Nigeria has over 250 ethnic groups with different beliefs, values, languages, cultures, and traditions. However, there are three major ethnic groups – the Igbos dominating the South-East, Yorubas dominating the South-West, and the Hausas dominating the North. These regional boundaries have affected the way people view inter-tribal marriages.
For instance, the Igbos are perceived as arrogant and money ritualists. The Yorubas are generally considered accommodating but skilled in juju and other fetishes. Although the Hausas are believed to be the most peaceful among the three ethnic groups, they are believed to be irrational people who could easily get irked and become brutal at the slightest provocation.
These negative perceptions have not stopped inter-tribal marriages in Nigeria. However, there are problems and advantages that this article will look at. But first, let’s look at the meaning of inter-tribal marriage.
What is inter-tribal marriage?
Dictionary.com defines inter-tribal marriage as marriage between people of different religions, tribes, castes, ethnicities, or racial groups, as between a white person and a Black person or between a Christian and a Muslim. It is also a marriage between people of different social classes.
Inter-tribal marriage in Nigeria
Nigeria is a country that is blessed with people of different ethnic groups with diverse beliefs, values, cultures, and traditions. Inter-tribal marriage among ethnic groups is very common. It is not surprising to see an Igbo man married to an Efik woman, a Hausa man married to an Edo woman, or a Yoruba man married to an Ijaw woman.
Although inter-tribal marriage is frowned upon in many quarters, with parents wanting their children to marry from the same tribe, more preferably the same village, it has come to stay in Nigeria. Unlike the days of our fathers, young Nigerians are now more open to connecting with people from other ethnic groups, thanks to technology.
The internet has helped young people to connect with other tribes to learn their cultures and traditions. So, it is not surprising that more people now embrace marrying from other tribes despite the glaring problems with inter-tribal marriages.
Problems of inter-tribal marriage in Nigeria
According to Translators Without Borders, Nigeria has over 500 languages. The official language is English which is less spoken in rural areas. Nigeria is the third most ethnically and linguistically diverse country in the world. However, this diversity has posed some problems for couples in inter-tribal marriages. For instance, in a patriarchal society like Nigeria, the woman is expected to adjust and adopt her husband’s ways. If she is married to a man from a different tribe, language will be one of the problems for her. She will feel alienated from his family. This is part of why many women don’t like to travel to their husbands’ hometowns.
Marriage is usually for better or worse. Imagine being married to someone from a different ethnic group. This means you must learn and adapt to their culture and traditions, which may clash with your own. Again, women are usually expected to make such compromises more than men. In some cultures, a woman is expected to call every member of her husband’s family “uncle” or “aunty,” including a newborn baby. If she comes from a background that abhors such practices, she may find it difficult to adjust, which could lead to conflicts between her and her husband’s family.
One of the biggest challenges with inter-tribal marriage is religion. Nigeria’s three major religions are Christianity, Islam, and the Traditional religion. It is not uncommon to see a Christian married to a Muslim. Such differences can affect an inter-marriage if the couple doesn’t come to an understanding.
Some families don’t want their children to marry people from other tribes. However, some children defy family orders by falling in love and getting involved in inter-tribal marriages. This will cause conflict as the families may not accept the children’s spouses. The result is there will be a rift that can last for years. It is very common to see children raised in inter-tribal marriages who don’t know their roots because their parents have problems with their extended families.
Unbalanced cultural development in the children
Raising children in inter-tribal marriages indeed has many advantages. But on closer look, you will discover that it is usually one-sided. For instance, a child may be raised in the father’s culture and tradition without an iota of knowledge about his or her mother’s cultural background and vice versa. Another instance is when the child is exposed to both his or her parents’ cultures which can lead to identity crises, emotional instability, and a great resentment towards the parents.
Divorce is common in inter-tribal marriages due to a lack of cultural integration. Here the couple eventually caves in to hostile pressures from family, friends, religion, and the society at large. The couple may have started with the intent to make things work no matter what, but the previously mentioned reasons will prevail in the end.
Advantages of inter-tribal marriage in Nigeria
Inter-tribal marriage is a welcome development because it promotes unity in diversity among the people. A country where inter-marriage is often encouraged and practiced will remove ethnic tension and chaos.
Once people of different religious backgrounds are allowed to intermarry, religious crises will end. There will be empathy and understanding, leading to an increasingly secularized Nigerian society.
Contrary to a lot of views, inter-marriage strengthens culture rather than weakens it. No culture should remain dormant otherwise, it will fade with time. With inter-marriage, couples can discover things lacking in their individual cultures and try to improve them. They can identify some words foreign to their own cultures and pass them down to their children. These are just a few instances where culture can be strengthened through inter-tribal marriages.
Encourages true federalism
A child raised in an inter-tribal home doesn’t see him or herself as Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, or any other tribe in Nigeria. He or she identifies as a Nigerian first before any other thing. This is because such a child has been exposed to different cultural backgrounds.
Inter-tribal marriage is a welcome development if Nigerians truly hope to end ethnic tensions and conflicts. It should be encouraged to foster unity among the people. Thanks to technology, it is easy to learn about the different tribes and cultures, which can erode the negative perceptions they’ve had against one another. If more people are allowed to marry from other tribes, it means a more peaceful environment where one will not be judged or discriminated against due to one’s ethnic background.
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