It was on 26 December 2000 while I was on an annual vacation in my village as would many Igbo men who felt that they should spend their Christmas holidays in their home town. I decided to visit one of my kinsmen living close to my house with gifts in the spirit of the season. As I made to leave, my host reminded me that my mates had started getting married and that I had no more excuse left having concluded an unending education and had started working in a good bank. I laughed it off without knowing that there was an ambush laid for me. My condemnation, as the discussion went on, of the traditional practice whereby elderly people recommend ladies or guys for marriage nearly earned me a dirty slap from my elderly relation. The verbal attack that paned into education was very unforgettable. "Anayo, will you close your dirty stinking mouth?" ordered Mazi David Nduka, my host. He continued, "how dare you say that match-making in marriage is an archaic practice and that it should be stopped?" He is not yet done as he continued, "as educated as you claim to be, a little research would have let you into the knowledge of how your dad received a parcel of a wife in your mother at Zaria train station; a wife chosen for him by his uncle, Chief Joseph Nwosu, and how your father was so thrilled by his uncle's wise choice that he beheld and loved your mum till death", my host chide me with an air of magisterium. Mazi Nduka looked me straight into the eyes and said "Anayo, the son of Francis Obiukwu Nwosu, gee mu nti (meaning listen to me), I have followed your educational exploits up to the university level but can now reasonably confirm your crass ignorance in the culture of our people and I can accurately predict that if you continue like this, our hope in your educational dividends would be a pipe dream". With a sense of duty but with a tempered voice he said "your dead father and I were second cousins. His death was a big loss to our clan because he was deep and also a wise man. I know that if he were to be alive, he would have brought you up better because there is a whole world of difference in wisdom between a man brought up by a father and the one reared by a widow. The fact that your mum didn't choose any of us, your uncles, to warm her bed after the death of your father complicated the matter. The chosen uncle would've become a foster father to you and your siblings. She decided to carry her cross of raising her children alone and we left her alone after subtle trials. It's not your fault," he said. He continued, "thank God that I was observant to notice this weed sprouting on your head. I shall pluck it off urgently before it establishes a taproot as I also owe it as a duty to our ancestors to voice out the truth but it will be your fault if you fail to listen and internalize the words of wisdom". And the lecture began. "All peoples of the world treasure marriage as a means of procreation, increase in population of a race, companionship and a legal source of sexual enjoyment. Like a gun, it requires a licence by way of formalities which are put in place to prevent different forms of accidental discharge." He said. "In traditional Igbo communities, marital unions are deemed final except in extreme cases where a dissolution has become inevitable for peace to reign. Who to marry? and when to divorce? decisions are too important to be left in the hands of the one impassioned party. The whole family and elders of the extended families must approve such decisions and any unilateral action is regarded as a nullity. Therefore, it is wise to marry properly," I was told. He continued. "The time tested mode of connecting youths for marriage is by recommendation. In this case, the womenfolk keep mental registers of all the girls and eligible bachelors and their behavioral patterns and that of their parents. It is common for a young man to approach a married woman adjudged well behaved or exemplary to recommend to him, a lady relation or friend of her type for marriage. It is a general belief that there is every likelihood for relations or friends of a good woman to be as good; just as it is likely that friends of cats would be cats not dogs." Clearing his throat, he added, "this is the reason why mothers pay serious attention in raising up their teenage girls on how to greet people, cook food, walk, dress and general conduct. They also screen the alliances of their daughters to ensure that they don't keep bad friends as there is nothing as corruptive as bad friends." "Many families who lay emphasis in good upbringing of their daughters usually close early in the marriage market as they sell their goods early enough. Added to good looks, their houses would become a Mecca of wealthy, good looking, responsible and successful men and their parents asking for marital favors," he said. "Marriage scouts or match makers normally convince the prospective male suitors to lay little emphasis on beauty of a lady as behaviour of a woman is the actual and real beauty," I was told. Then Mazi Nduka decided to go into clear examples. "Are you happy with the performance of your father's step brother's wife?" He asked me. "How many of her kids were sired by your uncle? It is all your uncle's fault. He returned one day with a strange woman telling us that she was his fiancé and all entreaties to suspend marriage plans to enable us conduct a due diligence fell on deaf ears. He had fixed a date for traditional wedding. Some elders did not follow him to his inlaw's for the marriage ceremony as they were sure that the groom was under a modern spell called love. "It was after the birth of her first son that it was revealed that the woman, who hails from a nearby town, was from a bad family stock. Her mother was a woman of easy virtues. The daughter was quick to prove it as your uncle was no longer enough for her. She became a receptacle for any younger man with strong hot rod. We now have strangers sired by her and are now forced on us by tradition to be called our relations. They fight everyday and we have refused to support your uncle's divorce plans. The woman has many children now and a divorce would create more problems than it could cure. Your uncle should stew in his own juice. He was forewarned," I was informed. Not done yet he continued. "A more painful case of self inflicted shame is that of my friend from our town. He is a medical doctor for that matter. He was also a victim of love. He had fallen in love with a lady from Udi in Enugu State. The woman's beauty could make Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu doubt if it was right to regard his wife Bianca as the most beautiful woman ever married in our town. My doctor friend called me an archaic man when I insisted that he should carry out a thorough background check on the girl before marital commitment and that all that glistered was not gold. He said that his pastor had confirmed his choice and that his spirit was at peace with his choice of the girl." "Two years after marriage, the doctor's wife went mad. It was then that we gathered that any lady in the woman's paternal family would go mad at the age of 30. There was a generational curse in their family. The pastor that confirmed my friend's choice of a wife knew this fact but had concealed it hoping that a spiritual deliverance he had conducted on the lady against had worked. The doctor has since returned the woman to her people as he didn't intend to have a mad woman as a wife. I too have severed my relationship with the doctor and would not recommend any patient to him for surgery as I don't know if he had contracted a yet-to-develop madness from his estranged wife." "There are so many families with tendencies to commit suicide, murder or stealing. Some of these traits or behaviors are known but are coded. It takes a native to unearth a hidden secret." "Many reasonable people from different towns and villages come to me for inquiry about our boys who have come to marry their ladies. My reputation of a fearless and truthful man transcends about twenty towns. I say it the way it is. Despite the fact that I receive hot drinks and four cola nuts, I still tell them all I know. We need to preserve Igbo race by ensuring that criminals in our town do not wear white robes to present themselves as angels to innocent ladies in another place in a bid to marry them." " I was seated here last week when an old friend from Idemili North of Anambra State came to seek a background information on the son of Mazi Okafor, who I heard is now a surgeon in America; he wants to marry their daughter. The girl's father is an archdeacon in the Anglican Church in Awka. I told my friend all I knew about Mazi Okafor; that as the village treasurer that he together with my cousin squandered the village's development funds in his custody before he became a born again Christian and that he has promised to pay back by installment. This is the third month and we have not seen anything. I also told the messenger that the Makuo, their prospective son-in-law was a good boy that gave the village no problem before he won a scholarship to study overseas even though he was said to have impregnated the president of children's ministry in his church but the baby died two months after birth; that the family has no history of madness, suicide tendency and murder history; that we have never had to go save his mother from being killed by the father. How they will interpret or use the information is their business though I later heard from Mr. Okafor's brother that the supposed child of a priest on whose good the enquiry is being undertaken is already eight months pregnant for Dr. Makuo and she is sending her father's people on white goose chase. Wonders will never end!" "I pity the beautiful daughters of Nwanyioma the mad woman from our neighbouring hamlet. Suitors would come today and disappear the next day because they fear that what happened to a mother may also happen to the daughters. I have advised them to relocate to Lagos and marry from any other tribe who don't do serious background checks. I hear that anything goes in Lagos and that some children, like mad dogs, don't listen anymore to the whistle of their parents. Whatever is cultural is deemed evil. I wish them good luck. But my son, use your tongue to count your teeth. You should marry right to be happy in life. The inventors of word "love" also invented "loved" as a past tense. Love shouldn't be the only criterion to take a marital decision." "I must warn you not to use your father's elder brother Ozuomee, as a standard for marriage. He did marry the wife his father arranged for him but the woman died at child birth. He then remarried by himself with nobody's assistance to an Nnewi girl who had come to visit her brother in his neighbourhood in Aba. But, almost immediately, he married two other wives in quick succession. These women were complementary in their bodily features; whatever any of them lacked, other possessed. Though he is dead now, he demonstrated to us how to manage a polygamous home." "The present economic situation has made polygamy a no-go area even with its great advantages. This Mama Anthony, my wife sitting here, would have valued me more if l had married two more competitors for her. She thinks she is a goddess of beauty. My mother identified her as a young girl and told her parents to reserve her for me. Look at her now and see how an ageless beauty I have turned her into." The wife grinned and asked me not to mind her husband. I was enjoying his story about my uncle but Mazi Nduka returned to his original topic. He continued, "Look around you and tell me any of your married sisters and other female relations up till 1999 who met their husbands on their own other than by recommendation by our married sisters (umuada) or local match makers", Mazi Nduka, paused and reached for his snuff box. After stuffing his two nostrils with thumb load of pulverized tobacco, he added " I think that I should even tell you that I have identified two beautiful ladies for your marriage consideration; not only are they university graduates from good homes, they also have big breasts if not bigger than those of your mum. I know that if you are really the true son of your father, you would love them bursty." I nearly choked with laughter. I could recollect how my mum looked in her wedding picture and the relics of once standing milk barns that fed me and 12 other siblings. My mum would jokingly tell us that they were a load but I now can understand the value my father tapped as a young man. I was not really interested in the referrals from Mazi Nduka since I had already zeroed in on a lady I singlehandedly found myself. I was in love, the very feeling Mazi Nduka deem injurious and misleading. At this juncture, I had to beg my uncle to allow me rush to the bank to withdraw money before the bank closed and he agreed feeling that he had made his point enough to set me thinking. That night, I kept reflecting on my discussion with Mazi David Nduka. I had validated his claims. Even though he is known to be overly frank, nobody in the community can accuse Mr. David Nduka of willful lying. The story of the Umudim doctor kept dancing acrobatics in my brain because Uche, my choice, was as beautiful as the doctor's wife Mazi Nduka described. What if she goes mad after marriage? It was then that I realized that I hadn't done any due diligence. I needed to quickly "count my teeth with my tongue" before it was too late. When I was ready, I had to dispatch two separate intelligence teams to Uga where my wife hails from and Umuohiagu, her mother's hometown to conduct a thorough check. All reports came back clean before I proceeded with my marital commitments. It was five years into our marriage that my wife revealed that her father himself, visited my village to conduct investigations on me and my family before he gave his consent. He didn't want to take chances because Uche was the only daughter. I was shocked to find out that upon arrival to my village, my would-be father-in-law was directed to Mazi Nduka if he needed any information he could bank on. The continuation of the marriage was a proof that Mazi Nduka was merciful to me. Before then, I had been fooling myself that my wife married me as I was. The fact that our marriage had to wait until her father concluded his due diligence on me is enough proof that her love for me after all, was not blind. I'm sure that either party would have called off the marriage if our search parties unearthed any adverse baggage too weighty to be ignored. By Anayo Nwosu.