Infidelity On The Rise In Nigeria: A Social Problem

I recently read three articles on TNC; one written in August 2015 was on why “Yoruba men are great at infidelity” and the other two articles, written more recently, seem to rest on theme: the prevalence of infidelity in Nigeria. I noticed a plethora of conjectural statements made by the authors and commentators in the comment boxes that made me wince.

Where is everyone getting their data from? I asked. The authors of these articles make serious claims like “all men cheat” and in one of the comments on the 2015 article someone went all the way to try to ‘prove’, based on lived experience, that “Yoruba men are not even good cheats”. He glorified the brothers of the South-Southern geo-political zone as masters of infidelity than our South-Western brothers.

Maybe that ‘commenter’ is right. But we do not know for sure. I am of the opinion that the Nigerian problem is systemic and the only reason why we currently still exist is because of the Nigerian Resilience. But why am I getting all ‘deep’ on a matter of infidelity? Here is why.

Please note that some portion of this article can be found as a comment on the August 2015 article, but considering the fact that that article is almost a year old, I didn’t think the comment would be read. So I decided to transform that comment into an article.

“Unfaithfulness of partners in relationships” is a social problem, and is on the rise in Nigeria – or at least that’s what we think. A social problem that needs to be studied as we study other things. Because all we do is blame this gender or that ethnic group without any facts. We all make conjectural statements based on our lived experience – which is not always a true depiction of reality.

For example, a Nigeria girl born to a Nigerian father who is the CEO of a major Nigeria bank, lives in the gated communities of Ikoyi, travelled abroad for vacations every summers, went to boarding school in the United Kingdom, and College in the United States, would consider you mad if you told her that 75% of the Nigerian population live on less than a dollar a day. And she would have a culture shock if you took her to Makoko in Yaba. Her lived experience is that Nigeria is a country of wealthy people, because of her social circles and friends. But that lived experience is not the reality of Nigeria.

In tandem to this, girls who have had their last 5 boyfriends cheat on them and have had 3 friends tell them that their boyfriends are ‘dogs’ does not in any way depict the true reality of the rise of infidelity in Nigeria. So making  generalized claims like “All men cheat”, “All Yoruba boys are dogs, who can’t keep their johnsons under control”, etc. without real evidence is, putting it mildly, bullshit!

The problem is that we have a very weak academia in Nigeria. The intellectual bourgeois of the ivory towers are not performing their responsibilities adequately. Infidelity is a social problem that is a complex blend of psychology, sociology, evolutionary biology, economics, etc. Therefore, as we would see, understanding infidelity in relationships within the Nigerian social construct is not as clear cut as many of us make it to be.

There is a general belief is that Yoruba men are right up there on the “infidelity scale”. Way higher than men from the other 250 ethnic groups that make up the Nigerian polity. I mean, this assumption has dug deep roots in the Nigerian social consciousness that it eventually metamorphosed into the perfectly designed stereotype of the “Yoruba Demon”.

But this might not necessarily be true. We need data to back up that claim before we can even go on to proffering real solutions to that problem. And it is the responsibility of the economics & demography, sociology, evolutionary biology and psychological departments in our prestigious universities to step up to the game.

Here, I try to design a study on how we can truly find out the facts on infidelity in Nigeria.

First we collect data anonymously through different methods: Questionnaires, Interviews, etc, using a sample size of 100, 000 people. We restrict this to a certain demographic, like ages 18 – 60. The rationale behind this is that at 18 one is deemed an adult by law and at 60 one is deemed elderly in a social sense. Then we can go on to restrict our sample to only people that are have ever been in a relationship once. Then our sample would be divided in proportion to the populations all the geo-political zones in Nigeria. Respondents are required to provide data on:

1. How many people they have ever been in a “real” relationship with?

We set the parameters for what we mean by real relationship

2. What were the ethnic groups of the ex-partners?

3. What was the reason for the breakup?

4. Was it a bad breakup or no? Please describe the events that led to the breakup.

5. What is your current relationship with all the ex-partners?

A. friends, B. friends with benefits, C. enemies, D. don’t know whether they exit at this time or not, E: don’t give a fuck, etc.

We can then create another demography of only married people. And collect data like: 1. Have you ever cheated on your partner? 2. Do you know if your partner has every cheated on you? 3. If yes? What was your response: A. nothing, B: I left her/him, C. men will be men/women will be women, D. I leave it in the hands of God. 4. If no? Do you suspect your spouse is cheating on you? 5. If yes how would you find out for sure? 6. Is the person you cheated with considered a side-chick or side-dude? 7. Do you cheat on your side-chick or side-dude? 8. Do you cheat with a stranger or a familiar person? 9. Do you cheat with prostitutes?

Here we can define what we mean by side-chick or side-dude. Based on this definition, respondents provide answers.

Our respondents are required to give the following information on themselves, their current and ex partners, their side-chick/side-dude and the strangers they cheat with – if they know this information.

1. Social economic status

2. Ethnic group

3. Ethno-political identification

4. Sexual orientation

We can also study prostitution in Nigeria another social problem – at least that is what we think – and not just go right ahead to demonize it or make it illegal. Here we can ask prostitutes to collect data from their customers based on their perceptions and their discussions with them.

We would also define what we mean by cheating. Is it just thinking of another person in a romantic way, or is kissing considered cheating or looking at another person with lewd thoughts or the age old, when vagina and penis come together in copulation? And our respondents would provide answers based on our chosen definition.

Then we arrive at our answers – that is, what ethnic groups are likely to cheat, which one cheats the highest in relation to their total population, are men more likely to cheat than women or is it the other way around? At what rates do men and women in relationships cheat? Are they willing to pay to cheat? How much are they willing to pay for it?

Here we begin to find the disparities between men and women that cheat – if there are any. How far apart these disparities are.

Then based on this data we find patterns based on the rubrics we create and make inferences in relation to the specific ethnic groups in question.

Then we can go ahead to collect data to find out rates of exposed infidelity and divorce. Are they directly proportional to each other? If not. Why? Prompting more research into the ethno-religious and socio-cultural nuances that make exposed infidelity rates and divorce rates disproportionate to each other – if we find it to be disproportionate. By exposed infidelity, we mean when the partner of the infidel finds out about the act of infidelity. We take this data because there is also a general belief in Nigeria that many people, especially women, know their spouses cheat on them and they still decide to stay with their spouses. If out data shows this to be true we would want to study the reason behind this.

After this has been done by economists and demographers. Sociologists, evolutionary biologists and psychologists take the data to discover the causality of a certain ethnic group cheating more than others. Or why more women cheat than men and vice versa.

Why would one cheat after confessing love to another person? Why would anyone still stay with a cheating partner? These are kind of questions they would ask, prompting more research.

Here we find out if truly there are incentives for cheating. What the incentives are? Are they economical, psychological or social incentives? What can we do to modify or change those incentives? What are the costs of cheating? Are they too low that they do not deter infidelity? How can we raise the cost of cheating to deter infidelity? Do these costs affect women more disproportionately than men?

Scientists have for a long time tried to understand sexual behaviour in relation to man from a socio-cultural and an evolutional psychological and biological point of view. And I understand that with the prevalence of a charged ethno-religious atmosphere many Nigerians are probably Young Earth Creationists, and would not touch anything with Darwin on it with a ten foot pole, even the intellectual bourgeois of the academia – an intellectual indictment I must add – but this does not excuse the negligence in the studying and quest to understand the social issues with economic, social and political, over and undertones, that plague our polity of over 250 ethnic groups, where over 500 languages and dialects are spoken.

In consideration of all these, a 2013 article by Dan Slater titled “Was Darwin Wrong About Dating” comes to mind.

In 1972, while a graduate student at Harvard University, Robert Trivers, an evolutionary biologists and sociobiologist, used the evolutionary biological features of man to explain promiscuity between men and women. In his treatise Parental Investment and Natural Selection, according to the article “He argued that women are more selective about whom they mate with because they’re biologically obliged to invest more in offspring. Given the relative paucity of ova and plenitude of sperm, as well as the unequal feeding duties that fall to women, men invest less in children. Therefore, men should be expected to be less discriminating and more aggressive in competing for females.”[1]

Maybe this is true, but in 2003, two behavioral psychologists, Michele G. Alexander and Terri D. Fisher conducted a study to attack the age old thinking that men are more promiscuous than women. From studies conducted in the past, men tended to admit to having more partners over a lifetime than women. But Alexander and Fisher decided to approach their study differently. They interviewed their respondents with a fake lie detector. But the respondents did not know that the lie detector was fake. The results were outstanding and very surprising. The disparities that existed between the average partners in men and women over a lifetime drastically fell. They discovered that the women even had a slightly higher number of partners for a lifetime than their male counterparts on the average. Women had a mean score of 4.4 and men 4.0.

It seems to me that previous research showed that men had an incentive to lie about the number of their sexual partners, but when the cost of lying about the number of sexual partners – embodied in the lie detector – the men had the incentive to be forthright so as not to get caught in a lie.

It also seems to me that our society (Nigeria) places a higher social cost on women causing them to be more prudent with their sexual prowess, but gives men higher incentives to be more wasteful with their sexual prowess.

These costs and incentives we need to study in relation to our social constructs. This is why our eggheads in academia need to step up to the task. Instead of making life difficult for students to graduate and complaining about respeck on their names because I did not call them Doctor!

This is the only way we can really know, if truly, infidelity is really an issue on the rise – that borders in national security in the Nigerian polity. And this is what our academia and so called research institutes including the Federal Bureau of Statistics need to do. Because it is only through gathering objective evidence that we can truly proffer tailor made and market based solutions to our problems – through proper policy-making practices.

Because Abeg, which woman, saying, “All Men Cheat” Epp?


1 Dan Slater (2013), “Was Darwin Wrong About Dating”, New York Times. Retrieved from:

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    First to comment!
    I love the academic/intellectual tone to a very controversial, social matter.
    Moral of the story: Don’t jump to conclusion or make statements without proper, diverse foundations. Your friends aren’t enough data.
    Great piece! I hope attention span will let people read through thoroughly

    August 20, 2016
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    Tam, this is brilliant!

    August 20, 2016
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    Tam your PhD form awaits at one of our ivory towers. Great read

    August 20, 2016
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    As much much as I am a fan of social sciences, I don’t know what good it will do our society to carry out a academic research on infidelity in Nigeria. The topic is interesting, but is that enough to put in money and time?I’m not convinced it is.

    August 20, 2016
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        Seems like I hit a nerve with my comment. I apologize if i did, but it’s just my opinion. The resources that would go into researching infidelity in Nigeria seems like a waste. Especially if the end is to show that infidelity “is inherently misogynistic, and I think this stems from barbaric patriarchal cultural practices, of which, vestigial elements still exist in our contemporary society.” Don’t know this already?

        August 20, 2016
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    Uche Agbogwu

    Tam. Let’s do this together. Serious.

    August 22, 2016
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      Holy Cal! I see you have a Renaissance Shirt ON… Uche is this you?

      August 22, 2016
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    Yes neow. Lol.

    August 22, 2016
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    Such an interesting perspective. Funny even without doing the survey individually, social media especially twitter will shed some light on the topic. Women nowadays anonymously or even openly admit to cheating as much as men. You’re correct to say it’s the societal cost on cheating women that prevents them from bragging about their sexcapades.
    Nice job sir.

    August 23, 2016
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    Great Article! I am not sure if the data on infidelity and divorce in Nigeria is consistent with the outbreak of crime, broken homes, unemployment, school drop outs, unwanted pregnancy, suicide and such. Here in the states, infidelity and divorce has caused a mass epidemic of all of these things in my opinion. My husband and I both participated in such actions. Thank God, we were able to get our lives back in order with the grace and mercies of God. All of the things that you mentioned are very important issues to deal with. Every issue has a root and I firmly believe that the things we are seeing in society now are the fruit of the roots that were not dealt with initially. Men and women need to work together in order to right our ships.
    Joyfully Yours,

    August 27, 2016
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