ASSESSMENT OF AFRICAN TRADITIONAL FORMS OF COMMUNICATION IN MARRIAGE AMONG THE JUKUNS IN SOUTHERN TARABA STATE, NIGERIA

ASSESSMENT OF AFRICAN TRADITIONAL FORMS OF COMMUNICATION IN MARRIAGE AMONG THE JUKUNS IN SOUTHERN TARABA STATE, NIGERIA

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ABSTRACT

In Assessing the African Traditional Forms of Communication in Marriage among the Jukuns in Southern Taraba State, as a result of scanty literature in the area of the study among the people, the researcher adopted qualitative approach and utilised survey and Focus Group Discussion (FGD) methods. Purposive and snowball sampling were employed. The former was used to sample the Jukuns‟ traditional chiefs who are custodians of culture and traditions; while the later was used to sampled Jukuns‟ men and women, young and old between the ages of 18 years and above, based on their in-depth knowledge of the subject matter. Key Informant Interview (KII) and FGD guides, recording tapes and notebook formed the major instruments of data collection.  The study is anchored on the symbolic interactionism theory which proffers understanding on the social processes that create and revolve around communication by explaining how people use symbols as a sense making tools. That is, how symbols are deployed and meanings are assigned to them in order to understand our communication. The research found out that the whole range of activities therein involves social event between families and by extension communities, and not between individual. The social event also involves continuous social communications; women are recognised and played vital roles; the Jukun language is the tool (symbol) used to initiate and negotiate the marital processes. Also, the traditional forms of communication in marriage among the Jukuns, do not give room for dissolution of the union. These traditional forms utilised tradomedia. However, lack of documentation, social change in the value system of the Jukun people, none-usage of aboriginal (Jukun) language in teaching in schools, religion, human civilisation or westernisation, population growth, competitive spirit as well as limited human capacity of retention and remembrance of all spheres of traditional forms are the factors affecting such kinds of communication. The study then recommended that the Jukun elites are to take documentation of their traditions and cultural heritage for future generations seriously. The prospective Jukun grooms should get rid of competitive spirit in settling dowry. Furthermore, the elites should create awareness and sensitise Jukun youths on their cultural heritage during cultural festivals. The Jukun linguists should develop Jukun Language syllabus (curriculum) for use in primary and post primary schools.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

 1.1       Background to the Study                                                                        

Before and after the invention of written language and modern technologies for communication, every society in the world, Africa inclusive, has its own means of communication (AnsuKyeremeh, 1998; Akpabio, 2003). Hence, in Africa, it is called “African traditional communication system” but due to various cultural groups and languages that African society cradles with, the nature of communication is culturally bound. That is, people of the same cultural group such as the Jukuns, share the meaning of symbolic objects and symbolic interaction as differ from people of different cultural groups such as the Igala, Igbirra etc. (Ansu-Kyeremeh, 1998; Akpabio, 2003; Okon, 2012; Asemah, 2012; Okpoko 2014).

African traditional forms of communication is conceptualised as a social construct and historical transmitted pattern of meanings, representation and interpretations arising from symbols,  premises, values, norms, institutions, events,  ethos, rules and arts of African ancestors observed, practiced and perpetuated by successors from generation to generations. It is a complex web of shared meanings. For instance, observers might get much from the action of people‟s way of dressing, physical appearance, and body language. Therefore, the receiver must decode the incoming information against the backdrop of their culture and match it with existing knowledge. Always, culture and existing knowledge have impact on encoding, decoding, and matching processes, which sometimes produce noise in the communication channel. This also explains its utilisation in multi-media and multi-channels system for information gathering, dissemination, and reception.                          

Such communication occurs in both verbal and non-verbal forms; formal or informal; and intentional or unintentional (Wood, 2006; Okon, 2012).  Udomisor, Ekpe & Inyang (2014) further explain that, such communication occurs in intrapersonal, interpersonal, group or groups and mass level of individuals that share a common interest through a channel or channels in which marriage is one of them. 

Nigerians in particular and Africans in general, utilise instrumental, demonstrative, iconographic, extra-mundane, visual, institutional, venue-oriented names, folktales and proverbs; natural phenomena, etc as channels of communication. This explains why there are problems in defining and classifying African communication systems, because what serves as a form, could also serves as a channel in the communication processes. All of these channels are further divided into other types (Akpabio, 2003; Okon, 2012). For instance, instrumental channel is further divided into, membranophones, idiophones, aerophones, and

symbolography, while institutional channel is divided into marriage, chieftaincies, shrines, and masquerades, etc. 

Nigerians in particular and, by extension, the Jukun people utilise this system of communication to disseminate information on health, marriage, politics, economy, military, education, agriculture, religion, commerce, indigenous science and technologies, indigenous steel and industries, to mention but few, simultaneously to a homogenous audience. The aim is to inform and promote the peoples‟ culture. For instance, through the traditional art of story-telling young ones are educated on moral behaviour, health habit, marital values, political-economic activities, military, agriculture, religion, commerce, indigenous science and technologies, steel and industries and other skill acquisition methods to mention but a few. Also, cultural promotion is achieved through the elders and story-tellers. They intertwine myth and history and pass on to the next generation what is important to the culture (Baran, 2001). The result of this interrelationship is that, people get to know each other intimately and rely on one another for survival (Wood, 2006). Roles are also clearly assigned to the different social groups within the society; while stories teach important cultural lessons, preserve important cultural traditions and values. Control over communication is rarely necessary, but when it is to be controlled, it is easily achieved

through sanctions (Baran, 2001; Kur, 2012).                                       

In such communication system, meanings in language are specific; and local. As a result, communities are closely knit and members are highly dependent on each other for all aspects of life. Moreover, knowledge is passed on orally:  in which people are shown and told how to do things, hence farming, skilled hunting, and mid-wifery and so on, were embodiments of culture. More to that, memory serves as repository of cultural norms, customs and traditions. Elders are revered for their role in ensuring that elements of culture were committed to memory (Baran, 2001).

Marriage which is mentioned as one of the institutional channels earlier in this work is now seen as an event that utilises African traditional communication system for its self. It is a legitimate and socially recognised union of a man and a woman who as a result of parental consent and fulfilment of societal requirements, agree to live together as husband and wife to procreate. Fox (1967) viewed marriage as the copulation of mates: male and female. To Onyeka (2011:53), “marriage is the joining together of a man and a woman to co-habit as couple”. This scholar examined the concept from the companionship point of view. Yamah (2012) defines marriage as an alliance between a man and a woman which legitimises sexual access and child bearing, giving them an ascription in the society as members of a particular lineage and family. This scholar looks at marriage as a legal means of biological satisfaction and the resultants-child-bearing. 

To some, marriage is one of the difficult concepts to be assigned any generally acceptable meaning. They further justified that it exists in all societies but have different forms, meanings and functions. Such differential is influenced by various social factors which make its definition more difficult (Ekwonwa, 2007; Isa‟ac & Lijadu, 2011; Yamah, 2012; Okpoko, 2014). Whatever the angle at which each scholar looked at the concept of marriage, there is a striking phrase that is common to them all: a man and a woman which is the perspective that is adopted in this research. That is, marriage in African context is not meant to be between a man and a man (gay); a woman and a woman (lesbianism); a man and animal or a woman and animal (beastialism). This social institution happens to be the oldest, initiated, created, and nurtured through religious beliefs and value system. It is stated by anthropologists to be the „basic and universal‟ unit of human society and certainly, of family; kinship, and descent system that involves continuous social events and social communications (Fox, 1967; Yamah, 2012; Okpoko, 2014). 

As a social event, irrespective of its starting point, the aspiring groom is joined by his friends, totally subject or little to the approval of parents and later relations and the entire community in actualising the consummation of the union. This makes the event interactional hence, social in nature. Also, as a social communication, from the wide range of behavioural patterns of the various individuals participating in the event, to the wide range of phases of the event, items required as the bride price or service, or dowry, signals available for the participants, to the roles assigned to the people involved, and the various individual contributions are all communicative in nature (Mbaya, 2002; Selvan, 2004; Okpoko, 2014).

In the typical ancient African gemeinschafts-rural settings, marital relationships were customarily forged, forced, or arranged between families, not individuals. Parents, elders and older-relations of the young man or woman, have overriding say, determination, and decision over whatever that was thought to best suit their son or daughter and when the union should be consummated. The decisions of this council of elders were guided by criteria passed down from the older generations and their knowledge of the community and its needs (Brint, 2001;

Mezieobi & Opara, 2007; Ahamefula & Ogugua, 2008; Isa‟ac & Lijadu, 2011; Okoroafor, Okpoko, 2014). More to that, dowry, bride price and bride wealth was in a form of barter system, rendering of farm and domestics‟ services and given of items such as bush meats, farm produce, live animals, to mention but few. Most times, these services were not rendered by the aspiring groom alone, but with the assistance of the aspiring groom‟s relations, peers, and friends as stipulated by custom (Ekwonwa, 2007; Okoroafor, Ahamefula & Ogugua, 2008; Isa‟ac & Lijadu, 2011; Yamah, 2012).

Furthermore, Africans attached certain traditional values to marriage and its people: among which are chastity of the prospective bride and communal value of marriage (Mbaya, 2002;

Ekwonwa, 2007; Douglas, 2010; Isa‟ac & Lijadu, 2011; Kyalo, 2012). In addition, the Jukuns and by extension African people, view marriage as an obligation- the only means of human continuity (Mezieobi & Opara, 2007; Douglas, 2010; Kyalo, 2011). The great value attached to marriage and legitimate child bearing in Africa, Nigeria and Jukun societies is depicted in some names given to the children. For example “Nwuku,” “Imbasire” “Nwukaku” “Imbatskan-Asho” “Ikubemi” (Jukun names meaning: a child is king, a child is good; a child is greater than kingship, a child is better than money, and my-heart) respectively (Mezieobi & Opara, 2007). Another most-sought value in looking for a wife in African marriage is industry in physical work, respect for elders and a generally good reputation as defined by the ethnic group. These characteristics are assessed by the qualities of the parent themselves (Kyalo, 2011).

The major form of marriage then was traditional marriage, which is also called customary marriage. It is a union between a man and a woman based on the native customs, values, traditions and norms of the couple (Ekwonwa, 2007; Onyeka, 2011; Yamah, 2012). Just as norms, traditions, customs and values vary from one society to another and among one tribe to another, so also, does the methods and marriage requirements (items) vary from one community to another. However, it follows the same processes that involve choosing the marriage partner, bride price or equivalent, marriage gifts, wedding ceremonies, festivals and ritual performances (Ekwonwa, 2007; Isa‟ac & Lijadu, 2011; Onyeka, 2011). Even then, much other marriage processes and patterns vary across and within countries among different ethnic groups. Such variations were due to both cultural and socio-economic factors (Mbaya, 2002; Selvan, 2004). In addition, divorce was uncommon except on an account of marital infidelity and childlessness. Even on the latter factor, there were instances where the childless or barren woman could arrange with her husband for another wife who could have a child for him. Moreso, the descent system included patrilineal, patriarchal, and patrilocal system as the dominant practices in most African societies and even in Europe (Selvan, 2004; Ekwonwa, 2007; Intro to Cultural Anthro S, 2010; Isa‟ac & Lijadu, 2011).  

More so, the prevalent types of marriage then were and some are polygyny or polygamy,

Sororate, widow‟s inheritance, infant betrothal, Ghost marriage, Levirate-this is found among the Zulu of South Africa; Nuer in Sudan; Bedouin in North Africa and among some Igbo people of Nigeria (Selvan, 2004; Ekwonwa, 2007; Isa‟ac & Lijadu, 2011; Yamah, 2012; Kyalo, 2012).

However, there have been noticeable stages of changes in African society from gemeinschafts to gesellchafts-urban (Brint, 2001). These changes came about because of urbanisation, population growth both in number and in composition, technological inventions and improved communication, improved transportation, modern industrialisation, new agricultural techniques, religions and education. These brought about civilisation and cultural diffusion. They have both negative and positive consequences in the African societies as well as marital institution to what is obtainable today (Benoist, 1994; Ezegbe, 2004; Ahamefula & Nnajieto, 2008; Isa‟ac & Lijadu, 2011; Yamah, 2012). More to that, scholars contended that conflict in society is rooted in economic resources thereby making people struggle over scarce economic resources and many other factors are perpetuated by government, the economy and education.

In modern times, traditional ties have been weakened by the rise of civil mass societies along with several others. This brought about disruption in the basic ties which link the individual to the larger society by a sense of a common history, culture, and kinship. So, young people no longer grow up under the watchful eyes of elders, nor the communities as cohesive as they were. The cherished value of virginity is eroded; individualism is raised above the communal value of marriage, married women agitating for matriarchal system and so on (Isa‟ac & Lijadu, 2011). Today, in addition to the then forced or forged means of contracting marriage, young Africans choose for themselves whom to marry and when to consummate the union.

Other forms of marriage emerged. Standard medium of exchange called „money‟ serves as medium of settling dowry, bride price, bride wealth and bride service in most African societies, if not all. However, this does not totally erode the influence of the relations or parents or elders. Yet another residential system called “neolocal” came to beeing (Ekwonwa, 2007; Onyeka, 2011).        

Today, as the results of the rapid change from gemeinschafts setting to gesellschafts, young

Africans are guided by both traditional and modern practices of establishing marriages and

Jukuns are not exception (Benoist, 1994; Isa‟ac & Lijadu, 2011). Therefore, it is in-view of the above background that this study is to investigate and document the African traditional forms of communication in marriage among the Jukuns in southern Taraba State, Nigeria.                      

1.2        Statement of the Problem                                                                              

Over the years, African traditional commnunication system has been and is still serving the informational, educational, socialisational, motivational, cultural promotion, entertainment and interpretational needs of Africans (Wood, 2006; Ogwezzy, 2008).  However, this system of communication has been neglected and unrecognised to be incorporated in the world communication system by the Western world (Ugboajah, 1972). Also, the early pioneers who were Euro-American scholars such as Doob (1966), Ainslie (1966), Hachten (1971), Head (1974) and Wilcox (1975) were concerned with the subject matter for its anthropological import in Africa.

Many Nigerian scholars (e.g. Daudu, 2009; Ikpe, 2012; Williams & Udo, 2012) have worked in this area of study with specific focus on conflict and ethnocentric crisis management in the Niger-Delta region (Ikpe, 2012; William & Udo, 2012). In addition, Kur & Orhewere (2009) have worked on the use of storytelling in seeking safe sex practices among adolescents in Etsako-West of Edo State. Similarly, Kur (2012) also worked on the use of storytelling in child moral education in Tiv-Land. Furthermore, studies have been carried out on how songs, proverbs, and aboriginal language are used in information dissemination by extension workers vis-a-vis general knowledge acquisition about the 2006 census in Benue State (Daudu, 2009; Kur, 2007). However, none of the studies, seen so far, has worked on African traditional forms of communication in marriage among the Jukuns.

1.3        Aim and Objectives of the Study

The aim of this research is to investigate the African traditional forms of communication in marriage among the Jukuns in Southern Taraba State. While the specific research objectives are as follows:

1.                  To examine the various African Traditional forms of communication in marriage among the Jukuns in the Southern Taraba State.

2.                  To examine the factors that affect African traditional forms of communication in marriage among the Jukuns in the Southern Taraba State.

3.                  To investigate the changes in African traditional forms of communication in marriage among the Jukuns in the Southern Taraba State.

4.                  To examine the probable solutions to the problems of African traditional forms of communication in marriage among the Jukuns in the Southern Taraba State.

1.4        Research Questions                                                                                                    

         The research questions are as follows:                                                       

1.                  What are the various African traditional forms of communication in marriage among the Jukuns in the southern part of Taraba State?

2.                  What are the factors affecting African traditional forms of communication in marriage among the Jukuns in the southern part of Taraba State?

3.                  What are they changes in African traditional forms of communication in marriage among the Jukuns in the Southern Taraba State?

4.                  What are the probable solutions to the problems of African traditional forms of communication in marriage among the Jukuns Southern Taraba State?

1.5.   Significance of the Study                                                                                  

Studies have been conducted in conflict and ethnocentric crisis management in the NigerDelta region (Ikpe, 2012; William & Udo, 2012). Also, scholars have researched in seeking safe sex practices among adolescents in Etsako-West of Edo State and child moral education in Tiv-Land (Kur, & Orhewere, 2009; Kur, 2012). Furthermore, studies have been carried out in area of information dissemination by extension workers and general knowledge acquisition about the 2006 census in Benue State (Daudu, 2009; Kur, 2007). Among the studies seen so far, none has worked on African traditional forms of communication in marriage among a given ethnic group like the Jukuns in Taraba State, Nigeria.

Therefore, academically this study will be of significance to media and cultural studies students of communication, anthropologists, sociologists, and psychologists. Those social constructs and historical transmitted patterns of meanings and interpretations arising from symbols, premises, values, norms, institutions, events, images, ethos, rules and arts of the Jukuns as practiced and transmitted by successors from generation to generation in marriage, will provide the framework through which they (all the aforementioned professionals) will represent, interpret, understand and make sense of some aspects of social realities of the Jukun people.

This will equally foster further research into this area among other ethnic groups in Nigeria and Africa at large. When enormous research is carried out in African traditional communication system in marriage among virtually all ethnic groups, it will translate into practical benefits to African society. When each ethnic group masters its traditional pattern of communication in marriage, it will go a long way to curtailing marital crises that might lead to divorce because of ineffective communication. Peaceful marriage will produce peaceful family and peaceful families will in turn produce a peaceful society. In addition, this will be of significance to the Federal and State (Taraba) ministries of culture and tourism in formulating and implementing effective policies for the masses.

1.6       Scope of the Study

Though there are some Jukun people in many states (Taraba, Kano, Kaduna, Yobe, Kebbi,

Gombe, Benue, Bauchi, Nassarawa, Kogi, Plateau, Niger Republic and along the ChadCameroon basin), this study will only be concerned with those in  Taraba State which comprise of Ibi, Wukari, Takum, Donga and Ussa Local Government Areas with a total population of 616,418 ( National Population Census, 2006). Wukari being the head-quarters of the Kororo-Apa kingdom, it is believed that it would still maintain or retain its cultural and traditional heritage. In addition, these areas have installed Jukun kings, who are generally regarded as custodians of culture and tradition. Therefore, there is certainty that certain Jukun culture and traditions are still preserved among them (Abubakar, 1980; The Heritage, 2005; Smith, 2008).

1.7        Limitations of the Study

The following serve as limitations to this study:

1.                  On reaching the field, it was found that the traditional forms of communication in marriage among the Jukuns- traditional council members were quite different. Thefore, the component was not focused by the researcher.

2.                  Some saboteurs who thought that this was well-sponsoredresearch went by to influence some of the scheduled discussants not to respond unless they are given some money, despite the provision of refreshment. Perhaps, their contribution would have made the findings richer. However, such was mitigated by looking for other willing and knowledgeable discussants. 


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