By Francis Ewherido
…Mudipapa’s elder brother, Chief Joseph Orien, wanted the traditional marriage of Tejiri and Tosan to take place in Effurun-Otor, Delta State, Mudipapa’s hometown, but Mudipapa went to see him with a bottle of brandy, a goat, a set of kola nuts and N20,000 ‘to support the kola nut.’ Mudipapa wanted a venue waiver so that the traditional marriage ceremony could hold in Lagos.
After consenting, Chief Orien gave Mudipapa a list of items Tosan was to provide, according to Urhobo tradition. Tosan was also requested to put some money in an envelope as Ogbereharen, symbolically meaning, an appreciation sum for the time EseOghene spent by the fireside to recuperate after the delivery of Tejiri.
Preparations were in top gear. Mudipapa told Tejiri and Tosan to plan their wedding within their means. Mudipapa and Tosan’s father, Chief Eyituoyo Johnson, had agreed to underwrite the entire cost of the wedding, but they kept it away from Tejiri and Tosan. They did not want them to over spend. Mudipapa had always taught new entrants into matrimony on the need for fiscal prudence.
Tejiri and Tosan came up with a budget of N15m. “After spending this money, where do you get money to start married life?” Mudipapa asked Tejiri. “Daddy, we still have a reserve of N5m,” she responded. “But spending three-quarters of your savings on your wedding is not good enough. By the way, what’s your contribution to the N15m?” Mudipapa probed further. “Daddy, that is between Tosan and me,” Tejiri replied firmly. Mudipapa felt a little hurt and shut out, but the response proved to him that his daughter was ready for marriage; she has imbibed one of the key ingredients of a happy marriage: oneness between spouses.
The traditional marriage of Tejiri and Tosan was a spectacle. Urhobo and Itsekiri cultures were at their zenith. The international guests and even friends and guests from other ethnic groups in Nigeria were mesmerised by the Urhobo and Itsekiri traditional attires of wrapper and flowing tops with bowler hats and walking sticks. Mudipapa’s traditional ruler, the Orovworere of Effurun-Otor, sent four high ranking chiefs to represent him, while the Olu of Warri also sent his palace chiefs. That was besides chiefs from both ethnic groups who were friends to Mudipapa and Chief Eyituoyo Johnson. They sure added colour to the ceremony. Chief Christopher Mogboruko was there in dual capacities, first as a personal friend of Mudipapa and as a kinsman of the Johnsons in Koko.
Mudipapa’s eldest brother, Chief Joseph Orien, presided over the ceremony in line with Urhobo tradition and custom. Before the formal payment of the bride price, however, Mudipapa entertained his guests in his expansive living room. Entertainment over, the Johnson family was told to state their mission. Their spokesman explained that they saw a beautiful flower in Mudipapa’s compound that they are interested in and they have come to pluck it. “Flower ke, that’s not an issue. We have Hibiscus, Aloe Vera, Orchids, Purple Heart, Roses and even Mother-in-law’s Tongue in this compound. Chief Julius Mudiaga Orien is a lover of flowers. Just go ahead and pluck anyone you fancy,” the spokesman for the Orien family responded, to which the audience roared into laughter. They went back and forth. The international and non-Urhobo and non-Itsekiri guests were enjoying the ceremony. It was a new experience for some of them.
Finally, the Johnson’s spokesman hit the nail on the head: they came to ask for the hand of Tejiri in marriage. The Orien family spokesman asked him if they would recognise Tejiri if they saw her. He nodded. Three of Tejiri’s cousins and two of her friends were paraded, but drew blank with the Johnson family. Chief Johnson, however, almost caused a stir when he mistook Oghenetekevwe Orien, Tejiri’s cousin, for her. They were about the same height, complexion and best of friends. Finally, Tejiri was brought out, resplendent in her double wrapper; blouse and matching shoes, handbag and head tie with beads adorning her neck and wrists.
There was excitement within the Johnson side of the audience. Once she was identified as the flower, they showered her with money. Then Mudipapa gave his parental blessing to the union and prayed for them. The Johnson family only agreed to be served food and drinks after Tejiri had been presented. They had insisted that they would neither taste any food nor take any drinks until they had stated and accomplished their mission. The rest of the ceremony went on smoothly with lots of feasting, drinking and dancing taking place.
With the traditional marriage ceremony concluded, attention quickly shifted to the church wedding and reception that was to hold in two days’ time. Omo was the little bride. That was a no-brainer, because Mudipapa would have vetoed Tejiri if she had chosen anyone else. The wound of such an action would not have healed, not to talk of the scars being erased in Omo’s heart. In spite of Omo’s “sauciness,” she adored Tejiri. Tejiri was the quintessential big sister and Omo looked up to her, big time.
Fifteen clergymen were present at the solemnisation of the wedding. Over the years, Mudipapa and EseOghene had built a lot of goodwill within the church. Tosan and Tejiri were also very active in church affairs. They exchanged their marital vows to the admiration of family, friends and the congregation. Activities shifted to the venue of the reception.
Tosan and Tejiri had choreographed their dance steps which they now performed to the admiration of the audience during their entrance and couple’s dance. Their cake was simple, but very impressive. There was plenty to eat and drink. Apart from the arrangements Tosan and Tejiri made, both parents had engaged two additional caterers. One prepared continental dishes while the other prepared Owho (palm oil soup) and Banga (palmnuts soup) that was then served with starch, eba or wheat meal. There was also fresh fish ukodo (yam or plantain and soup cooked together). They also brought an additional cooling van filled with drinks. They did not want to take any chances.
In line with Urhobo tradition, Tejiri followed her parents home after the reception. Later that night, Emesiri and some other members of the family escorted her to her husband’s house. They took with her the box containing the wrappers, blouses, shoes, head ties and wristwatches, which Tosan had bought for her as part of the marriage requirements. When it was time for Tejiri to go, Mudipapa betrayed his emotion. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he bade his daughter farewell. EseOghene did not even bother to come out of the room; it was too much for her to take…
Life Lessons from Mudipapa debuts in May. Enquiries at [email protected]