IT was a busy day for Reverend Father Stephen Zera Job, the priest of the Catholic Diocese of Bauchi and the Judicial Vicar of the Diocese of Bauchi who is also in charge of the marriage tribunal. Two knotty marital issues bordering on extra marital affairs were on his table.
A police officer, Mr. John (surname withheld), had reported his wife to the marriage tribunal headed by Father Job. But it was not the first time he would do so, except that this time, Father Job decided to investigate the matter and invited John’s wife to his office.
“The police officer had reported that his wife was not giving him rest of mind at home, saying that she was always nagging. It was when I called the wife that she told me that her husband was having affairs with other women and even had children from some of them,” the reverend father said.
As Father Job was preparing to close for the day, another man walked into his office seeking the dissolution of his marriage. After an investigation, however, it was discovered that he had been dating his ex-girlfriend who was not married.
The above cases are highlights of a current trend—single women opting to date with men who are married to other women instead of finding their own husbands.
In African tradition before now, it was almost a taboo for single ladies to date married men. The demographic report of the United Nations for the first quarter in 2019 showed that out of the 7.8 billion people in the world, 2.2 billion are men while 5.6 billion are women. One billion of them are married, 130 million are in prisons while 70 million are mentally ill.
The report advised women to be careful about their attitudes towards men, because out of the population of 2.2 billion men, only 1 billion of them are available for marriage. And 50% of the 1 billion are jobless, 3% are gay, 5% are Catholic priests, 10% are your relatives and 32% are above 66 years.
“So, ladies both the married and single, should handle men with respect,” the report added.
Today, extramarital affairs are a major threat to the marriage institution as a day hardly passes without a piece of news in this regard.
The demography report of the United Nations on the status of married men would leave many wondering why single women prefer dates with married men when there are so many single men out there.
A recent study in the United States said that nearly 90% of single women preferred men who are already in a serious relationship, while 59% of them are interested in dates with single men. The term used by psychologists is mate poaching when single women get interested in married men without thinking of the consequences. They tend to mark married men as safer, more attractive, experienced and, of course, successful.
In Nigeria, poverty is identified as one of the major reasons why single ladies go out with married men.
“Yes we have heard of it; how single ladies are dating married men,” said Father Hilary Long, a priest at Saint Theresa, a medium size parish of Catholic Church in Tunfre, Gombe.
Sitting in his living room with legs crossed as he spoke with the reporter, Father Long said: “You know I am not married, but I have actually had a confession from a lady parishioner who dated a married man. But that is now in the past.”
Father Long’s experience is nothing new or strange to priests in Gombe, many of whom have had to battle with the issue of married male parishioners dating single ladies. To him, the root cause is poverty.
He said: “Many ladies are struggling to meet their needs, which range from material needs to care. As a matter of fact, many of those found in the act confessed that married men care more for them and they treat them well.
“The lady I spoke about said that most married men have something to do to care for their needs unlike most single young men who are jobless and in some cases unserious. They said that married men often demonstrate seriousness and commitment.”
Asked why married men engage in extramarital affairs, Long said: “You know that men are adventurous by nature. Some many of them do it out of adventure while others do it to overcome monotony. Maybe they are tired of seeing their wives every now and then and want to try something new. But that is against the Bible.
But like I said, the nature is there and some may not be able to control it.”
Reverend Bilison Agwala of Higher Ground Gospel Church, Gombe, whose ministry centres on reconciliation and counseling unmarried people, said the standard set by many ladies at marriageable age drives away many eligible bachelors, leaving them with the option of dating married men.
“Senior ladies in our society today are actually disturbed. I have met many of them discussing how devastating their conditions are. Most times before they know it, they just see married men coming their way.
“I strongly believe that no senior lady would deliberately set out to date married men. They don’t come up with that as a decision, but they find themselves in it. Because they are not married, men who want to go round with ladies see them as cheap products.
“Any senior lady in this respect is very vulnerable. That is why they become victims in this circumstance.”
Agwala admitted that some senior ladies date married men because they need help. “Because they need a man who will do one thing or the other and since there is no relationship, they can easily fall for anyone who seems to be of help to them”.
He explained further that many senior ladies miss the opportunity to get married because at their marriageable age, young men who should marry them are not forthcoming and those who are coming are not looking for marriage.
“I met a lady who came to me crying and said, ‘Sir, I want to get married but those that are coming to me are already married. I don’t know what to do.’
“I said my sister, have you ever wanted to marry? She said yes. I asked, ‘What relationship do you have?’ She said I have no relationship that is promising because all those that are coming to me are married men.”
Hassana, a 22-year-old 200 level student of Tafawa Balewa University Bauchi, said there is nothing wrong in dating a married man because most young men are not capable of taking care of their girlfriends.
She said: “What do you want me to do with my fellow students? To be his cook? With the present economic situation in the country it is better for me to date a married man.”
Godiya, a 35-year-old lady, said: “I don’t like dating a married man, but I am left with no option. I mean taking the age factor into consideration, one is not getting younger. Now I will prefer a man between age 40 and early 50.”
Godiya, a graduate of the University of Jos currently running her post graduate degree programme in the same university, added: “We are six in our family with only one boy who happens to be the last born and the favourite of my parents. Regrettably, none of us is married. Even with all our educational qualifications, we are still jobless and living with our parents.
“Sometimes I just don’t know what to do. I have lost count of the number of disappointments and heartbreaks I have suffered from single men. So here comes this man within the age bracket I told you, and he is gentle and kind.
“At first, I was reluctant about dating him, but he is not the type that is after sex. You know that most single men, once they lie down with you, they just close their eyes, and before you say Jack, they are already with another lady.”
Esther, a nurse in the clinic of a tertiary institution in Gombe, who is in love with a married man and medical doctor who used to visit her clinic, said: “He is a Yoruba man and I must confess I am in love with him. But he is married, even though I don’t mind being his second wife because I am already above the age of 30.
“However, the problem is my mother who would never agree to it. She keeps saying God will do it and here I am still waiting for God to do it at 34. In the meantime, I have to play along with this doctor friend of mine because I cannot kill myself.”