Many of the star marriages today are mostly inter-tribal. In this piece, ELEOJO IDACHABA examines some of those marriages involving especially northern men to southern women and the implications of same for the unity or otherwise country.
It is generally said that love knows no bounds. Because of this, individuals from different backgrounds defy cultural and religious differences to profess their love for each other till death separates them. In many cases, the love birds even defy their parents’ wishes to enter such marriages without minding its consequences.
It is a common practice in many climes including Nigeria, with her polarised religious and cultural differences of north/south divide where the North is predominantly of the Muslim adherents and the South is predominantly of the Christian faith, to see such marriages thriving without any bickers.
Investigations by Blueprint Weekend show that the trend is in favour of more men from the North taking wives from the South as against the other. Analysts are of the view that the reason is because of the effect of the civil war which toll was more on the women as the intensity of the war was more in the southern part, especially the South-east than in the North. As plausible as this may sound, the argument appears to hold no water as some of those marriages were contracted after the civil war in which there was no compulsion, but consent.
Also, the majority of those women who got married to these northern men are not of the South-east extraction. More so, they got married not out of any selfish motive, but because of the bond between them and their determination to live together.
Some of those marriages under examination include those of the late head of state, Gen. Murtala Mohammed, Theophilus Danjuma, Ibrahim Babangida, Dr. Ahmadu Alih, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Bamanga Tukur, Babagana Kingibe, Mohammed Buba Marwa, and Bukola Saraki, to mention a few.
This is one marriage that has left a lasting legacy in the annals of Nigeria’s history as far as cultural and political integrations are concerned. The marriage, which was contracted in 1963, was done when young Murtala, as a Captain in the Nigeria Army was the Aide De Camp (ADC) to then administrator of defunct Western Region, Dr. Moses Majekodunmi and was subsequently consummated.
Further investigation showed that his marriage is still a rallying point for discussion about the unity of Nigeria, where leaders from various backgrounds put aside their religious, cultural, and political biases to discuss issues that bother on the country’s unity. A good example is the Murtala Muhammed foundation lecture series which has been sustained by his wife, Ajoke, for years, a platform where leaders converge annually to reflect on what binds the country together rather than on what divides her.
Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida
Another union that has held everyone spell-bound for years even though the wife is now late is that of former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (retd.) and Maryam who got married to each other in 1969 at Kaduna. The marriage, which has produced four children, has also produced strong realignments among Nigerians. For example, after the first family left office in 1993, Maryam set up a private school in Minna with a major branch in Abuja where thousands of Nigerians work to earn their daily livelihoods. The family bond the marriage has built over the years between the prince of the Niger and Asaba where Maryam hails from has remained unprecedented.
The marriage between Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (retd.) from Taraba state to Edo state-born Daisy is another union that appeared to have cemented the strong bond between the North and South in every ramification. Daisy is certainly not his first wife, but his marriage to this Edo-born woman has changed a lot of narratives about Nigeria. So far, it has produced children who have also married from different sections of the country as the older Danjumas are now grandparents. One of their children, Ishaya got married to Agbani Darego, former world’s most beautiful woman. With the Danjumas, there is nothing like the South/North divide as the retired General has relinquished his executive positions to his wife in most of the companies where he has controlling shares mostly domiciled in the South. Beside that the name TY Danjuma is a household name in Edo state.
This Kogi state-born former military officer, medical doctor, senator and politician is another Nigerian who plunged into the world of inter-tribal marriage from the southern part of the country. His wife, Maryam, from Delta state is one woman that has given direction to the Ali family in the last 20 years or more of their union. The couples are both holders of one of the highest chieftaincy titles of Igala kingdom where Ali hails from.
This former vice-president of the country is another star northerner who married a Yoruba lady by the name Titi in his early age even though today he has additional wives including an Igbo woman by the name Jennifer. Although a polygamist, the closeness and bond he shares with all his wives especially those from the southern part of the country can evoke envy in the minds of other men. Then a young customs officer commanding a post at Idiroko border, he met an equally young Titi in 1971 who was coming to Lagos from Benin Republic but having altercation with some custom men over a brocade material she was carrying. Atiku intervened and one thing led to another, they met again and got married secretly at Ikoyi registry because Titi’s family was initially opposed to the marriage. The marriage is well over 40 years now and still waxing strong. The bond that exists between them goes beyond marriage as a lasting bond now exists between the Turakin dynasty of Adamawa state and Titi’s family line in the South-west.
This foremost business man also known as Tafida Adamawa is someone who is largely detribalised in many ways especially marriage. But for his name, when heard speaking Yoruba language, he can be taken for a Yoruba man. To a large extent, his Muslim religion allows him to take many wives as he can afford, that probably accounts for the retinue of women especially from the South who are in his life. Although he has succeeded in keeping the identity of these women secret; however, report indicates that some of them are from the Yoruba speaking states especially Lagos, Cross River and an Ijaw woman, a practice the business man/politician often defends, saying there is nothing that prevents one from picking a wife from any part of the country. To justify his stand on this, not too long ago, he gave out one of his daughters in marriage to the son of Bola Shagaya in a marriage that was well attended by who’s who in Nigeria. According to him, there is nothing that prevents anyone from marrying a Fulani lady if both of them decide to. Marriage for him is a delight.
This former secretary to the government of the federation as well as former chairman of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) from the Kanuri extraction of Borno state is married to a pretty Yoruba woman by the name Ireti from Lagos state. Since then, it has not been on record that he picked another wife despite the religious and cultural demand of his background. His marriage to Ireti who is a combination of beauty and brain, no doubt, added a stimulus to his bourgeoning career, thereby putting off the north/south dichotomy among Nigerians. To a large extent, it is believed that the acceptability of Kingibe in the south is largely due to his marriage from that region, more so that the union has built in him the ability to converse fluently in Yoruba language like his fellow North-easterner, Tukur.
The current secretary to the government of the federation, Mr Boss Mustapha from Adamawa state, is someone who also married a Yoruba lady from the South-west by the name Funmilayo. Not many people know this until some time ago when his daughter, Amanda, got married after which the media was awash with headlines of the man and his wife. Boss, as he is popularly called, another North- easterner, has a lot to benefit from his marriage because as a politician, age and exposure are added advantage for him in his chosen career.
Implications for national integration
Generally, what is known as inter-tribal marriage is not a new development in any society like Nigeria. It transcends across national to international borders. However, analysts point out that there are cultural/religious benefits from such. As a matter of fact, its benefits outweigh any negative consequence that may be credited to it.
According to Kingsley Azu, “Inter-tribal marriages can help to solve our ethnic problems and strengthen our nascent democracy and bring about the needed development.”
“The practice can encourage Nigerians to cherish their different heterogeneous ancestry. The problem of lopsided appointments and disparity over quota system among regions which have been a contentious debate over time would pale those differences among the people and collapse the existing barriers, promote unity and accelerate growth,” he said, adding that all institutions should encourage inter-tribal marriage.
The church encourages inter-marriages
Azu may not be wrong in his opinion as Rev Fr Sunday Abonyi told Blueprint Weekend that while the society preaches understanding among the various segments of the society on empty slogan, “The church encourages marriages especially among different tribes and different cultures on solid ground because in the church, we believe that we all belong to the same faith and same God. A good example is the song we sing. Irrespective of which ethnic group the song belongs to, we all sing with relish. It is the same analogy with marriages. In fact, in the recent past, we have tailored our sermons on marriages to encourage young men and women of different tribes to inter-marry. That may solve the larger problems in the society.”
The church, he noted, is at the forefront of the campaign for inter-tribal marriages more than any other institution in the country.