Over time, humankind has evolved a variety of names to describe the human objects of their affection. And in relation to finding a spouse, at least in Nigeria, one of the more frequently employed names is “The One”. These days, you mostly hear that being used by the young men.
Allow me to re-introduce Abuja, a city of single, often career-minded young people. Most of these young people have focused on their jobs to the often unintended neglect of other things; the young women working hard to not be dependent on any man; the young men working hard to be able to earn enough to support a woman (and all her issues). And as we all come to discover a little bit later, some things in life do not go hand in hand, like a dream spouse and a dream job, or any other job for that matter that makes you leave home at seven in the morning and keeps you away until seven in the evening.
A CIA World Factbook 2011 estimate pegs the population of Abuja at 1.857 million people and I’d wager that young, single men make at least a quarter of that figure. And each of them is trying to find The One.
On the surface of it, it appears to be a large fishing pool for all those young men looking to hook the one, but when you take out the men, the married women, the old folks and finally, the single girls in committed relationships, the pool somehow seems to evaporate. But don’t get discouraged yet, because we are about to shrink the pool further. Religion also waves a big stick to shrink what’s left of the pool by roughly dividing it into two, and depending on which side of the pool you fall in, there could be further sub-divisions. We also have the ones with tribalist parents. These guys know they cannot take a woman home unless she’s from the same tribe as they are. And finally, everyone has personal preferences and deeply seated, not usually entirely realistic notions of what their perfect spouse should look, walk, talk, dress, and sound like. And all of that narrows our pool down to about…two women. I’m just going to say right now, in case you have managed to miss it that finding a spouse in Abuja doesn’t look very good.
I was speaking with a friend of mine the other day and he told me how he got married. He had woken up one morning and realized he was a little bit tired of the serial dating arena, so he called up his best friend and asked her to marry him. They have two children now…and are separated. So, marriages happen all the time in Abuja. Young people find potential spouses all the time and marry them, although the question of whether they are finding the right ones is something I cannot answer.
I have always been a firm believer in love and marriage, or rather, love before marriage. But that word has been abused and misused so many times that I am scared to even venture a definition of it. Everyone has their opinion of what love is, or should feel like, or look like, or make someone act like. Someone has even proposed that there are five love languages. Some are torn between waiting for love to find them, or going out there to find it. A young, successful man in Abuja is usually under pressure to get married from all quarters: from the church, from his parents, from the parents of his parents, from his married friends, from his female friends who think him a good catch, and even from himself; and pressure is not a good thing to have when deciding on the one that makes you tick, because they might make you tick the wrong way. So, for every date, every new female friend especially single ones, and every “mummy” in church who introduces you to their daughter, the constant question forms in your mind and nags you senseless: “could she be the one? That’s when we begin to rate women, to score them on a scale of one to ten, to say things like, “she’s not my specs”. That’s when we begin to talk about wife material and girlfriend material. A million experiences and the notion that women will only love a man with money have made love skeptics of us all.
But then love happens in strange places to different people. And one of these days, perhaps, if you have been smiling at the right people, you just may find the one waiting by a bus stop, or buying a visafone recharge card, or sitting by herself in a busy park, or in a crowded bus, or at the Mallam’s place where you go to buy noodles.
Or you can just go home to the village and bring one back to the city, which in my opinion, is a bad idea, but that is a story for another day.
OKANG ASHIWEL OCHUI