Marriage in Idoma Land is sacred and one of the most important fabric of the culture. In Otukpo district, it is usually frowned upon for an unmarried couple to live together and this because marriage is considered the basis for a man and woman to live together.
It is All About Children
Just like other tribes in Nigeria, the primary reason for marriage in Idoma Land is the desire to have offspring as children are considered essential for the survival of a community. But despite the urge to have children, having children out-of-wedlock is heavily discouraged as these children might be denied some privileges in the community.
In Otukpo district, even though the marital process comes with lots of intrigues, it is believed to be one of the simplest kinds of traditional marriage rites in Idoma Land. There are usually four stages involved in the Idoma marriage process.
Stage 1: Finding a Bride
Young men above the age of 18 who have the means and resources to take care of a wife are encouraged by their family to search for a prospective bride. This search can be undertaken by the man himself, his parents, or other relatives. And once a suitable lady has been identified as a prospective bride and she is considered acceptable to the family, then the next stage is initiated.
Stage 2: The Bride’s Family History
With a prospective bride identified, the man’s family will then select an O'gbo b'onya, who is usually someone familiar with the girl’s family. His or her role is to undertake out a thorough investigation of the girl’s family history to ensure that there are no ancestral curses on the family.
Also, the O'gbo b'onya also checks that strange ailments, criminal and/or notorious behaviours, laziness, waywardness, or any other traits that are considered inimical to a healthy marriage are not common in the girl’s family. And if the investigation turns out to be positive, then onto the Stage 3 of the marriage process, otherwise it is back to Stage 1 for the man and his family.
Stage 3: The Introduction
The next stage sees the man and his family visit the lady’s family to inform them of his intention to ask for their daughter’s hand in marriage. The lady’s family will deliberate amongst themselves and propose a date for the next stage, which is payment of the dowry and if this date is acceptable to the man’s family, it becomes the proposed marriage date.
It is expected that the lady’s family will use the time before this date to carry out their own enquiries about the man and his family to ensure that they have a good reputation, and the man can take care of their daughter. If the lady’s investigation turns up any negative findings that is unacceptable to them, they have the right to call off the marriage.
Stage 4: The Dowry
On the day of the marriage, following the arrival of the groom and his family at the bride’s family home and exchange of pleasantries, the bride price negotiations then begins. In the beginning of the negotiations, the bride’s family will request for a huge amount of money as dowry, this is done to show the bride’s worth to the groom’s family, and it is usually a formality as the amount first requested is never ever the final bride price.
The groom’s family will the present a counteroffer which is much lower than the bride’s family requested amount. This bride price negotiation that takes place in good spirit will see a few back and forth in the amount the bride’s family are ready to accept and what the groom’s family are ready to pay, until an agreement is reached. The agreed amount usually ranges from as low as a hundred naira to a few thousands. (Note that in Otukpo district, the groom and his family are not required to present any items such as clothes or crockery to the bride’s family during marital rites).
The agreed bride price is then placed in a plate and usually the groom’s family and friends will drop extra cash amounts onto the plate in support of the groom. The bride is then invited to take some of the bride price from the plate and present to her parents, to signify her consent and acceptance of the groom and his family.
When this is done, the bride’s father will then remove a small amount of money from the bride price and hand over the rest of the money to his new son in-law, telling him to take care of his daughter with this amount. This act signifies the official seal of the marriage between the two families and the groom and bride are now considered husband and wife.
After the payment of bride price, there is usually a celebration ceremony which involves drinking, eating, and dancing. While the merriment is not compulsory, it has now become the norm in Otukpo district due to the influence of other cultures.