Chika Okeke writes that the rising trend of single parenting in Nigeria, establishes that the zest with which Nigerians are discarding the time-honoured traditional and cultural values of raising children has indeed become alarmingly worrisome
Ms Cordelia Jimoh, a native of Osun State was in an affair with Kennedy Ukah , a young man, who promised to marry her.
The lady who was in her late 20s was so attached to her would- be spouse to such an extent that she got acquainted with Ukah’s family members from the eastern part of the country.
Jimoh who graduated from Benue State University was combing the nooks and crannies of the state in search of greener pastures when the unexpected happened.
She told LEADERSHIP Sunday that two years into the affair, she took in for Ukah and expected that the fiancé would marry her since he had a well paid job.
“Unfortunately, he denied the pregnancy and boldly told me that he was not the only person dating me and that since I was always at home, that someone else was also enjoying me the same way he did,” she said.
Jimoh said she suggested that they run a test to determine the paternity of the child but Ukah refused saying that the pregnancy belonged to another man.
According to her, “Despite interventions and pleas from both families, my fiancé refused and that was when I suspected that he might be in a relationship with another lady.”
She noted that throughout the duration of her pregnancy that Ukah never bothered to call even after she put to bed.
“That was how I started rasing my daughter through the assistance of my family members who made sure that we lacked nothing and my daughter is presently four years now.
Jimoh said its been very challenging raising the child without the father as she had to beg her family members money every time for their upkeep.
“While watching other children grow up in company of both parents, I felt my daughter was losing the better part of her life, though I have sworn never to let her know her biological father until she has come of age because I am seriuosly pained about the broken relationship and outright rejection I suffered in the hands of my supposed fiancé.”
The story of Jimoh is similar to those of many other single parents in today’s Nigerian society which have adopted the trendy style of raising kids alone without input from the other half of the parents.
Recall that in the late 60’s, it was almost like a taboo for female children to give birth outside a matrimonial home and teenage pregnancy was highly condemned by parents across all the Nigerian ethnic denominations.
The penalty for female children to give birth without conducting the necessary marriage rite was that such a person would be forced to marry an elderly man, old enough to be her father or grand father.
Many Nigerian cultures have gradually done away with the odium attached to especially young women, raising children out of wedlock as a result of aculturation from the Western World.
These days, teenage pregnancy means far little, even as couples who are unable to get their satisfaction in child-bearing gladly embrace bastards from their unmarried daughters instead of going for adoption.
Despite the trend of single parenting, some believe that children raised by single parents tend to be more wayward and errant than those, raised under the combined attention of both parents.
A cross section of respondents that spoke to LEADERSHIP Sunday disclosed that single parenting is quite challenging.
For Ms Ruth Ofem, a single parent and a banker, her decision to remain unmarried was due to the heart-break she suffered in the hands of her ex-lover, but she appears to be loving single parenthood despite its challenges.
Ofem, who appeares to be in her late 40s believes that being a single mother was the best way to deal with stress from lazy male folks who depended on their wives for everything including money for the family upkeep.
The mother of three said she entered into agreement with the father of her three children and that the agreement remains binding until the children reached the age of 21.
When asked to disclose part of the agreement, she said, “Because the father of my children married a woman who was unable to bear him children, we agreed that while I bore children that their paternity would be hidden from his wife.
“He loves his wife so much that he wouldn’t want to hurt her and I also love the agreement because I am at liberty to do anything I want without distraction from him.”
Ofem said that many including her parents have criticised her decision, but argues that it was not until the 10th Century that a woman who bore a child outside wedlock was considered a prostitute.
Another single parent, Mr Anthony Ekong said he had been involved in several failed relationships and opted for single parenting due to frustration and disappointment from women.
Narrating his ordeal, he said, “I was into a serious relationship with a lady whom I believed would be my better half, but three years into the affair, she travelled to Lagos State while I remained in Abuja. Five months into her stay in Lagos, I became worried and had to demand when she would return.”
Ekong, he disclosed, finally informed him that she was pregnant for her childhood friend, and that simply meant that the relationship was over.
According to him, “I overcame the deceit and started another supposed fruitful relationship, but two years down the line, the girl was involved in a crash and she died instantly.
He added that after mourning the lady, he fell in love with a secondary school student and got her pregnant.
According to Ekong, because the girl was from a rich family, her parents said that she wouldn’t marry a poor man and handed the baby over to him after she put to bed.
“I took the child to my mother in Benin and have been sending money monthly for his upkeep, so that was how I became a single parent.”
On whether he was challenged by his status, he said, “I have been through a lot of challenges, so it’s the best thing for me. I’m not even planning to marry soon because I know I already have a son somewhere, but I can still be playing my games as usual to know if any woman will bear me another child free of charge”, he said with laughter.
A female psychologist with a private hospital who preferred anonymity described the choice for single parenting as stigma. This choice, he said arises from “fear, worry, lack of trust, frustration and promiscuity.”
She is strongly of the opinion that children raised by single parents tend to more on the wild side and easily attracted to societal vices such as robbery, kidnapping, prostitution, stealing and killing.
While calling on the three tiers of government to initiate free education from nursery to secondary school level, she said there was a need to tackle the pervasive corruption that have eaten deep into the fabrics of the Nigerian society.
The psychologist believes that free education would to some extent alleviate the plight of single parents who pay through their nose to raise their kids.
Another pschologist, Mr Maxwell Adegbite said though the stigma associated with single parenting is enormous, the government must be held accountable for its citizens behavioural patterns.
According to him, “With high level of injustice, corruption, negligence, wickedness and denials of basic social amenities, why won’t there be increase in single parenting, when the government have failed to care for its citizens.”
He, however, called on Nigerians to remain responsible and shun social practices that destroy the fabrics of the society.