Sunday, October 28, 2007

Fulani Marriages vs. Igbo Marriages

Fulani Marriages vs. Igbo Marriages

Marriage is an interpersonal relationship between a man and a woman. It is often referred to as a contract between couples. Marriage unites a man and a woman as husband and wife. After a couple agrees to get married it is often declared by a marriage ceremony. All over the world couples engage in marriage ceremonies. However, the way it is celebrated varies with geographical location, culture and ethnic groups. In my recent study of Yola Fulani traditional marriages and Enugu Igbo traditional marriages, I have concluded that Fulani societies have less respect for their women’s wishes than Igbo societies.
In the two types of marriages a prospective husband and his kinsmen visits the girl’s family to declare their intentions to her parents. It is like asking for their blessing, or permission. If the girl’s parents approve the proposal, then the man goes ahead with marriage ceremony arrangements assuming the girl also concurs. In Fulani culture, however, the girl has little control over who she is betrothed to. Her parents have the right to choose her husband for her if she had never been in a marriage. This contrasts to Igbo culture in which she is free to approve or disapprove a prospective husband.
The most common traditional practice in Igbo marriages is called “icho di”. This is performed during the traditional marriage. A prospective husband shuffles himself into the crowd to hide from his bride. The oldest man in the village gives her a cup of palm wine, and then she has to walk around and search for her husband among the crowd. When she finds him, she kneels in front of him and gives him the cup of palm wine, which he must drink to show the crowd that he is “the one”. This signifies that she has chosen her husband. In contrast to Fulani traditional marriages, the groom comes with a guarantor who vouches for him. The guarantor may be his uncle, his friend or his father. In this rite he agrees to take good care of his prospective wife, and the agreement is between his guarantor and the girl’s parents. This clearly shows that the girl has little or no choice when it comes to choosing a husband.
Moreover, a typical prospective couple in Igbo culture would have known each other for a while before the first visit of the prospective husband and his kinsmen. This initial intimacy helps to build a lasting and satisfactory relationship, because the couple must have gotten to know each other well before deciding whether or not they are suited for each other. In Fulani culture a man cannot approach a lady he wishes to marry until he obtains permission from her parents to do so. If her parents approve his proposal he goes ahead to approach the girl and let her know. In this case she has little or no choice if her parents are already impressed with the man. In other words, her parents have the right to choose a husband for her. Thus, the marriage is “rushed” into without prior intimacy or relationship.
Conversely, in Igbo culture a girl can get married when she is matured. She can get married at any age she pleases or feel that she is mature enough to endure the demands of marriage, but the ideal age is between 20 and 25 years. This is in contrast to Fulani cultural ideology in which a girl can be betrothed to a man when she reaches puberty. Her parents can give her away to a man she knows little or nothing about. At such a tender age she has no control over who she is going to spend the rest of her life with. She also finds it difficult to cope with demands from a husband at such tender age.
When married, a husband can decide whether or not his newly married wife should receive formal education. Her faith is at the mercy of her husband’s decision. More so, she may find it extremely difficult to combine the demands of academics with the demands of marriage and family even if her husband decides in her favor. This results in a reduced literacy rate among Fulani women, whereas in Igbo communities a lady has the right to education. It is entirely up to her to decide if she wants to receive formal education, and it also depends on the availability of resources.
The maximum number of wives for a typical Igbo husband is one. He is allowed to have one wife, although in some villages a titled man is permitted to have a maximum of three wives. This is divergent from the Fulani custom which permits a man to marry as many as 4 wives. A king can marry more than 4 wives. He is only restricted to choose his additional wives from his slaves. Those additional ones do not have the same status as his first 4 wives, and are more or less baby factories. In such polygamous families, the wives often fall out with each other in their bid for attention from their husband.
During the marriage, the Fulani bride to-be wears brown beads around her neck and wrists similar to the kinds worn by the Igbo bride. Skin art around the wrists and face of the bride is also common in both. Also, in both types of marriages the relatives of the bride and the groom wear clothes made of similar fabric for the ceremony, so during the ceremony it is easy to tell the relatives of the bride or the groom from friends and well wishers at the occasion.
Although there is some vestige of similarity between these two highlighted marriages, their differences set them apart. The Fulani ideology neglects the woman while the Igbo marriage tries to respect the wishes of both parties.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Guns: Powder and Blood

Guns, Powder and Blood

A gun is a device that can fire projectiles at high velocity. These projectiles otherwise known as bullets are propelled by black powder called gun powder. The high speed projectile can cause tremendous damage to anything it strikes. It was quickly adapted for wars and military conquests because of its enormous destructive power. It has also been used by countries to defend against foreign powers. However, the gun came with its advantages and disadvantages. It has been adopted by criminals as a tool for intimidation. It has been adopted by murderers because it simplifies the job of killing. Many people still disagree over the balance of its advantages vs. its disadvantages thus gun control and regulation has been the center of debate for many years. Gun control advocates on one hand and gun advocates on the other seem to balance each other in this argument. However, gun advocates fail to realize that there has been a dramatic increase in violence and crime since the advent of the gun. I strongly oppose the sales and licensing of guns because it has caused more demolition than construction in societies.
Gun advocates argue that guns are for self defense. They say that a gun may come in handy if one is confronted by enemies or robbers. Many families have guns they don’t even need, and the enemy they await may never come. Research has shown that a gun kept in the home for “self defense” is 43 times more likely to kill a member of the household, or friend, than an intruder.(Arthur Kellermann and Donald Reay. "Protection or Peril? An Analysis of Firearm Related Deaths in the Home." The New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 314, no. 24, June 1986, pp. 1557-60.). This is congruent to my personal experience. On the 20th of December, 2006 a friend of mine was shot in the groin by his 16 year old younger brother. The young lad pulled the gun during a quarrel with his elder brother, and when they both struggled for the gun he pulled the trigger. My friend died in the hospital the same day. A little quarrel resulted in the loss of life because, a gun was available. Perhaps, if there were no gun in that house, there wouldn't have been pain and loss of life. Research by Dr. Arthur Kellerman has shown that keeping a gun in the home carries a murder risk 2.7 times greater than not keeping one. Is there a need for self defense with a gun if there were no guns available? I don’t think so.
Gun advocates also argue that if everybody had a Gun, it would reduce crime rate, because criminals themselves will be deterred by fear. This is a rather silly ideology, because, all a smart criminal has to do is run up on his target and shoot first. Bullets don’t respect life neither can they differentiate between criminals nor innocent people. Incidents such as the Columbian high school massacre in April 1999, which resulted in the deaths of 14 students (including the two gunmen) and a teacher, will be regular news if guns can be obtained easily. It will create situations in which two people blast off at each other in the event of a quarrel or confrontation. I call it the “The evil spirit of the gun.” This will in turn increase street violence, number of notorious gangs, blood shed, population decline and economic decline of the country.
Hunters aggressively protect their right to possess guns. Majority claim that they are used for hunting alone. I think they should employ the use of traps or sedatives, because the guns of today can kill anything from birds to humans. These guns that are available to hunters can get stolen or sold and eventually get to criminals for unlawful acts. This may start a chain reaction of people trying poses weapons. Obviously, there is a problem with criminals having access to guns, which is why so many people feel they, too, need a gun for self-defense.
Another is the issue of national security. Gun advocates argue that guns should be available to all citizens in a country, so that in time of invasion by a foreign power, they can defend themselves, but they fail to realize the compromise. A government that advocates guns for “national security” should also be wary of the fertile ground it prepares for violence and rebellion. For instance, in a society with so many guns in circulation it is easy for political opponents of the incumbent government to mobilize a rebel group against the government. Making guns available may ultimately lead to a state of anarchy in a country.
The problem with guns is that it makes it easy to kill someone. A simple pull of the trigger whether accidental or intentional can cost a person’s life. A psychologically unstable person can easily commit suicide in time of depression, and a quick tempered person can kill someone easily if provoked. A recent shootout at an American University, Virginia Tech, left 32 people dead including the gunman. The gunman happened to be an English major student at the university. His reason for shooting all those people is still a puzzle. Countries with weak gun control policies suffer this kind of situations often and thousands of people are condemned to death every year as a result.
If we can imagine what the world will be without guns, we will realize that although it is difficult to imagine a perfect world without guns, it is easy to imagine a much more peaceful environment. A trigger cannot be pulled if there is no trigger to pull.