African Philosophy. The Compatibility of Africa and the Christian Practice

The Ichen People of North Eastern Nigeria

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2019

21 Pages, Grade: 3.555












The study scores the fact that the philosophy of divorce in Ichen is friendly with the Christian viewpoint. The study adopted historical and phenomenological approach where literatures and empirical circumstances are taken into consideration. The study revealed negation of divorce in Ichen traditional standard through the provision of marriage security such as: family’s involvement in the selection of partners, community social taboos, fears of the ancestral spirit, community proverbs. Likewise in Christian marriage there is no divorce rather a lifelong institution ordained by God. The study is also taken in conjunction with the Ichen way of thinking in theology as well as reflects on the importance of Ichen practices of divorce in likeminded with the new life in Christ. The structure of the paper included: introduction by way of background study, definition of key term, a concise overview of the Ichen people, followed by African understanding of divorce in Nigerian context, the principles of divorce among the Ichen people of Taraba, Christian principles of divorce and the confluence of Ichen and Christian philosophy of divorce. Implication of the no divorce in Ichen and Christian marriage is also stated. Many paper has been written about divorce, yet none has been written about the compatibility and divorce in Ichen and Christian world view. Therefore, this paper fills the gap in knowledge in the field of Christian ethics. This paper benefits the confused Ichen Christians in respect to divorce and anyone who may lay hand on it.

KEY WARDS : Divorce, Compatibility, gua-ben, Kwa-ju, Christian, Ichen


The issue of divorce is a long seated problem in human history particularly in Nigerian context where the Church is facing numerous issues of divorce. Also, on the interpretation and application of “divorce”, scholars still find it difficult to agree on the supremacy of the scripture (Phuong, Divorce/Africa). Most of the African tribes frown at divorce in which it used to be a taboo, and it is still consider a serious insult in some tribes in Africa. In the real sense divorce is becoming a new normal in some Africa communities today.

Agreeing to the statistical survey of families by the social development department of Kurmi local government area of Taraba state, Nigeria; for example, close to one hundred (100) women were divorce from 2012-2016 on the ground that they were now in Christ. However, on one hand many happy wedded couple may perhaps dance and smile all long; yet on the other hand such marriage breaks down as a result of unbearable challenges. As important as these challenges are to the Church many literatures has been written on divorce and the Christian view, yet little or no attention is given to the compatibility of African traditional practices of divorce among the Ichen people and the Christian world view.

This has posed a serious challenge to the elders and pastors in the African churches especially among the Ichen people of Taraba state which this paper is motivated to respond to the challenges. In other to give answers, the following questions would be pursued: what are the principles of divorce among the Ichen people of Taraba? What are the Christian philosophies of divorce? What are the possible grounds to curb marriage failure among the Ichen people of Taraba? What are the confluence of Ichen and the Christian view of divorce?

The study will x-ray the understanding of divorce among the Ichen and the scripture in other to respond to the above questions. In view of the scope of the paper, the study will not cover everything about divorce in Africa rather will be limited to Ichen culture in Taraba. Also the study is not to examine when, if ever, is it justifiable to divorce or not in either Christian or the Ichen traditional principles, but will pay keen attention to argue that Ichen and Christian practices of divorce are friendly especially among the Ichen people of Taraba. The study would explore briefly the Ichen understanding of divorce and sample some interview which would be examined to provide substances for the study? The study will argue that Christian view is God’s will “no divorce for whatever reasons other than marital unfaithfulness” likewise Ichen people, no divorce rather marriage should be endured in which the traditional Ichen rudiment of marriage is for lifelong which pattern their confluence.

The study begins with a concise overview of Ichen people of Africa in Taraba after a definition of key term; it gives an overview of African understanding in Nigerian context, it also gives the principles of divorce among the Ichen people of Taraba followed by the principles of marriage security against divorce among the Ichen people. It then gives Christians view as well as the areas of their confluence with the Ichen view, the implications of Ichen and Christian view of no divorce. Then the conclusion and recommendation of the paper will be given.



Uriah Safiya patience defines divorce as “man’s initiative idea in order to run away from burdens in marriage” (27). Uriah believes that divorce in most cases is an act of running away from responsibilities by men. And so it breaks the aspiration and hope of the families which is a sign of ungratefulness in return to God. For Davis in his book titled, Evangelical Ethics, issues facing the Church today, divorce is a derivative word from Latin “divortium” meaning to separate. it is declared by authoritative body that the marriage attempted by a couple was invalid according to the rule of society and never existed (82).


Ichen are one of the majority tribe that formed the Jukun kingdom in the middle belt geographical zone. They are predominantly found in Taraba state. For now, some of the local government which they can be found includes: Kurmi, Donga, Bali, Gashaka, Takum, Jalingo and Wukari local government areas of Taraba state Nigeria. Their major occupations includes: farming, fishing, hunting and are well known in war (“Eshee”).


In the traditional African society marriage is said to be community affair, however, that does not mean that marriage is between the community and the wife rather it is between husband and wife. African scholar (Ngewa 1175) affirms, community plays the role of supporting couple to succeed in their relationship. Though in one hand a traditional African man beliefs that women are to be considered as a property, yet with the support of the community marriage is secured from divorce. For example, where husband initiated divorce without a prior intervention of the family or the community elders, the immediate elders of the husband will take up the matter and frown at the husband until the wife returns to her husband’s house and the husband has no authority to reject the decision of his elderly relatives. During an interview with Umaru Shidawa responded that once an elderly person steps into the matter to reconcile the matter the parents of the wife have to release her back to her husband’s house.

Another philosophy of divorce in the traditional Africa is influence by the African purpose of marriage which is fruitfulness. Uriah assert, without Procreation African marriage is not safe (49). This entails that procreation is one of the most significant reason of getting marriage in traditional African. Still, there are some causes of divorce that is obvious in Africa thus: lack of sexual satisfaction, lack of experience on how to sustain marriage challenges, troublesome children and insensitive to cultural values (Kore 128: Kunhiyop 249 & Uriah 50). Nevertheless, in a traditional Africa society, when there is a problem of childlessness, disagreement and any other reasons of divorce, the traditional principle to address the problem was polygamy. Still for other related offence the husband may refuse to eat her food and or denied the woman sex. African scholars like Kunhiyop affirmed that, Polygamy was the common practices of resolving persistent dislikes among couple in Africa instead of divorce (23).


Among the traditional Ichen people, when the husband wants to divorce his wife, he uses the word “gua-ben” or “Kwaju” meaning killing of marriage or divorce. The idea behind it is that, a woman cannot divorce her husband. The word “guu” means to kill, to murder, to destroy, to terminate, to eradicate, and to silence life. Marriage is meant to have children, hence; divorce is considered as murder and carries the sense that when divorce takes place, there is not going to be procreation. In some cases instead of gua-ben the word “Kwaju” is used; the word “Kwaju” is a combination of two word joined together “kwa” mean to separate, “ju” mean body; it conveyed the sense that, when husband and wife get married it is two bodies becoming one but when they separate the two bodies will stay apart. However, if “kwa” is to separate and “ju” is “body” it shows “Kwaju” is to separate two bodies therefore divorce is two bodies no longer one.

Auta kpwatswa an elder who is a perpetual divorcee on a telephone interview remarks that, the young couple prefer “Kwaju” because of their acquaintance with premarital sex or illegal sex which has permeated the modern days. For Ali Garba prefer “Kwaju” to be used when two friends or individual part from each other. By this understanding the user ought to familiarize him selves with the context in other to apply it appropriately by trying to know where, when and to whom it should be use.

In the story of Abii an Ichen story teller remarks; the word “kwaa” connote to uncover what was covered; she understood marriage as something very important mixed with unimportant such as marital challenges that are being covered. Meanwhile, “Kwaa” is an abstract word that is not visible rather acts in (action). It is believed that in marriage there are many experiences that are not known, yet reserve for the couple. Hence, when “kwaa” is involved many things will be exposed or uncover. It is obvious when there is divorce the couple reveal a lot of challenges that they were covering. Therefore, marriage is both secret and open affair among the couple. When “Kwa’a” happens, people see the unseen. It is believed that when a husband or wife Kwa’a his or her partner, the secret things that was hidden will be expose to the public. Community support is a virtue and fundamental aspects of marriage life among Ichen people (Kwabe 12). In traditional Ichen people of Nigeria, enduring and staying in marriage, is a necessary beliefs and the Ichen community hold to a high esteem of such women.


i. Family’s involvement

The families are fully involved in the selection of the wife, this is key because marriage as earlier mentioned is not an individual affair rather is a family and community affairs. The Parents get wife for their son, sometime the selection happens when the parents hear that there is a new born male/female baby some family even engage the baby before the birth with the sole interest to cement relationship with the family by placing a sign of gift or any of the common practices within a particular tie or community (Kunhiyop 149).

When a woman “tse ’futon” (run away) to her father’s house for some serious reason, the elders or the husband’s friends would be delegated to go and “kpa-ekpa” meaning (to lobby and bring her back to her husband house). This is normally done by making payment of some fine, or doing some sort of service to the in-law, whether farm work which was common in the old good days before she is release to her husband, with caution to the husband not to repeat such again. Ekpa was normally influence in cold season when the husband experience loneliness and there is no one to keep him warm is the right time, he would mobilize his friends to help him apologize to the wife. Therefore, it is clear that when Ichen man separate with his wife no one touches her even in her father’s house because the husband will surely come back to reconcile. However, in a situation where the husband does not come back to lobby his wife back home, it convey a sense of divorce. Yet men will stigmatize her on the basis of approaching her for marriage because, there is no time limit to such stay in her parent house. Hence there is a sense of oppression of women in Ichen cultural practice.

More so, when a wife is passing through violence from her husband, the Ichen traditional marriage practice demands that she will report it to the husband’s uncle or parents to handle the matter. Who will investigate the matter and do the work of rehabilitation. The work of rehabilitation in Ichen is one among the reason why parent and extended families are fully involve in the marriage issue.

On the other hand, when the husband oppressed his wife persistently the uncle will be the one to tell the wife to go and spend some time with her parent to enable them rehabilitate the husband. When they are through the wife will come back home with joy and the husband will celebrate and respect her, so domestic violence can be handled in Ichen culture.

ii. Community taboos

In the taboos of the African’s among the Ichen people, it is an offense to divorce a wife if not on ground of infidelity, divorce is highly forbidden. Hence any man who divorces his partner, a tremendous pressure will be mounted upon him till the marital relationship is restored. During an interview with Adamu Danladi he remarks that divorce is a disgrace to the man and his family and to the whole community. Terhemba reiterates that there is no disgraceful thing like divorce (). Hence, the fear is always there that their family or community will be footnoted with inability to sustain marriage and termed to lack moral. They will be stigmatized by the community and becomes the talk of the season. No family will want to have their daughter marriage to such a family as well as their sons marry from such family since they lack marriage and family moral.

iii. The fear of the ancestral spirits

In traditional Ichen custom, there is the fear that if you divorce your partner for any other reason, the ancestors would attack the victim who is responsible for the divorce because the sense of ancestral reaction is always observed in African world view. TAG research team on marriage and family in Africa reiterates the perception; “in Africa anyone who divorces his wife, many threats and warnings of misfortune from the ancestral spirit would be counselling him” (171). This social pressure tends to restrain any desire for divorce that will create greater instability in marriage. Therefore, it is clear that the practices of marriage life in Africa among the Ichen people leave no room for divorce.


Excerpt out of 21 pages


African Philosophy. The Compatibility of Africa and the Christian Practice
The Ichen People of North Eastern Nigeria
Christian Ethics
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african, philosophy, compatibility, africa, christian, practice, ichen, people, north, eastern, nigeria
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Ezra Danazumi (Author), 2019, African Philosophy. The Compatibility of Africa and the Christian Practice, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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