Why I got married in a canoe to beat the floods – Delta man

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Box can you tell us more about yourself?

I am a media professional and researcher in the Niger Delta region. I am currently working with the GbaramatuVoice Media Organization as an editor. In the performance of my duties as a journalist, through Gbaramatu Voice, I have been around almost every cove and town in Delta, Bayelsa, Ondo and Edo states. A fact remains that the Ijaw region is endowed with an abundance of natural resources of oil and forests full of wealth, but a region full of poverty. Yes, I am from Bobougbene, Ayakoromo and Obotebe communities in Burutu Local Government Area in Delta State.

We saw you celebrate your marriage on canoes in the creeks of Burutu. What motivated this decision?

First of all, my experience could be described as the first of its kind in this locality. Originally, my wife, Emily Tam Ekanpou, and I did not plan it as such. We hoped that by the time we were set for the dowry payment, the devastating flood would have receded. But unfortunately, the flood kept increasing, despite the fact that we had invested a lot of money in the wedding. So we let nature take its course because what is naturally cosmically designed cannot be reversed by man. Eventually we arrived at my in-laws community where the water level was truly deadly. There was no turning back; we had to do it (arrange the wedding) as planned.

Before payment, as Ijaw people, we are aware of the long established tradition that if you marry an Ijaw girl, no matter how far from the village of the parents, you must go to the community where their daughter. born and raised for marriage. You have to go there to allow people, the father and the parents of the community to identify who is coming to marry their daughter. In doing so, the whole community becomes aware that a man’s daughter is married. Respecting the roots of his family and the whole community is essential so that if someone from the community sees you anywhere, he can grant you the honor of being his in-laws. The Ijaw people believe in it so much. So we had no choice but to do what we thought was traditionally right.

How did you feel having your wedding in the middle of a deadly flood? Didn’t you mind that it was a dangerous adventure?

I will rather say that I was very excited and prepared for the ugly and unpleasant situation of going to do what was not recorded having a wedding on a canoe in the middle of a devastating flood, and where there was no land to pay my wife’s dowry. When we (my family members and I) arrived from Warri, my wife was on a separate dinghy and then the GbaramatuVoice the team and I, led by my boss, the editor, Mr. Jacob Abai, were on another boat. The family was very willing to raise a small platform for us to pay the bride price. All the people from the community came with their canoes. My family and guests were all on canoes.

Were your family members comfortable with the arrangement?

Initially, my elder sisters were not happy that their brother came to perform the traditional rites of his beloved wife and they, the family, could not even honor him by dancing to rejoice with their wife. They were furious and suggested things be done in Warri. But I told my family members that the flood had affected all of Burutu and that there was no IDP camp to move those from the village to the highlands. Residents of Akparamogbene had to sleep in canoes as the flood was above roof level. So we had to respect the decision of my in-laws and go down to their community to pay the dowry. Yes, we got there and their drinks were served on canoes; the family accompanied their daughter on a canoe, and I danced on a canoe. It was a fantastic experience for me as a husband, a very beautiful moment for me and my wife too.

How would you say people in riparian areas cope with flooding, so they live their lives?

Being an Ijaw man, we are riparians. Flooding has always been our main challenge. We face it and live with it. We have repeatedly asked the government to help us sand up our communities, but there is no response. The flood itself is aware that the Ijaw are dealing with it, no matter what havoc it has wreaked on their homes. The flood is a natural and unusual disaster. Traditional marriage is a natural human right. In my case, two natural elements met, so the higher natural plane (marriage) took precedence. We overcame the flood and moved on to perform our traditional wedding rites. I even wrote an article about the event. So the reporter was like an impossible mission. You set your plans and conquer in the face of adversity. Due to the lack of government presence in our villages such as Bobougbene, Akparamogbene, Oyangbene, Eseimogbene and others, women were delivered on canoes on their fishing expeditions. What cannot happen in the Ijaw regions does not exist. So despite the flooding, there was no postponement of my wedding and we were very happy people that day, November 3, 2022.

I had thought earlier that with the deluge exceeding expectations, there would be no place to dance. My wife’s family, the Ekanpou family, told me to come and pay the dowry with only five people from my family. However, before that, my whole community, Bobougbene, had planned to storm the community of Akparamogbene with local canoes and dance from their homes. But the flood refused to leave. The community president and others called me to help them postpone the dowry payment because there would be no place for them to dance and rejoice with us, but I refused. unwillingly. So, we came from Warri; there were about 30 of us on two speedboats – one carrying the editor of GbaramatuVoice and the other carrying me and my family members. And my wife’s family, knowing that there was no land to stand on to pay the bride price, organized canoes and also set up a small platform which they warned that it was strictly reserved for a few people. that it would not collapse. So all the other things were on canoes, and a few climbed onto the platform, paid for the items, and returned to their canoes.

Was your wife as comfortable as you on a canoe?

My wife was unwilling to dance on the canoe, but as for me who paid the almighty marital debt on my head, I was overjoyed to have overcome the most feared flood in Nigerian history , as an internally displaced person.

What were some other notable challenges you faced on your wedding day?

To God be the glory. The celebration went well even though the original plans were changed. The risk on a boat for the dowry, the payment was an unusual phenomenon. It was fun and interesting for me, but a very difficult situation, not comfortable, but we adapted and did everything we could to the best of our abilities. The list of items given to me by the bride’s family was followed accordingly. However, we could not dance well as Ijaw people in the Niger Delta region. When you pay your wife’s bride price, good music is played for you to dance with your wife, but those things weren’t there as part of traditional marriage. The flood was a big challenge for all of us. Although the people from the community who were there were in a happy mood, I could see the pain caused by the flooding on their faces.

It is painful to note that the government has been nonchalant towards the Ijaw living in the coastal areas; whether people die or not is never their (the government’s) business, except during election season. This is the only time when they know there are people in the villages and they need to get their votes.

In the local government area of ​​Burutu, for example, there are no displaced persons camps to accommodate people ravaged by the floods. Children, elderly men and women were left on treetops and canoes to survive the devastating flood. It is a great challenge of the century. The Delta State government should be proactive in its dealings with local residents. The challenges are too many – from clean water to electricity, healthcare, good schools and other social amenities. There is no road network to facilitate market traffic. That’s a shame. We have had worse times as residents, but this one (flood) is the worst because the houses are collapsing and there is no support after the flood.

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