“Do not look for healing at the feet of those who broke you.” — Rapi Kaur
After 27 years of living together as a couple blessed with children, Mr. Olanrewaju Adeniran and his wife Fatima desired a divorce at a Grade A Customary Court in the Mapo area of Ibadan, Oyo State. But they told them that they were never married for all those years because no bride price was paid.
Customary court president S.M. Akintayo held that the native law and custom in Nigeria provide that the man must pay a bride price to the bride’s parents for any marriage to be valid.
Citing various sections of the law to support her verdict, Mrs. Akintayo concluded that there was no marriage to be dissolved in the first place between them as a result of the absence of the said payment.
She also said that other necessaries were not fulfilled to consider Adeniran and Fatima’s cohabitation as a marriage.
“Merely asking whether Fatima loved Adeniran which Fatima’s father did was not enough to validate their union as a customary marriage.
“It is a wrong assumption to continue to believe that once there is a child or children between a man and a woman, they are married.
“No, there is no marriage between them; they are only cohabiting. They are merely living together in the same house,” Mrs. Akintayo said.
We have used the above story to whet the appetite for this week’s musing on the political tango between Ndigbo of the South East and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The tango appears headed for the rocks.
People of southeast Nigeria have been politically married to the PDP since 1999. Like every marriage, it has been having its ups and downs and it appears to be heading to an inevitable crash this time. The indicator lights are visible.
What is a marriage, you may ask? It’s a legal or formally recognized union of two as partners in a relationship.
From the Ibadan Customary Court experience, marriage entails more than just a union; all the basic ingredients of marriage must be complete for it to be so recognized in law. Could it then be that ab initio the South East/PDP romance that appears to the public as marriage was never properly contracted? Could it be that like Fatima in that court story, the people of the South East just entered the union, sheepishly enjoying it, without making sure that the needful is done? Did the union have equal partnership status in its terms of the agreement or was it a junior/senior partnership?
When a union reached a dead end and the parties are before a jury for a divorce, the words usually used to end the relationship are “irretrievable,” “incompatible,” and “irreconcilable.” But before a relationship gets to this point, each party would have narrated their side of the case with the judge intervening occasionally with some questions. Is PDP/South East or Igbo marriage irretrievably damaged? The answer will come in what happens in the electioneering in the next eight months that will culminate in the election of President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor on February 25, 2023.
In today’s conversation, we are going to play the jury with Ndigbo and the PDP in the dock ready and willing to end their relationship or return to the altar to tie the nuptial knot.
On the side of the Igbo, they appear very anxious to end the marriage because the PDP has not fulfilled the terms of the agreement. The party has not shown any serious regard for Igbo voters instead it has shown clear disrespect, in all ramifications, to the people. It has also not factored in the people as a critical element in the sharing of political posts such as president or vice president.
For instance, after the South East helped Olusegun Obasanjo into office twice in 1999 and 2003, he looked away from the Igbo for the Vice President slot in 2007 when he chose his successor. The party has also not shown any appreciation for the commitment and unreserved loyalty from the party at the presidential polls where no other party has won in the region in all the elections in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, and 2019.
The PDP in their defence will likely oppose the dissolution of the union. It claims that the marriage if dissolved will do irreparable damage to it because the region is and has been critical to its success since 1999 and is even more needed in 2023 than ever. It would plead with the jury to give the marriage more time, pledging to ensure that all areas of grievances in the union will be addressed if given a second chance. It’s likely also to pledge that 2027 will be the turn of Ndigbo to occupy the presidency.
But before adjourning the matter for ruling, the jury will ask questions to both parties, to Igbos the Judge would want to know why it took it this long before realising the imbalance and unfair treatment in the union and what damage will they suffer if the marriage is not dissolved but given another chance?
To PDP, the jury will want to know why it did not give heed to cries of marginalization from its Igbo partner and why it blatantly gave preferential treatment to those who have not been as loyal as those who showed absolute and continuous loyalty? The jury will want to know what verifiable evidence the party can show to the court that it’s going to turn a new leaf and fully accommodate this region and fully give them a sense of belonging subsequently.
Before adjourning the matter to February 25, 2023, for ruling, the judge will refuse to grant any injunction seeking to allow the status quo ante to remain until the final determination of the case. The jury will say that to do that will amount to inhibiting the fundamental rights of the other party to freely exercise their franchise.
Legal experts who have been following this matter and who offered their opinion on it believe that the marriage is most likely going to be dissolved because the duo has become incompatible. The injury of unfair treatment has become deep and penetrating to one of the partners. Moreover, the judge will note that the mind of one of the families of the partners is already made up, especially with the presence of by the corner of a better and more respectful suitor hanging by the side.
For the Igbo, it does appear that they have been beating on a wall for the past 23 years with the hope that it would be a door someday, but it has now dawned on them. Divorce is never a sweet thing, it always happens in great pain to either party, it’s usually tragic but it still happens because staying together could be worse.
After 23 years, haven’t Ndigbo seen the two dangers imminent and pervasive in staying or breaking with PDP and deciding the best option for themselves? The reason people should not be afraid of divorce, especially political divorce, is that nobody ever dies of it but many deaths have been recorded from incompatible marriages. Ndigbo have been living in this self-imposed delusion that somebody will always bring them flowers and as a result, they never strived to plant theirs. This is the time to plant their own flowers.
Because divorce on its own is the end of an error it should terminate now. If PDP and Ndigbo part ways it would only happen because there was no mutual respect. In every endeavour, politics inclusive, you cannot start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one. Ndigbo just need to read the situation carefully and intelligently and come to the conclusion that they have arrived at the junction where they just have to take their destiny into their own hands.
Yoruba will not willingly give Igbo President, ditto Hausa Fulani, not even the minorities will do it so why not carry your cross and see whether God will send Simon along the way to help you carry the cross to reach Calvary. Was Goodluck Jonathan whom Igbos helped to reach the tilt not also involved in blocking Igbo interest, instead of crying for justice for Igbos who suffered for him, was he not romancing with those who kicked him out and willing to be a tool to block Igbo interests.
With all these variables now is the time for Ndigbo to decide to be the heroine of their life and not to keep wearing victim garb which nobody looks at talk-less admiring. If you are in a system like ours where nobody is concerned about the victim, it’s better and wise to strive to be the victor. The year 2023 is the defining year for Ndigbo to determine their correct status in this contraption and an unnecessarily intricate climb called Nigeria.
Where is the Justice?
Justice is the right that one fight for if he seeks fairness. Exactly what Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu was seeking with his huge conscience-loaded question to Muhammadu Buhari and Nigeria at the Eagle Square in Abuja on Tuesday. APC and PDP think Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar represent the justice we seek.
One of the best recorded Roman jurists Ulpian thinks that justice is a constant and perpetual will to allot to every man his due. Until Nigeria responds pragmatically to Dr. Onu’s landmark question, we might just have to settle for Frederick Douglas’s prescription “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” God, help us.