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Burials in Igbo Land: Grieving or Jamboree?

                               By Mike Onwukwe.

The Igbo society has gradually morphed into a sleazy battle ground of torture and trauma to the deceased. Any Igbo family with aging or aged parents is sitting on the edge. The mere thought of what your kinsmen will subject you to in the event of being bereaved is indescribable. All in the pretext of giving befitting burial to the dead. It is like running too fast simply to the lake or simply dealing with two kitchen fires at a time. Having to contend with the ancillaries of ostentatious burial with the moment the family is grief stricken are two opposite trajectories. Yet, grieving or mourning period is one of the moments when humanity is supposed to sheen and shine through, but sadly has been hijacked by village extremists who see themselves as gate keepers of tradition. It is a relieving and thieving moment for them. It is sadly a common thread in impoverished societies. These are people who think that there is no fire the strong breeze of their nostrils cannot extinguish; those with secrets of alchemy who can transform rock to gold. They are well dug in or so they think. No matter how often you visit the forest, you cannot know the forest like the animals that live there is a wise saying.

A debate is not needed on this impropriety. Otherwise it will be a typical dialogue between the debtor and the creditor. Or, an argument between the bed wetter and the laundry man. The landscape is peril, so there is no need of adding to the further buffet of wastefulness and profligacy. Wherever this is Lucifer, there is evil. We are told to reap what we sow but it is better to first check what you are sowing. While some are there to sympathize, a larger majority are there for merriment because their sympathy level is at zilch. These emergency mourners talk about revolves on a triangle – money, food and drinks. The way they binge, splurge and grumble give no room for the bereaved family to grieve.

For a typical Igbo burial, the death of a family member is followed by series of nocturnal and endless meetings that are often characterized by never-ending demands and arguments. It is in this meeting that you will hear that your father did not finish paying the bride price of your mother. By this time, a long list is about to be reeled out about the number of cows to be slaughtered, banners to be printed, uniforms to be worn by siblings, kinsmen and other hangers-on, life band, obituary announcement in print and electronic media and security fee for the youths who will provide security. This is aside of pending church levies and communal dues. Having done with the first step, the next level is having to contend with endless list detailing the type of food and drink the grieving family should provide. Is it then a surprise that families go through more hopelessness and stress arising from the traditional rituals than the demise?
Whenever any Christian dies in my community, the vultures gather. Sympathizers gather in a binge frenzy expecting to roll big morsels of fufu like dung beetles down their alimentary canal. The church is quick to present a list of arrears. Woe betides any family that does not pay up and in time too because the officiating Reverend Priest will torpedo the burial rituals. If a blind man agrees to throw stones, be aware that he has marched on one, says an African proverb. That people should love one another does not apply here. Money is the language because both the clergy and the laity love money the way herbalists love white cocks. Every family is on queue and the clock ticks and tolls. But this cannot be fixed overnight, but we could at least try. An old Yoruba proverb says that a child’s head can swell with the size of his very affluent wardrobe, but can this child have as many old, priceless wears as the elderly. As we say in my clime, if a crocodile eats its own eggs, what would it not do to frogs. And there are plenty supporters of this larceny. To them I say that those who chase a madman all day are often counted as his members of his entourage. The morning shows the day and we create our future today.

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