Bride price in monetary form wasn’t an aspect of Igbo culture, originally. Igbo men married in many ways.
There are different ways the Igbo marry in the past. Money was not a yardstick for marriage just as we have it today.
There was nothing like a list given to in-laws regarding what to buy or what not. Anybody could marry irrespective of status— rich or poor.
The Igbo cultural society made provisions for all to be happy and grow families without stress and excess requirements as we have today.
In this article, we are going to discuss different ways Igbo men get married.
Farming was a great occupation of the Igbo. It was through farming, that trading started. When the Igbo had to sell their products. Remember, before the arrival of the white man, the Igbo society was creative, producing everything they needed. Any man who was a good farmer was perceived as a great man.
Yam is the chief crop of the Igbo. Whoever had a full yam barn was given titles, depending on the Igbo area. Some are called Diji or Ọkaji. These titles mean experts in yam production.
Being a good and successful farmer is enough to get one a wife. Some parents would even want their daughters to marry such one. The Igbo man doesn’t joke with industriousness. So, a man could be given his daughter’s hand in marriage, just because a man is hardworking and could take care of her and not for his benefit.
In Igbo land, the words for hunter are ọchụnta and ọgbanta. When the person is an expert in hunting, he is called “Dinta”. A successful hunter in Igbo land was regarded as a great man. Good hunters who have killed Leopards were called Ogbuagụ. They were revered in Igbo land.
Being a successful hunter is enough to get one a wife. In most cases, women go for them. Sometimes, a beautiful woman would be there as a prize for any successful hunter who killed an animal tormenting the community. You pay nothing. Just win and take your wife.
In some Igbo communities, this is called “Ọrụ Ọgọ”. A woman is a treasure you must work so hard to get and maintain. To marry her, you must work for her father for a stipulated and agreed period. The idea was to test your patience as a man, to check if you are hardworking as no man wanted a lazy man for his daughter. Once you are done with the work, your wife will be given to you.
Biblically, the story of Jacob is in line with this culture. He worked for 7 years before he got his wife. But he was given the older one, not Rachel. He also worked an additional 7 years to get that woman whom his heart yearned for.
This was like a norm in the past, depending on the family and location. You must serve your father-in-law, then, he would settle you with his daughter. You are paying nothing again.
A professional wrestler is called Ọkamgba. In the past, wrestlers were revered in Igbo land. They kept the entertainment sector busy. Young maidens loved marrying wrestlers as it’s naturally inclined in women to adore strong men.
Women were made to be selected by an ọkamgba who brought trophies to his community and wiped out shame from their faces.
If you read “Nwata Rie Awọ”, by Professor Goddy Onyekaọnwụ, you will understand this aspect of Igbo culture. The protagonist, Awọrọ is a strong wrestler who was given a wife after winning his enemy.
There were many ways Igbo men got married to their wives in the past, even before the time of monetary value.
5. MEETING THE WIFE DIRECTLY
Once you see a woman you want, what you will do is: take palm wine and kola nut to his father. You must go with your father. There are processes. Ịjụ ase, ịkụtụ aka and the proper ịgba nkwụ. They don’t cost much.
If you are accepted, then marriage continues as there was a saying: “A naghị ere nwaanyị ere.” A woman cannot be sold or bought.
DYNAMISM OF THE CULTURE
Things changed over time as culture was dynamic. Greed came in. Parents now started using their daughters as the highest bidder. They started issuing lists for Ụmụada, ụmụnna, mothers, fathers, youths, etc. Expecting too much money, drink, food, etc.
This is madness, and it was never how it was supposed or used to be. A man now marries a family problem and the family of his wife becomes his responsibility. In the past, everyone was responsible and hardworking. Nobody was expecting his in-laws to feed his father. It was a thing of shame to even reason that way.
The Igbo adage says that ihe ọjọọ gbaa afọ, ọ bụrụ omenala. When a bad thing is allowed for long, it becomes a culture.
Women are not commodities in the Igbo cultural setting. Marriage wasn’t as difficult as we have it today. This is why you will see men getting old before they consider getting married. This is because of the stress and greed, families have brought upon the Igbo cultural society.
People no longer care about the happiness of their daughters because that has been traded for money.