The Mada tribe is found in central Nigeria, predominantly in the state of Nassarawa.
In Mada land, marriage is an acceptable union of a man and a woman, contracted after traditional and religious obligations have been satisfied. There are five types of marriages, which are acceptable traditionally. These are: marriage through parental betrothal, marriage by elopement, marriage by exchange, marriage by inheritance and marriage by force (also known as capture marriage).
Betrothal by Parents
This was the most acceptable form of marriage in Mada traditional land. It is initiated by the parents of the intending couple. A newly born female child would have her forehead marked by a man who wishes his son to get married to her. The mark is a sign that the girl is already engaged. He follows this with gifts to the mother of the infant girl. The presents to the parents of the girl continue as a way of showing that the family of the boy have not changed their minds. When the girl is about ten, a formal introduction is then made.
At about the age of sixteen, bride price is paid. The bride price consists of twelve goats. It is followed by fried termites (begbin), which is garnished with beniseed (be-shishi). There is also beans that have been cooked with large amounts of palm oil. Once these are done, the next thing is to announce the date of handing over of the bride and celebration of the wedding. The event is marked by dances and other cultural performances. Of these performances is the nneginte (raft zither performance)
Preparation is very cumbersome. The groom’s family sends guinea corn (be-kpur) to be used in making wine (mea ler kpan). This is in addition to twelve fowls to be used for the ceremony.
On the day of the traditional dance, the bride and her friends take two pots of wine to the family of the groom. Elders (men and women) from the groom’s family set out to the bride’s home. They spend the day drinking and returning at sunset. The bride and her friends have their bodies (except the face) decorated with white beniseed (be-nja). The two pots of wine they had brought are consumed by the elders who did not travel to the bride’s village. Drinking continues until late the night when they now move to the bride’s village to start the dance.
Prior to the dance, the groom and his friends travel to the venue of the wedding (often the bride’s village). The groom’s family also sends two pots of wine to their in-laws-to-be. One is treated with honey. Accompanying these is a meal (mbuar) of black beniseed, also treated with honey. This presentation to the bride’s family marks the end of the wedding preparation and a final farewell of the bride to her parents. She leaves to her husband’s home, where she is handed over to the eldest member of her in-laws or middle man (chukpu). The groom takes his wife later in the evening.
Two days later, aunties of the bride (migiri) travel to the groom’s village to sing poems and dance till sunset, when they are sent off with a fowl each. Uneasily, they get proof of marriage consummation, which they take to the bride’s mother. A blood stain on a white cloth signifies the bride is a virgin. This gives a reason for jubilation, as the girl did not bring dishonour to her family. The bride’s mum is now able to walk with her shoulders held high as her detractors have been put to shame.
In marriage by elopement, the couple simply absconds. It usually happens when the parents of the girl refuse to give consent for the marriage despite love between the girl and her boyfriend. It could also be because the man is without a job and cannot shoulder the cost of an elaborate wedding, or the girl becomes pregnant out of marriage. The man does not take the girl to his home straight away. Instead, he takes her to a trusted middleman. The boy’s relations travel to the girl’s home the next day to inform them about their stealing. The girl’s parents will request that the girl is returned for proof. She remains with her parents for days before her final release. Within these days, the boy pays the bride price, without the necessity of an elaborate wedding ceremony.
Marriage by Exchange
This involves the exchange of sisters or relations as wives. It excludes the payment of a bride price. There is a remarkable bright side to this form of marriage. It prevents domestic violence or neglect of matrimonial responsibility on the side of the man. Also, a woman married this way cannot be killed by witchcraft except where there is a consensus between her in-laws and her relations. The dark side of this marriage is that where there is a divorce on one side, a bride price from the other end must be paid or the wife must be equally divorced. If one of the women is barren, there is sadness on the other end.
Marriage by Inheritance
In this, a man marries the wife of an elder brother that dies. Sometimes, a son marries the youngest wife of his father, following the death of the father. However, the woman involved must consent to it. There is no bride price involved. If, however, a woman refuses to marry the relation of a dead husband and eventually goes on to marry someone outside of her in-laws, the new husband must pay a bride price to the family of her late husband. Where the bride price is not paid, any child resulting from the marriage actually belongs to the family of her late husband.
Forced or Captured Marriage
This type of marriage was responsible for inter-communal conflicts in Mada society. A woman is ambushed and taken by force to become a wife. If she happens to be married, that is when conflict ensues. If, however, she is a girl, the bitterness may not lead to a conflict. If she detests the marriage, she finds an opportunity to escape, eventually. This, however, was often after a child or two. Back home, she will never enjoy the status of a girl. Rather, she will be considered a divorcee, as she has been defiled.