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The Significance Of Customary Marriage: Oronmwen

Last Update (July 9, 2020)

Why is it very necessary or significant marriage ceremonies to be performed under customary law? Why should a Bini man not just pick a girl of his choice and take her to be his wife as could be the case in the rare occurrence of elopement or cohabitation? Conversely, why should a young Bini lady not, on her own, choose a man, settle to married] life with him and just inform her parents of the development

Celebration of the marriage

Marriage in Benin Kingdoms is classified as one of the PRINCIPAL LIFE EVENTS known as UGIE-EDAGBON Others being Birth and Death, There are therefore, set Patterns and rules governing the performing rites in accordance with customary law of the Land, Therefore to take a wife or marry a husband casually or without due process in Benin would be a taboo It .was abnormal unacceptable and every opportunity would thus be seized to regularize such a situation if, and when it occurs indeed Marriage according to Benin customs and tradition provides legal cover social security in the community for the beneficiaries The process involves appropriate Consultation  and family consent  (on both side) which enables relative  friends and associates recognize the union, underscoring the importance accorded it in the scheme things. The Binis therefore acknowledge that, if contracted properly, marriage improves one’s social status and level of responsibility it also enhances and legalize the chances of heritance facilitates the proper upbringing of one’s children, ensure the continuity of one’s lineage  within the community. A classic advantage of full fledge marriage relates to succession under Benin Customary Law which is basically patrilineal and the Benin people strictly observe the principle is of primogeniture. So, where the eldest surviving son is born out of customary wedlock, and the paternity is acknowledged by his natural father, but where this natural father subsequently contract a customary marriage with another woman who is not the mother of the (eldest) one born out of wedlock, the son of the sub sequent marriage whose mother was duly inducted and  married under Benin Customary Law, i.e. where the mother is referred as (Okhuo N’O kewu), this son according to Benin custom is duly acknowledged as this first son or heir..The first one born out of customary wedlock is thus sub-rogated by custom to a lower position in the line of succession. It is even more problematic for the so- called eldest son if the paternity is disputed or if the father disowns him. The decision of the supreme court in Ogiugo .V. Ogiug (1999)73 LRCN36 81 gave support to this position taken by the trial customary court which favored the younger candidate whose mother was a full-fledged life to the deceased Duke {Ogiugo).

It is important to throw some light on the OGIUGO V. OGIUGO case referred to supra where many issues on traditional and succession matters were settled. What is pertinent here is the selection of a younger candidate for the Ogiugo (Duke) of Ugo N’Iyek-Ikpoba, in preference to an older candidate because the older one was born out of customary wedlock. In Bini parlance, “Jyee ma kewu” ie the mother did not satisfy the customary demand for a wife to make a. “tripod” for cooking and performing ancillary chores, for the husband and the household. For a wife to be full-fledged, after the marriage ceremonies and procession to the husband’s home, in addition to consummation of the marriage, the wife must establish her own “tripod” (IKEWU) in the harem among other “tripods”(of mud structure in the past) in the home, over which (like a stove), she must do her cooking for the husband and the household when it is her turn to do so (where there are many wives) There are other formalities that follow  the “Ikewu”, for example, after cooking and presenting the food, she is required to formally taste the food “Olama’ so as to ensure that the wife does not introduce  poison in the husband’s food etc. The essential’ thing in ikewu” Practice is for a wife to be prepared and equipped to . Practice all virtues after her ritual oath of allegiance fidelity to her husband. It also involves maintenance of personal and environmental cleanliness.

Although the candidates concerned in, the celebrated OGIUGO case were not the direct children (but grand children) of the deceased Ogiugo (Duke) o be succeeded. as the last Ogiugo had no male child, the traditional requirement was strictly applied in the selection process by members of the Ogiugo royal family. The Area Customary Court (of first instance) supported this which the Supreme Court upheld in its judgment. In other words, children born out of customary wedlock cannot aspire to certain privileges or perquisites reserved for 1st born Sons in the home, like inheriting a hereditary chieftaincy title or Dukedom. There lies the full and importance of well established Marriage under customary Law in Benin Kingdom

It follows therefore, that standardizing the marriage procedures will also enhance the status and dignity of customary or traditional marriage and will eliminate guesses, over-zealousness, and confusion from the highly revered system. An average grown-up young Bini man or woman looks forward to his or her day of marriage with relish, to graduate to Okpia-Oba” or “Odafen”, “okhuo-oba’ or. “amwen”. I.e. respectable adult mm or woman.. It was taboo for any young Bini girl or boy to shun marriage. To do so will imply that something has gone wrong somehow (UHUKI), unless there are religious 01.spiritual backing, and in which case, there are set ways in the tradition of removing any such barriers or impediment !0 the progress of such individual

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