By Odimegwu Onwumere
In the work “Pride and Prejudice”, a Jane Austen says: “A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.” This can best describe the comment credited to one Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, saying that Bride Price should be scrapped in Igbo culture. Much as she was entitled to her opinion, I will state that not every opinion is acceptable.
Adichie reasoned like the Lady in Austen’s work who begins to admire, is quick to fall in love and jumps to matrimony without considering the attitude of the man. Adichie was wrong in her proposition given that Bride Price is part of Igbo history, way of life and culture of our people. She didn’t consider these but her feminist movement. Adichie did not consider the different cultures around the world, how they marry, before jumping to her rabid conclusion for the obliteration of Bride Price in Igbo lexicon. She was very wrong.
A people without a culture and tradition are already extricated from the world. In Igbo glossary, Bride Price is seen as dignity of Igbo women, their pride; except that Adichie doesn’t believe in women’s pride, through the Igbo lens. In my book — The Disgrace of Marriage — I highlighted the different tenets of peoples’ cultures in marrying a woman and the Igbo case is not different. I was not surprised of such fanatical tender by Adichie; she wanted to make history with her pitch knowing that well behaved women hardly make history. The Igbo history cannot go down because one Adichie loathes a section of it.
In some traditions, men are flogged, beaten as the price they pay to marry a woman. Professor Chinua Achebe in his famous book — Things Fall Apart – points out Bride Price as is applicable in different cultures (even in ala-Igbo) in the following terms:
(1) “It was only this morning,” said Obierika, “that Okonkwo and I were talking about Abame and Aninta, where titled men climb trees and pound foo-foo for their wives.”
(2) “All their customs are upside-down. They do not decide bride-price as we do, with sticks. They haggle and bargain as if they were buying a goat or a cow in the market.”
(3) “That is very bad,” said Obierika’s eldest brother. “But what is good in one place is bad in another place. In Umunso they do not bargain at all, not even with broomsticks. The suitor just goes on bringing bags of cowries until his in-laws tell him to stop. It is a bad custom because it always lead to a quarrel.”
(4) “The world is large,” said Okonkwo. “I have even heard that in some tribes a man’s children belong to his wife and her family.”
(5) “That cannot be,” said Machi. “You might as well say that the woman lies on top of the man when they are making the children.” (8.84-88).
Adichie is married to a clime where a woman lies on top when a couple is making the children. But in traditional Igbo, the case is different. She cannot also tell us that parents should not give their daughters gifts during marriage as this seems to churlish masculinity in ala-Igbo. Conversely, here is interpretation of Bride Price and Dowry which are different things erroneously interpreted as the same in some cultures.
According to a reliable source, “Bride Price is actually the opposite of dowry. Here’s how it works: A bride price (or bride wealth or bride token) is paid by the groom to the bride’s parents or family at the time of the marriage. A dowry is money or property brought into the marriage by the bride. The dowry is usually provided by the bride’s parents.”
Adichie should also know that in some traditions, bride’s parents pay the groom’s family for their daughter to be off their hand. “For example, the responsibility of a bride’s parents to pay for a wedding… because hundreds of years ago, women were considered chattel and the bride’s family used to have to pay off the groom’s family in the form of a dowry to take their daughters off their hands.”
Even in the bible which majority of our people is drowned in, this is what it says about Bride Price: The Hebrew Bible mentions the practice of paying a bride price to the father of a minor girl. Exodus 22:16–17 says: “If a man entices a virgin who isn’t pledged to be married, and lies with her, he shall surely pay a price for her to be his wife.”
Given the above, it is a great honour to Igbo women that the grooms pay to marry them; making them have a pride, as according to our culture. This does not mean that they are sold to the men. No. After all, there is a price tag to everything in the world; be it in material or immaterial form.
Without wasting time on Adichie’s dead-on-arrival overture, she was expected to preach in her ridiculous feminist gambits what Anaïs Nin preaches and not to send a wrong signal in the way Igbo people marry their women. Ndigbo make their women appear classy and fabulous in the cause of marriage.
Anaïs Nin says, “I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.”
Let women be women and let men be men.
– Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet, Writer and Media Consultant based in Rivers State. Tel: +2348057778358.