So I made a post on Facebook few days ago about bride-price, I told the future spouse to forget about bride-price and come with a cooler of rice Ofe Akwu(Banga stew and rice)instead. I made this post under the influence of an abnormal craving for Ofe Akwu, and of feeling homesick. So one unfortunate self-righteous brother comes with his ugly face to call me cheap in the comments section.
I was pained, like heavenly pained. I dropped my home-training in one corner and went for him. And it was worth it. Anyway, me loosing my cool or activating my Femi-Nazi mode is not the reason for this post, so i won’t digress further. My apologies.
It so annoys me when my mother berates me for a wrongdoing and then tells me that a man will definitely return my bride-price if i continue this way. I will always grumble, and remind her that i’m not some commodity to be bought. She would curse me further and blame it on the big books I always read. Then my uncles, don’t get me started on those ones. The last time i saw them in a group drinking and making noise, they kept calling me afia. Afia in Igbo language means “good(singular form of goods)/commodity”. I was not impressed, so I didn’t reciprocate their opening of teeth. Even as I left them, they kept telling my mom to polish me further, that it seems I’ll be stubborn for any man.
While in school, girls in the hostel will make jokes about how a man seeing your nakedness reduces your bride-price. It might be funny, but it goes a long way to show how women see themselves within a cultural milieu that glorifies bride-price. They seem to validate their worth by how willing a man is to pay a bride price on their head. They see themselves as gifts that men pay for, then take home to unwrap. That’s why they’ll tell you to keep your virginity, that the man deserves that after spending so much on you. And if you are ‘unfortunate’ to give birth in your father’s house, you are meant to accept that you are fairly used, that any man who is willing to pay a bride price on your head really loves and deserves you. Even as an old lady desperate for marriage, you’d tell any man to just come and marry you, agreeing to even give him money to pay your bride-price.
Also, bride-price empowers men with a sense of entitlement, they feel as if they own you since they’ve paid for your “head”. It’s not merely a coincidence that bride price in Igbo is “ego isi” , when translated means “money for a head” , that is money paid on someone’s head, reminds me of a bounty. That’s why a man would want you to take his last name, seeing that he bought those rights from your father, the last man you bore his last name.
Even the word “bride-price” itself is faulty. Why is it that women in India pay dowry and not groomprice? And even then, you don’t buy the man. The culture makes it look as if he’s doing you a favour by marrying you. You don’t buy him, rather you buy his consent to marry you, you buy his affection.
I personally don’t like the idea of bride-price. I don’t see how a little amount of money should sum a woman’s worth. That’s probably why most women think it’s right to call their husbands “Oga”, “Oga” meaning master.
I believe Ndigbo have evolved past the stage where bride-price should still be a component of their marriage culture. Every part of a culture that is redundant needs to be cut off. Most modern women are not particularly moved by the idea of bride price, so why continue it?
Long live Ndigbo!