- Exorbitant bride price now a gulf hindering young Tiv men, ladies from marrying
- Tor Tiv declares emergency
From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
All over Tiv land in Benue State, there is a disquiet over the hindrance, which high bride price is posing to desiring of young men and ladies who want to marry. The situation has led to the ladies remaining on the shelf, as it were, for too long. Both the umarried but eager to marry men and ladies now carry the special tag, SSS, which in this instance means – Single and Still Searching.
Luckily, one person who found herself in the situation, Comfort Ushahemba (not real name) and her fiance devised a time-honoured way to cast off the tag. When she met the love of her life and the relationship had blossomed for more than five years, they could not move from the level of courtship to marriage due to the heavy financial burden that marriage entailed in Tiv land.
By the time she became 35, age was no longer in her favour as most of her mates were married and already with children in primary schools. But the nagging issue was that the love of her life, Daniel, was just a primary school teacher with a meager take home pay and even though he was willing to take her as his wife, he was however financially constrained.
This made both of them to plan a way out of this unsavory quagmire. Ushahemba accepted Daniel’s suggestion to elope with him for some time after which his family would go and formally inform her family that their daughter was with them and that they would come and do the right thing by paying her bride price at a later date.
And so, for five years they co-habited and now have two children already, but the bride price has not yet been paid, and with the worsening economic situation in the country and the growing financial needs of the young family, there is no hope that her husband would be buoyant enough to take that bold step anytime soon.
This is the situation many Tiv youths have found themselves in as they can no longer marry owing to the result of high bride price being charged any prospective suitor across Tiv land in Benue State.
Sunday Sun gathered that these days, the situation had become so bad that a prospective suitor is asked to bring between N200,000 and N300,000 or even much higher as bride price depending on the educational qualification of his would-be bride.
It was for this reason that the paramount ruler of the Tiv people worldwide, Tor Tiv, Prof. James Ayatse recently moved to tame this development by constituting a committee to review the high bride price in Tiv land.
The decision, according to a statement signed by the Tor Tiv’s Media Assistant, Freddie Adamgbe, was reached at the meeting of the Tiv Area Traditional Council (TATC), presided by the Tor Tiv at the traditional headquarters of the Tiv nation.
The committee which has three months to submit its report is to among other things intervene and restore the eluding culture and values of the Tiv nation, which had been replaced with borrowed cultures from foreign lands.
It would also evolve ways of reducing expensive burials, which has now been turned into ceremonies, a tradition which the traditional council insisted was totally alien to Tiv culture.
“The committee which is headed by Ter Ikyor, Chief Jam Gbinde, with all the 14 Second Class chiefs in Tiv land (Uter) as members is to assess and determine the reasons for the high bride price which has made young men of marriageable age unable to get married and sometimes resort to acquiring resources by whatever means to meet the demand for glamorous introduction, traditional and white wedding,” the statement read in part.
Speaking on the matter, a First Class Chief in Tiv Land, Chief Abu King Shuluwa (Tor Sankera), who described the move as a welcome development lamented that Tiv people had allowed a borrowed culture to erode the traditional marriage practices laid down by their forefathers.
His words: “Tiv people were not used to charging high bride price. You could even elope with a woman and pay the bride price later. Now the list has gone up to about N500,000. So, how can a poor man marry? That is why young people don’t marry again.
“The young men are just roaming about and looking forward to young girls who have got jobs to marry. This is what informed the Tiv Traditional Council to seek to reduce the high bride price. If this is done, it is possible that the young man who does not have any good job can still get married.”
Shuluwa recalled that when he married his wife about 40 years ago, his in-laws did not even collect the bride price from him even though he was financially buoyant enough to pay.
“That was the level of the Tiv man’s magnanimity those days. They joyfully gave their daughter to me as my wife and respectfully told me to keep my money when I wanted to pay the bride price, which was a very small amount those days. But sadly, these days, things have changed.”
He disclosed that at a point due to the rising cost of bride price, a late Tor Tiv, His Royal Highness, Chief Akperan Orshi had to peg bride price at N12,000 but along the line, things just skyrocketed.
He noted that in the past, it was even traditionally accepted for a young man who had been known to a girl’s family to decide to elope with the girl after which his family would approach the girl’s family and formally inform them that their daughter was with them while arrangements were subsequently made to pay her bride price which was usually very small.
“Elopement is acceptable in Tiv land provided you go back and inform the family about it. But nowadays, nobody wants to elope again. Everybody wants a big traditional and white wedding which most of the time, they cannot afford.”
Mr. Raphael Aondona, a Tiv man who is married to a woman from Ute in Vandeikya Local Government Area said in Tiv land, individual areas have their own style of marriage adding that while some charge high for bride price, others even charge higher.
“In Tiv land, the bride price is not fixed but you may end up spending up to N200,000 to get the vital items which in most cases are monetized. In some cases, you keep paying the bride price even after death of the woman especially if she has children. In this case, her family even after her death would still continue to ask the children to renew her bride price.
“I remembered sometime ago after my mother died, her people wrote my elder brother that our mother’s bride price was due for renewal. This is a common practice in Tiv land such that people now say that in Tiv land, you never finish paying bride price,” Aondona said.
He expressed happiness that the Tiv Traditional council is taking a good step to reduce the high bride price in the land. He posited that the development was discouraging young men from going into marriage.
“When the bride price became too high, the young men adopted a method known as “Anyamammor” which literally means, “ move the tiger.” In this case, a lady is literally kidnapped most often from the market on a market day and taken to the home of the would-be husband. Most young men who don’t have money to pay for the bride price adopt this method and most times, the bride price of these ladies are not paid eventually.”
He maintained that now that the Tiv Traditional Council has waded in, it would reduce the unnecessary ceremony of spending money for bride price and weddings.
“Because the Tiv man doesn’t have a specific method of having traditional marriage. It is a borrowed culture. A Tiv man only calls his folks to come and celebrate with him when he gets married, which is called ‘kwase-ukwuhuan’ meaning ‘come celebrate my newly married wife,” he said.
Agreeing with Aondona’s claim, Mr. Joseph Wantu, a journalist, said in time past, marriage was a kind of exchange in which a man who would see a woman he liked in a family and instead of paying her bride price, somebody from the woman’s family would go and look for a girl he likes from the man’s family and marry her in exchange for their daughter that was taken into that family.
“Money was not exchanged in the past as it is today. Later, they started using money but it was not high. This practice is a borrowed one and I commend the Tiv Traditional Council for taking a step to reduce the bride price because it is not easy for our boys and girls as they can no longer marry.
“If the committee can look into the matter, it would help, as a lot of girls who have high educational qualification would no longer remain in the homes of their parents due to high bride price. Tiv people should cooperate with the TTC on this matter as it would mark the return of good values in Tiv land,” Wantu said.
Wantu averred that the idea of expensive white weddings should also be discouraged because it is not helping the society at all even as he urged religious leaders to also support the TTC in this task.
“Most times too, we add to our problems because we want to celebrate our weddings like the other person. The funniest thing is that most times, these people go about borrowing to organize expensive weddings and at the end, they don’t have money to pay back or food to eat at home while debtors keep knocking on their door, when they should be enjoying their honeymoon. I think the church also should collaborate with the traditional council in this regard.”
On her part, a legal practitioner, Mrs. Evelyn Agwa, described the move as a welcome development stressing that the rate at which people are charging for bride price was becoming worrisome.
“It’s a welcome development. In fact, it is what I had always prayed for. To have a paramount ruler who would address the issue of high bride price in Tiv land. The rate at which people are charging for bride price is becoming very worrisome. People are now taking it as if they are into the business of buying and selling.
“Ideally, it shouldn’t be so. My late grandfather used to say that when one marries from a family, a son is added unto that family and a daughter is added unto the other family. And in most cases, the young man would only have to go and work on the farm of the father-in-law and his bride would be given to him thereafter.
“That was how my grandfather married my grandmother. This means both families have become one and are now related by marriage. As a result, the father-in-law in those days would not look at his daughter as a commodity that is to be sold.
“Sadly, that is no longer the case these days. When a man goes to marry now, the father-in-law would start calculating how much he had spent on the daughter to see her through school. This is now scaring the young men away from taking the bold step of venturing into marriage,” Agwa said.
In Gwer West Local Government Area where she comes from, if a man wants to marry, he would be charged based on the educational qualification of the bride to be.
“For instance, if the lady has a first degree, the young man can be asked to pay the sum of N500,000, which is however negotiable. If the woman has a Masters’ degree, he can be asked to pay higher. And by the time negotiations are made, a man can pay up to N200,000 for a lady with first degree and about N300,000 for a Masters’ degree holder as bride price.
That, she said, is aside other things that the groom would have to provide for the family of the bride. When the bride price is eventually reviewed downward, it would go a long way in helping young men who are afraid to take the bold step due to the monetary demands placed on them.