AMID the pomp that greeted last Tuesday’s celebrity traditional marriage between Afro pop superstar, David Adeleke aka Davido and his long time girlfriend, Chioma tagged Chivido 2024, on a wet and rainy day in Lagos, some people, decided to start a debate on the perceived impropriety of holding such a huge traditional event in the region of the groom, and not in the bride’s place as tradition dictates. And yes, these culture advocates are not entirely wrong in their assertion because what happened on Tuesday was a rare occurrence even though it was not a first. We have had traditional marriages held in foreign lands and the event streamed live online for the families of both couples to watch with just a pocket of close family members in attendance, physically. I have had to organise the live streaming of a friend mum’s final burial rites because he was in Europe and could not make it even though he was responsible for everything up to the water everybody drank there that day. So, what happened on Tuesday was not a taboo in the real sense of the word, it became a national topic because a Davido was involved.

About two decades ago, I got a call from a very close family relative who informed me that he and his wife would be coming to Lagos and would loved to stay in my home for a couple of days. Naturally, I had to ask the purpose for the trip. He told me, his wife’s cousin was getting married. I was curious. If the wife’s cousin was getting married, the ceremony should be in the wife’s hometown, in the father’s compound in her village or town. But my relative told me the father was residing somewhere in the Ikotun area of Lagos and the husband to be also was living in Lagos, so, it was convenient for both parties to agree for the traditional marriage to hold here in Lagos and only key family members who travel arrangements could be made for, were invited. And if you so loved the couple, you could fund your way to Lagos. I found it not only strange, it was ridiculous as well. But things like this happen when the father of the bride had no strong family ties with people back in his hometown, he may for years be living a reclusive life in Lagos and above all, he may not even have a hut he could call his own in his hometown. His children all bear native names and that is where it ends, speak your local language to them, they tell you; “I don’t understand o”. Their understanding of their own dialect does not go beyond the normal greeting of “migwo” if the person is Urhobo or “eka ro o” if he or she is Yoruba. Since my relative does not know his way around Lagos, the responsibility fell on me to drive him and his wife to the ceremony. It was truly a traditional marriage, with an Urhobo gospel musician brought all the way from Delta State who entertained the guests. I sat through the event in a daze. An Urhobo traditional marriage happening in the heart of Yoruba land, a marriage between two Urhobos! I kept my disgust for what was happening to myself. Years after, I was to get married and although my wife’s parents lived in Lagos all their lives, the father after giving me a date, gave me the address of his town in Auchi area of Edo State. I had to leave Lagos a couple of days before the traditional marriage to coordinate how I would take my family members and friends to that place. I saw the pride and joy in my now late father-in-law’s face when our fairly large convoy arrived his compound from Urhoboland. The villagers were excited. Some were seeing for the first time, a different culture, especially from the way we all dressed in heavy Urhobo attires. That was the excitement Chioma’s Orlu people missed on Tuesday because the marriage held in Lagos instead and elders of Chioma’s family who received the bride price had to be ferried to Lagos.

I was told the parents of Chioma live in Lagos, I cannot independently verify that piece of information, but in trying to unravel why the traditional ceremony that should ordinarily hold in Chioma’s Orlu town or village was held in Lagos, one had to look into so many possibilities why what happened, happened.

IPOB ESN Unknown Gunmen Angle

Since the now incarcerated Igbo ‘Supreme Leader’, Nnamdi Kanu began a fresh agitation for the sovereign state for the South East part of the country(ONLY) called Biafra, over seven years ago, the region had known no peace. Since the setting up of IPOB’s(Indigenous People of Biafra) militia wing tagged the Eastern Security Network, ESN, aka unknown Gunmen, it has been one gory story or the other one hears from that part of the country daily especially on Mondays that the group had chosen to force residents to stay at home in civil disobedience. All efforts by the Governors of the five South East states, namely, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu, Anambra and Imo to protect the people have failed. And anyone who dared to step as much as outside his front door had met instant death. Police and army personnel have not been spared either. Just recently, about six soldiers were surprised and murdered in cold blood at a popular street junction where they had a roadblock, in Abia State. The army authorities are still looking for the perpetrators of that dastardly act. Similar murderous acts against security forces had taken place in all the states in the S.E but the major flashpoint of ESN operations is in Imo State and Chioma’s Orlu town has always been in the news for very not too pleasant reasons. Simon Ekpa, the man who replaced Nnamdi Kanu after he was arrested had in several videos posted online vowed to make Imo State ungovernable for the current Governor, Hope Uzodinma who he had severally accused of being a collaborator of the enemies of Biafra who in the minds of an average IPOB Igbo, are the Hausa, Fulani and Yoruba as ‘accomplices’. One chilling video this writer saw recently was of Ekpa boasting from his safe Finland haven that Uzodinma’s time would soon be up, this was after a bloody attack on Owerri, the capital of the state. Owerri had witnessed several bloody attacks from IPOB ESN, one that led to a major prison break. Orlu, Chioma’s town has been a centre of several battles between security forces and IPOB. Against this backdrop, would anyone blame Davido’s father-in-law and his kinsmen for agreeing to hold the traditional marriage of their daughter in Lagos?

Even if Davido would be able to protect himself, can all his celebrity friends afford to do that in Orlu? Would the Ooni of Ife have been comfortable to attend the ceremony like he did in Lagos on Tuesday if it held in Orlu? Would the Governor of Osun State, His Excellency, Adeleke, Davido’s uncle had freely danced around like he did on Tuesday if the event had held in Orlu? Would King Sunny Ade had agreed to grace the event if it was held in Orlu? How many soldiers, DSS operatives, Policemen, Civil defence would have been able to protect all those VIPs and celebrities that gathered freely on Tuesday had the occasion taken place in Orlu? And don’t forget that since the IPOB ESN took control of the South East, anybody who wants to hold any ceremony is made to pay ‘protection fee’ to them to ensure a violence free event. Unless people from the S.E want to live in self denial, they all know about the ‘protection fee’ according to your status and magnitude of the event. This kind of fee is also being paid by farmers in the northern part of the country to Boko Haram terrorists and bandits. Failure to pay it had led to the sacking of villages and mass murders of many poor farmers. It remains a mystery that security forces have been unable to protect these villagers and occasionally, prices of farm produce skyrocket and the excuse has always been, bandits and Boko Haram did not allow farmers to farm freely. A friend told me of how he was made to part with 40,000 when he went to pay the dowry of his wife in Abia State. The family collected the money as one meant for IPOB ESN to ensure a hitch free ceremony. So, imagine how much a Davido would have been billed by IPOB if the parents of Chioma had insisted on holding the traditional marriage in Orlu and not that Davido would not have been able to afford it, but was it really worth it? And what would have been the guaranty that those bunch of criminals won’t go back on their word and decide to grab a celebrity on his way back to the airport and demand billions of naira as ransom? Rich people are a walking ransom in the eastern part of the country presently. What, in your opinion, informed the decision of Afro pop star, Flavour, to hold his father’s funeral ceremony in a relatively safer Enugu state instead of his volatile Anambra state where his father hailed from? What was more a cultural taboo than that compared to a traditional marriage outside the town or village of the bride? Aside the effect of IPOB activities on the economy of the people of the South East(reason why Cubana Chief Priest recently relocated his businesses to Lagos), the socio-cultural life of the people is being affected brutally. Culture is being sacrificed on the slab of safety and would you blame anybody other than IPOB?

Does Davido’s Father-In-Law Have Close Ties With Family Back Home?

One cannot independently verify if Chioma’s father does have or not close ties with his family in Orlu, but even if he does have one, the IPOB reason alone was more than enough to put the safety of his in-laws and other guests in pole position before any culture. IPOB unknown Gunmen are fighting a guerrilla battle, they appear from the bushes, strike and either kill or kidnap and retreat into the forests where they have different camps, so, what if in the middle of such a ceremony, they decided to strike, would the surprised security forces be able to repel their attacks?

Everybody is happy that the Tuesday’s event(which would go down as the biggest celebrity marriage in the last decade) held without any security issues. All guests are back to their homes now, especially Chioma’s kinsmen who came from Orlu. Davido and his newly married wife have started a new reality of living together as husband and wife unlike in the past when Chioma was just the mother of his children. May they continue to live happily ever after, and as for those who are fixated on some sort of cultural sacrilege that Chioma’s family may have committed by consenting to holding the ceremony in Lagos, you may take a breather and rest, the safety of everyone was paramount and it was a wise decision by all parties involved.

-Akpovi-Esade is a journalist, media Lobbyist and public affairs commentator