By Rees Chikwendu
More often African men in western countries go through a tortuous path to marry women back home instead of those in the society where they live. But only a few of these men have the intention to bring their women abroad – Europe or the United States – where they mostly reside. The idea behind this circuitous journey, they believe, is that the women back home are well-mannered, un-spoilt, and innocent virgins, but after getting married some of these men consider it a risk to expose their wives to an ‘immoral’ and feminine western culture which would strip these women of their innocence and turn them against their husbands. To these men, introducing their wives to western culture could make them become like the Biblical Eve to whom Satan said thus:
“…your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and bad” (Gen. 3:5).
You see, the African man is a god. He is an enigma and everything to his woman. Almost everything. He is loving, caring, and gracious but can also be oppressive as a way to check the excesses of his woman. The African man is a breadwinner. Proudly so. But western society has not been kind to him. The ‘civilized’ world is exacting on the African man who takes pride to be the head of his household where he unapologetically wields his God-given power of headship. Modernity has crept into his playground (or home) and it’s destroying everything that makes him the man of the home. Painfully, the western world is ripping apart the world of this man. Slowly it’s chipping away his manhood and sometimes punishes him for his masculinity. The African man has been wounded by modernity, severely. Would you blame him for trying to protect his playground? There is a lot of politics here, that is, the things that the African man represents or used to be, which with modernity is, slowly, being taken away from him.
This context seems to validate the fear of some African men who do not want to bring their wives abroad and, sometimes, it looks like some incidents provide substantial evidence that some women married in Africa and exposed to western ideas bring hell to their husbands. Hell, that which burns with fiery furnace. The men who hold this fear believe that African women exposed to western culture and its ‘superior’ feminine entrepreneurship could become very dangerous to their men. Reinforcing this fear, they point to some examples of how African men have been accused of rape and physical abuses by their wives and jailed for a crime they never committed. Some would even count incidents where the men were killed by their own wives or stripped of everything they worked for. And in some situations, the men are denied rights to their children. It does seem the examples are endless. Angrily, they would tell you that western society is anti-family and corrupts their innocent and well-mannered African women and their marriages.
What is interesting with this introduction is that it explained, directly, an innate reason why some African men abroad go ‘home’ to marry but leave their wives over there. What it’s saying here is: there is a clash of modernity and the ego (or pride) of the African man, and this makes him to jealously protect his playground. Modernity has infiltrated his playground and muddied it. That is the tip of his decision to leave or not leave his wife back home. But, beyond the innateness, there are more reasons why some African men leave their wives in Africa while they pursue their dreams abroad.
The second, and perhaps more interesting but not dramatic are the lies some African men in diaspora tell people back home. The struggle is real and men must survive. Women must survive, too. More often African men abroad settle with white women. This can be called a ‘necessity’ based on these two factors: 1. loneliness 2. to acquire legal status as immigrants. This does not exclude a relationship based on true love. In this situation, it is either these men take advantage of the white women or the white women would take advantage of them. This is like making use of the natural resources available within an environment. Don’t get it wrong, the exploitation is bidirectional, and in this Black-White relationship, the African man is almost not happy, because of the superiority power play of most of the white women they married. But it’s a price that he pays to survive in this harsh environment whilst he hopes to travel back home someday to marry his African queen.
There is a particularly complicated aspect of this whole thing. That is the situation in which an African man who is still legally married to a white woman in Europe or the United States, travels home to marry a second or even a third wife. The law in his host society forbids him to take a second wife, but he always finds a way to make his world a reality. The African man is a puzzle. On the one hand, he lies to his African queen and marries her but without intention to bring her along with him, because he still lives with a white woman abroad – most likely for document reasons. On the other hand, on the part of the African women, some of them are looking for a way to escape the harsh reality at home. Most of these women want a way out of their poverty to ‘opportunities,’ as they dream, which abound in the western world. So, the man becomes their ticket to escape their hopelessness to a promised paradise. They don’t care that he lives with a white woman abroad as long as he keeps sending the dollars and euros to them back home. She too can look for a man there in Africa who satisfies her physical and emotional needs. More often the marriages are not based on love and affection but on material gains. Shockingly, many African men abroad have had to raise children who call them father but are from other men. Others have contracted diseases from the women they call wives who are being serviced by other men. This second price seems to be greater than the first.
Still, there is a third reason, which belongs to what can be called the street life, and it’s a major factor why African men abroad leave their wives back home. This third reason belongs to the Law of the Few. Statistically speaking, the principle of 90/10. So, within the number of African men abroad who leave their wives back home, there are some (or, the few) who are on the street. To be on the street here, I mean those whose business abroad is illegal drug trade or drug trafficking. The number of these group is few (10 percent) but their crimes are numerous (90 percent). For these men, this condition abroad does not allow for family life. It is dangerous. Besides, they would not want people back home to know that the extravagant lifestyle they have back home is drug money. Also, they know they can be arrested at any moment, that is why they prefer to keep their family in the distance. It is also why, sometimes, they disappear from the scene to reappear, maybe, 5 – years later. They could call sometimes to reassure these women of their love, but such calls are often made from the prison. They could sometimes send money back home to their wives through their proxies to keep these women believing that everything is okay.
To the African sisters out there, knowing all these, what would you do next time that ‘rich’ handsome man comes home from abroad to ask your hand in marriage? As for the African men, are all these worth the sacrifices? Well, I know to some women, it doesn’t matter as long as he comes home with enough dollars and euros. It is about the material gains and the struggle is real.
Rees Chikwendu is a Public Affairs Analyst.