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.


Anonymous said...

sounds very intresting. funny enough yes. both familes just find a way around it other than cash. iorver

Adeniyi Asiyanbi said...

One of the reasons many people of my generations will not demand for bride price is that it does make only little sense to them...civilisation has probably shooed that part of culture

I agree with Iorver's view; it is true in some certain cases


Anonymous said...

Congratulations to the groom and also to the bride. The groom can save some money to take care of the bride. And the bride is sure of not being sold by her parents. This days some families even zeal their daughters' wedding by not only relieving of the bride price but tangentially allowing their daughters to take to her husbands' house some assets/wealth. Such practice also amounts to 'buying the man'. Situations have also arisen where the woman provided the bride price for the groom to present in the public or on the other way round, bride price even provided by the groom in the public then later returned in the hidden. It occurred in those societies where they stick to tradition.
As much as we are growing, we should be discouraging 'selling of daughter (as wife)' and also 'buying of other' son (as husband)'.

kunle abrahams said...

It is just the curse of the blackman.No achievement is valued until it is got through sweat,toil and pain.Even for your pounded yam to be ready,imagine the energy that goes into it!