By Anayo M. Nwosu

None of my daughters nor any of my female relatives would just return home with an engagement ring.


From who?


Even though my Nnewi people had been forced to assimilate most western ways of life but not how some young men accost, waylay or ambush a girl and pop up the question, “will you marry me?”

How can my daughter give a positive response to a man I have not approved? Even if the mother consents, my approval is key and must be obtained before she says “yes”. Of course, Nnewi daughters don’t own themselves. They belong to their parents and kinsmen as long as they are still single.

I can manage the heartache of the thoughts that some stupid boys would scheme and get illegal access or to mine my daughters’ mineral resources but to add salt to an injury will bring out the owner’s beast in me.

The marriage question with valid answer is asked to the parents of the girl not to the girl. The suitor would arrive the house of a girl with his people to state their intentions. The family of the girl would note their request and ask them to come back for an answer through a mutually agreed go-between at a later date. This is to allow for proper background checks on the suitor and his family.

It is only after this background check that the suitor and his family are invited to come and commence marital rites.

In essence no Nnewi girl can say “yes” to any man before her people say “yes”. We can’t change it. Not in my lifetime.

It must be stated that no Nnewi girl is deemed married until her bride price is paid. Even a mere payment of a bride price is not enough. The traditional rites must be fulfilled otherwise full ancestral blessings of marriage may never be accessed by the girl involved.

I was scandalized to see some Igbo girls, especially those that are highly educated or live abroad, move into their male friends’ houses after a bouts of kisses and love making. Some even legalise their abominable act by visiting the registry as matured adults to getting married according to British tradition.

As the Ikenga Ezenwegbu, the grandson of Nwosu Ezeechedolu who was the grandson of Ezeoguine Ezenwa, the late traditional and hereditary ruler of Nnewi, Anambra State, I owe our girls a duty to let them know the process of getting married in our culture.

No well-breastfed girl from my town would accept an engagement ring from a man who has not passed the background check of her parents. If an engagement ring is so important to a lover of an Nnewi girl, it should be given after the boy has passed a background check test and has received an invitation and date to come commence traditional marital rites.

I have checked the christian Bible and could not see a verse recommending that someone gives or receives an engagement ring. All in the Bible supports Igbo traditional marriage.

For the sake of emphasis,  any man intent on marrying an Nnewi girl must first approach the girl’s father in company of his father or an elderly male relation. The suitor does not have to be present. His father or uncle in company of one or two persons could visit a would-be inlaw. Mission is announced, the girl’s family would request for some time to run background checks on the prospective son-in-law and his family.

Background check have in the past revealed that the intended couple  are cousins who cannot marry.

It is only when the girl’s family has accepted the marriage proposal of a suitor would the guy attempt to surprise a girl with an engagement ring at a party venue, shopping mall or even inside an aircraft.

How can anyone propose to an Igbo girl he may never eventually marry?

An Nnewi girl can never give a suitor an assurance even if she receives a Porshe or Lambogini assurance from her boyfriend. She can only give assurance if her family approves the proposal.

No girl from my town who has a father like me  would pack into a man’s house just because she received an engagement ring from him. She is simply aiding and abetting  “ohi ọtụ” or “stealing of pleasure belonging to her family without payment”. The man must pay a bride price by himself or through a proxy before he is allowed to access the ancestral honey pot of an Igbo girl.

If a girl decides to move in to live with a man after payment of bride price, she must ensure that the husband subsequently fulfils other requirements like the paying the entitlements to Ụmụ Ada, Ụmụ Nna, Ụmụ Okolobịa and Ndị Ichie which are either in cash or materials.

Many Igbo women who have outstanding marital debts have reported experiencing spiritual persecution of unknown origin. No prayer can exculpate the defaulter until the needful is done.

No sensible girl would sacrifice the essential ancestors’ blessings released by the elders of her family during the traditional marriage ceremonies. No wonder many babymamas look confused and disoriented.

Every Nnewi or Igbo girl should note that if an improperly married woman dies, her kinsmen would demand from her husband or accomplice, the full payment or fulfilment of all the undone or outstanding marital obligations before she is buried. It would even be worse if the dead lady didn’t do enough to merit the christian heaven, she would have to settle for christian hell, and would never be allowed into the Igbo’s land of ancestors.

Court and Church weddings are strange to Nnewi culture. We all have been forced by our colonial masters and their church brothers to accept them as legal and godly but we must remain who we are. Instructively, payment of bride price must precede either the court or/and church wedding.

For clarity sake, this is the modern sequence of marriage in Nnewi and as in many towns in Anambra state area:
1. Ịkụ aka n’ụzọ (introduction).
2. Ị bịa okwu nwaanyị (Indication of Interest or Marriage Proposal by Suitors’ Family).
3. Ị me ego (Bride Price Payment).
4. Ị gba nkwụ (Traditional Wedding where all relations of the bride collect their entitlements).
5. Amalụ m ụzọ ọgọ (Invitation by Son-in-law to inlaws to come know his house).
6. I du ụnọ (Sending off and settlement of a married daughter by her relations with household items or other assets to make her comfortable in her husband’s home).

Court or church marriage for an Igbo bride can only happen after the bride price has been paid. Traditional marriage can come later.

No traditional man, not even her parent or Ikenga Ezenwegbu, is allowed to eat any food prepared or served by any Igbo girl who has camped illegally with “onye ohi ọtụ” or “illegal bunkerer”.

I have printed this write up for my daughters to read and understand. They must sign it too. This is the duty I owe my ancestors.

Ikenga Ezenwegbu

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