I have never really been given to tradition. Growing up, I remember my folks and friends constantly told me I have ‘Oyinbo’ ways, perhaps this is why my mum is not even the least shocked when I tell her she just might get an ‘Oyinbo’ son-in-law. Her response usually is, ‘Oyinbo too is not bad’. :D

I have this uncle who donned me the alias – ‘Mistakenly Born in Nigeria’  but I am a Nigerian through and through. However where some of my idiosyncrasies, values and sometimes mannerisms are concerned, I am inclined to agree with my uncle. Like I don’t understand why my poor knee caps have to kiss and romance the ground every time I greet an elder, I mean couldn’t I just curtsy or offer a warm and ‘respectful’ handshake? But I do it anyway…..mama raised me ‘right’.

There are some aspects of the diverse Nigerian traditions I still haven’t come to wrap my mind around but there are others that are actually beautiful; I especially love to witness a traditional marriage ceremony as the play of culture is so interesting and fascinating.  So, tradition, i.e. cultural tradition is not outrightly bad in that context, but how it’s played remains a bone of contention. The underlying question is: do we take some aspects and shun the others or totally do away with every form of traditional practice?

Whilst we talk about marriage, I would really appreciate if a Good Samaritan could explain to me why the tradition demands that a husband to-be pays a huge amount of money before he can take his bride, never mind that he still has to foot wedding bills and care for his family? Isn’t that like auctioning a female child to the highest bidder?  Also, since in this part of the world, being single at thirty as a woman is a reproach, shouldn’t the woman and her family be the ones paying heavily for a husband? *insert BBM confused smiley*

While I am no feminist, I find that the tradition has been carved to be unfair to women and children; indeed the sharp edge of the traditional machete falls on this set of the people. Even in mundane things like family planning, the responsibility of ensuring that the number of children desired does not exceed the actual output lies singularly on the woman. The health risks contraceptives present to women can be undermined if the men would join in the course but doesn’t tradition forbid vasectomy and herald tubal litigation, for ‘safeguarding’? My ‘Oyinbo’ mind says, ‘since you cannot do without my egg and I cannot do without your sperm, we should both be responsible for the product of a possible fusion’ but that’s just it speaking, actually waiting to be heard.

Female genitals are cut off for ‘sexual purity’ (yes, circumcision is still a prevalent practice in some tribes) and whilst a woman is expected to keep her legs together till she is married, it’s not frowned upon when the man sows some wild oats. Let’s not even get started on the child bride syndrome and the travails that come with it.

A woman is not allowed to pursue career prospects not because it jeopardizes the affairs of her home or because she has made a personal choice not to but because it will make her proud and un-submissive. It will become difficult to control and manipulate her and so her ambitions and career dreams are sacrificed on the altar of insecurity and stinking thinking. You wouldn’t even begin to believe some things that actually do go on in some places.

Why is it an abomination that a man be seen in the kitchen by his relatives cooking and cleaning or being on a diaper change-n-wash roaster with his wife (in a no help/maid scenario) thereby taking away some steam from her? Does that really take away his manliness? While I consider it a woman’s responsibility to care for her home, the husband is not prohibited from helping out sometimes, is he? These are the things ‘Oyinbo’ husbands take pride in, no, helping with chores does not in any way downplay their manhood.

My ‘Oyinbo’ mind has already imagined how my husband will have dinner finished or started if he makes it home before I do(lofty dreams I know, that’s why he will be ‘Oyinbo’ :P), how we will bathe the kids and say grace with them together, how when I speak, he actually HEARKENS to me and doesn’t just brush my words aside saying, ‘Woman, be quiet! What do you know?’….like one scenario played out recently in public(another day’s gist) . Our marriage will be based on mutual respect, understanding, kindness, patience, joint effort and love in its intended context. Tradition and all its members shall not be invited because we will not be speaking the same language.

Tradition stems from culture which characterises people and tends to define their identity. It is inherent in our history and, try as hard as we (oyinbo-minded) can, may not be totally done away with. However, some of these traditional practices are out rightly ungodly and evil. If you aspire to build a successful marriage, upholding tradition might just be a negating factor to that goal. 

Marriage is an institution ordained by God and was founded on spiritual principles, how on earth do you expect it to succeed when you trump the original guidelines with man-made rules? We need to let go of old ways that do us no good and imbibe new attitudes that contribute to better living. 

Apart from the culture, there are also family and personal traditions that are rooted in selfishness and ignorance. We need to begin to unlearn those harmful traditions that have gone on to wreak havoc for too long, way too long.

Some have said, ‘Babe, wake up! There are no such men in Nigeria’. That’s actually not true, I happen to know some “Oyinbo’ Nigerian men but admittedly in the minority. While it seems I have focused on men (this is because the tradition is mostly harmful to women and children), it encompasses both genders and involves all strata of people. I believe that whatever does not foster growth and development should be dumped no matter how long it’s been practiced. When it’s all said and done, it’s up to individual choice but remember that your choices can make or mar you, I rest my case.
Omoregee 2014

‘Oyinbo’ is a word used to describe a foreigner, usually white-skinned. It is used in this context to express the white-man and some of his credos in disparity to the average Nigerians’.
Caveat: While I have used the white man to show a disparity in cultural practices, they also have parts of their culture that negate scriptural principles and what is actually being portrayed here as ‘Oyinbo’ is someone with Godly precepts and idiosyncrasies.