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Chidinma Eke: Men Set the Bride Price for Other Men to Pay

Chinma Eke

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It was thirty minutes to the commencement of the Financial Analysis exam; we were all seated in the hall, revising singularly or in little groups, and of course, some were gisting in groups as well. My mind drifted – coming from a non-accounting background and with no interest in accounting, it didn’t take much for my mind to drift. If it were not a required course, I would gladly have avoided it. Then I heard the voices around – as usual Smart’s voice was the loudest.
Smart was the class clown, very smart like his name connotes, and very funny as well. He could turn any and everything into a joke. That day, he was talking about how he needed extra streams of income because he wanted to get married. He asked if we (his audience) knew how much it cost to marry a wife: the bride price, then other requirements, and the cost of the marriage ceremony, etc. I turned to him and his little group with a ‘really?’ stare: like, is that our immediate need? Then one of his listeners turned to me, asking me the ‘Why are ladies so expensive? question.
My response was a ‘Not now, can we take it up after the exam?’
He continued saying; outrageous bride price is what keeps most men from marrying young, and us ladies, have to reduce it. There I was looking at him like: ‘huh? Can you please let me study?’

We didn’t continue the discussion after the exam, but it got me thinking. Are women to blame for the expensive/outrageous bride price? Who sets the bride price? The bride, her family or good old ‘culture’?

I remember the famous bride price app of 2014. I had so much fun with it. I would tweak and manipulate my bride price any, which way, and I found the elders and their comments totally hilarious. However, there was a very negative public outcry, which I found totally senseless.

The bride price app was one of the issues that cemented my belief that we Nigerians pursue shadows rather than substance. We made such a big deal about an app which calculates bride price – which to me was a harmless bit of fun –  but we don’t speak up against the ‘inflated’ bride price which our families charge daily.
Who determines this bride price? Isn’t it our fathers and uncles? If we are so pained by it, we should take it up with them.

What baffles me most about the bride price issue is that, the men who complain are the same men who set the bride price. In my culture, and I think in most Nigerian cultures, it’s the father of the bride, or in his absence, his male kinsmen who sets the bride price. One might argue that the gifts to the mother of the bride and such increases the bill. But like I said, it’s the men who have the final authority.

It’s the bride’s father or his representative who hands over the list of requirements. So, if he feels it’s inflated, he has the power to trim it. An African bride has little or no influence on the ‘list’ given to her husband, and most times, when she can influence it,  she’s usually pleading for its reduction. So how do the male folks get to blame us for being too pricey?

Men usually go on about how much they pay to marry, with tales of having to borrow, bla bla bla! I challenged an older married colleague to give his daughter out for free when she’s getting married, and all the outrage dissolved. The response I got was a weak, ‘it’s tradition’.

So, it is  usual tradition when you’re the father of the bride, but it’s an outrage when you’re the groom? That’s hilarious double standards at its most basic and a snapshot of how we live our lives. When it applies to you, it’s explainable, but when it’s someone else, we find reasons for it not to be okay.

Some people might argue that the bride price is what ensures a woman is respected in her marital home. On that note, I beg to differ. A woman’s respect isn’t a factor of ‘how much was paid for her’. Those are just excuses we make up to justify a bad culture. A man who will respect you, will…regardless of how much he paid in bride price.

How do we get around this culture?

It is even more annoying when the bride’s biological father isn’t alive, and his kinsmen who had no hand in her upbringing come to dine. Sometimes a father didn’t play a role in her life, but he will come to ‘collect her bride price’!

I think the men who are most affected on account that they pay bride price, should be the ones to begin the ‘bride price revolution’. Speak with your fathers when your sisters are getting married. Be considerate when you’re giving your daughters out in marriage.
Be good to your wives regardless of how much you paid or didn’t pay for her.

Culture is dynamic and is subject to change. Just like human sacrifice has been phased out in a lot of cultures, so can bride price be moved to a symbolic rite, and not the albatross which it currently is.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Svetlana Vitkovskaya

Chinma Eke is a story teller with a hyperactive imagination, who gets inspiration from most everything; from events, to Lagos traffic to bath water temperature. She’s passionate about writing, children education, and buying and selling (in no particular order). She writes at www.chinmaeke.wordpress.com, and is @chinmaeke across all social media.

20 Comments

  1. Dee

    June 22, 2015 at 11:48 am

    In my culture, it is very easy. No kinsmen involvement. You pay baba gbo (father has heard), mother has heard, sisters has heard, and so on. It can be #500 or #5000 each depending on your ability. And all in envelopes so people can’t guess the amount you put in there. Also, you give the wife a gift (monetary) which can also be any amount. Though it is higher than the previous.No haggling, no hassles. In a friends tradition, he was handed a ‘list’ after the introduction of the things he needed to buy. My people, i thought they were pulling his legs. Heard that when they went for the negotiation, both parties fought seriously over the list, and my friends dad told his people to leave them with their daughter, his son will get someone else. It was later settled, however, even on the wedding day, i saw some residual beef amongst some parties. That friend still nurtures a strong hate for his wife’s elder sister because of the event of that day. Culture or no culture, don’t bankrupt a family in the name of bride price abeg!! My 2 kobo.

    • tunmi

      June 22, 2015 at 12:06 pm

      Pardon my ignorance but what is your culture? I can only count about 7 off hand, and I’m always curious to know more about the 300+ groups we have.

    • Chinma Eke

      June 22, 2015 at 12:35 pm

      Hi Tunmi, I’m Igbo. From Ohafia in Abia state.

      We’re one of the Igbo communities where the marriage rites are actually pocket friendly.

  2. kaycee

    June 22, 2015 at 11:48 am

    Summary ” The outrageous bride price that men complain about are proposed by men”
    In the east the bride varies for different communities, and it is totally fine by me. But most times, there are no hard and fast rule as regards to the price and list of products to be given. In fact some communities adjust the list depending on the suitors largesse.
    Also, the ladies should help out with the bride price, as I am a firm believer of feminism with all it’s pros and cons. There are few options to take for those who feel they can’t afford to pay the bride price

    1) Opt for ladies from the western part of the country
    2) Get the lady pregnant, the bride price becomes secondary, ( u might not want to do these, is plain evil)
    3) Try and potray a very struggling lifestyle, this doesn’t get u totally of the hook, but it reduces cost.

    • Eaglebabe

      June 22, 2015 at 1:04 pm

      In my culture if a man tries option 2, he is as good as dead! there are additional charges for that “mistake”… they call it (nkwaseabuo sika)

  3. tunmi

    June 22, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    I like that you included an option where bride price is not just done with, by making it a symbolic rite. I’d like us to keep bride price as part of our culture, I’m Yoruba, but as you said–a symbolic rite.

    And isn’t it true, men set the price, men pay the price, the woman nko? Na to blame her when her voice isn’t included in the first place.

  4. nnenne

    June 22, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    For what Nigerian Society demands from wives, A huge Bride Price is only fair.
    Tweak the bride price? Then African societal expectations from wives must be greatly adjusted. Right now it is a crazy man’s world and whenever I watch family members I keep thanking God for his mercies.

  5. oy

    June 22, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    lol..what bride price will cause ehn,…

  6. goodiebagman

    June 22, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    Chidinma, I’m not being tribalist or nothing, but you do know this is an Igbo thing right? For most of the other tribes in Nigeria, the bride price payment is merely a symbolic rite.

    • Chinma Eke

      June 22, 2015 at 4:23 pm

      Lol, yes I know its believed high bride price is an Igbo thing. However, not all Igbo men are rich, and they are married. So maybe that belief like the belief Igbo’s value money above all else isn’t 100% true.

  7. Niola

    June 22, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    For the Yorubas the culture has evolved, so when the bride price is paid or given, the bride’s family in turn gives the groom’s family gifts as well. This rationale behind this is that
    “we are not selling our daughter abeg, so please make sure you take good care of her and not be using ‘after all i paid your bride price to maltreat her”

  8. le coco

    June 22, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    nowadays more nd more christian families are opting to jst hand their daughter over.. the groom gives sm gifts to the brides family bt thts about it… i have been to a traditional engagement where the brides family thanked the groom nd his family for the money they were about to offer.. nd refused it.. they said they were satisfied with the love nd respect shown by the groom nd his family towards their daughter.. nd both families hugged nd tht was it.. nd yes they were nigerian…
    in my culture, money isnt a big factor.. its more about the gifts, my cousin was a lawyer when she got married nd her dad charged about 80k, no fuss.. then it was time for one of our male cousins to get married, his fiance was a secretary at the tym or a typist( what my uncle called it) nd the brides family chose to charge 500k, lols.. my uncle stood up nd left, saying ” these greedy ppl wnt to charge 500 thousand for an ordinary typist”. mind you this was about 10 years ago. eventually the family begged them to come back, nd they reduced the price to 20 thousand. lmao

  9. ThatAbiribaBae

    June 22, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    We need to define what we mean when we say bride price! I’ll speak for my community…

    I’m from Abiriba in Ohafia LGA of Abia State. From generation untold till now, bride price popularly called Ugwo-Aku Isi Nwaogbu Onye is N7 only which is inexpensive or shall I say cheap?
    I’ll take it that this article relates to the list that accompanies this N7 bride price, which is written and compiled by the father of bride’s kinsmen but vetted by father of bride, if he’s still alive. The list comprises of items for kinsmen, father and mother of bride and then the bride. To be completely honest, the section with the most items is usually the bride’s section (these are toiletries, clothes, provisions, accessories etc., basic essentials a newly wedded wife should have). Depending on the bride’s relationship with her father, this list can be extremely negotiated. For example, if your daughter is not based in Nigeria, things like provisions are just unnecessarily because I for one will not have time to ship them back to England after wedding ceremony. So that and its likes can be crossed off.
    Also, some of the items on the list are customary and have significance but they are super cheap e.g. a row of matches. That wouldn’t hurt anyone’s pocket.

    The only time I’ve seen people complain about this list is when they are not from Abiriba (especially those from Yoruba, where bride price or list aren’t given?). A typical Abiriba man will not complain of the list as he already knows what’s up.
    My advice to girls from communities with these lists is talk about this list with your boyfriend long before you start “boo-ing” and “bae-ing.” Teach/help them understand your culture.
    To the guys: You should always know that your culture is not the gold standard. If you’re so not interested in inter-tribal marriage and its many “wahala” then stick to ladies from your hometown.

    You think Igbo people’s bride price/list is ridiculous, go meet a Zimbabwean. The average bride price I’ve heard is $800 which is almost N160k; I’ve seen as high as £10,000 (my Nigerian friend tried to venture a Zim chic but ran for his dear life). And no I don’t mean list, I mean bride price, aka Lobola.
    Also, it might interest you to know that @Kaycee’s impregnate the girl’s option will cost you more as Zimbabwean pay “damage” which is as high if not higher than the bride price sef.

    You can read more here:
    Zimbabwe – ezimbabwe.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/lobola-the-bride-price-to-pay/

    Abiriba – crunchyapple101.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/demystifying-igbo-bride-wealth-case_27.html

    Apologies for this long post but I haff taya for this topic ni!

    • Mes

      June 22, 2015 at 4:41 pm

      Abiriba girl, God bless you!!! I am tired of all these disrespect for a culture just because…. I am Igbo and my brothers as all Married to Igbo women and none of them ever complained about the bride price. My family just went and happily did what was expected of them and friendships were built between families. Same way other Igbo men came for me and my sisters hands in marriage and did the expected. I still remember my father slashing somethings on the list to help my inlaws. But I have noticed that it is mainly Yorubas that marry Igbo women that won’t let someone rest becaus they paid brideprice for an Igbo girl. I fact some Yoruba men are now using it as “Ihe eji akpa nganga “. Some even go as far as inflating the dowry they paid just to make NOISE here and there. If the brideprice is too much for you and you can’t be humble enough to let your inlaws know your financial status and negotiate the list, then stick to the women who are free Biko! Enough is enough. No one is forcing you to marry Igbo girls please!!! Respect people’s culture biko.

  10. Splen

    June 22, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    goodiebagman,point of correction,I am Igbo lady from Anambra State. During my traditional rite,it was just #2,000 that was collected from my hubby family out of #16,000 presented. So you are ignorant to say that it is Igbo thing, In Igbo land, it depends on the town you are from. Please stop generalizing. My hubby did not spend up to #60,000 to conclude my marriage rite, from introduction to traditional wedding. The Igwe of my town slashed marriage rite.

  11. mabel

    June 22, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    Inter tribal marriage is not by force. Stick to your own. There are good and beautiful women everywhere. If you can’t handle it then don’t even bother going to the kitchen. My brother paid his urhobo wife’s school fees from boy/girlfriend level till she finished medical school. She’s a doc now. I’m igbo. My pa didn’t complain. He believes having a wife is a blessing. Then one guy will now make noise because of how much? After they will say what are you bringing to the table. It is food.

  12. Pretty_Girl

    June 22, 2015 at 8:32 pm

    Right on the nails head!!! I’mt the 1st daughter and 1st child, Ada Ada… since i was a little girl, my uncles, aunts, extended family always yapping about how my bride-price will be something else… got me thinking, is it about the amount or u guys r happy to see me go to my future hubby’s house… The cultural thing can be some how weird… i dont even know who my kinsmen are, but supposedly they must be around on the day of my igba nkwu… Culture is amazing and quite interesting….

  13. bn lover

    June 22, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    Please leave the igbos alone. Try to marry an akwa ibom geh….u go know how far

  14. SuperNova

    June 23, 2015 at 5:26 am

    @ThatAbiribaBae, from what I heard, Zimbabwean Dollars isn’t quite ideal to judge right now because their money has lost its value for now. $800 could be the price of a yard of clothing or a crate of soft drinks for all we know. Just saying. Back to the article, to each culture, it’s own quirks. If you’re fine with it, deal, if you aren’t, find more convenient options. Though the bride price isn’t even a “matter” in the Yoruba culture where most of our families return the money but accept the customary gifts for introduction. That said, nothing is set in stone. You can start reducing the requirements from your family and other families might follow suit. That’s how trends are set.

    • ThatAbiribaBae

      June 23, 2015 at 1:17 pm

      @SuperNova, ZWD Zimbabwe Dollar is obsolete and no longer legal tender. The $800 I referred to is the US dollars, as I was told… I stand to be corrected though

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