On Saturday, September 22, 2018, Nigerian Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie sat before an audience at the Narrative Landscape event at The Workstation in Victoria Island, Lagos and made some interesting remarks about the payment of bride price.
Chimamanda argued that if you go back in history, the idea of marriage was very different from what it is now.
She said that though she respects the African culture, there are things in it that she finds disgusting. Things like the high amount of money that has been attached to it in recent times.
“If you go back in history, the idea of marriage is different from what it is today. Yes, there was bride price where fundamentally you sort of give things to the bride’s family, but there was also an exchange of gifts… and it was a bit more fluid.”
“Now there is commercialism to the whole idea that I really find disgusting. At the same time I’m a person who has a lot of respect for my culture. There’s a lot about African culture that I find very beautiful.
“I think that we really need to rethink the way that marriages are done. It’s dangerous on so many levels. People always use culture to justify everything, but I keep thinking so many things have changed in our culture. There are things we can still change. I’m not a fan of bride price. I feel very conflicted about bride price”, she said.
We agree. African culture demands that something be presented as a symbol of agreement between a parent and a suitor. That is what we have come to know as bride price, but some marriages these days have been turned to avenues to make money.
While it is true that a man should not appear before his in-laws empty handed, it is disgusting that some in-laws have turned that arrangement to ways of making money. It is against the African culture to do that and continuing to practice that only goes to tell that we have derailed and should be quick in retracing our steps.
This is the same reason the Tor Tiv of Benue Prof. James Ayatse and the entire Tiv Area Traditional Council decided to fix traditional marriage expenses at N100,000.
There have been reports across Nigeria that some parents or tribes collect as much as N500,000 as bride price. This simply means that by the time the whole marriage ceremony is done, the man involved must have coughed out up to N2million. That is disturbingly outrageous. In Chimamanda’s words, it is dangerous on so many levels. Using culture to justify greed is dangerous. Some families have ran into debts because of this, some have been reduced to poverty because of this. If it is not dangerous, then we don’t know what else it is.
If we truly value our culture, then we should look out for it. We should be concerned when we have the slightest feeling that it is changing. That is what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was saying in effect. Whether or not there should be bride price is really not the issue here, but how it should be done.