Nigeria’s universal sweetheart, Ms Chimamanda Adichie: “I’m not a fan of bride price. I feel very conflicted about bride price.”
Nigeria may never produce great economists. But that is a strong statement to make. As strong as it is, it is nevertheless true. So, what is the reason? It is because our sociology is in tatters. We have not been able to map out who we are. Of course, things exist only to the extent they are understood. In other words, in not knowing who we are, we are aliens to our own selves.
And if we don’t produce great economists, we may not become a developed nation. The reason is simple: Economics is a secondary science. Economics, in being a secondary science, borrows from a swath of other more primary disciplines. Among these are sociology, mathematics, etc. The fact of this is not our invention. Keynes, the great economist, said so himself. Keynes spoke of economics, but the point he espoused is valid in all primary-secondary sciences relatedness.
The idea is simple. To do secondary-level sciences, say economics or law, you pick and chose bits and pieces of cognate primary sciences to cook up that profession. And if one lacked in any vital part of the tools kit, it is not likely one can couple himself into a great economist, say. The secondary sciences are generally called the professions.
How we came to this pass is complex, but one thing is certain. It happened via the incubus of colonialism. The colonial masters did not only come to rape us economically, they came to traumatize us psychologically, religiously, etc. In fact, Achebe remains unbeaten in his “quantification” of this tragedy. He says: the white man has put a knife on the things that held us together and we can no longer act as one (or sane). In other words, the white man may have made us worse than J.P. Clark’s “Ibadan,” pieces of broken china scattered under the African sun.
All this is to set a background on a matter that so traumatizes us we are not very aware of it. And what is worse, it afflicts some of our greatest sons and daughters, not excluding Achebe, in some of his momentary lapses. For instance, Achebe translates aku bu iro as wealth brings enmity, see “There was a Country.” That at best is a poor rendition. We suspect Achebe’s is an error of the heart. However, the implications are damaging.
And now, Nigeria’s universal sweetheart, Ms Chimamanda Adichie, has entered the fray. She is quoted: “I’m not a fan of bride price. I feel very conflicted about bride price.”
READ ALSO: Narrative Landscape signs Chimamanda Adichie
One has to concede her the right to want out of bride price, a non-fan. But when she begins to assert it is a commoditization of women, as brides, it may be said she has fired blanks.
Similar to Achebe’s, the Adichie issue erupts from a question of wrong but popular mistranslation. Yes, it is all a matter of language, or, better, philology. The issue is, what exactly does bride price mean to our forefathers who invented it and to us sentinel Oru n’Igbo? But that is the wrong question to ask. The right way is to actually speak in Igbo as if the white man never came. If you did, revelations would crop up.
Now this. In Anambra/Igbo the marriage ceremony is called igba nkwu/bringing forth wine. However in Imo/Igbo, say in Nkwerre, it is called ime onu/ishi aku nwanyi/the rite of treasuring a woman/ bride. Poetically, it may be rendered opening/onu/ishi up a living treasure. And one can recall that when the bride was finally given out, she was escorted to her new home with a popular ditty; olaa, ola di ya. Like the works of great poets, this ditty is a play on meaning and sound. It sounds: “she goes, she goes to her husband.” But actually means: ‘’jewel, jewel of her husband.
READ ALSO: Is marriage an achievement?
At this point, we plead to quote from our just released book:
“The error – it is well to recall – started as a mistranslation. Oriaku was too literally interpreted by the contemporary Igbo under the curse of a second non-native lingua franca. But the truth is, Oriaku does not convey a fattened or fattening bride or wife. Oriaku is actually the tenderest thing a man can compliment a woman with. If well understood and translated, Oriaku means ‘You are the reason I labour, that I am alive.’ Generally, we live to achieve aku, which is not always money or cash as often depicted. A more precise equivalent of money or cash is ego not aku. While aku may include ego, ego is not all there is to aku. The Igbo say ‘Ohia eri aku,’ [true asset/ value/wealth is imperishable]; this implies that [this style] wealth is hinged to eternal values. The Igbo do not say ‘ohia eri ego’ because material wealth does come to vanish.” (From: The Nigerian University-Media Complex: As Nigeria’s Foremost Amusement Center* by Jimanze Ego-Alowes)
The point is that aku is representatively not money, but may include it. Thus it is ime/enacting onu aku, never ikwe/pricing onu aku. Implied in the speech patterns is that onu/mouth/ishi/head symbolizes beginning/head or opening/source. The marriage ceremony is the opening to immeasurable treasures. Immediately this is understood, then the rite of onu aku or igba nkwu is not a trading session.
A modern equivalent is this. Supposing Ms Adichie gifts an American city the rights to her works while alive, the following may happen. The city mayor, to consummate the transfer, would pay Adichie a token, say a dollar. It is a payment in earnest or better in ritual acknowledgment of a gift of inestimable value. Under the law and to show goodwill, Adichie cannot reject that payment.
For lawyers, it is all in the understanding that transfer-consideration need not be adequate, it needs only be substantial, that is, material. In other words, what the ancient Igbo architected in onu aku is as modern as today’s cloud computing. So, there is absolutely nothing to be conflicted in it. It merely says: Dear groom, we are gifting our daughter, a treasure, which is beyond money. We ask you acknowledge it in earnest, ritualistically. Marriage in Igboland, we repeat, is as modern as Apple computers.
And the fact of this is hinted thus. When the Igbo conspire to say Nneka/mother is supreme, the fact is that a supreme artifact is beyond commoditization. [A bride is an evolving or larval mother and other things]. Has it been commercialized? Yes, just like everything, including writing, sex and religion. Now, will men be conflicted going into our wives because whores hawk their modesties on the streets? Or will Ms Adichie now be conflicted with her writerly life because Mills and Boon, etc, commercializes or prostitutes the storylines?
Alas, it is this “self-strangeness,” that has robbed us of our greatness, in economic development, in marriage … in how we think. How can a people who have not found themselves found greatness?
The other point is, if the Igbo were the imperial power, onu aku would not be translated as bride price. To give a “global” example, Islam used to be translated pejoratively as Mohammedanism. Today, Arabs have reclaimed their “heritage” in English. Igbo can do so too. In that event, onu aku may be translated Groom’s Rite to Treasures, say.
The point is colonialism comes in more ways than the devil may count. Bride price is Europeans denigrating us that “we buy and chattelize our wives.” Onu aku is us telling ourselves, our wives/mothers are oriakus, are supreme values. And lest we forget, igba nkwu has been wrongly but popularly translated as “wine carrying” in Oru n’Igbo.
Thus, as things are, the greatest task of being Igbo is in our sociologists, philologists, etc, rescuing us from ourselves and our colonial masters, local or otherwise. All else is humour. Ahiazuwa.
Rapahel Nwogu Ezeagu (1941 – 2018): The great technocrat-scholar goes home
RAPHAEL Ezeagu is dead. He was a great man as well as a great fan of The Turf Game and admirer of my works. And I was about alerting him of my latest title: The University-Media Complex… only to be told the great man, my intellectual lodestar, is gone. Below is a tribute to the great man by his family.
The chronicles of the life of Raphael Nwogu Ezeagu begin in the rustic village of Adazi-Nnukwu in Anambra State, Nigeria. Born in July 1941, the uneventful circumstances that surrounded his birth and growing-up years would belie the eventful life he would eventually create for himself. Armed with nothing but a passion to succeed, Raphael set out on an academic journey that began at St. Andrew’s Primary School, Adazi-Nnukwu, took him through the prestigious College of Immaculate Conception (CIC), Enugu, and culminated at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State.
Raphael Ezeagu’s career traversed both where he retired as sales manager. This synopsis of his life hardly tells the full story. Raphael Ezeagu lived a life of many stories; stories that would traverse generations and a society which he greatly enhanced.
In life, Raphael embodied the grace of God, in death, he leaves a legacy that would remain inimitable. And so, we say Adieu to a great father and a good man. Rest in peace, Ralph Ezeagu. Your light illuminated us all.
– Raymond Ezeagu