Last week, I discovered that acquiring an official marital status from the government through the Ministry of Interior has become very much like what we used to do those days when applying for an American visa.
My young nephew was trying to get legal permit for the marriage to his heartthrob and I was to witness the ceremony. The event was at the same venue where we presented ourselves over 30 years ago to acquire the government certificate of marriage, without which the church will not join you. But how different everything is this time.
My nephew told me the event would be at 10am but he would need to leave home at about 4am to go and queue for a tally that will ensure he is one of the first to be attended to.
To say I was shocked would be an understatement. Leave home at 4am for an event that is largely symbolic and can be done without major ceremony, and then queue for a number when the presiding officers were still asleep in their homes?
Well, I told him good luck and went to sleep, with the intention of leaving home about 9.30am the next day and be with them by 10am.
Another shocker awaited me at daybreak; I got up at 6am to see several missed calls and messages from Mr. Husband-To-Be, to the effect that he would not be given a tally unless his witness is present. I asked him if he was serious, because there was no way I would hit the road that early and go and hang around the marriage registry at that hour till 10am.
My mind flashed back to the collective of crowd at the small turn-off to the Registry on Kingsway/Alfred Rewane Road. I had always wondered what those people were doing there. Now I know.
The registry people have set up something like a checkpoint or barrier where people are screened or prevented from gaining access to the road from where you will then access the registry. They have their guards and policemen manning the post. Meanwhile, this is the only road that leads to the United Nations Information Centre in Lagos. I pity the UN people and their visitors because they daily have to go through that mess – mess is what it is because the road is not what you will expect the entrance to the United Nations facility should be. Just by that checkpoint is the massive Dangote Headquarters that is under construction and I wonder how they and others too will cope when the building is completed and opened for use.
Back to my odyssey. I did make it to the registry about 9am and the young man had been able to acquire his tally number that made sure I did not have to stay longer than necessary.
However, in these days of COVID-19, the crowd gathered under the canopy set up in the registry compound and in the various halls did not seem to know there were protocols for the pandemic. Same as the officials. Theirs was business as usual.
The registry compound is an all-encompassing business premises. Inside the walled-in perimeter are all kinds of business that have to do with weddings and marriage ceremonies. Instead of the shirt-and-trouser plus dress that we went in, thirty-something years ago, each of the couples are now gaily dressed in full wedding outfits, even though they will still go and wed in their various churches. Some brides even have very heavily designed bridal gowns with very, very long ‘tails’ – is that the name? Some of those dresses were obviously acquired from shops in the premises because there are several bridal shops located there. Some may have been rented too.
There also, are other wedding-related businesses located there, like floral or bouquet shops, photographers studios, those who specialize in the tying of head gear or ‘gele’, and of course, the make-up artists who occupy a huge bank of space where they make up the brides, their families and guests. And there are lots of hustlers and touts who promise to do anything to make the day successful for the young brides and grooms. The street urchins who ‘help’ to provide parking for cars are also not left out in the hustle.
The fast food eatery close by seems to be making a huge kill too, because that is the immediate destination of the post-wedding couples and guests.
So, wedding business is booming at the Ikoyi Marriage Registry and we hope the income also goes into the Federal Government’s account, from all those who are accommodated in the premises.
But something needs to be done to decongest that place and do away with the inconvenience encountered by other offices and residents who share that location with the registry. Traffic on Alfred Rewane sometimes results from the crowding at the checkpoint before the registry gate and that barrier is an unnecessary encumbrance.
One question to ask though is what has become of the marriage registries in Local Government Offices? Why should young couples come all the way from Okorodu or Egbeda to Ikoyi to get their marriage permits when the LGs can do the same thing? I have attended a marriage event in the past at a Local Government centre at Shitta in Surulere and I am sure other Local Governments can do the same thing. When we did ours in 1989, my spouse and I had our offices in Victoria Island and the church for our wedding was just down the road in Ikoyi so we didn’t need to ‘travel’ even then. So why all the ‘wahala’ of congesting the Ikoyi Marriage Registry?
With the availability of unoccupied Federal Government property in Ikoyi and environs, why not even move the registry to one of such property? The Federal Secretariat is a case in point. The huge edifice has been left to rot away and it has been officially unoccupied for several years.