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Bride Prices and Numerous Marriage Ceremonies and How They Affect the Realisation of the Full Potentials of the Nigerian Youth: A Need for Societal Change or Reform by Chima Williams Iheme

Bride Prices Image from Ynaija.com

Bride Prices Image from Ynaija.com

There is no need to bore you with the definition of marriage because I assume we all know what it is. My task in this paper is to rather draw attention to a few issues that might be of concern to some youth as it relates to marriage – an important institution in every society.

It is common knowledge that the Nigerian youth are faced with multifarious challenges which start to obviously manifest from their early stages of life. Owing to the lack of sufficient basic infrastructures, individual progress is slower compared to some countries in the world. Here is a hypothetical example – an average Nigerian child would graduate from high school at the age of 18 years. He or she may take an average of two years to scale through UTME and other related requirements before gaining admission into a higher institution, and may spend six years on an average to complete university studies due to ASUU’s repeated strikes and other related issues. He/she graduates at 27 and takes an average of two years from graduation to complete the compulsory NYSC. It then further takes him an additional three years to get a job. So he starts to work at 32, and of course a job that pays him N100.000 or above is well celebrated and he may be counted as lucky.

Then comes the main point of this paper – bride prices and marriage ceremonies. Although these two practices that are tied to the celebration of marriages differ from one state to another in Nigeria, a common denominator could however be found, to lend credence to this discussion. The following facts would hardly be disputed: marriage is of two kinds in Nigeria, namely, marriage under customary law and marriage under the Marriage Act, what is known as English marriage. The latter is often accompanied with church blessings and wedding feasts.

In Nigeria, marriage, especially under customary law is very important and often requires the attention and consent of many members or stakeholders of both families. Bride price is paid, a lot of quantity of wine is provided, food stuffs in large quantities are submitted, an amount of money is requested to settle one thing or another, and these are finally capped with a traditional feast, called “Igba nkwu” in the case of the Igbos. In fact, a list of items of what to purchase is handed to the groom and one or two members of the bride’s family would assume the duty to ensure that items on the list are completely provided and handed in. Sometimes these appointees that ensure that the items on the list are completely provided go about it as though they are bailiffs enforcing a court judgment; and this many times injure the feelings of the groom and his family which may linger on forever. From personal observations and interviews, it may cost about half a million naira or more to satisfy the imposed requirements before getting married under customary law. It is compulsory, so to speak, to marry under the custom or else the couple may not be recognised as married in their respective communities and their parents might be ‘booed’ or even prevented from participating in subsequent traditional ceremonies or joining certain traditional groups by their heads and ‘elders’ as having done the unacceptable. Now because marriage couples do not get marriage certificates under customary law marriage and usually would have to face the problem of proof of marriage outside their communities, coupled with the undesirable effects of customary law marriage with respect to devolution of property, couples who have married under custom are further forced to marry under the Act or engage in church blessings. Mind you however, that a church blessing which does not comply with the Marriage Act’s stipulations is not a recognised marriage under the Nigerian law. Here also, they are not spared from expenses. Having wedded in the registry or church, they are expected to throw a wedding feast, where the general public most times is invited to come to eat and drink. It is inconceivable that after a particular church blessing, a couple wouldn’t host a wedding feast. This is because many invited and uninvited guests are in attendance mainly because of the feast (popularly called “reception”) and not that they are so interested in the couple’s union. You will confirm this by the type of gifts many attendees present to the couple in exchange for the couple’s customised gifts: inferior wall clocks, cheap plates and flasks, plastic cups and trays, empty brown envelopes, to mention but a few. From observations and interviews from some married persons, the cost of organising a wedding feast after church blessing or Act marriage is about a million naira, to be modest.

Here comes the problem. The youth are faced with late school graduation; they are faced with the challenge of unemployment for a long time after school. When they pick up a job at the average age of 32, at N100,000 per month (if at all they find), they probably may save for so long before they are able to come up with over a million naira that would enable them get married. On average, most people would work and save for 3 years and above before contemplating to get married at the average age of 35. Due to high cost of living, because one provides almost all his basic needs of life, coupled with the responsibility to contribute to what you could call family solidarity support, little or nothing is saved, and the little is never enough for marriage ceremonies. This makes some youth to either take loans from family and friends or engage in ‘fast runs’ in order to raise the necessary sum required to get married. After wedding, many get so indebted and cannot attempt any meaningful venture that could yield profits, because for a long time, they will be servicing debts that arose from weddings.

But why should getting married be made so financially burdensome as to make young men to borrow large sums? Why should people be made to unwillingly borrow money to feed crowds of people and afterwards get so indebted? Instead, people should be borrowing money to fund their education or start a business, and not to get married feeding the general public in the name of customary and ‘church’ marriage ceremonies. If you stretch this further, you may realise that this is one of the reasons banks are not willing to lend money to unmarried youth to start up businesses without almost impossible collaterals because they fear that the borrowed sum might be diverted to satisfy marriage issues which of course don’t yield profits and defeats the purpose of borrowing in the first place.

There are consequences of getting married late especially where there is no social benefit system to take care of each citizen. This is particularly those who do not have viable means of getting the basics of life due to the untimely loss of their bread winners. When people are forced to marry late due to these imposed financial burdens, they bear children late and may not be in good positions both in finance and health to adequately raise their children and cater for their needs when those children are in their 20’s and obviously need money for education and overall advancement in life. This is more serious when it is considered that the average life expectancy in Nigeria according to the 2011 World Bank study is 51 years, meaning that an average person who got married at 35 may only be with his children for a period of 16yrs. Why then should we not attempt to increase this number of years to (16+X) years by lifting the financial burdens that impede the possibility of getting married earlier? There are a lot of compelling reasons to do so:

    (a) the current concepts of marriage with the attendant ceremonies were not fixed by those who are currently living but by ancestors whose society differed significantly with ours today.
    (b) the current monetary cost of getting married is unrealistic and incompatible with the present Nigerian economy where there is high youth unemployment.
    (c) manhood and maturity to marry are wrongly measured by one’s ability to provide for these costs, but then it is forgotten that the real cause of impecuniousness of most youth is due to the overall poor economy and high unemployment rate. A person with an idea may not be able to galvanise them into proceeds if he cannot raise sufficient credit to test-run his ideas, since no one can ordinarily create something out of nothing.
    (d) as a result of the foregoing points, many children do not tap from the youthful energies of their parents and this is worse in their 20s. Of course, these things repeat themselves from one generation to another and keep us at the nadir of collective progress.
    (e) there is no extraordinary benefit that is gained by celebrating two systems of marriage with all the imposed costs. Would it be less of a marriage if these expenses are given a low haircut to fit with our economic realities?
    (f) it should become socially acceptable for people to marry under one system so as to save cost. This further means that customary marriage should begin to bear some formalistic features like creating a registry that could issue parties with a marriage certificate so as to ease the burden of proof on a person claiming to be married under custom. As it stands now, one would have to call witnesses all the time to prove the existence of a customary law marriage and this is unrealistic for the youth who travel far and wide beyond their immediate communities.
    (g) In this era that the equality of male and female genders is more seriously emphasized, the concept of bride price ought to have outlived its usefulness because ‘price tag’ suggests sale/purchase and such has become disgusting in reference to the female folk. And for those who may want to argue that bride price is symbolic, how come the price is sometimes fixed considering the educational achievement of the bride, meaning that the bride price for a university graduate is higher than that of a primary school leaver. Is that not discrimination on the basis of education? The different prices that depend on the bride’s educational achievement as practiced in some customs further reveals the economic motive behind the collection of bride prices, as some families see it as a time to partially recoup the educational expenses of a female child. This is wrong! And I challenge ladies who seek gender equality to seriously take this up in any lawful way that they can.

My position is that high bride prices and marriage ceremonies have become a huge pain in the neck both on short and long terms to the Nigerian youth. Even though, appreciably, these practices have become social norms and individuals are afraid to depart from them for fear of being discriminated in one way or another, the time has come to take bold steps towards untying these knots that have impeded youth’s progresses. Of course many of us do acknowledge that it is currently a problem especially when our weak economy and high unemployment rates are considered. I’m therefore proposing that the youth who are the bearers of this burden should not continue to condone it. Any custom that imposes high and unrealistic burden on those who inherited it should be revised to meet with current realities. A forceful awareness at all levels needs to be created to change the mentality of many Nigerians so that the important recipe to be required for a marriage union becomes whether both parties LOVE each other and are willing to spend their lives together. It shouldn’t be whether they love each other as well as ready to satisfy the monetary cost which of course is in millions of naira.

Finally, the mere fact that a particular practice is “ome n’ala” – an Igbo expression for social norm, does not mean that it cannot be changed or revised. We have changed so many of these norms in the past because at any time a custom outlives its usefulness, it is the duty of the current generation to revise or change it. The duty to revise or change a repressive custom does not lie on those who first introduced it but are no longer alive, but on those who are alive and are the bearers of its harshness. The thought of getting married by youth ought to inspire happiness not fears due to the huge financial implications. This is not just a story because we are all familiar with these issues as almost every youth I have interacted with raised this issue of high cost, which has prompted this write-up. The time to review these practices is now, and now is the time to do something about it.

Chima Williams Iheme is a Nigerian trained lawyer. He’s currently a PhD candidate at the Central European University, Budapest/New York, in the field of International Business Law, – with more emphasis on Secured Transactions Laws of Canada, United States and Nigeria. Apart from Business Studies, he’s also keenly interested in the empowerment and development of the Nigerian Youth. Facebook Connect: Williams Iheme

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To My Fellow Youth of Our Dear Nation Chima Williams Iheme

Image from Freelanceglobalmedia.com

Image from Freelanceglobalmedia.com

I have a few things to remind us about. Have you realised yet that the term “getting employed” is proverbially diverse with meanings and remains always a matter of interpretation? The mainstream understanding about getting employed usually refers to a situation where a person secures a paid salary job as against when she or he engages in some lawful activities which as well bring profits. The idea that it is the duty of government to create jobs ought to have outlived its usefulness in an economic system that is akin to capitalism, to embrace the
much more useful idea that the growth of our economy remains actively in the hands of private individuals. The time of dirigisme in which the state wholly controls the economy has passed, although our government has still got a lot to contribute in our economic growth by using the nation’s resources to provide basic infrastructures like steady power, security, good roads, etc that will ensure the smooth running of businesses and employment creations, as well as attract foreign direct investors. When basic infrastructures are in place, thereby reducing the
cost of doing business and increasing the probability of business successes, acquiring sufficient credit from banks and venture capitalists may become easier than we have now.

The idea of doing business and expanding the economy ought to be taught and heeded to like an article of faith by youth whose country is heavily dependent on diminishing natural resources as the major source of its income. Of course, the discovery of crude oil and natural gas has perhaps been of great disservice to us so far as it is highly responsible for the escalation of bribery and corruption in our system. We have abandoned our culture for hard work and perseverance which thrived in the 70s and once kept us as the highest producers/exporters of
some agricultural products in Africa, in preference to being peddlers of the “national cake” syndrome with all of its ravaging effects. We all know that with agriculture for instance in the 70’s our naira currency ranked higher in value than the US dollar and Nigeria was home for many foreigners who came for greener opportunities. Many of our state-of-the-art universities in terms of structures (which of course are now lacking maintenance) were built
with agricultural proceeds. In fact, since the oil boom, our country has not been able to replicate the quality of most of the universities that were constructed in the 70’s. Our educational system was viable and life was far better than it is now. If we had sustained that tempo of growth without the interference of oil boom, we all could guess where we would be now. Or the oil boom would have become a blessing if we had built and sustained transparent institutions that could frustrate the antics of corruption.

One crucial lesson could however be drawn from the three decades of economic experiments since the 70s. The lesson is that the economic betterment of the average Nigerian cannot depend on crude oil and natural gas but on something more steadfast. It’s time we begin to retrace our steps to the junction where we got diverted so as to unlearn certain attitudes to life as well as embrace new ones that could be of sustainable value to our overall growth.

As I already stated, we must have the basic infrastructures in place before doing business becomes a viable tool that could help unscrew our current economic quagmire. This goes to say that we must fulfill our duty to elect true leaders who can make good use of our national resources to provide our basic needs as a country. We must not assist politicians to rig elections because that way we endanger our lives as well as help them to screw up younger generations. Part of our duty instead should be how to become true watchdogs to the system and prevent politicians from rigging elections, and not becoming vehicles through which elections are rigged. We must learn from the experiences of those nations who have walked on the painful path of actualising democracy but are now reaping the fruits of their perseverance and labour. When ASUU goes on strike in agitation for improved education for the system, when we have no steady power supply even though we have abundant natural gas, when our
loved ones die in motor accidents due to bad roads, when they die in hospitals due to ill-equipped facilities, when they die as a result of consuming dangerous products in the market because someone who could have done quality
checks was bribed, when they die on plane crashes for the same reason, when they get attacked and killed by armed robbers or get kidnapped due to poor security apparatuses, and so on, we the youth are partly responsible
for all this if we have in one way or the other assisted in rigging elections and implanting visionless leaders in positions or have watered the seeds of injustices through our collective docility. It is high time we stopped being impersonal about these collective issues that are haunting us badly whether you consider yourself as rich or poor because no one can be truly happy in an unhappy environment. We must never assist anyone who is further dragging us to economic abyss to succeed by helping him/her to rig elections. The youth with their formidable valour can actually bring about a meaningful change to any system if they decide to realise the truth and pursue it no matter where it leads. We must help ourselves now and the generations to come by actively ensuring that good leaders are elected and held accountable.

When we have elected credible leaders, we must follow them up to ensure accountability. If we were doing this, we wouldn’t have lost $US400billion dollars so far to oil theft as the World Bank’s study revealed. Yet a graduate youth corp member goes home with a monthly salary of N19,800 while the country can afford to pay a senator close to N12million per month, and we still beg our senators to make good laws or at least revise the ones we copied from countries long time ago so that we can move forward. You see, we must not be docile when leaders don’t live up to their mandates, because we always are the ultimate victims of their non-performance. There is nothing wrong and illegal in organising peaceful rallies to register disagreement with government actions and policies or speak out without bad sentiments in the media so as to spread true awareness and achieve a more concerted effort to fight against
corruption and injustices. No one can do it for us but us. Remaining afraid to act is what has kept us in this pitiable condition. We are now a shadow of ourselves as a nation and life has become nightmarish to the youth whose ambitions have been greatly debilitated due to the misuse of our national resources. If and when our truly elected leaders emerge and put enough infrastructures in place, I bet that foreign direct investors and venture capitalists will start to flood into our country to invest because we have a high population of 170 million people whose patronages can make any business to blossom. Our population could become a blessing instead of the burden it currently is, but we all must first help to fix our home before the blessing aspect materialises.

Then we must begin to learn how to create wealth and employment by doing legitimate businesses of our choices. An economy that is 90 percent dependent on crude oil and gas exports is as dangerous as a time bomb which we all are responsible to prevent from
detonation. Our agricultural, health, education, in fact none of our sectors is fully tapped yet, and these are lucrative areas of business that can match with everyone’s formal or informal skills. Many of us nowadays (including those who studied agriculture in higher institutions) shy away from engaging in agriculture due to their polluted idea about being employed. They are ashamed of being called farmers. Don’t you realise it yet that we need to change our mindset because in many countries farmers are indeed the richest set of individuals. The truth is that agriculture which brought us to limelight in the 70’s, cures two main problems. It reduces unemployment as well as provides enough food for our teeming population. When we begin to engage fully in productive activities (and not merely wait for the “national cake” or subjectively deciding on issues based on ethnic lines) it will help to restore the hard work and perseverance values we once had in abundance in the 70’s and then could pass them on as legacies to generations to come. Until a kid in the kindergarten stops to say that s/he wants to become a politician, then we have not tried enough to restore these inestimable value which are cardinal to success. Surely we all will continue to be the ultimate losers, and may not be exempted when our historians begin to write the names of failures.

Chima Williams Iheme is a lawyer in Nigeria and currently a doctoral candidate with research focus on secured transactions law at the Central European University, Budapest, Hungary. He is interested in Human Rights issues as well issues which touch on overall human development.

A Message to Nigerians in Diaspora by Julius Bokoru

Dear Most Nigerians in Diaspora

You too are Nigerians like us. Many of us, Nigerians living in Nigeria, chose to remain here even in the midst of opportunity to live, work or school abroad. Many of us are still staying around to fight, to bleed and to seek for a better country. We cannot all become subjects, willingly or unwillingly, of the West’s brain drain, for if that happens Nigeria will be irretrievably lost.

Now, there are some issues I will like to discuss here. We too are very much disappointed by the slowness of growth here in Nigeria, and we too are agitating. But unlike what many of you now do, increasingly, we are not writing first class satirical pieces that gets published in first class world media. You write from the coziness of USA, Canada, UK, France and the rest. But we, we write our protest with the ink of our own blood.

It is not untrue that many of you
now see us just the way your foreign hosts see us: Second class humans, unintellectual, religious fanatics, inherently corrupt, and so on. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about. I’ve friends like many of you who are schooling and working abroad. When some of them return here for holidays, it is not often difficult to notice how they begin to look at me like one from the dark ages. I will appreciate it more if some of you return home and share your new found rennaiscance with us, and not always hurriedly judge us the way you now do.

And always remember that you are still Nigerian, still African – your fine prose and logic cannot make you European or American. Of course, not. Not in the eyes of your new god, that not a few of you now seem to serve away from home. Perhaps, I should ask that you find some time to carefully study the history of your beloved America, if you stay there. You will find that that country was built on God as the firm foundation. And interestingly, America pioneered the world in everything until the late 80’s when they decided to relax many of their
laws which led to the sharp rise of immorality, and since then America lost many of their edges. They lost technology to Japan, they lost economy to China, they lost medical expertise to India, and lost architecture to the UAE.

Today, up to 70% of Americans believe there is no God. But America became what it is today when the people greatly believed in God, when they gave it the motto ‘In God We Trust’ when they fondly called it ‘Gods own country’. I believe, strongly too, that the apparent decline of America can be related to their abandoning of their faith in God in the 80s.

Wherever you are, always remember that one can acquire all the knowledge in the world and still lack wisdom. Knowledge is merely the gathering of facts and information, wisdom is a fusion of knowledge and understanding. You are Nigerians. You are Africans. You are one of us.

Julius Bokoru is a poet, creative writer, humanitarian, teacher, and student who loves people who see beneath vanity’s deceptive surface. This piece was first published on his Facebook timeline.

The image is from Chika Oduah’s blog.

Man o Man! Art Thou Truly Superior Over A Woman?

images

You say she is loose. She is a slut. She is irresponsible. Yeah, she is, you say. Her actions make you cast aspersions on her. Her actions make you look down not only on her but the entire woman folk. They are all the same you scream. They are the sinners. Men are the saints; it doesn’t matter their offences. We were born to be you preach. We are simply superior to her and the rest of the female gender. Hmmmm

But what you don’t know is the reason behind it all. You don’t know her struggles as a child. You don’t know how she grew up under a man who shirked his responsibilities as a father. You don’t know that she grew under a man who thought by simply paying the bills he had more than fulfilled his role as a father to her. You don’t know the psychological and sometimes unnecessary, inappropriate physical pain she endured as a child from him who was supposed to uphold her dignity the most.

She longed for her father’s love. She sought his approval. She craved his affection. But he was to busy being a man he simply wasn’t one! You don’t know she never got to know what true love is all about. She doesn’t understand what being responsible involves. Her father, or perhaps other older men around her did not quite display such character.

You don’t realize she was abused in different ways, sexual and otherwise, by an older man – that neighbour, an uncle, her teacher. I know of a young girl – eight at the time – raped by a married man with kids too. I can only imagine her emotional trauma now that she’s grown older. I wish she becomes the stronger though. I. Wish.

Or she is aware of someone who was ‘dealt’ with in such manner. She grew with all of these experiences which made her vulnerable. Made her loose. Made her irresponsible, or succeeded in turning her into an emotional deep freezer. She is simply emotionless.

You refer to her as a bitch. Heck she even tells you I’m a bitch. Nigga, Deal with it. She barks. But now she remains only but inferior. It was such thoughts that made her dealt with in the first place. Such thoughts justifies that she deserves whatever it is she gets. Whether she like it or not.

Yet I thought no one at birth chose to be a female. Or a male. Maybe I am wrong as I didn’t quite think it through. I don’t think so though! PS: Men your ‘strengths’ do not make you superior just as her ‘weaknesses’ do not make women inferior. If we all play our roles properly, there will be no need to argue over who’s superior and who’s not! At least God did not create anyone superior or inferior. When a man is joined for example to his wife, they become one. So He said.

Fortunately, because I have a woman, a mother whose love for me is nothing short of impeccable plus other women that have and still play a key role in my life even suffered much on my behalf I cannot see myself as superior to a woman simply because I possess XY chromosome while she an XX chromosome. If I am superior to her it must be due to a different reason.

Raphael Ojigbede is a Doctor. He is a graduate of the College of Medicine, University of Benin, Benin City, Edo State. You can connect with him on his Facebook profile, Raphael ‘Rafosky’ Ojigbede.

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