What Nigeria Can Achieve Through Inter-Tribal Marriages.

Imanuel Jannah
By Imanuel Jannah December 25, 2014 08:45

marriageAt the end of every year(the Christ­mas season and a holiday period)  people make out time to go home to the country sides and villages to see loved ones whom they have been away from in the course of the year.

This is also a pe­riod for checking out on prospective brides, traditional marriage preparations as well as the introduction of prospective brides and grooms who may have met each other in the cities or outside their own locality of origin.

The would-be brides and grooms would have met each other and fallen in love in the city without the customary search party who are concerned specialists in “hunting” for wives for their sons due for marriage. They met and fell in love based on their appreciation of each other’s desirable traits not minding the dif­ference in tribe.

A good percentage of these people chose people of different ethnicity and are about to venture into inter-tribal marriage. They are many of such young men and women today, and most often they have the listening ears of their parents and kindred more than ever before in the rapidly evolving socio-cul­tural milieu of Nigeria.

Despite the seeming divisive tone of some members of the political class on pages of na­tional dailies, and the tribal leanings of some posts on threads in today’s online community, there is a quiet but steady increase in the pro­cess of integration going on in today’s Nigeria. I think it is spreading hope for a greater Ni­geria just like the Nigerian pop music sector is doing- where musicians are becoming more comfortable featuring other artists of different linguistic groups or out-rightly singing in other Nigerian languages in a fusion of linguistic plurality.

The bug is inter-tribal marriage and it is spreading fast. Inter-tribal marriages hold even greater promise for the unification of Nigeria because as they say, blood is thicker than water. The burgeoning number of Nige­rians venturing outside of their tribal roots to find love and union is encouraging the gradual ethnic blending that in the long run may help to obliterate the tensions resulting from our some­times sharp ethnic divisions especially when is­sues bordering on sharing of national “cake” or the protection of gained advantages are involved. A few decades back, it was a strange kind of union as relatives armed with their preconceived notions and stereotypes often worked hard to scuttle the marriage of their own to the would-be spouse from the other ethnic group.

A few year ago, at the wedding ceremony of a close relative, one of the guests, noted that his family has become a mini Nigeria be­cause with two previous marriages involving his daughter and son were between a son-in-law and a daughter-in-law from other Nigerian tribes. The wedding ceremony in question was between Oche from the Idoma tribe in Benue State and Imabong, an Ibibio lady from Akwa Ibom State.

A cursory look at marriages especially in met­ropolitan cities in Nigeria would prove that in­ter-tribal marriages are fast becoming the norm rather than the exception. Look around your environment and you will surely see people you know who have chosen love above other consid­erations. Those who previously had hard stance against inter-tribal marriages are beginning to be more tolerant of this trend.

A number of factors such as education, mi­gration and religion encourage the trend. When people meet in schools which are important cen­tres of socialization outside their primary func­tions of inculcating knowledge, they understand themselves better due to attendant social interac­tions. Educated people tend to have broadminded approach to dealing with people and issues. The trend is not only limited to the educated people it is permeating all the rungs of the social ladder. So unlike in the past, a good number of people searching for spouses have as their uppermost crite­ria, love and compatibility and no longer tribe.

As people travel out of their villages or tribal domains for education, employment and other en­gagements, they live in metropolitan cities where they share work environment, residential areas and churches with people from diverse ethnic back­grounds, chances are that you may find true com­panionship and love among these people from out­side of your ethnic origin. Sustained interactions cause people to see through the stereotypes that abound among the different groups of Nigerians. Most of the stereotypes and notions about others are actually based on ignorance and are most times totally false. Even if stereotypes are true in some cases, it is important to understand that individual differences exist and this fact, to a large extent, has strengthened the faith in our common humanity since the beginning of time.

Have you found love in another tribe and are bothered about the perceived challenges? Inter-tribal marriages do have challenges and so do intra-tribal or intra-village marriages in all their peculiarities. These challenges most times are the construct of our primordial mentality and thus can be mentally dealt with. Issues such as suspicion and tribal pride (my-tribe-is-better-than-yours behav­iour), language and other cultural differences are some of the challenges that people cite as impedi­ments to inter-tribal marriages. If handled with ma­turity, these issues can be turned into advantages.

More than ever before there are more children of mixed parentage in Nigeria and there will con­tinue to be such increase as Nigerians from various ethnic groups continue to embrace each other in marriages. Are there disadvantages or otherwise in having parents from two divides? One major chal­lenge is the issue of identity which result mainly because of disobedience to the rules of marriage and not necessarily as a result of the ethnic origin of a spouse. It is important to note that a child could learn as many as five different languages be­tween ages one to five. So the issue of language spoken in the home could be managed in a better way instead of the prevailing situation in most inter-tribal marriages where their children speak only English language without adequate knowl­edge of any of the ethnic languages of the par­ents. The relegation of our Nigerian languages may not be totally blamed on inter-tribal mar­riages though, because there are many intra-tribal (Yoruba+Yoruba or Igbo+Igbo) families where English language is the only language spoken. Some actually do not care about their children’s inability to speak their languages; they argue that there are no special advantages in speaking ethnic languages after all English is the formal medium of communication, in all important textbooks in school, the media and all government businesses-legislature, judiciary and executive. Such people argue that many Ni­gerians deploy their tribal languages mainly if they want to keep secrets from, cheat or to abuse another tribe close by. Those involved in inter-tribal marriages and others must view their lan­guages as a medium that carry the nuances of every culture, and as a result, it is important to accommodate it, inter-tribal marriage or not.

It was interesting coming across a young man named Onoja , from the Middle Belt whose flu­ency in the two languages of his parents was quite good. It was like having the bests of two worlds I thought to myself. He reminded me of the thrilling presentations of Chief Bisi Olatilo, the multi linguist and media mogul who could speak the three major Nigerian languages of Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba, this, he deployed to enrich his presentations in the media, making his listeners happy and garnering for himself a massive followership.

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Imanuel Jannah
By Imanuel Jannah December 25, 2014 08:45