Gbolabo and Dudu met at a mutual friend’s wedding. Gbolabo had come home from the USA, to feature as part of the Groomsmen for Dolu while Dudu was part of Obiageli’s bridal train. Gbolabo was slugging it out as they would say in modern-day parlance – “in the abroad” while Dudu worked in the Oil and Gas industry.

Their meeting was the beginning of a year of romance across the ocean whereupon both of them grew very fond of each other and started visualising marriage. After a year of video calls, chats, and other communication Gbolabo traveled back to the country on a visit and both of them agreed to relocate to the USA and execute their marriage there. Gbolabo had gained admission to do a post-graduate course in the United States and proceeded forthwith on the assumption that his fiancé would visit on a visitor’s visa and the wedding would be contracted in the USA. Both their families were carried along and insisted on contracting a traditional marriage ceremony prior to Gbolabo’s departure as an indication of their joint commitment to be wedded. Shortly after Gbolabo’s departure, Dudu realised that she was pregnant and informed Gbolabo who reassured her that the wedding plans were still imminent.

Dudu then applied for a visitor’s visa to enable her to contract the marriage to Gbolabo in the USA as well as to enable the delivery of their child in the USA and entitle the child to dual citizenship status. Unfortunately, her application is refused and after several failed attempts, she became disillusioned.

In the meantime, Gbolabo ran into some difficult times regarding finances and was advised by friends to contract marriage to a citizen thus entitling him to all the benefits that accrue to a green card holder e.g., work, loans, etc. After giving it much thought, he succumbed to the pressure and got married to Hetty, a pretty, hardworking American of Hispanic origin. He however omitted to inform her about Dudu and his daughter back home.  He considered his marriage to Hetty as one of convenience and expected to exit it at a later date. Contrary to his expectations, Hetty got pregnant and bore him a son.

Fast forward, it is five years since he left home and Dudu has finally obtained a visitor’s visa to visit her “husband”. She travels down with her four-year-old daughter (Lulu) who is eager to see daddy whom she had only seen on video calls, in flesh. Dudu arrives in the USA and Gbolabo puts her in a hotel. After a couple of days, he visits them as usual and she inquires as to why she cannot visit him at home. At that point, Gbolabo is forced to inform her about his marital status which he explains as situational in order to keep him legally within the USA. Her emotions are shattered, she queries her status as his wife and whether there is any likelihood of redeeming the relationship. She outlines the issues concerning the relationship. Where did she go wrong?

  1. They never envisaged the inability to get a visa for her.
  2. She had assumed that the Traditional Engagement secured her relationship as his wife and gave her the liberty to engage in sexual relations with him.
  3. The inconsistencies and dangers imminent in long-distance relationships were underestimated.
  4. She had kept her life on hold regarding relationships for the past four years labouring under the illusion that she had a husband.

Now, she is in a state of confusion in determining how to pick up the pieces of her life and how to relate with the father of her daughter. How does the daughter fit into the life of her father and sibling? Why did Gbolabo’s parents conceal the true position regarding their son’s life from her even though she related with them and often allowed Lulu to spend vacations with them?

Dudu returns home with Lulu and after deliberations with both her family and Gbolabo’s, she resolves as follows:

  1. Return to her job and opportunities.
  2. Explore options for meeting the right person to play the role of husband and father to her daughter.
  3. Continue to enable Gbolabo’s family, access to Lulu.

It is now five years since the visit and Dudu is happily married with two more children. Gbolabo and his parents are now requesting that Lulu lives with her biological father and his family in order to benefit from his citizenship status and its perks. What would you advise?




Nosiru rushes into the living room of the house yelling “Madam! Madam! Hafsat dey comot blood for im body”! Hafsat is Nosiru’s pregnant wife who is expecting her fourth child in a span of three years. Nosiru lives with his family in the Boy’s Quarters of Madam Alice’s house, where he serves as her security man. Alice immediately backs her car out of her drive-in and rushes Hafsat to the Emergency Ward of the nearest hospital. The Doctor checks Hafsat and immediately performs a “Dilation & Evacuation” as he announces that Hafsat has suffered a miscarriage. After requesting her history, she is referred to the Family Planning Clinic where she is invited to the next presentation on child spacing and birth control methods.

A little background about – Hafsat.  She was born to a family of eleven children and had no basic education but assisted her mother in petty trading. She was given out in marriage to Nosiru at the age of fifteen and within a span of three years had four pregnancies resulting in three births and the current miscarriage. This miscarriage almost resulted in the loss of her life.

Upon her discharge from the hospital, Hafsat informs Nosiru as advised about attending the family planning clinic. Immediately, Nosiru kicks up a storm insisting that she will not be allowed to attend as only PROSTITUTES embark on family planning as a prevention for the consequence of unwanted pregnancies while carrying out their promiscuous activities. Hafsat then approaches Madam Alice to plead with Nosiru. Madam Alice invites the couple to her lounge and the following conversation ensues:

“Nosiru, how did you feel when Hafsat was in the emergency room and almost lost her life”? Nosiru replies, “Ah… madam, I fear o. How I go fit to take care of Muhammed, Bukari and Rukiyat? You know say na di small, small thing wey she dey sell we dey take manage plus my salary”.

Madam Alice then turns to Hafsat and asks “what of you, when you woke up after the surgery, how did you feel”? Hafsat replies, “madam, I dey weak, I feel pain but I thank Allah say I no die.”

Madam Alice then counsels them as follows:

“Family Planning is about spacing your children, deciding when to start having them, the intervals taking cognisance of health, economic and other challenges, and has many benefits for married couples. Contraception, which is what you are probably thinking, on the other hand, is a part of family planning but only refers to the prevention of unwanted pregnancy. Contraception could however be part of planning the family but both terms are not synonymous”.

“Let me ask you both”, she continues – “how many children do you want? How many can you take care of when you consider the money you make, feeding them clothing them, and sending them to school, or would you rather they are not educated? Your wife is still young and you are both virile so she can have many more children before she reaches menopause”.

Nosiru immediately responds with “Haba, madam I want my pikin to go to school so dem fit get fine car and house like your own and comot me inside poverty”.

Madam Alice continues “In that case, you will allow Hafsat to attend the clinic so that they can advise her on what to do so that she does not get pregnant and face the challenge of losing the child or her life again. They will consider the type of child spacing method that suits her best – her health, age, what agrees with her constitution, and whether you both may want to have more children later or not. These are some of the things that will be considered before determining what is best for you as a family”.

She further adds “Some of the methods of preventing pregnancy can be classified as temporary or permanent They can also be natural or artificially induced. Methods are as varied and different as there are individuals and what works for one person may not work for another which is why she must see the specialists in the field to give her that which is best suited to her. It may even be a combination of methods”.

With that,  Nosiru gives his consent to Hafsat’s attendance at the clinic and thanks Madam Alice. Just as they exit Madam Alice’s lounge, in walks her friend Faustina. Faustina throws a teaser to Alice “Alice, I overheard your counsel but what do you think about counseling high school leavers about contraception, given the state of sexual permissiveness in our environment and the consequences of unwanted pregnancies for both the girl child and the society at large”?

Alice replies with a chuckle… “Faustina, that is a discussion for another day.”




Pikin                            A West African pidgin word for child

Comot                         A pidgin word meaning leave, exit. Get out of etc,


Alero’s mum is excitedly making plans for the Traditional marriage ceremony (commonly referred to as Engagement) of Alero, dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s, when Alero walks in with a smile on her face, hugs her mother and gives her a kiss on the cheek. After the usual pleasantries between mum and her first daughter, Alero’s mum inquires as to whether the date for the Registry wedding has been fixed but her inquiries are met with a nonchalant “NO mum. Both Jemine and myself are of the opinion that after the traditional engagement, we only need to tie the knot in his church – before God, with men as witnesses”. As Alero’s mum is about to speak, in bounces Alero’s boisterous first cousin – Omejero. Omejero swaggers in and with her usual high five, comments “Hi baby coz, I see that the wedding plans are in top gear and mummy A is at what she does best…planning”, she says with a mischievous wink at mama Alero. Mama Alero responds with “welcome Omejero, you walked in just in time to talk some sense into your younger cousin. I have been trying to convince her about the need for a registry marriage but she keeps rebuffing the advice”.

Omejero grabs a handful of the roasted groundnuts in a bowl in front of her aunt and after throwing some into her mouth, she faces Alero saying “Come on Alero, doing a quiet registry marriage a few days before the church event “white wedding” is a given, unless of course Jemine’s church is duly licensed by the Ministry of the Interior to conduct a marriage. Otherwise, the ceremony to be conducted is nothing other than a church blessing and is not recognised under our laws as a marriage”. She shifts into her professional gear – “Incidentally the Traditional marriage, which we often refer to as engagement because it is often followed by a registry or licensed church marriage, is recognised as a valid marriage under our Customary Laws. However, because most indigenous Africans are polygynous societies, marriage under Customary law allows for polygyny – other wives to be similarly married concurrently. It therefore follows that you cannot rely on your church blessing as evidence of your marriage and if you fall back on the Traditional marriage, everything related to that marriage will be subject to the dictates of Customary law e.g., Polygyny, Succession and Inheritance. I suggest you put your foot down and insist on the registry marriage to enable you to have a valid marriage certificate. You know, he may be coming from a place of ignorance”. Mama Alero interjects saying “Or he may have some tricks up his sleeves like Omejero’s dad”.

Omejero continues with a snicker “When my mother (your aunt) agreed with dad, who as you know is a lawyer, to do a traditional wedding and forgo any subsequent formalisation in the registry or licensed place of worship, she did not realise she was giving him the green light to have other wives. Subsequently, he took on a second wife and mom kicked against it. He simply returned the dowry to her family as required for the dissolution of the marriage (divorce) under customary law. Thereafter, wife number 2 was wise to insist on a registry marriage, thus becoming the legal wife entitled to all the benefits of a legal wife”.

Just then, Alero’s friend Zainab waddles in with her seven-month-old pregnancy which is responsible for her unsteady gait. As she plonks herself onto a chair, mama Alero recounts Alero’s decision to her and she immediately advises her friend “Alero, please don’t go that route o. Before my Nikkai which you witnessed, we went to the marriage registry to ensure we had a valid marriage licence. You know Islam makes it easy to divorce a wife by uttering “Talaq” on three occasions. I couldn’t afford to take that risk. By the way, the meaning of Talaq is I renounce you”.

Alero finally finds her voice and asks “Big coz, what of all these fancy destination weddings on ships and exotic locations? Are they valid”?

Omejero replies “It is the responsibility of intending couples to find out the Marriage Laws applicable at the locations where they intend to get married as their marriage will be guided by the laws applicable there. Such marriages can also only be dissolved according to the Laws of such locations. The norm however is to have done a quiet registry marriage back at home before heading for the exotic location for the “razzmatazz.”

Havilah cautions brides to properly navigate their marriage options so that they do not get caught unawares. They need to be guided and counseled on the appropriate type of marriage that agrees with their personality taking due cognisance of the validity and/or implications of their choice.




Nikkai                               – Islamic marriage contract

Razzmatazz                     – A flamboyant display meant to draw attention.

Talaq                                -Islamic word for undoing the knot (divorce)


Tina is visited by her childhood friends Bosun and Rabi, upon receipt of an SOS message by Rabi from Tina, in which she was informed about the passing of Tina’s husband, Abel. To their consternation, the two friends find Tina isolated in an ensuite room with absolutely no furniture. She is seated on the tiled floor, looking emaciated and unkempt, with her hair shaved clean. Upon seeing her friends, Tina bursts into tears and both Bosun and Rabi have a hard time consoling and calming her.

Bosun, visibly disturbed, starts the conversation with “Brace up Tina, this is not YOU. Abel is gone to rest and it was not your fault. You can’t keep doing this to yourself. I can’t understand why you are sitting on the bare floor anyway. Where do you sleep? Who is with you to ensure you eat and sleep because you need all the strength you can muster, if not for yourself, at least you owe the twins that. Undoubtedly, we may consider Abel’s passing premature but the truth is, it was God’s time”. After lots of counseling, Tina settles down to tell her friends her story.

“I preceded Abel on our preplanned vacation to the Maldives when three days into my trip I received word that Abel had slumped as he had suffered a cardiac arrest and in spite of the early administration of CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation), he passed on. He died at the hospital where he consulted. I immediately made arrangements for the next flight home and arrived two days later, only to find our home stripped of most belongings – the cars, furniture and fittings, appliances, etc. It was all a bad dream from which I wished to awaken.

However, the worst was yet to come. I met Angel, Abel’s younger sister who had lived with us while attending school and she informed me that the Head of Family, Abel’s uncle, had requested that I see him in the village immediately after I set foot in the house. We chartered a vehicle to the village and then, my ordeal started. I was held responsible for Abel’s death and to my utter amazement…hmm …Angel accused me of poisoning him in doses over a period of time. That I, Tina, maltreated Abel and confided in her that I will soon be rid of him”. Amid sobs, she continued “my God will surely judge Angel”. As a result of the allegation, the sentence passed was that I will be made to undergo the Traditional rites of widowhood the result of which you are seeing. Sitting and sleeping on the bare floor, the shorn head, remaining in the same garments until Abel is buried and to crown it all… I will be expected to drink the bath water from his corpse before burial”. With this, she launched into further bouts of weeping.

Wow, Rabi exclaims,” please pinch me, I must be dreaming! No wonder you look this way. Do you get to eat at all? Why are you allowing them to get away with this? My head is brimming with questions – Does your family know about this? Can’t they do something”?

Tina responds “Both my parents are late and my siblings are all abroad. I am the only one back here and you know my twin girls are still young. They are in school in the U.K and their entreaties will be of no use anyway. Ah, they even seized my android phone although I have this non-smartphone which enabled me to reach out to you. Rabi, I knew if anyone could find a way in here, it had to be you – because you are a commissioned Colonel of the Nigerian army”.

Rabi responded, “First things first, we must get you out of here, then we can fight to recover the things that have been looted”.

Tina replies, “For me what matters is my life and sanity. I would wish to bury my husband in peace and return to a sane world. Whatever has been looted, I leave to them, their conscience and God”.

The three of them settle down to agree on their plan of action as follows:

  1. Rabi will use her resources to rescue her from her “solitary confinement” and enable her to stay in a “Safe house” belonging to a mutual friend, to enable her to plan her late husband’s interment.
  2. Bosun will utilise her legal expertise to secure Letters of Administration from the probate court to enable her access to his accounts, insurance, terminal benefits and other assets.
  3. Tina will tidy up her affairs and relocate to the UK and reside there by using her dual citizenship status.

Havilah’s views on the issues raised above are as follows:

  1. Treatment of widows and the stigma attached to them in Africa, especially those whose spouses are believed to have died prematurely, can be despicable. They are often made to go through rigorous traditional rites that often add to the pain of such loss.
  2. Persons married under the Marriage Act (Statutory Marriages) are subject to the Statutory Law in matters of succession. Consequently, traditional or customary law of succession cannot govern them on the death of their spouse.
  3. It is better to die having made a Will than intestate (without a Will) to simplify the succession process.
  4. Enlightenment and empowerment of widows as to their rights should be emphasized. A number of NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) currently exist with this as part of their primary objectives.

Please do not hesitate to leave any further advice you may have for Tina.