner end up having less than N10,000 after working for a whole day as the company would have taken its own percentage.

“The disturbing aspect is that from that N10,000, I am expected to maintain the vehicle and also provide for the family even when prices of motor parts and food items have skyrocketed. The children’s school fees are there. Yet, for the next two weeks, it could not be my turn to load and go to work, thus I’ll still borrow to repair the vehicle. Except a good wife that understands these changes and pressures, there is the likelihood of quarrels and misunderstanding every day,” he said.

Ogbonna further said: “Bad leadership at state level is killing the company while bad leadership at the national level is choking us as the policies are totally unfriendly and have no human face.”

He recalled how his colleagues had lost their lives due to unfriendly policies of both state and federal governments.

“Due to these unfriendly policies, some of our colleagues have lost their lives because they were unable to meet up with their family obligations. A lot of fights ensue between husbands and wives to the extent that the men who can’t cope end up developing high blood pressure and because most times, there is no money for medical treatment, sudden death claims such lives. On the part of the women, sometimes, they decide to pack out of their matrimonial homes because they believe the marriage is simply not working.

“A colleague of mine few months ago mixed cement with water and drank, sat down and was waiting for death before one of his daughters came in and saw what was happening. With the wisdom of God, the girl rushed to the kitchen, took some spoonful of palm oil and gave to the dad to drink. The oil neutralised the power of the cement and that was how the man survived.

“Following that, help started coming from that moment as he was supported with some cash to solve some pressing needs, including repairing his vehicle. That was how he changed his mindset from dying to living.

Our political leaders should do things that would better the lives of the citizens of the country, especially the poor masses,” he advised.

Pointing out some negative effects of the challenging economy, Ogbonna said: “Even if families were having problems before, the current economic situation has worsened families’ ugly situations. Hike in fuel price and inflation are forcing families to breakdown. It takes the grace of God to live together as a couple.

“Even the offspring of families are not spared. Some girls now go into prostitution and the boys take to robbery, yahoo-yahoo and yahoo-plus as well as all manner of crimes. The parents at this point may not have a say because they believe their inability to provide for their children pushed them into the crimes. This is the reason crime rate continues to soar in our society.”

Sarah Ogabi, a police officer in Delta State, affirmed that from the cases she handles on daily basis, it is clear that bad economy is seriously hampering healthy living and relationships in families.

She called on the government to support families with cash to support their businesses, material items as well as empowering the spouses with skills to help them cope and survive as a family.

On the other hand, Ogabi advised that couples who are not able to adjust and tolerate their partners should decide to separate. “It is better to leave the marriage with your life than to die there. You need to live to take care of the children that God has given you,” she added.

Some marriage counsellors have also cautioned couples and families against using the current situation as reason for crises in their homes.

Enrich Iritevwobor, programme coordinator of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Aniocha South LGA, Delta State, said: “If a couple can understand themselves and put their house in order, with the little they have, they would be able to manage their homes in love. Rather than crashing out of marriage, a couple should ask themselves what the problems are or what is making them not to move on as husband and wife.”

Iritevwobor, who is the senior pastor, Reigners Assemblies Outreach International, Ogwashi-Uku, Delta State, also said: “We are in the world and things can never remain stagnant. Things must change and what is happening today is the fulfilment of the scriptures. We can only begin to manage the situation.

“Better Nigeria will be possible if we have better leaders from top to bottom. If we do, everything in this country would be managed well. We don’t have good managers; that’s why government’s institutions and even industries are collapsing. There is lack of maintenance culture. So, everything boils down to leadership at all levels. Accountability and transparency are important in leadership.

“Everybody in this country should be blamed for corruption. Corruption is causing the problems we are having in this country and it is from the top to bottom; it must be uprooted.”

Tunde Ekpekurede, a marriage counselor and trainer, said: “I thank God that our personal economy is not something that is due to sudden change in economic situation of the country, which means that we were broke before these things came in. The problem in Nigeria is that we grew up with a welfare attitude and so, it is difficult to correct it. People want free things and they don’t want to pay their bills. Correcting the mindset is a major work if we’ll get it right.”

Ekpekurede who is the chief executive officer of Learning4living, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), said: “You can imagine that Nigeria is subsidising fuel for countries that have better infrastructure than we. Poor distribution of resources killing every sector but we give it free because of welfare mentality. Small countries are looking better than Nigeria? It’s a problem!”

He admonished all to bear in mind that poverty is a relative thing. “Remember the Oba of Benin 300 years ago, he did not know what was called telephone, yet he was very rich. The way you interpret life can cause pain. Money does not make marriage. Even rich people divorce too.

“Money is not answer to everything. My pastor would say that your mental health is far more valuable than your bank balance. People commit suicide because of their inability to manage their emotions. So, in order to survive every situation, people must be mentally resilient.”