There is a certain word we employ to justify most of the things we do to prevent backlash. A word that has become a normalizer among peoples of different nations in Nigeria, Africa and some other parts of the world. It makes the abnormal seem normal and makes sound opposing arguments abnormal and illogical. We have employed it in satisfying our personal lust for material things, in satisfying our personal lust for momentary enjoyment and in satisfying our lust for greed. It is powerful and laced with some elements of sacredness meant to instill fear into the hearts of those of us who dare question the basis for its existence. It is culture.
Culture is the way of life of different generations of a particular people that exist(or existed) at a particular time. It is not a particular way all generations of people of a particular tribe, race or nation must live to be identified as that tribe, race or nation. It is not a way a new generation must act, because their forbearers acted that way, even when it doesn’t meet the needs of that particular period of their existence. It is not a static unchangeable set of rules that must be followed by any people. Every generation of all peoples must decide what to make culture.
Why should a man pay the family of the woman he is in love with some money before he can call her his wife? Why should a woman gladly tell a man to come pay her parents her price before he can marry her? Why should the family of the man willingly pay this Bride Price to get their son the woman of his dreams? Why are men and women, trying to find their feet financially, indirectly, forced to deplete their savings? Why do most people spend a large portion of their savings trying to make guests at their wedding happy? Simple. The brainwash power of Culture. You can get away with anything once you project it as culture.
I have seen a man go from Middle-Class to Lower-Class after marrying a new wife. A man who was doing fine reduced to a mere pauper after reaching all traditional requirements in fulfilling a marriage ceremony. He loved her but met every of those conditions they gave grudgingly. After a while, he began to see his wife as bad luck, a woman without good luck, the reason he can’t find his feet after spending stupendously. There is this unfounded belief by some persons that marriage could change the financial status of a poor man, so they invest all in it expecting the lucky wife to use her ‘star’ to bring favour to them. Frustrations set in when it doesn’t go as planned. After the ‘Traditional Wedding’ their is a ‘White Wedding’ and in both cases, guests are served lavish meals, to save ones reputation.
Before a Nigerian wedding between two adults is done there is; first introduction, where the young man in love goes with his family with drinks, foodstuffs, money, and other good things to make his intention(which the lady’s dad must have known since) known to the girl’s family; there is a second introduction, where the elders of her village or kindred are gathered to speak with their potential in-law and his family and good things water their tongues as they speak, a list of items to be bought given; there’s a third introduction, where all the items in the list are bought and brought(or paid in sum) to kick start the traditional wedding proper. Though not all cultures make the same demand, the bottom line is that marriages are expensive in Africa and some other parts of the world.
For the rich, this is not a problem but it still doesn’t make it right. No human being should be sold or bought in the name of marriage. The boys at the Middle-Class find it difficult to find their feet after wedding. A member of the Middle-Class often sells his properties just because he wants to take his heartthrob home. He borrows too and after the marriage is in debt. What a way to begin another chapter of life! His business shrinks. His mental balance is shifted. And now, he has a new responsibility thanks to culture again(as financial burdens in Nigerian marriages are mostly sustained from the pockets of the man and failure to do this he is seen as a failure). And he is also expected to smile and enjoy his marriage.
Isn’t the idea of paying the Bride Price, in the name of culture, a crude and shameless way to trade off an item? What do we call such in business language? What is the difference between paying for Bride Price and paying for an item in the marketplace? When slavery reigned supreme, slavers exchanged humans for money, goods or other services. How is this any different? Are we not encouraging, even if subconsciously, some sense of ownership in the psyche of the man who, with the woman and all involved, suffer from this culture?
What if instead of doing the first, second and third introductions and organising meetings and weddings that drain the couple financially, physically, mentally and other ways, a man and a woman gets married without the man making any monetary sacrifice? What if instead of doing lavish weddings that drain us, we(man, wife and any other invited party and witnesses) just walk to a priest, clergyman or court and walk back home and continue our activities? That’s too simplistic and will smash our egos I guess. I’m not against spending excessively on your wedding if you have them in excess and ‘wish'(not compelled) to spend. I’m against making it a rule that one ‘must’ meet all those lavish expectations because culture says he must.
Some of the money spent by people in weddings could have changed their lives and that of their families and neighbors. One begins to wonder how these monies spent in marriages help the couples? Happiness? If spending beyond your means, enjoying for one day and suffering all days after the union and/or through coercion is responsible for your happiness, then we must pray your mental health doesn’t ruin your home. How does it help our society grow? Why must we stick to traditions that have outlived their relevance? And we brag we are civilized and high thinking beings. Interesting!
Fellow Africans and World Citizens, if the culture you practise doesn’t advance your person, then you must discard it and cultivate a new progressive culture. If the things we do diminish us, we must diminish these things that we do. A Bride Price is the price a father receives, on behalf of the family, when he wants to sell his daughter. A Bride Price is the price a man pays, cheered by his family, when he wants to buy a girl. Both families are traders and the item in the stall usually smiles.