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Political Tension Cancels Nigerian Mass Wedding

FILE - In this photo taken on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. Nigerian Muslim men attend a mass wedding in Kano, Nigeria.

FILE - In this photo taken on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. Nigerian Muslim men attend a mass wedding in Kano, Nigeria.

A mass wedding has been canceled in northern Nigeria, leaving about 100 couples wondering when they will get another chance to marry.

The couples from rural areas in Kano state were to be married in the middle of August. But tensions between the governor and a state senator who organized the ceremony forced a delay.

The postponement was enforced by police. They said they had been told the event could be a security threat.

Plans had already been made when the postponement was announced the day before the wedding. The wedding meal was prepared. A goat had been slaughtered. Chickens were roasting and rice had been bought.

Organizers said thousands of people were expected to attend, including governors from five other states.

“I had already invited my friends and many of them had come from faraway places, only to come to Kano to hear that the wedding will not be taking place,” said Inuwa Inuwa. The 22-year old Inuwa had planned to marry his 16-year-old girlfriend Kaishia Yunusa.

Mass weddings paid for by the government are common in this mostly Muslim state. All costs are covered, including the venue, gifts and food. The government buys furniture for each couple and gives them some money to start out.

The Kano state government has held mass weddings for more than 4,000 couples in recent years. The governor’s office said it will try to organize a new mass wedding in Kano as soon as possible.

Single women register for mass weddings with an Islamic, or Sharia committee. The committee helps match them with a man and organizes the wedding ceremonies. Couples who do not have enough money for their own weddings can also register.

Abubukar Jiddere is a political scientist with the Aminu Kano Center for Democratic Research and Training in Kano City, Nigeria. He says the wedding program is good for society and can improve a woman’s social status.

FILE - In this photo taken on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. Nigerian Muslim brides attends a mass wedding in Kano, Nigeria.

FILE - In this photo taken on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. Nigerian Muslim brides attends a mass wedding in Kano, Nigeria.

“It is essentially meant to promote gender equity, in terms of providing sustainable lifestyles for the women.”

In Nigerian culture, a sustainable lifestyle means getting married and staying married. But many couples are also getting divorced.

Economy affecting marriages

Population growth and falling oil revenues have made the economy worse making it harder to find a job in Nigeria. This has caused many families to force their young girls into early marriage. But many newly married couples find they are not happy together and cannot pay their debts.

It is harder for people married in mass weddings to get a divorce. The couple must bring their marriage disputes to officials who enforce Muslim Sharia law. Husbands are required to pay a $600 fine to divorce.

Local activist Zubaida Nagee says the high divorce rate causes problems for women. She believes the real issue is that too many women lack education and are poor. She says many of these women are “desperate” and see a government-sponsored marriage as a way out of their problems.

“There are better ways of taking care of women. For the government to come up with mass weddings, it is only a short term solution to the problem.”

She says marriage naturally leads to children who add to the financial burden of the family. She would like to see the government do more to help the women in other ways.

As for Inuwa, he now has a job as a driver. He says he can now afford to take care of a wife on his own. But, he says he would not turn down a government offer to pay for his wedding.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Chika Oduah reported this story for VOA News. Bryan Lynn adapted it for Learning English. Pete Heinlein was the editor.

We want to hear from you. What do you think about the holding of mass weddings? Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.


Words in This Story

slaughter v. to kill an animal for meat

venuen. a place to hold a wedding or other special event

furnituren. chairs, tables and other items used inside a house

equityn. when everyone is treated fairly and equally

sustainableadj. able to stay or continue over time

divorce – n. the official or legal end of a marriage

desperate – adj. a feeling of hopelessness

burden – n. something difficult or unpleasant to deal with

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