This is a Guest Post.
Dont get it twisted, love is a beautiful thing! That was the verdict passed by our very own DBanj. What the koko crooner failed to add, however, is that the beauty of love fades away at the point of marriage, at least in Africa. Marriage, which should be the apex of love affairs, has become a sad albatross in the love adventure simply because of the many barriers we put in the way all in the name of tradition. Oh, how I hate that word with perfect hatred! I am speaking here in reference to the many stages of marriage rites in African cultures which discourage rather than strengthen marriage. The worst and pivotal part of these rites of passage is the payment of bride price to obtain the lady and have her for keeps.
Before putting my pen to paper, I floated the idea of the termination of bride price payment before a random cross-section of people of different age groups and traditional and educational leanings. Most of the responses I got toed the line of How dare you! bordering on even the mere thought of it being an anathema. I am utterly astonished that even educated folks who should be more enlightened, having gone through the scholastic rigours of the Ivory Tower, including and especially youths like me, have a hard time questioning the status quo. Its amazing how people just take traditions that have been handed down for generations and continue to propagate them without stopping to think about why exactly we do what we do.
Regardless of whichever tribe you hail from, you will readily agree with me that the man spends money ‘toasting’ the girl. He spends money for introduction (which they call knocking on the door) to inform the brides family of his intentions formally in the presence of his own family. He spends money for bride price. He spends money for traditional wedding. He very likely also spends money for the so-called white wedding in the church or mosque (without which most Christian and Muslim congregations will not endorse the marriage). There are also some who spend money on court wedding. All these, of course, involve several hidden charges apart from the expenses blown away on logistics. By the time processes are completed and conditions fulfilled, the couple is already deep in debt or thin on finances. Meanwhile, the girls family is happy to have been enriched by some lump sum.
Now, shall we tell ourselves and each other the truth, that this family neither loves you nor has your best interests at heart? How can people who claim to love you derive so much pleasure in milking you dry? Sometimes I think it is the failure of the intending couple to stand their ground and call their families bluffs that makes parents seem so able to wreck a marriage. Even if a parent from either side is quite troublesome, theres no child who doesnt know the weak points of his or her parents. Do you really think your families can run your marriage successfully? It is a lie! Gone are those days when people simply did what their parents or priests of whatever form wanted. These days, you decide what you want and do it.
So where do we go from here? First, I suggest parents should be reminded that they are the ones who should lay up treasures for their children, not the other way round. Their children are their legacy to the world. They should give to, not take from, their children. Put your money where your mouth is. Theres no need to place greater burden than necessary on a man whos perhaps already spent a lot of himself trying to impress your daughter. Thats a sure way to be respected by the couple: let parents sponsor the wedding, having certified that the couple has a means of comfortable livelihood. I think the Yoruba in Nigeria do that wellreturn the bride price and sponsor the wedding (not that there are no heavy hidden charges, though).
Second, we should realise that civilisation has changed the world. If you listen well, you will hear the man tell the brides father, I have come to pluck this flower from your garden, or something like that. We must learn to question preconceived notions. There was a time when girls stayed with their parents till it was time to marry. These days, ladies relocate, often far from their parents, because of work. How, then, do you pluck a flower from a garden that has it no more? The payment of bride price is obsolete because the flower is no more in its fathers field.
Third, the intending couple should decide that they, not their parents, will choose how to wed and maintain the marriage. If the essence of traditional marriage is parental blessing, white wedding is for spiritual blessing, and court wedding for state blessing, then why not have one occasion where all three get covered and save expenses? We need but one wedding, not three. Save the money for better uses. Besides, parents dont choose who their daughters should marry anymore, and so they should not be paid for their daughters hand in marriage.
Permit me to state succinctly that you own what you pay for. If the woman has been bought at a [bride] price, then shes no better than my jeep or tv set. Bride price payment is one denigrating tradition that immediately places the woman at a disadvantage. If you dont realise it, go find out from the typical village culture and youll easily agree that the woman never questions the mans orders. She is no different from a maid. This is the reason a man whose wife also goes to work would expect her to cook his food no matter how tired she may be, even if he has more spare time. Dont tell me that she will be valued because she was paid for; its the same way a jeep will be valued till its youth expiresas the womans surely will.
Guys, dont let the girls father bully you by saying he spent a lot on her upbringing; your parents probably spent even more to bring you up as a responsible man. Girls, dont let your parents delay your marriage with their bad belle. If they are too greedy to forgo outdated tradition in order to make you happy, then walk away from them and elope with your man. If anything goes wrong in your marriage and you have to go back to them, they cannot reject you; plus, they wont need to bother about raising the bride price to return to the mans family. More importantly, have your personal stable source of income so you dont have reason to return to them. Let them curse till their mouths are bent like the scimitar and their throats dry like the Sahara; nothing will touch you under the cover of your husbands love. You belong to him, not them.
Nobody will live your life for you. In the final analysis, you will have to bear the consequences of your actions. Dont sacrifice your happiness on the altar of your fathers foolishness. Show him that you have a mind of your own. Live your [love] life to the fullest. You owe no one any explanation for that.