By Tony Edike, Enugu, Vincent Ujumadu, Awka; Anayo Okoli, Umuahia and Peter Okutu, Abakaliki
There have been worries in many families in Igbo land when male children fail to get married when they are due. Often times, men as old as 40 remain unmarried, not because they do not want to be married, but because they lack the resources to do so.
Findings show that one of the reasons is high bride price. In many Igbo communities, it is believed that marriage is meant for mature men, not boys. Therefore, only real men who are ready and well equipped financially can pay the exorbitant bride price and provide all the items in the list brought by the family of the bride, which includes goat, bags of rice, tubers of yam, clothes and cash for various categories of people. Sometimes it is even made a condition that the bride must train one of her siblings up to the university level.
Again, Igbo men keep postponing marriage because, apart from the high bride price, which could be as high as N200,000, the cost of traditional marriage is also high as it requires the throwing of flamboyant ceremonies as may be required by the family of the bride. For such traditional ceremonies, the groom provides money for dresses to be worn by the bride and the bridal train, the bride’s mother and her friends and provides money for the elaborate cooking that would be done.
Late marriage inevitably became more pronounced when unemployment hit the rooftop. For one to meet marriage requirements, he has to have a steady income. With graduates staying at home without jobs several years after graduation and with those who did not attain university education being apprentices for about eight years before they are settled by their masters to begin their own business, marriage becomes the least priority for men.
Besides, many Igbo girls prefer husbands who are already rich.
Failure to get such husbands often attracts scorn from female colleagues and so, they would rather wait until rich men come to ask for their hands in marriage.
Anambra : Marriage for the ‘highest bidder’
There was this young man, Chike, who met a girl from Anambra State during their National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, and decided to get married soon after their service year. The man, in his late 20s, was lucky to have a ready- made job in the same Anambra because he was granted study leave and, therefore, had the opportunity of returning to his ministry after NYSC.
Chike’s thinking was that if he got married, he would start early to raise a family of his own. But when he met the family of his would –be wife, he was shocked at the list of items he was asked to bring. Because he did not have that kind of money, Chike went home dejected and, for the next 10 years, was unmarried.
By the time he eventually got married, Nneka, his NYSC friend who he would have got married to, already had four children as she got married to a trader whose educational qualification was primary six, but was rich. Though Nneka initially objected to her getting married to the trader, she had to succumb when rich, educated men were not forthcoming. That is the plight of young Igbo men and their women.
Worried by the situation in which men and women of marriageable age remain unmarried, some communities in Anambra State have stepped in to save the situation by reducing the cost. For instance, Uhuobo community in Okija in Ihiala local government area has reduced the number of cartons of beer demanded during traditional marriage from about 20 to four, while the pride price is no longer fixed. Any family that flouts the directive is usually fined.
Also, Nibo, another community in Awka South local government area, has brought down the cost of marriage to enable men and women in the area to get married. Chief Pat Orjiako, a cabinet member of Igwe Ezeike Nibo –in –Council, told Sunday Vanguard that his people took the decision when it was becoming embarrassing to see men and women unmarried for years.
According to him, the community slashed the cost of marriage considerably such that only few bottles of drinks are required for the traditional ceremony, while the bride price is N1,000.
He said that since the policy was introduced, men and women in the area have been getting married as required.
However, some of the communities in the state have different conditions for outsiders, which is slightly higher than what men from the same community pay. The reason, it was gathered, was to encourage people from the same community to get married to each other.
Abia: Collapsed courtships
In Abia State, marriage rites vary from one community to the other. While they are very expensive in some communities, they are affordable in some areas.
By and large, expensive marriage is affecting many eligible suitors who want to marry. It has led to the collapse of many courtships after the man is presented with a list of things to provide which in some cases runs into hundreds of thousands of Naira.
For instance, Ngwa and Ikwuano are areas where marriage rites are very expensive. In some parts of Isiala Ngwa South area, potential suitors are asked to pay as much as between N350, 000 and N500,000 for the purchase and settlement of the lists presented by the kindred of the girl. This is apart from now in vogue traditional marriage which the new husband will sponsor according to his purse which conservatively costs between N500,000 and N600,000.
In Ikwuano area, Sunday Vanguard learnt that about N350,000 to N400,000 is spent on the family of the bride.
Lists usually presented include tubers of yam, stock fish, goats, several wrappers for the mother-in-law, attire for the father in-law which also includes cap and walking stick. And in the course of inspecting these items, some of them are some times rejected for not being up to the size the family and kindred want.
This is hindering girls from these areas from getting married. Some of them suffer disappointments as potential suitors often withdraw when confronted with the expensive lists of items to purchase and cash to pay before talking of traditional marriage and then the church wedding.
Meanwhile, there are reports of ladies moving in with potential husbands and bearing babies as they see the expensive traditional marriage rites as a hindrance to marriage.
A young graduate, who did not want his full name published, but simply gave his name as John, narrated how he was “milked dry” by his in-laws in a community in Ikwuano. According to him, he spent more than N380,000 on marriage rites. He said the demand from his in-laws was so outrageous that he almost cancelled the marriage. The annoying thing, he said, was that some items he brought were rudely rejected by the in-laws.
However, in Abam and Isiukwuato areas of the state, marriage rites cost less compared to the Ikwuano and Ngwa areas. In Abam, Sunday Vanguard learnt that with N150,000 all the traditional marriage rites could be completed.
And in Isuikwuato, particularly in Ovim area, a suitor could spend N100,000 and complete all traditional marriage rites and take home his wife.
According to a traditional in an Ovim community, Eze Peter Ginikanwa, “with N100, 000 a suitor would complete all traditional marriage rites in the area and take his wife home”. He said what concerns them most is taking proper care of the girl not the money being paid.
Ginikanwa disclosed that there was an outstanding policy made by Igbo traditional rulers pegging bride price at N60 and less expenses for other rites. He however blamed the rising trend in marriage in Igbo land on some greedy parents.
The Ebonyi hurdles: Financially demanding, strenous, discouraging rites
MARRIAGE in Ebonyi State is a serious business depending on the family, religious inclination and clan.
Just as some clans in the state make marriage easy and straightforward, others make it cumbersome and strenuous especially for the man who is seeking a bride from a particular area or LGA in the state.
It is generally believed that marriage is easy in Izzi land as the interest of the family giving out their daughter’s hand in marriage is the betterment and welfare of their daughter rather than burdening their would-be son in-law with ill affordable marital obligations.
The man seeking the hand of an Izzi girl in marriage, depending on the status of the family, can even give their son in-law a portion of land for free and also collect little or nothing as bride price as their utmost concern is the welfare of their daughter and not for their daughter to be used as a tool for financial empowerment.
In Afikpo North LGA, the story is different as their would-be in-law is meant to fulfil all the necessary traditional requirements which are, often times, strenuous, discouraging and financially-demanding.
These demands are to be met by the suitor or prospective son in-law are in three stages and can discourage the parties involved from continuing with the marriage procedure.
It is believed that such obligations are meant to instil in the son-in law a strong value for his wife considering the enormous challenges or hurdles he went through to get his bride at last.
In Afikpo North LGA, depending on the decision of the would be son-in law, the whole process of the tradition marriage can be merged and performed in one day.
However, the fun of it comes when the suitor goes through the stages one by one. This was the situation in the olden days compared to the modern age where young men prefer to go home with their heartthrob without much ado.
The period we are in now has brought lots of adjustment in the way marital procedure is followed. For example, the man seeking a lady’s hand in marriage is usually meant to either go to the farmland of his father in-law or mother in-law with some men, usually his friends, as a way of fulfilling part of the traditional requirement for the marriage.
But, most recently, this part, among others, has been replaced with the payment of cash to the family involved.
The next stage, which is ‘Amarulo’ wine carrying, is usually done with different types of drinks depending on the choice of the family involved; it can either be done with alcoholic or non- alcoholic drinks which will be presented to the family of the lady as a way of kick-starting the entire process.
At each stage, the prospective son in-law is expected to embark on presentations of items to the family of the lady. The items drinks, meat and fish.
Before now, the bride price was N10. It has since been upped to N80; most times also, these variations could depend on the family involved.
The major aspect of the marriage, called the ‘Nvunvu’ where different items bought for the lady by her prospective husband, which include plates, bed, foam, mat, soap, pillows, trays, stock fish, 20 big tubers of yams, red oil, bunch of Oha leaves and a set of furniture seats, are carried by women who will line up going to the lady’s house where the marriage is meant to take place.
These items will be inspected by representatives of both families involved to ascertain whether they are complete or not. At the end of the exercise, a she-goat will be given to the man signifying fruitfulness or reproduction throughout their (man and the woman) marital period.
In Afikpo South LGA, similar martial arrangements are shared apart from few differences.
In the first stage, which is like knocking at the door, the groom is expected to buy groundnut for his proposed wife. If she eats it, it signifies acceptance of the man, but if it is on the contrary, it means lack of acceptance for the man involved and that brings to an end the entire marital process.
This stage, considering the period we are in now, has gone beyond presentation of groundnut to presentation of other items in order to add colour and glamour to the exercise.
This stage gives way to other stages which can also be merged depending on the decision of the man or his family.
The bride price is usually N30 till date as N20 goes to the father while N10 goes to the mother of the bride during the sharing of the bride price.
Speaking to Sunday Vanguard, Mr. Ude, a civil servant who married from Afikpo North LGA, said the marital process became expensive following the choice of the partners involved and or the family giving out their daughter’s hand in marriage.
“Nowadays, couples like merging the entire marital process but it is good for them to go through the whole exercise so that these requirements will not end with the older generation as it is needful for it to also be transferred also to the younger generation”, Ude said.
Also, a journalist (name wit held) from Ohoazara LGA, who went to Afikpo North to search for his bride, recounts his experiences: “My brother, it wasn’t easy for me as I was meant to pass through several processes. The Nvunvu was what took a lot of time and money from me. You need to do your best to impress your in-laws.
“Do you know that after buying everything required of me, the girl I wanted to get married to changed her mind and that was how my cash just went like that and nothing was refunded?”