Jukun people occupied a town call Wukari in Taraba state of Nigeria; they commonly believed to be descendants of the people of Kwararafa kingdom, one of the most powerful Sudanic kingdoms during the late European Middle Ages.
The Jukun traditionally possessed a complex system of offices, which had both a political and a religious aspect; the priesthood practiced an involved form of religion marked by diurnal and annual rounds of ritual and sacrifice.
Marriage culture in Jukun land
The Jukun people with their rich Afro-Asiatic heritage adore marriage and posit it as an aspiration for all mature youths. Great increase of marriages contracted amongst the Jukun people especially in Wukari, the headquarters of the Jukun’s Kwararafa Kingdom. The reason simply ascribed; suffice to say the low rate of bride price a groom pays when a marriage is being contracted. However, this may be a mixed grill of traditional and western culture, I mean Payment of bride price traditionally and contracting the marriage in the western platform of the church. Meanwhile, aside ardent adherents of the Christian faith who are monogamous, the Jukun are polygamous and detest polyandry in all its ramifications.
Traditionally, before marriage can be contracted; the woman must attain the age of 18 years and consent to the marriage with same by her parents or guardian (except where the woman shall be married to a traditional title holder). Thus a marriage shall be contracted upon the presentation to the father or guardian of the woman a bride price and payment of customary gifts. But before then, during the courtship, the woman is entitled to Abegya (Betrothal Money) of N200, Abeben (Bride Price) of N500, Andu (Handbag or Handkerchief) unspecified, but the man’s financial capabilities can determine this.
During the same period, the man is expected to till the land for both Father and Mother-in-laws (Ane Vyo) at the rate of N600 for father-in-law and N400 for Mother-in-law respectively, while the traditional greeting of the in-laws has no specified amount also.
Shortly after the payment of the aforementioned, the solemnization is ushered in accompanied by Abewagaben (Money for Solemnization) of N100, Upyotvyo (Money for roofing father-n-law’s house) N300, money for sitting on in-laws’ mat N150, brides’ paternal grandmother shall be paid the sum of N100, but then there are unapproved amounts for a bag of maize, guinea corn, 30ft of Zana (Woven grass fencing sheet), 12 sticks for the fencing and a she-goat.
Having paid all these during the traditional solemnization, which does not imply that the woman be taken to her ‘husband’s’ place, a pseudo marriage which stands to represent the couple is conducted between a male and a female child of primary school age (5-7 years), which also implies that the presence of the couple is not necessary during the traditional nuptial, except in a rare cases with the former gaining wider acceptance, and on the eve of the wedding proper, a cash amount of N100 shall be paid, 12 calabashes of Kola nuts, and a gallon of Kerosene which might be quantified in cash also. Moreover, on the wedding day, the bride’s grand-parents shall be paid the sum of N50, and same amount to her cousins, the groom’s younger relations (for mouth opening), and for the bride’s seat, to also include 4 basins of Burukutu (local liquor), and 3 basins of Kunun-zaki (Local guinea corn juice). And after the wedding, 2 more basins of the local liquor and a basin of Kunu shall be given to the bride’s family again.
After all the above rites, marriage is said to have been contracted. The Jukun marriage is also bestowed with some rights to which both husband and wife must enjoy. a man under the Jukun customary law is entitled to correcting his wife by inflicting corporal punishment so long as it is done out of love and does not result to bartering. Unlike some cultures that have along the line developed and nurtured their “Marital Jacuzzis”, certain actions and inactions in a typical Jukun marriage may be abominable and can lead to marital offences. It is an abomination for a married woman to indulge in extramarital affairs, while polyandry is highly condemned among the Jukun people.
In the same vein, a man cannot marry any of his relations including granddaughters. It is still abominable for a man to induce someone else’s wife to leave her husband with the aim of marrying him.
Now, aside marriage to title holders, any marriage contracted without the consent of the woman is considered a violation of rights. Also, the case of a man who proposes to a woman and refuses to marry her after impregnating her shall compensate the woman or her family with an amount determined by a court of law or the party (ies) affected. While a woman who refuses to marry a man after the necessary marital rites and steps have been taken shall also compensate the man.
Now because of the myriads of bad lifestyles surrounding some intending suitors, the family of the woman is at liberty to refuse consent to a marriage if the man has been previously convicted for adultery with a wife of any of the ‘intending bride’s’ relations like father, brothers, uncles, nephews, or if the said suitor has been the first to marry a divorcee from any of her relations as mentioned above. With the growing awareness on feminism around the world, a Jukun woman is still seen as a ‘property’ of the family she is married to; hence widowhood is contentious compared to other cultures. The Jukun woman on the death of her husband may remain with heirs of her deceased husband, or alternatively return to her family or guardian.
In a case where she chooses to remain with her deceased husband’s heirs, she shall be deemed with her consent be the wife of any of her deceased husband’s relations who is customarily eligible to marrying her. Though this cannot be treated as a new marriage but a continuation of the original marriage bond contracted between the woman and her deceased husband which therefore buttresses the fact that a Jukun woman is indeed ‘propertied’ and can be inherited. But in the case where the widow chooses to return to her own people as an alternative, whether she has a child or not, she is not required to refund the bride price paid on her.
Another unique marital feature of the Jukun that has rare occurrence is divorce. Most Jukuns are often ashamed of being addressed a divorcee, as such they strive hard to ensure that their marriage is protected against all odds. But where all marital protective mechanisms like truce or negotiation fail, divorce thus becomes the last resort. That is if any of the following occurs: Ill treatment of spouse, impotence or barrenness, insanity of either spouse, desertion of either spouse for 12 months, and adultery by either spouse. Since divorce is rare, there are only few Jukun customary law documents that seem to dwell on it. Upon divorce, if initiated by the woman, her full bride price of N500 shall be refunded to the husband, except otherwise, there will not be any recompense.
More so, where the divorce is determined by a court of law with the earlier earmarked preconditions except for desertion, there will not be a repayment of bride price. However, properties owned during the union will have new statuses as to be determined by a court of law and the local custom. And when this is so, no cost shall be awarded to both parties.
Moreover children as the rights of the husband clearly state are his if he begot them during the marriage, but he cannot lay claim to any child born prior to or after the marriage that he does not beget. But if the divorce ensues when the woman is nursing a child, the custom gives her custody of the child until after the child is weaned. Similarly the custom does not debar the man from claiming his child if he could not do it soon immediately after weaning. Now with the aforesaid in mind, the Jukun woman still remains the pride of the man and the home (Wando) and entitled to several rights within the context of marriage. Her bride price though the cheapest in Taraba State has drawn so many young Jukun men even in the Diaspora a nostalgia to always come back home and pick a wife in order to reclaim and retain their cultural heritage. And for those of us that believe in cross-cultural marriage, please do not miss a chance.
BELOW ARE THE FESTIVALS OBSERVED BY THE JUKUN PEOPLE EVERY YEAR
MINHU Hunting Festival – held in Jen Karim- Lamido L.G.A. April Yearly.
Kachicheb Harvest Festival – Ussa/ Takum L.G.A.s normally held on 25th March each year.
Puje Festival Normally held in Wukari Yearly and during the installation of a new Aku- Uka.
Purma/ Takachiyawa / Takum/ Donga Normally held between November and December yearly by the Chambas.
Belle Festival Zing Local Government Marking the beginning of a new planting season.
Yonko- Yam Festival. it is celebrated by the Mumuye Nation to mark the harvest / consumption of new yams.
Kati harvest Festival Sardauna November Yearly.
Kambu/Panso Cultural Festival – Sardauna L.G.A.
Ekpan- Fure Jukun Festival – Takum/ Wukari
Asamu Festival in Kona- Jalingo Local Government Area.