Tiv, Benue State
Gowon, the fearsome rainmaker, would have made real his threat to disrupt the event with rain, had Aondohimba not dissuaded him by bribing him with many tubers of yam. It was Aondohimba’s grand-niece’s engagement ceremony, and as the Orya or family head, it was his duty to ensure all guests were comfortable.
Limber was finally getting married to her heartthrob, Bem, whom she met four years earlier in Abuja. They had returned to the village to get married upon the Orya’s insistence. Relatives from both families arrived at the Orya’s village compound, dressed in the zebra-striped fabric, known as A’nger. Bem’s relatives came fully prepared for the marriage rituals; they had brought along the bride price, the money for the head of the household, the cloth of the prospective father-in-laws, money for tobacco, money for “silencing” the noisy youths, bags of salt, red oil, and several other items.
After the dowry was paid, the bride was asked to come out and show her “fathers” the man she wished to marry by giving him a drink. Limber danced out from an inner room with a cup in hand, looking simple, yet gorgeous in her A’nger, which her grandmother personally weaved as her wedding present.
Her mother, Iverem, sat with the female relatives in another room, waiting for the couple to finish with the elderly men. As she waited, she wondered why, Yahimba, her younger daughter, would start a relationship with the groom’s brother, Terhide, knowing they were in-laws.
Were they trying to revive Yamshe, an ancient type of Tiv marriage, where in-laws married each other in exchange? “Our ancestors must be working overtime through the youths to revive old customs.”
It’s ironical sometimes that a step backwards is what moves the society forward.