Traditional marriage in Mbaise
By Felix Uka, Reporter, Abakaliki
Every society has its own customs and traditions as it concerns marriage. It is about a girl leaving her parents, brothers and sisters to join a man, to live together as long as they have life. The girl child even from her teenage years starts nursing the consciousness of marriage. At the age of 18, when she would have attained puberty, the feeling gets fully blown. When Mr. Right comes along, no one can change her mindset. Typically, wedding is the woman’s day for which reason invitation cards indicate that Miss. A weds Mr. B, not the other way round. The man just joins the train.
No wonder the woman smiles from the beginning to end of the occasion.
In most countries of the western world, much of what is known is the church wedding, yet there exists some sorts of traditional marriage prior to the observance of the church wedding. In as much as the Christianity brought into Africa by the British colonial masters tends to have swallowed up African cultures, the African man still sticks to the tradition of going to his homestead, among his kinsmen and women, to undertake certain traditional rites before taking his wife-to-be to the church wedding.
In Igbo land, the tradition differs from community to community. But in all cases, bride prices are paid. To Ndigbo, the credence is that no amount of money or materials could be adequate for giving their daughter away to the man. In this guise, they give a list of materials that could be mind-boggling, but not really with the intent of the groom-to-be procuring everything on the list. No known marriage agreement had failed for failure of the intending groom producing this or that material or money. It’s all about negotiation and ultimate agreement.
In Mbaise, one of the most populous local governments in Imo State, a core Igbo region, there exists an erroneous belief that it costs relatively much to marry their daughters. Still many Mbaise daughters are being married to people outside of the local government area. Some argue that special interest in marrying Mbaise girls is because of their dedication to marriage and hard work, and their ability to stay in a marriage through thick and thin. Whatever be the case, indications are that those who ventured to marry from among Mbaise people more often than not have blissful testimonies of the marriage.
Without doubt, civilisation has made it a common feature that intertribal marriages are on the increase, as many of these youths congregate in schools and engage in courtships that sometimes end up in marriage.
Such was recently witnessed in Ubahi Amumara, Ezinihitte Mbaise in Ezinihitte Local Government Area of Imo State. Mr. Festus Oseji from Obi-Ukpo Ibabu, Kwale West Local Government Area of Delta State, with his kinsmen and women were in the family compound of the late Linus Nwakwuoke Uka in Mbaise to ask for the hand of their daughter, Jovita Onyinyechi, in marriage.
It was a sort of special outing. The traditions of the Kwale and Mbaise people significantly differ, but were by the drive of marriage made to intermingle. The love that blossomed between the two families took away the concern for the long distance the Kwale people had to travel in search of the bride.
Moreover, it was not a day’s journey. They had earlier gone to the bride’s family to seek authorisation to come for Onyinye’s hand in marriage. Having gotten approval, they came with their people in great numbers.
To appease the bride’s family and cement the relationship, they brought 10 jars of palm wine including several raffia palm wine, the brand tapped in the bride’s area of Mbaise.
After eating pounded yam/fufu and gulping the palm wine, the rites began. The women took their seats at the expansive backyard of Uka’s compound, while the men sat under a kolanut tree on the other flank. Then began the dialogue.
Shortly after, an accord was struck, then the visitors began shaking hands with their in-laws. The latest in-law in town, Festus, told his in-laws that he was most joyful. He embraced his in-laws while his people joined in the jubilation.
Then came the next merriment in front of the house decorated with peculiar Indian made materials called George. It was made of many colours. The people were seated, while Reverend Father (Dr.) David Ihenacho, flagged off the ceremony with an opening prayer.
Thereafter the Master of Ceremony (MC), Nze Patrick Akataobi, took the stage. Not long after, the ceremony was over with the bride in what appears to be mixed feelings, though joyous for having actualised her dream, began to cry, shedding tears and looking back as the groom held firmly to as if not to let go. However, Onyinye still left with the man of her dreams.