Divorce in Nigeria: Affected by broken homes, students recount their struggles to survive

As marriages continue to crash resulting in broken families, WITHIN NIGERIA sought to know the effect this has had on students in higher institutions. What was discovered was heartbreaking as students who spoke to our reporter, Caleb Ijioma, recount their ugly ordeals, their present state, and how painful the road to survival has been.

Parental care offers protection against social abuse. This isn’t the case for Olakunle Oluwafemi, a student of Abraham Adesanya Polytechnic, who started facing the real world at a very young age. A bright student that once had a bright future ahead of him now has to struggle to fit in due to a past that left him broken. His career choice changed due to lack of support and he never for a moment felt the pleasures and benefits that come with a working family.

Broken Home, Distorted Life

Olakunle Oluwafemi, a 29-year-old student of Abraham Adesanya Polytechnic, started facing the challenges of life at age 6 after his parents parted ways. His plans to study law were truncated as a result of little or no support from his family. Olufemi said his dreams were destroyed and he had to stay 5 years at home after the completion of his secondary school to hustle and fend for himself.

“My parents parted ways when I was very young, about 6 years old, so I never enjoyed that family’s unity. It destroyed my dreams, everything, I had to start fixing myself. It affected how I relate to people. You know that there are some things that come with time and once the time is gone it won’t come back again. “

“ I wanted to study law and I had always been interested in music. My dad told me he can’t finance me to study law. It discouraged me. I got admission when my mates were about to serve cos of this broken home. I stayed home for 5 years and I had to hustle my way down to the polytechnic so I think if they were together I won’t have to stay that many months. For music, I was so into gospel so he doesn’t want me to do that too but my mum liked it. Well maybe I would I have been in church or blown even on this field cause I remember going for one small talent hunt which I won, but the support was zero”

“ It affected me negatively, every part of my life. Mentally, academically it affected my career as well. I know that there is no excuse for failure but it really affected every part of me especially when it comes to making decisions that have to influence my life” he said

Nobody to defend my innocence

Olakunle recounted how none of his parents were able to stand in for him when he was accused of stealing by his stepmother. He told campus life how nobody believed his innocence and his parents were not there to defend him.

” After my parents parted ways, my sister and I lived with my dad and his wife. Something happened one day that I needed my parents to stand in for me, to fight for me but nobody was there. While growing up, my dad was not very rich but he had money. Has a car and one bus. I can count how many times I entered his car. My dad used to have a toyshop.”

“My stepmom runs a hairdressing shop at the same shop so she manages it when my dad goes to work, indirectly she owns it. The shop has been of benefit to her since they got married. I used to go to the shop after school, unlike my sister who doesn’t. She detested coming to terms with the new changes ”

“ one day after we closed the shop and got home, I was sent back to the shop at night to pick something. A friend who lived in our neighborhood followed me. His mother sells fruits and pepper beside the shop. Anyways, he followed me in, and after I took what I wanted, I left. The next day when I came back from school, my stepmom said something was missing. There is this game pack that has a brick game, calculator, and a computer wristwatch all in one package ”

“ She said the watch was missing and it escalated to something big. I told her I didn’t take it, she didn’t believe me. She asked who followed me in and I told her. On One Friday when I got back from school, she said I should change my clothes and she took me and that other boy to one of my Dad friend’s Shop, His name is Mr. Bashiru, he makes furniture”

“ When I got there they started beating me and telling me that I should confess. I was beaten mercilessly and I maintained the fact that I did not take it. I was locked up in a room, and the other boy was also tortured. I was threatened that pepper would be added to my penis. I have seen the pepper they already blended. My dad came back from work in the evening and I was still there. They were still beating me. That moment I cried bitterly that my mom would have done the same for me if my parents were together “

Regardless of what Olakunle passed through, he said he can’t hate his parents.

“ I don’t know if I have scaled through but I still used to believe that if my parents were together I would have gone far in life. I can’t hate them for it. I just have to accept it. I don’t know how it feels to have a working home. Maybe I can ask my kids one day. Today, every decision I make is about my Mum and I come second cause she never left me ”

Crave for more children broke my home

My father got married to my stepmother when my mum had given birth to five children, four boys, and a girl. And he, my father, still wanted to have more children. A 27-year-old Timothy Obinna, a 200 level student studying chemistry at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) told Within Nigeria.

He said his father’s family supported his dad to give birth to more children after his mother refused; his father however ended up taking another wife. This decision broke his home, affected his life and academics.

Timothy who became the first child of his mother after losing his elder brother to the cold hands of death said he and his siblings had to engage in menial jobs to assist his mother and meet some needs.

“ My father got married to my stepmother when my mum had given birth to five children, four boys, and a girl. And my father still wanted to have more children but my mum insisted that they equip the children they have given birth to but my dad said no. My dad’s family said a woman cannot dictate to a man what he’s going to do. My stepmom was living with us, my dad who at that time traveled to Lagos to look for greener pastures later came back and decided to take my stepmom, her daughter, and me along with him to Lagos. My mother refused but later accepted due to pressure from my dad’s family”

“ I and my siblings were not able to complete ou school as at when due, the money got too much for my mom and just being a petty trader she could not really afford to and sometimes we have to stay off school for a year and we need to start engaging in menial jobs just to support at any field at some point”

“ I stayed with my stepmom who could never be like my mother. A whole lot of things happened. I was going to school in the morning without eating, sometimes there will be no food and I will be given a small quantity of all these. Things were having effects that I couldn’t concentrate effectively in school. I was a bright student and at one point, I won some prizes for my school. The whole experience has been so traumatic that sometimes I would not be able to concentrate. My mom was equally abused severally by my dad “

Almost gave up on academics

Timothy almost gave up on his academics owing to the challenges life posed to him. After completing his college of education programme, he had to go to the streets to earn some money in order to continue his academics.

“All these affected my performance in school, most especially in my secondary school days. It made it quite stagnant, as I needed to stop school for some time to work in order to raise money for my education. At the point of gaining admission into higher institutions.”

“I almost lost hope of furthering my education. Thanks to my teachers who never gave up on me. I completed my college of education programme in December 2016, and I used my certificate to work for about two years before returning to school for my Bsc in 2019.” he said

Parents, the sole determiner of children’s future

Diwura Williams, the founder of the Diwura Williams Initiative, told Within Nigeria that parents’ decisions are important in determining the future of their children. She noted that people display bad behaviors as a result of their childhood experiences.

Diwura Williams Initiative is a mental health advocacy group creating/improving the awareness for mental health among youths.

“ I’ve realized that whether you think about it, know it or not, your decision as parents always ends up deciding who your children become. Some men have grown up to be domestic violent or verbally abusive either because they saw their mums cheating and treating their dads badly and they never want to be in that shoes. They say they act up like that to protect themselves and their space when in reality they became what they despised the most and the same thing for girls.”

Diwura stressed that children should not be left at the mercy of their parent’s inability to look outside their selfish interests.

“ I think these issues are very important and should be addressed with so much care. Children should not be left at the mercy of their parent’s inability to realize that it’s not just about them, but the ripple effects it can produce.”

She, therefore, encouraged children and youths to seek professional help when faced with issues threatening their mental health.

“It’s not what defines you. What sinks a ship isn’t the water around it, it’s the water that gets into it. There’ll always be water around. Not just family, but people will always put you down, say derogatory words that are derogatory, and always challenge you. It is your choice to stay on top of it or let it get into you.”

“so, getting help isn’t a cliche. It’s not a cruise. Cruise isn’t the help you need. It’s not the healing your soul requires. Please, get professional help and seek healing properly, only then can you fully embrace what life has for you and truly move on.” she said

Matrimonial Illiteracy, a major cause of broken home

Dr. Okafor Emefesi, President of a Bauchi-based non-governmental organization, Couples Network International cited Matrimonial illiteracy as a major cause of broken homes.

Dr. Okafor said a lot of people get married without learning about the rudiments of marriage, stressing that marriage counseling education is required for a marriage to succeed.

 

“ Matrimonial illiteracy is a major cause of broken homes today, many people marry without learning about the rudiments of marriage, marriage counseling education is required for a marriage to succeed, Churches must organize a well-structured marriage counseling education certificate course for all singles that are preparing for marriage, the wedding certificate should include a marriage counseling certificate, the Government should include marriage counseling education in the curriculum of secondary schools & post-secondary schools in Nigeria, if we continue to wed matrimonial illiterates we shall continue to have broken homes ”

Dr. Okafor said that younger children suffer more mental & physical trauma whenever divorce takes place.

“younger children suffer more mental & physical trauma whenever divorce takes place, they need psychosocial rehabilitation. Children who have come of age should mediate and love their parents. They shouldn’t allow their mind to be poisoned against either of their parents” he said

He said that a broken home has a devastating effect on society highlighting that it can lead to broken children and equally breed crimes.

“Broken homes have a devastating effect on both children and the entire society because a broken society will produce broken children, children who are broken morally, socially, and psychologically. Some of the crime and criminality we see today are a direct result of broken homes. Wife battering and domestic violence and other cultural practices that work against women.”

“ women are bastardized, treated as pieces of property, and beast of burden, there is little companionship, communication, and friendship in modern marriages, modern feminism which fights against marriage & Submission of wives to their husbands, westernization which promotes gay marriage destabilize homes in Africa, all these can be tailored to broken homes”

Child can take actions against parents

An Abuja-based lawyer, Qudus Alalafia, while speaking to Within Nigeria said that a child either of a customary marriage or statutory marriage can maintain an action against his or her parents in the event where they have refused to take care of him or her upon dissolution.

“Section 14 subsection 2 of the Child’s Rights Act provides every child with the right to maintenance by his parents or guardians in accordance with the extent of their means, and the child has the right, in appropriate circumstances, to enforce this right in the Family Court. This means that a child either of a customary marriage or statutory marriage can maintain an action against his or her parents in the event where they have refused to take care of him or her upon dissolution. “

He noted that section 14 of the Child’s Rights Act provides that every child has a right to parental care and protection and even in the face of separation, they must take the decision in such a manner that the best interest of the child is taken into consideration.

“ May I humbly refer you to the provision of section 14 of the Child’s Rights Act which talks about the right to parental care, protection and maintenance. The said provision provided that very child has a right to parental care and protection, and accordingly, no child shall be separated from his parents against the wish of the child except;for the purpose of his education and welfare; or  in the exercise of a judicial determination in accordance with the provisions of this Act, in the best interest of the child.”

“The synopsis of the above mentioned provision is to the effect that the law on Child’s Rights is futuristic enough to identify the fact that couples have inherent right to separate (either by divorce or judicial separation) yet they must take the decision in such a manner that the best interest of the child is taken into consideration. This is the reason that in every divorce cases, the court shall order for consequential and ancillary reliefs to the grant of dissolution of marriage which in particular affects the child”

He went further to enjoin parents to be more proactive in their child’s welfare noting that they are their ambassadors.

“ I can only but conclude that parents should endeavour to be more proactive in their child’s welfarism whether divorced or not because every child is an ambassador of his or her parents.” he said

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