Mrs Mary Ogbona, a trader in the FCT, hails from Imo State.
Ogbona, who was born and nurtured in Kano State, says that she lost her first love in life due to ethnic and religious factors.
She recalls that she did everything to persuade her parents to allow her marry the man of her dreams but to no avail.
Ogbona says that her parents then refused bluntly to concede to her pleas because her suitor is a Hausa man and a Muslim.
“I nearly killed myself when my parents insisted that it was improper for me to marry a Hausa man. I was devastated but there was nothing I could do about the issue.
“The same situation applied to Idris, my suitor, as his parents were visibly angry with his proposal to marry me, saying that such marriages would negate their family traditions, cultural and religious principles,’’ she said.
Ogbona recalls that she was even prepared to convert from Christianity to Islam because of the love she had for Idris, saying “I loved him very much and I felt that such mundane things as religion shouldn’t come in between us.
“Everybody seemed to be against our union and that was why we broke up and went our separate ways,’’ she says, adding : “I still regret the action till today because I now know that marriage should be based on love, instead of allowing culture and religion to be the determining factors.’’
Ogbona’s plight is not a peculiar one; as similar instances abound across the country.
Idris Adamu, a man from Kano State, also has a similar story to tell.
Adamu, who resides in Lagos, says that he once wanted to marry a Yoruba girl after a four-year courtship but his parents, particularly his mother, bluntly refused to concede to the union
He says that his parents then insisted that his first marriage should not be with a “foreigner’’.
“The poor girl was even pregnant for me at that time but because my parents did not allow us get married, we terminated the pregnancy,’’ Adamu recalls.
Observers note that in spite of such aberrations, there have been several inter-tribal marriages there are working and enduring, while the spouses are perfect couples.
A case in point is the marriage of Mrs Aisha Bello, a woman from Edo State who is married to a man from Kogi State.
She insists that she has no regrets marrying her husband, adding, however, that she had been warned by her mother-in-law against any tendency to be hostile to her husband’s family members.
“ My mother-in-law told me that she initially did not want her son to marry someone from another tribe, despite that fact that we are both Muslims.
‘‘ I was scared by the veiled threat but I never wanted to lose my husband because I love him so much. All the same, my mother-in-law’s warning always keeps me on my toes,’’ she says.
Bello says with a sense of fulfilment that her marriage had been quite blissful; stressing that marriages should be based on love, affection and not on archaic sentiments or ethnic considerations.
Observers say that inter-tribal marriages will promote and strengthen efforts to promote the country’s unity because families are the smallest units of any society.
Mr Kunle Odanye, a lawyer, says that ethnic considerations should not be allowed to come into play in efforts to get married and set up new family units.
“I have seen several perfect marriages between people from different ethnic background and that is what we should be encouraging in our country,’’ he says.
“Offspring of such couples are even nurtured to become good citizens of the country because they will be in a better position to appreciate Nigeria’s cultural silhouette in a more practical way,’’ he adds.
Sharing similar sentiments, Mrs Pamela Ogunwale, a teacher, says that marriages between people from different ethnic groups are blissful and even more desirable.
Ogunwale’s sentiments are based on her personal experience, as she is married to a Yoruba man from Ogun State, in spite of the fact that she hails from Anambra State.
She says that she could never have had a better spouse than “my darling husband, who is a father to me and my children’’.
“My children, who are fluent in speaking Yoruba, even have a smattering knowledge of Igbo language, as I sometimes communicate with them in my language.
“And if any of our children eventually opts to marry someone from the remotest part of the country, we will never object to that because our own marriage has been very sweet and quite exciting,’’ Ogunwale says.
Another teacher, Mrs Aisha Lawal, believes that the government has been tacitly promoting inter-ethnic relationships and marriages via schemes like the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
She says that the NYSC particularly provides a platform for the interaction between young graduates from all nooks and crannies of the country, adding that many youths from different areas of the country met during their service year and eventually got married.
“I know many ex-corpers from different parts of the country who are now happily married,’’ she says, adding: “Such people should be role models in our efforts to build a new Nigeria.’’
Mr Ibrahim Mohammed, an insurance broker, says that the country’s legal system should be reviewed to make efforts to resist or curb inter-tribal marriages absolutely illegal.
“Although such actions are tacitly believed to be illegal but our statute books should be overhauled to outlaw any form of resistance to inter-ethnic marriages completely.
“That way, the aberration will fizzle out and there will be more marriages between ‘genuine Nigerians’ and less of marriages between persons from the same clans,’’ he adds.
Besides, a cleric, Pastor Ezekiel Duniya, says that apart from promoting national unity, inter-tribal marriages are in line with God’s injunctions on promoting love among the people.
He says that genuine Christian relationships and marriages should be devoid of ethnic or any other considerations.
“In my church, for instance, ethnic sentiments have never been a factor in marriages. Most of our adherents marry across ethnic boundaries; and that is what we are even encouraging,’’ says Duniya.
This is because marriage is an institution ordained by God for the purpose of procreation, irrespective of any tribal, cultural and religious factors, he stresses.
Duniya, nonetheless, concedes that the challenges facing couples from different ethnic background have somewhat discouraged others from embarking on inter-ethnic marriages, thereby defying God’s purpose for marriage.
However, the story now appears to be changing, as many couples are now advocating a change in the people’s perception of inter-tribal marriages.
This is because the citizens are increasingly becoming aware of the usefulness of inter-ethnic marriages in efforts to promote peace and unity in the country.
Mr Chukwudi Emeka, a spare parts dealer, attests to the advantages of inter-ethnic marriages.
Emeka, an Igbo man, says that he has been happily married to a Yoruba woman from Kabba, Kogi State, for the past 20 years, adding that he had no cause to bemoan the marriage, which is also blessed with five children.
“ I don’t think that minor hiccups such as language barriers and cultural differences should stop two persons who are truly in love from getting married,’’ he says.
Sharing similar sentiments, Mr Adewale Ojo, a youth corps member from Oyo State, says that he is prepared to sacrifice anything to actualise his plans to marry his girl friend who hails from Edo State.
“I think it is always good to marry someone you love, regardless of any ethnic considerations, because love endures all things.
“My sister made the mistake of going into marriage because of tribal and religious considerations. She married her husband just to please our parents but her marriage crashed after having three children,’’ Ojo says.
“People should not allow family pressures, tribal or religious factors to force them into marrying someone they don’t love. We should never forget the fact that we are all created by God,’’ he adds.
Many observers lament that even after half a century of Nigeria’s existence as an independent nation, factors such as inter-ethnic marriages and relationships still remain major issues of concern.
“When will the average Hausa man, Ibiobio man, Efik man, Kanuri man and Birom woman start thinking Nigerian and acting Nigerian?
“When will tribal considerations cease to be intervening variables in our daily decisions and actions?’’ asks Mrs Bola Laseinde, a lawyer.
Laseinde’s viewpoint aptly reflects the sentiments of many concerned citizens who insist that for Nigeria to experience any meaningful progress, its citizens must necessarily do away with tribalism and ethnicity, as such factors hinder genuine nation-building efforts
Yakubo writes for News Agency of Nigeria.