DIVORCE in NIGERIA
Official statistics vastly understate Nigeria’s divorce rate
Jul 9th 2016 Economist
Official statistics suggest that divorce is exceedingly uncommon in Nigeria. Just 0.2% of men and 0.3% of women have legally untied the knot, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. And well under 1% of couples admit to being separated. Yet such counts exclude the vast majority of Nigerians, whose traditional marriage ceremonies are not governed by modern law, says Chief Robert Clarke, a barrister.
In the mostly Muslim north of the country, men may take up to four wives (so long as they obey the Koranic injunction to treat all equally). Often the younger wives are not yet 18. When a husband wants to trade one of his spouses for a younger model, he need only repeat the words “I divorce you” three times to be freed. In 2008 one pensioner split from 82 of his 86 partners to put himself back on the right side of Islamic law.
Regardless of what the Koran says, politicians in Kano, the north’s biggest city, think divorce is breeding “vices in society”. One former governor came up with an innovative solution. In 2013 he married off 1,111 widows and divorcees in a public ceremony costing just under $1m. Another 2,000 brides were lined up by the state government for marriage late last year.
Couples also marry young farther south, but women there tend to be a little more empowered. When things fall apart they demand separations more readily than in the north. One Lagos wife had her marriage dissolved on the basis that her drunken husband confused their cooking pots with the toilet. Another woman complained that her banker spouse spent too long stuck in traffic (hardly his fault, he might reasonably claim; Lagos jams are awful). Joseph Aduwo reckons he is well shot of his spouse. “My wife…fought with nine persons in a day on our street, wearing only bra and underpants. She is a shameless streetfighter,” he told a Lagos court. It duly dissolved their union.
Other deal-breakers include a wife’s failure to bring cooking utensils from her father’s house. “How will a woman get married without a grinding stone?” her husband lamented. One woman filed for divorce having found her husband to be rather too well endowed. And a trader complained that his wife was not as buxom as he had thought. “I detest those small-size boobs,” he said after a disappointing three months. “It is better to end the marriage.”
JEWS in NIGERIA & AFRICA
The unlikely spread of Judaism in Africa
May 28th 2016 Economist
As the sun sets on a Friday in a smart new suburb of Lagos, Harim Obidike dons hiskippah and opens up a prayer book. It is the start of shabbat, the Jewish holy day, and as he croons through the psalms, a gaggle of youngsters sing along. “We are Israelites,” he says after bread has been broken and the candles lit.
Nigeria is a devout country split loosely between a Muslim north and a Christian south: two halves which were brought together by colonialists and still butt heads today. A couple of decades ago, modern Judaism was almost unheard of. But this household is one of a growing number that are taking to the Torah. In Abuja, the capital, there are at least four small communities of Igbo-speakers that have opened synagogues. (Jews joke that every town needs at least two so that members can hold a grudge, and refuse to attend one of them.) In one, on the outskirts of the city, there is a gospel lilt to the songs: members taught themselves to read Hebrew and then had to make up the tunes, says one.
It might seem odd that people would sign up to join a small faith whose members have suffered centuries of oppression. Yet Uri Palti, Israel’s ambassador to Nigeria, reckons there are more than 40 such communities across the country. Daniel Lis, an academic, thinks there may be thousands of Nigerians who practise Judaism. Millions more of the Igbo tribe believe that they are descended from biblical Israelites. Across Africa as a whole there may be thousands more self-declared Jews. One community in eastern Uganda, the Abayudaya, adopted the faith almost a century ago. Its rabbi was recently elected the country’s first Jewish member of parliament.
Yet the embrace by these communities of the laws of Moses has not been warmly reciprocated by the Orthodox establishment in Israel. Unlike proselytising religions such as Christianity, the guardians of Orthodox Judaism go out of their way to make conversion difficult, insisting on a two-year programme of study and lifestyle changes.
Still, officialdom is shifting. Israel’s Jewish Agency last month recognised the Abayudaya as Jews, meaning that they are allowed to emigrate to Israel. There is a precedent. Since the 1980s more than 90,000 Ethiopian Jews (known to some as Falashas) did so after Israel’s rabbis accepted them into the fold.
Such a stamp of approval seems a little less likely in the case of Nigeria. Some fear it would open Israel’s gates to thousands of economic migrants. Yet this does not trouble the likes of Mr Obidike. Nigeria’s Semites argue that they are descended from one of Israel’s lost tribes and that cultural similarities such as circumcision are proof of their pedigree. Others at his synagogue do not worry much about officialdom’s response. “We are Jewish,” says one old lady who switched from Catholicism. “Whether you are recognised or not is no matter.”