In Tsokwoiji also known as Rafinshinaka, shouts of excitement could be heard from different direction on the evening LEADERSHIP Weekend visited the rural community in Suleja local government of Niger State where marriage ceremonies are only held at midnight.
People of all ages could be seen engaging in different activities in preparation for the flamboyant wedding ceremony of one of their sons. It was not until 6:00pm that visitors began trooping in through the dilapidated road that leads to the community for the wedding. They prostrated and greeted each other in their local Gbagyi language, as they walk into the venue.
The real event begins at 11pm. They appear in their best apparels and dance to the rhythm of the local music. Surprisingly, even children who are supposed to be asleep are awake at that time of the night eating different varieties of food such as pounded yam, ‘tuwo chinkafa’, rice meal and ‘kunu zaki’, a sweet drink made out of guinea corn.
This is the story of a village made up of farmers and a few petty traders. With a population of about 300, this village is bereft of social amenities such as good roads, electricity supply, health care facilities and pipe borne water. In fact, it has become a known fact in this community and the surrounding residence that such a ceremony is worth attending as some of their relatives from neighbouring villages like Kpaha, Lokoyidna, Kpaha, Gwogwobiri and Angwan Rimi come to grace the occasion.
Their relatives even come all the way from Suleja, Gwagwalada, Kuje, Mpape, Deidei, Madala and Zuba town to attend such weddings not minding the rickety and dilapidated state of the road leading to the community. Some of the vehicles that find it difficult to ply the bad road had to park at Angwan Gwari road and trek to the community where the marriage ceremony is taking place.
There is an explanation to this custom. According to the Mai Angwa (the Village Head), Suleiman Ayoko, it has been their custom even in the time of their forefathers. “A lot of people will think we perform one diabolic ritual or the other on hearing about the time we do our marriage ceremonies. Our fathers have been practicing this as they felt this is the ideal time when such a union should be conducted,” Ayoko said.
Despite the darkness in which they live, these people appear to have strong work ethics and to them, work first. This is another reason their wedding ceremonies are held at night. “It is the time when everyone is at home from their respective farms. Everywhere will be very quiet during the marriage rite,” the village head added. He further stated that it is now a custom they all enjoy practicing because it is very easy, as it gives room for proper preparation and performance.
“You may think people will not attend it the wedding because it is at midnight, but sometimes it will amaze you that they will turn up in their large numbers. To us, this is the best time for holding an activity or even meetings. It may surprise you to know that some of our village meetings with the various leaders are held at this period in order to take important decisions. At this time all the children are asleep and everywhere is quite. We therefore seize the opportunity of the serene environment to conduct our meetings,” Ayoko stated.
As it happens, eligible bachelors seize this as an opportunity to look out for their own spouse as well as get drunk with the intention of pleasing their new found love. Some of the youth in drinking spree get involved in fighting and breaking bottles as they are brought to other by elders and the local vigilante group. Unfortunately, because the people cannot boast of potable water supply, they had to depend on sachet water, their dirty borehole and well water during any ceremonies.
“Other areas have benefitted from government water scheme but we have been neglected and uncared for in this area. Our only source of water is well water and the borehole which do not bring out water during the dry season. All these waters are not even pure at all because it has colour and odour,” the Village Head said.
Buhari Ndako, a resident and a farmer, bemoaned not only the lack of electric power supply but also the condition of the road. He complained about the bad road which he described as ‘so muddy,’ with pointed stones comfortably positioned at different locations.
Continuing, he added: “Some of our guest who attended the wedding could not drive on it because it is very bad. Also, farmers find it very difficult to convey their farm products to Suleja market because of the condition of the road and also because commercial vehicles are hesitant to ply the road due to its bad state. We really look up to the chairman to construct a tarred road.”
For Abdulkareem Ibrahim, the bridegroom, they had to spend much money to run their generator for the marriage ceremonies because of lack of power supply. “I have spent so much to buy fuel in order to be able to use generator. If electricity is available, it would have been better. A good health care facility is also needed for the residents to access good health care,” Ibrahim said.
Continuing, he said, “I have been in Rafinshinaka for almost 15 years now. I came here when I was very young; things have still not changed except for the few new buildings. During election period, politicians come in their droves promising heaven and earth to alleviate our sufferings, but when they assume power, they will eventually forget us.
“We have even given some of our daughter’s hand to them in marriage. Let them live up to their promises by helping us with health care facilities, we will really be grateful. So far, we like the peacefulness and togetherness of the community,” he concluded.