DO IGBOS SELL THEIR DAUGHTERS IN MARRIAGE?

In my workplace the other day (yes I work, in Nigeria you can get jobs provided you are not paid beyond the minimum wage), a colleague began to say something about Igbos selling their daughters in marriage. He had done his NYSC in Anambra State and felt he knew everything about Igbo sociology and culture. I tried to reason with him, but as most three-quarterly educated Nigerians, he didn’t let me talk. He said Igbo girls were becoming old maids at home and that was (and is) why there were so many Igbo reverend sisters. People laughed.

Another fellow supported him, claiming that he was once in a marriage negotiation team to Igboland and that the list the bride’s parents gave them was longer than his bony arm. The third being who (I swear) had never passed River Kaduna, shouted endorsements and said shame, Igbos sold their daughters to the highest bidder and that never, he wouldn’t marry Igbo. An Igbo lady was there but her mouth was sealed.

I chipped in few counter-points now and then but it was useless. How do you reason with a mob? Why waste my breath? So I decided to write about the issue; I will invoke all points and lay them like a patient due for surgery on the table, and see what truth holds in the statement, Igbos sell their daughters.

igbo brides

First, this belief is hinged on an error, that Igbos like money too much. I thought the Igbos were creative and innovative in their pursuit of naira. I thought everyone liked money, needed money. But Nigerians say Igbos liked, nay, loved money. Assuming this was so, do the Igbos place their daughters like vegetable on the shop shelve for sale so as to satisfy their insatiable hunger for naira?

Again, this belief is promoted by the half-baked Nollywood which passes a crude resemblance of Igbo culture as the true Igbo culture. So most Nigerians watching Patient Ozokwor pursuing poor Emeka Ike from her daughter and dancing on the wads of naira notes from the affluent Kanayo O. Kanayo assume it is the Igbo way. Very funny. Literature mirrors the society, they say; agreed, but Nigerian films don’t mirror the society.

Wait! Before you curse me, look at this case. Nollywood shows that pre-colonial Igbos had Kings, powerful kings whose words carry fire and thunder. This is not true, ancient Igbos had no king. Apart from Onitsha who were influenced by the Benin Empire, the Igbos ran a village democracy where titled men and elders sit on serious issues and made decisions based on simple majority. Go read Achebe’s Arrow of God and Things Fall Apart or Elechi Amadi’s The Concubine or Flora Nwapa’s Efuru. Igbos know no king. The rulers you see today in Igboland are mostly creations of 1960 upward. The movies where you see Van Vicker and Ali Nuhu as Igbo princes in a very, very large palace with fifty maids and hundreds of guards are pure Nollywood bullshit. Igbo kings today are mere ceremonious heads who live in grumbling one-storey buildings they built with their railway pension!  

If Nollywood distorts the truth in representing Igbo leadership structure, why take them serious when they show greedy Osuofias, Larry Koldsweats, Chinwetala Agus sweating over their son-in-law’s money before marriage? Accepted, Igbo weddings are expensive but so are their funerals and New Yam Festivals and Ofalas and Ozo title receptions and bazaars. Expensive, does it mean Igbos sell their daughters? My colleague who served in Anambra must have seen the sheer demolition of naira notes in weddings and assume that the bride prize must have caused a fortune. No sir. Now what is the real thing?

I have four sisters, all of them older than me. Three of them have been sold and the fourth who has thus attracted so many customers will most likely be sold this raining season, wrapped in a paper like agidi and carried under the arm by her in-laws/buyers. Haha. So how much did my father sell his daughters? Well, when the groom’s people came for my first sister, the first thing our kinsmen did was appoint one of them (whose mother was from the in-laws kindred) to sit with the in-laws and make sure that they were not exploited whatsoever. Negotiations begun and the groom’s people handed over seven thousand naira as bride’s price. The money was counted and four thousand naira returned to the groom’s people, accompanied by the strong murmur tempered with humour, ‘we don’t sell our daughters’. And don’t think my sister is ugly or old or uneducated. She is a graduate, a tall, fair angel (even more beautiful than Omotala) and was twenty-six years old then. She was hot cake having rejected one thousand marriage proposals. And don’t think her groom is poor, on the contrary he is an Alaba INTERNATIONAL importer and exporter.

In our custom, once the bride’s prize was accepted the woman officially becomes your wife. Igba-nkwu or traditional marriage or any other such celebrations are mere formalities. But because we are Christians, my family said the marriage was incomplete until church wedding. The groom people said they would wish to do traditional marriage as well.

Traditional marriage is no compulsion but grooms wanted it for their ego. Bragging rights and all that. For the traditional marriage, my people gave their in-laws a list. Wait, wait! Before you shout ‘I said it’ check what the list contained. It contained a set of names of Umuada who would be given wrappers on the igba-nkwu day, not more than fifteen of them. How much does a miserable wrapper cost, anyway? Other things in the list include a set of drinks and kola-nuts. There were no such things in the list as paying siblings school fees, buying Papa a motorcycle and all those fiction you hear.

For the food, the groom would take care of meat, fish, rice, drinks and soups. The foo-foo aspect, the abacha ncha delicacy and its accompanying garden eggs and ose-oji, my family bore the cost. As the traditional wedding took place in the bride’s house, we fuelled the generator, brought the water, firewood and suffered the petty thieving that came with such crowd. One of my sisters lost a prized pair of shoes. 

My father who wasn’t rich spent so much for this traditional wedding. If he had sold his daughter, he didn’t make any profit, in fact he lost. After this, he vowed that his other daughters wouldn’t have traditional weddings. bride

You don’t mean it! His second daughter had a traditional wedding. The groom’s people said they would do a small one but my father ended up spending twice as much as the first. I was in the university when the third groom came and I urged my father to hand me my school fees and pocket money before the spree. It was that bad. Yet some people open their mouths and pour phlegms about Igbos selling their daughters.

Now, was my family and village an exception to the Igbo matrimonial buy and sell? Of course not. I am from Ogbunka in Anambra and Anambra is not the whole of Igboland. But in my research, talking to cousins and uncles and senior friends who married in Ebonyi, Enugu and Abia, I discover to my shock that most are more or less like Anambra. I stopped researching when I heard of the man, in Imo who collected ten naira… yes ten naira for his daughter! This transfer fee ought to enter the Guiness Book of Record.

The Igbo man! A proud man, he considers it an insult if you suggest he sold his daughter, hence the stipends he collects. Igbo girls are even prouder and if their fathers sold them, they were finished; where would they run to if their husbands maltreated them?

And for the records, no man on earth cherished the male child like the Igbo man. If he sold the girls for money, he would have cherished them more.

What about the list? you insist. I have told you that the list is exaggerated. Okay, let’s assume the list contains the budget of a state… well, Igbo people are well-to-do: To start with, they have the largest number of middle-class in Nigeria. They are not that poor. They don’t beg. Most Igbo guys can easily afford to foot the bill in the list. Marriage is once in a life-time affair, they reason, so why wash hands in spittle, counting in kobos? Igbos who are not as rich as Dangote form a committee of friends who help with the cost. Accepted, it is not only Igbos who marry Igbo girls but the non-Igbo groom can also take the committee tactics. And this is no lose-lose endeavour as majority of attendance in igba-nkwus are Igbo bourgeoisies who compete on who would spread the couples with more naira (and even dollar) notes. These currencies are gathered by the committee of friends and although the bride’s father provides the venue, he doesn’t smell one naira.

Dear, it is not everything you watch in Nollywood that is Igbo culture. Every Okeke with money can produce a movie in Nigeria. Again, it is not everything that your Igbo-hating friends tell you about the Igbos that is true. To verify, always ask me. As for my colleagues, I will take a double barrel to work tomorrow, and if (walahi if) anyone mentions ‘Igbos sell…’ crack, crack, crack, I blow someone’s coconut head off!

 

igbo bride

Let’s hear what you have to say about this. Meanwhile tweets to @oke4chukwu

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11 thoughts on “DO IGBOS SELL THEIR DAUGHTERS IN MARRIAGE?

  1. Walt Shakes

    Your family is noble. but the thing is, whilst some Igbo families are modest in their marriage negotiations with in-laws, some others see it as a way to fork out as much wealth from in-laws as they can, especially if the in-laws are wealthy. And those other ethnicities that are busy mouthing off should take several seats. Are Igbo wedding ventures the only expensive ones in Nigeria? They should shut it joor.

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    • Kingsley

      Man, true talk. Some Igbo families place money high during their daughters’ marriages. This isn’t Igbo culture, that is what I aspire to correct. Every ethnicity has bad eggs like this, who use money as part of the deal, but selecting the Igbos for special criticism we don’t find justified, we won’t condole, we will continue to correct!

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  2. M. Moses

    Nice piece. Trying to clear the Igbo tribe of greed or selling their daughters is a welcome development. Most parents sell their daughters to the highest bidder because they think their daughters deserve more than a moderate life. The daughters also salivate at the sight of those flashy cars putting all their weights on the suitor. Marriage is something you enjoy but if you Make the mistake of going for the cash, you might end up enduring rather than enjoying. I don’t care how much you spend, marry the man/woman you love.

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    • Kingsley

      I like that, ‘I don’t care how much you spend, marry the man/woman you love’. People should make love the issue not money. Most people however make money a major priority, can’t blame them, Nigerian are mostly poor. But in accusing the Igbos as sole perpetrators of this is improper.

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  3. onyeka norman

    First of all, i’ll write Manchester United to borrow me Fellaini to spit on any1 who will say what he knows nothing or little about, especially when it has to do with a prestigious ethnicity as the Igbos. Manchester isn’t too far from liverpool for me to seek for the services of Suarez to bite off all slandering lips against the Igbo society in respect to the way she carries out her nuptial engagements.

    Secondly, the long-lasting stigma(if really it is) on the Igbos as lovers of money is because others don’t like money, thank God Sanusi Lamido and Otedola don’t, at least they’ve justified their zones.

    Thirdly, one of the essential steps to be taken before the contract of marriage is deemed to have started in the marriage system of the Igbos is the payment of certain amount of money made to the family of the girl. Usually, this is done in a quasi elaborate ceremony observed and celebrated by a few kinsmen of both spouses. The suitor comes with his kinsmen at the appointed date, to the home of the would be in-law with some cartons of beer and soft drinks, palm wine, a strong alcoholic spirit, usually schnapps. The visitors present their items and also make their intentions known. They are accordingly welcomed with a service of Kola nut.In the ceremony, some quantity (say 15-20) of broom sticks cut to size and/or some quantity of goat’s dung about 20 in number are brought and presented to the family of the suitor as the measure of the size or rather the amount of money the family of the suitor will bring for him to be eligible to marry their daughter. It is customary that this part of the ceremony is observed with quite some degrees of humour, this ceremony in native Igbo societies is known as the IKA AKILIKA. Akilika are splinter brooms from dry palm fronds as may have been partly eaten and abandoned by goats in the goat’s manger.

    The splinter brooms are presented to the intermediate agent for him to present to the suitor’s family. The intermediate agent carries with his two hands as though they were heavy, the broom sticks to the family of the man as directed. The elder from the suitor’s side, to whom the broom sticks are handed receives them with two hands also, breaks them into two and hands them back to the intermediate agent for onward delivery back to the family of the girl. The significance of this tradition is to show that the family of the Man has accepted to pay whatever bride price is to be agreed upon; whatever is to be paid as bride price is paid in double folds (reason for breaking the broom sticks into two). A pittiance (ego arum onu) is brought by the visitors and presented for the actual bargain to start. About 50yrs ago, this pittiance was say 5pence; about 30yrs ago, it was 50kobo, but in present day, it’s actually N50 or N100. (Mind you, 50 or 100naira wouldn’t be the eventual agreement)

    Abba, Umuoji, Nise, Nnewi, Oraukwu and other neighboring clans have no fixed rate as bride price. In present times, the bride price have been staggered between 10-15k depending on:

    1. The economic status of the home of the girl to be married.
    2. The academic/social status of the girl to be married, and
    3. The economic/social status of the to-be groom

    Before the suitor and his people leave, they’re presented with a list of items to purchase for the Mother of the bride, her neighbour’s, and the Umuadas’ who have groomed the girl from birth till date. This list is compiled and given to the groom depending on the weight of his purse and the demands of her(bride) clan. Most at times, this list demands; 1 big he-goat, 20 tubers of yam, 4 gallons of palm wine, few cartons of beer and soft drinks, 2 heads of tobacco, few pieces of kola nut and a big akpati with10 folds of wrapper.

    How on earth does this signify a purchase?, the case is even worse in Benue and some other parts of this nation. If you run short of gun-powder, call me for reinforcement.

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    • Kingsley

      Phew! Oh my God, this is massive, massive, massive! You have finished the talk, you have pointed the facts, laid the points bare, so naked! You really dug deep. Now, the issue should be rested once and for all. Expenses for the Igbo is normal. The Igbo man is no miserly, he has the heart to spend money and if he can’t spend it in and for his marriage, he isn’t rich, even at this the communal nature of the Igbo system still strongly gives him a viable insurance of success. Onyeka, I owe you a gallon of palm wine. But I may have to keep my drink before people accuse me of selling you!

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  4. Mgbedinma Benjamin

    My dearie, though the latter part of your last paragraph is rib-cracking, this is a very alarming dent that calls for a final trash. You remember, last semester in your room, we had to argue with a ‘jambito’ over this notion of Ibos being too naira conscious. It is an indication that both Tom, Dick and Harry – the educated (half or complete) and the illiterate have have a stool to disgorge about the Ibos. I am not jolted-”ana ‘fu dike n’ anya?”

    With my liberal humanistic and tribe rootless mentality,yesterday, I met a girl(though, beautiful) to whom I profess faithfulness. To my oblivion, she chewed her hair, never to have anything to do with the caprion and deceitful Igbo guys, let alone in school. After a little boy/girl razzmatazz, between last night and this morning, her calls haunts me like the apparition of Caesar after Brutus.

    It is an indisputable fact that the Ibos and Igboness has been established; it is as good as wetting the rock trying to paint the black. I do not even see any reason, Kingsley, why you should go about with your literary ‘double barrel’ or explain to any fault-finder. You cann’t speak for the Ibos; let their heroism speak for them. Any elementless figure that thinks Igbo ladies are placed on the high side (whether by tradition or parents) does not Deserve them. He should go for an alternative or better still remain single.

    However, it will be of great advantage to anybody who wants to speak of a people, especially on issues like this, whether on Ibos or any other people, to first and foremost carry out a hypothetic research on such people, else, he will be exposing his ignoramus and half-bakedness.

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    • Kingsley

      Yeah, Ben, well said; I must confess you make me see the Igbo Hero. I must admit, I can’t speak for the Igbos but we will continue to try to speak little little truths about the Igbos when we can. Thanks for dropping by, bro.

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  5. Benny cyril

    Its quite funny how some shamming people say its only an igbo man that loves money.
    No man be it hausa,yoruba,igala,etc……that don’t love money,,,,,,cos money is a means to provide for basic necessities of life….
    Most only say dat 2 jusify their laziness and in-ability to think outside the box.
    Some are jealous,,that the igbos will alter their evironment to work for dem,,,,
    Why would an igbo man sell his daughter,,,,,is she,, part of the goods that earn him profit year-in,year-out?…….
    Beside it will b so bias 2 conclude that yoruba women all marry many hausband…..
    Cos we r only being bias and obviously nt having open minds….
    So please an igbo man can’t sell his daughter.

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