Marriage is a sacrament which every couple is expected to obey as instituted by God. But today the reverse is the case, especially in African societies where most people violate this sacrament due to their selfish desires and sometimes, pressure from parents.
It is no longer news that in most African societies today, bride prices have gone so high that marriage ceremonies have become an economically viable venture. As such, most poor young men have remained unmarried until they get so old. Yet, the rich young ones easily get wives to marry because they are buoyant enough to lavish money.
Although many leaders recognise this in Nigeria, especially in the southern part of the country, they are afraid to talk about it. This is mainly because they fear how the society would react. The fact is that whether high dowries are paid on brides or not, there is no marriage all over the world that would enjoy stability if Christ is not its pillar, and the anchor that those who make the contract rely on. Those who have accepted Jesus as their personal saviour also enjoy His spirit of love in their marriages. And there are a lot of testimonies to this effect. This is why most couples are able to stay till death do them part.
Talking about high bride prices in this society, the ability to haggle and bargain has an unhappy angle associated with the process itself. You can agree with me that in every marriage, there is some selfish human heart that comes into play. If not, how can a man pay well over N100,000 for a lady, and another pays as little as N200 and sometimes, no cash deposit to bring a wife under his roof?
However, because the game has become an expensive and dicey one, many young men have been frustrated and defeated, and most end up eloping with their heartthrobs as wives. But as long as the customs of the land remain, eloping with a lady boils down to immorality, which may not be the direct sin of the man in question.
In fact, numerous cases abound where men eloped with their girlfriends, and began to live together as husband and wife. They are, in most cases, blessed with children, even in the midst of illegality. They ignore the parents of the woman or man, and go into their own procreation process.
But the unfortunate thing is that sometimes the problem associated with that strategy is that if the woman dies in the man’s house, the parents of the deceased are likely to demand that the man marries the woman even in death, sometimes at very exorbitant prices. In fact, a lot of things may be lined up as requirements for the marriage of the dead woman. In some other cases, the children produced in that marriage are classified as bastards or children of the woman’s father until the man does the right thing, that is to pay her bride price.
I think as long as mankind lives on earth, high bride prices never make husbands price their wives (like property) better. Instead, there are reported cases of men who have treated their wives as slaves because of the huge sum of money spent as bride price. Methinks that if young men are able to prove to their supposed parents in-law that they can love and hold their daughters, this should be enough dowry than paying fabulous amounts of money that do not equate true love.
The high dowry on women has disadvantages on the bride too. Many women have confessed openly that high bride prices have compelled their real husbands out of the work contest, leaving unlovable wealthy men available in the market. The result is an unnecessary joining of incompatible couples because money has become the name of the game.
High dowries make women slaves as most of them remain unhappy in their marriages. Perhaps, they just stay to satisfy the man who has spent so much on them. The consequence of this is that a wide gap exists for infidelity, and a display of fake and smokescreen love, which is far from being genuine.
This is not to say that those with low income have not married wives. No! On the contrary, some have actually found themselves wives, and they lived as happy couples for decades. But we have also heard stories where men go on to borrow huge amounts of money just to get married. In a situation like this, such couples are forced to go through terrible and agonising marriages.
In perspective, it has been imperative that high bride prices are no guarantees to long, stable and well-enjoyed marriages. High bride prices only help to force men who are not rich into borrowing, thereby putting men with such financial crisis into slavery while the women are boxed into a corner, with little or no choice than to settle for men with the money. In the end, such women look more like the men’s personal properties.
It is high time the state government or better still, local government councils fixed equal amount to be paid as dowry for all women. Although this suggestion may sound primitive, I think it is workable and the right path to toe. This can be done by encouraging would-be husbands to go to their local governments to pay for their wives. This action should attract receipts, and such monies should later be handed over to parents of the brides.
If all Nigerians go to the same markets, schools, workplaces, among others, then I do not see any reason why bride prices should vary. And until this is done, women will ever suffer, and men without money will remain unmarried.
Etim writes from Port Harcourt.