The recent declaration by the Tiv traditional council that young men wishing to marry should not pay above N100,000 as bride price is generating some interesting reactions. HEMBADOON ORSAR (Makurdi) writes on the impacts of this decision on marriage in Tiv land
Making Marriage Attractive In Tiv Land
The Tor Tiv the 5th, Ochivirigh Prof James Ayatse, was obviously worried that by the way parents are beginning to price their daughters high, it might get to a time when maidens would just sit in their parents’ homes waiting endlessly for a husband.
The implications would be grave, far and above the money parents are making on the head of their daughters.
As a father with foresight, he summoned his chiefs during the 2018 Ijirtamen held at the Tiv Area Traditional Council Chambers and adjusted traditional rites in Tiv land including bride price, burial costs among other sundry issues. The meeting was attended by traditional rulers of the Tiv Area Traditional Council, chairmen of local government councils, chieftaincy holders, the Executive Committee of Mzough u Tiv and interested members of the public.
After the high powered meeting, it was resolved among other issues that henceforth traditional marriage cost and ceremony must not exceed N100, 000.
The paramount ruler said that love should be the primary consideration between the families concerned in marriage discussion not money.
That decision by the highest traditional leadership of the land was received with great jubilation by both potential husbands and wives.
To many, the monster which formed a major stumbling block in their aspiration to get married has been rolled away.
In recent times, traditional marriage in Tiv, the dominant ethnic group in Benue state has become one of the most expensive ceremonies in the country.
In time past, before it was infiltrated by ‘modernity’, traditional marriage in Tiv land used to be fun.
A grown young man, his parents or relations after spotting the would-be bride, the two simply began courtship after the groom’s first visit with few of his family members to his prospective in-laws’ place. The groom was then expected to come back officially for the introduction.
But while coming for the introduction with his people, the groom was expected to bring drinks with bags of salt and bush meat if the bride’s family requested for that.
At the introduction, both families would pick a date for the traditional marriage rites and then the groom’s family was provided with the full list of things to be provided for the marriage.
For the father, the groom was expected to provide, azenga (cowries) nembe taava, (local tobacco) matches, local gin or not more than six cartons of beer, a goat and some cash which was usually meant for the replacement of the drinks in case the finished before the end of the ceremony, a sizable pig and dowry.
For the mother, the groom’s family would bring items such as a small goat, rope, peg and a piece of wrapper (with peg and rope usually provided in cash). Other items included, salt measuring pan, bowl, local chair and table made with palm fronds which the mother would sit on and share the salt and pig earlier given with fellow women in the extended family. Other items also included an umbrella and soft drinks.
These rites were usually made flexible and some items could be negotiated to give soft landing to the groom, most especially considering that he was becoming a member of the family.
When the traditional marriage rights were fully done with, the bride would be called by her family and handed over to the groom and his family.
After this the youths of the bride’s family, usually referred to asua, (noisy birds) would come to demand some money from the groom which he might find one way or the other to dodge or give them whatever he felt like; mere protocols at times!
When the traditional rites were done with and fully observed, the groom’s family took their wife home and celebrated the new wife with traditional music and dance. This process is called “kwase kuhwam.”
These are just few basic requirements for marrying a Tiv lady. Though with a rich tradition, their simple ways of life often go a long way in making the otherwise expensive requirements look so simple and easy to fulfil.
Most of the items on the list were negotiable and could be substituted with cash easily.
But according to Tiv culture icons, that simple ceremony that made life easy for everyone suddenly disappeared and was substituted with some obnoxious culture clearly alien to Tiv tradition.
Suddenly, they say, giving out a daughter’s hand in marriage has become a money making venture and families compete among themselves over whose daughter’s marriage would be more expensive. The consequences is that young ladies no longer get married at the right time, while others are having children in their father’s house without a husband.
Grace Terngu, 29, a trader in Abuja who told LEADERSHIP Weekend that she has passed her prime as a spinster, said the decision by the traditional ruler was a cheering news. “I need a husband at this point of my life, but the young men have not been coming because of the high cost attached to marrying from my place,” she said with some feeling of regret. “But with this proclamation by our traditional leaders, the bachelors will be encouraged to venture into marriage not minding the cost implications again.
“As ladies, we can no longer hide our feelings, you know what it means for a lady of 30 years and above to get a man that will ask for her hand in marriage. I am happy this is coming now. It is a welcome development for me and many others of my age of Tiv descent.”
For Moses Nimba, 38, a resident of Kaduna but hails from Konshisha LGA of Benue state, the high cost of marrying in Tiv land discouraged him from picking his bride from Tiv land.
Nimba who is now a father of one is married to an indigene of Kaduna state. He told LEADERSHIP Weekend that it was much easier for him to marry from the Southern Kaduna area.
“Besides the fact that I fell in love with my wife who is from Kaduna state, I don’t think I would have been able to afford the high cost of marriage from my state,” he said. “Honestly that was what put me off the ladies from that area.
“I had one or two choices from Benue state then, but the fact that I could not afford the cost as at that time discouraged me and I had to settle for my present wife.
“In fact, when she moved into my house, she virtually changed all my property replacing them with new ones. She insisted that her tradition permits her to come into her husband’s house with all new things. The items in the house became double, I love my wife’s people and I am happy.”
But contrary to the position of the traditional council, some of the people who spoke to our correspondent in Makurdi, the Benus state capital, who do not want their names in print were of the view that imposing bride price on people in their communities was depriving them of their rights.
“I don’t think we will comply with the Tor Tiv’s decision of not exceeding N100, 000 for pride price, because there are some instances where I know some elders in Tiv land even gave their daughters in marriage without collecting a single penny but some of the men didn’t value them as many women were treated shabbily,” a man, who said he has three daughters, said.
“I know of a traditional ruler in Vandeikya who gave almost all his daughters free to people and sometimes when he discovered that the person is not financially stable he will even give money as well as the daughter the man to enable them start something but these people do not value their wives as compared to those that spend much to marry their wives, so for me I don’t think that decision will work.
“How can one spend heavily to train his girl child, then you will just give her to somebody who most times doesn’t even know or appreciate the pain the parents took in training that girl. For me it is when you pay much with ‘I beg you’ that you will value her and treat her like gold.”
The Tor Tiv also informed that traditional marriage ceremony where bride price is to be paid would involve only the elders of the two families concerned.
He abolished the practice of inviting and bringing large numbers of friends and well-wishers to the marriage occasion describing it as alien to Tiv tradition.
“The practice of holding festivities in the house of the girl’s parents in the name of Traditional Marriage, cutting of cake, dances, and parties should be discontinued as it is alien to the Tiv way of life. Celebration of a new wife is done by the Tiv People only in the husband’s house,” he ruled.
“Tiv culture places emphasis on parental consent and blessing before marriage. Elopement is a violation of this but when it occurs, there are traditional steps accepted to get parental consent. The groom’s family should, immediately report the elopement to the family of the bride within two days.
The Tor Tiv advised parents to ensure that only girls that attained 18 years and above should be given out in marriage.
According to him violation of this marriage tradition shall attract boycott by traditional rulers and elders and the denial of traditional marriage registration, including other traditional sanctions as the community may deem appropriate.
He stressed that to step out of the so many predicaments confronting the Tiv nation, there must be unity of purpose amongst Tiv sons and daughters both at home and in the diaspora while reiterating his earlier decision on the bride price which he advised parents and communities to strictly adhere to.
“As the father and custodian of Tiv culture and tradition, I want to call for strict observance of the reviewed bride price, burial rites, indiscriminate sale of ancestral lands to strangers, inheritance rights of widows.”
He promised to revive positive cultural values that had been replaced with inimically borrowed ones from the West.
He however, admonished youths to get themselves prepared for leadership positions cautioning them against the resort to hard drugs and other criminal tendencies which could destroy them.
Aside bride price, other burning issues like burial cost and ceremonies were also abolished, the paramount ruler resolved that deaths should be stripped of all celebration.
“The idea of taxing or levying daughters (instead of voluntary contribution) to foot the bills associated with burials should be stopped. Burial expenses should be borne by the male gender in the family and well-wishers on voluntary basis.”
He said he agrees with the Catholic Church that the dead must be buried within 10 days. “In Tiv land any Tiv person who dies must be buried within two weeks or 14 days,” he warned.
“Graves for burial of all Tiv persons must be simple and not elaborate. Coffins or caskets for burial of all average Tiv persons must be the cut and nail type or at most batik material used to cover it.”
He said that designated cemeteries rather than scattered graves within the compound should be encouraged in Tivland.
“Burial ceremonies must be made a solemn occasion and attended by only those who feel genuinely concerned over the loss of the deceased person.”