Saturday, May 15, 2010

HOME SWEAT HOME: ‘It’s Our Day of Electricity’

I returned to Nigeria few weeks ago and discovered a most ingenious thing that PHCN has done. PHCN is the agency in charge of electricity in Nigeria. PHCN has developed a remarkably intelligent power rationing scheme in the city of Ibadan where I live. In my section of town, we get electricity every other day. The week of my arrival, we "had it" on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Those were our days of electricity, days to really look forward to. But I was soon made to understand what ‘our day of electricity’ means. It means the day that you have the right to hope for electricity—not the right to have it! On such a day, you hope that there will be electricity. That is all you do the whole day--hoping.

In fairness to PHCN, we do have some electricity on those days: sometimes for just a few minutes during the whole day, other times—when we are really lucky—for up to three hours on such wonderful days.

But complete woe betide your section of town if you were careless enough, on your day of electricity, to allow rain to fall or strong winds to blow. Once any of these two evils is allowed, PHCN switches off electricity and you no longer can hope for even a ‘flash’ until your next day of electricity.

I also discovered that my neighbour has bought a mighty electricity generating set. He has also positioned it so strategically that the noise drones right into my bedroom thereby keeping me alert all night. Thanks, dear neighbour. It sure is great to be home, home SWEAT home.

Friday, May 7, 2010

‘My Daughter is not for Sale!’: Is Bride Price Getting less Popular in Nigeria?

My daughter is not for sale! All I want is for you to take good care of her’. That was the verdict of Chief Agedo as he gave out his daughter in a traditional wedding to the family of Ter Ikeseh (Ter and Joy are in the pic left). (This was at a traditional wedding I attended in Minna, Northern Nigeria on Saturday May 1, 2010)

Chief Agedo announced that he did not want any dowry (that is, bride price or bride wealth). We who were there to support the groom and his family were overwhelmed by this show of kindness.

In Nigeria, bride price and the cost of wedding have been the reasons that many young men cannot marry and many young women remain spinsters. The cost of wedding and bride price is said to be the highest among the Igbo people of South East Nigeria. Bride price, which is paid by the groom and his family to the bride’s family, comes in the forms of cash, food items, live animals, and clothes. All of these can amount to as much as 2 million naira (about $14,300) or even more—if the groom appears to be rich. To get out of this, many have eloped and many have called off their courtships with ladies from families whose bride price demands were too high.
In the pre-colonial times, among the Tiv people of Nigeria, men avoided bride price by engaging in exchange marriage. In this case, a man gave his sister to another man in exchange for that man’s sister—a very smart practice that was destroyed by ‘civilisation’ and Britain.
Extremely relieved were we when Chief Agedo did not ask for a bride price. Ter, the groom, was so happy that he needed no instructions before lying prostrate in traditional homage to his in-laws. [Picture below]
But some friends told us not to rejoice too much over the demand for no bride price. According to one of them, in his culture, bride prices are not demanded, not out of kindness but because the culture believes that a man cannot (should not be allowed to) pay bride price once but should continue to pay it as long as he lives. Therefore, the bride’s family continue to make financial and other requests for as long as the marriage lasts—as reminder that the man wasn’t asked to pay any bride price.
Others felt the demand for no bride price was actually rising because bride prices have been a way of cheapening the worth of the lady: how can you put a price tag on a human being? A third group felt the growing trend of ‘no’ bride price was a response to the economic difficulties facing young men. In that case, culture is responding to the economy.
I strongly support the dynamic definition of culture suggested by the third group. Culture is not fossilised. I think also that many young ladies today find it hard to get a young man whom they love and count to be a ‘husband material’. When they get one, they will fight tooth and nail to ensure that only few cultural huddles are placed in the way of their wedding. Many of such ladies will kick hard if the family do not quickly announce an affordable bride price—or no bride price at all. In such cases, saying ‘my daughter is not for sale’ may simply be a face-saving effort.
Is bride price payment becoming unpopular? It seems so. The reasons though may be many. Whatever the reason, Ter and his family are grateful to the Agedo family of Fuga, Edo State, Nigeria.