In most cultures in Nigeria, traditional marriagesare usually an arrangement between two families, some times this arrangement may not be the wishes of the two individuals involve. Education and civilisation is changing that norm gradually. Furthermore, in many Nigerian cultures, it is the man that pays the dowry or bride-price, invariably making him head of the family.
The Idoma people live in central Nigeria, Benue State. They are mainly farmers; it has subgroups like Adors, Otupas, Ogbanibos, Apas, Ofokanus and Owukpas. Marriage tradition in Idoma land is considered a lifelong state, although divorce is possible on the grounds of adultery or other concrete reasons.
When an Idoma man is at least twenty-five years old and has the financial and physical capacity to maintain a wife and children, he looks for and finds a woman of his choice, who must be least eighteen years old. He reports his findings to his family, which then chooses a go-between, a person who is familiar with the girl’s family. The go-between investigates the family of the prospective bride to ascertain that the family has no history of mental disease, epilepsy, stealing traits etc. If the result of this investigation is positive, the prospective groom’s family visits the woman’s family with gifts of kola nut and hot drinks. After the first visit, another visit is scheduled for the woman to meet her future husband, after which a final visit is scheduled for the future groom and his family to pay the bride-price and offer other gifts. If the woman refuses to marry the man after these gifts have been provided, the groom’s family keeps them (Omokhodion 1998).
The Bride price
The bride-price comes in many folds, the groom must pay a dowry first to the bride’s mother and then another dowry to the father; this involves a significant amount of bargaining. Also every member of the bride’s mother’s family must be given money, with the groom’s family determining the amount. The bride’s age group and her more distant relatives also get some money; the amount paid varies according to bride’s level of education and productivity. Then the groom’s family gives the bride a rooster and some money. If she accepts these gifts and gives them to her mother, she indicates her acceptance of the groom, but if she refuses, she signifies her refusal. If she accepts him, she is showered with gifts and money, and the two families eat and drink together.
Before the bride is finally handed over to her husband, however, her age group will pose as a mock barrier to those who want to take her and extort money from the anxious groom’s family. The bride’s mother buys her cooking utensils and food because she is not expected to go to the market for the first five market days after her marriage. At the end of the eating and drinking, the wife is finally handed over to her husband’s family. (Omokhodion 1998)
Virginity is highly valued in most cultures in Nigeria, it a thing of pride and joy to girls family. Eventually, if a bride is found not to be a virgin, she is taken to the husband’s family’ ancestral shrine for cleansing. After this the Ijeis put on her to invoke fertility on her. This marks the beginning of married life among the Idoma tribe.
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