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Thursday 25 August 2022

Where did we learn this?

 Where did we learn this?

Sometime ago in Anambra State a mortuary caught fire burning over hundred dead bodies kept there. The news made headlines that people began to wonder what could have led to that double tragedy, the one that late Music maestro Fela Anikulapo Kuti will dub “Double Wahala For Deadi bodi” Whatever could have been the cause of the inferno may be immaterial as the big question is why was the dead not buried when they were clinically pronounced dead. Investigations further revealed that some of the bodies in the mortuary have been there for six months to one year! The University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu came up with the report that the hospital mortuary is filled with dead bodies that their owners have abandoned. According to the report some of the dead bodies have been in the mortuary for Two to three years! It’s the situation report in most of the mortuaries in particularly in the Biafra.

According to "Igbo Funeral Rites: " when an elderly man or woman dies, the corpse is immediately stretched out on plantain leaves, sponged down thoroughly and rubbed with camwood dye to mark it as sacred. After the cleaning, the body is laid out in the living room, lying down with the feet facing the entryway -- though if the deceased is a woman, she is often seated upright. Women are also carried in a stretcher back to their ancestral village for burial.

Once the body has been prepared for its passage from the world of the living into the spirit world, a wake is held. The eldest son of the bereaved family welcomes the community into the home with kola nuts and palm wine. Prayers and libations are spoken to beckon ancestral spirits into the home to escort the spirit of the deceased. The wake lasts the whole night until gunshots are fired early the next morning to alert the surrounding village of the death that has occurred.

After the wake takes place, the body is immediately buried in a grave dug in the living room. Also enclosed are a large quantity of cloth and some of the deceased's most valued possessions in life. Men are often buried with their tools, gun or fishing gear, and women with their pots and dishes. The body is then placed in the grave by young men and encased in wooden planks.

ALSO READ: We are planning to march, our dead Must be buried--IPOB

The first burial, however, is not the end of Igbo funeral rites. Several months or even a year after the body is buried, a second funeral is held, but this time, it is accompanied by feasting and merry-making rather than mourning. Visitors dress in their best attire, and sing and dance to alert the community of the event that is about to be held. After the second funeral, the deceased is said to have been sent off to take up a new place in the land of the dead.

Moving down to the Western world it’s almost the same thing. Once somebody dies it takes hours, days or in extreme cases one week and the person is buried. In some of their believe and culture they just burn off the dead body in what is known as cremation! This was depicted when former American President George Bush was buried within one week of his death. There was no much Ceremonies. Same thing happened when the iconic Nelson Mandela died some years ago. But that is not the case with my people in Biafra these days. Once somebody dies it may take an average of one month, two months, three months, a year, two and three years before the person is buried. Some uncles and relations see death as an opportunity to extract pounds of flesh from the children of the dead as outrageous requirements are placed for them before they could allow the burial of their person.

These days if a loved one dies there are two types of crying that are involved; one is on the loss of the person and the other one is on how and what in terms of resources that will be used in giving the person what is erroneously described as Befitting Burial. Some communities have made it so difficult that those who loose their loved ones pass through excruciating pain before they could bury them. First the community or village is to give approval date for the Burial. After that different groups and societies will start making demands on things to be done or performed before they can grant that Burial will be carried out. This normally involve presentation of long list of items to fulfilled. This list they are talking about is almost like the one being presented when somebody wants to marry! People that just lost a loved one are now subjected to another round of grieve on how to fulfil the requirements before they could bury their dead.

On the other hand some families make things difficult for themselves by trying to outdo others in the way and manner they bury their dead. Some will not bury until they have constructed new houses, renovated their compound. It does not matter that while the dead was alive he was living in a leaking house and dilapidated compound!

The cost of burying these days now runs into millions of Naira. All in the name of giving a Befitting Burial. The question being asked is what is Befitting in a Burial, where did we learn this? This is because there is a saying that there is no gain or bragging in expenditure done on a loss which death occupies a prominent first position. The craze for Befitting Burials have now reached a feverish crescendo with new innovations employed. These days at Burials you wonder if it’s for fun fare or mourning of lost ones. High ranking musicians are now engaged. Burials are now contracted out to funeral houses and those I describe as merchants of death. Uniforms otherwise known as Aso Ebi are now sown just to commit the dead to mother earth! mortuaries and dead bodies everywhere in Biafra.

The latest in town now is ‘discovery and launching” of brand new well furbished Coffin with Internet Facilities like Facebook, Twitter, instragram, WhatsApp. The asking price of the Coffin is put at N5 Million. At the end of the day if you put the total cost of burying somebody these days particularly in the South East it runs into millions of Naira!

The worst of this hypocrisy is that the families of dead ones will try to do extra ordinary things that they never did while the person was alive. There are cases where the children of the deceased parents were living in thatched or leaking houses only for same children to insist on constructing brand new houses before the Burial. The Dead person may not be feeding fine or being taken care of while alive but on death such a person will be buried with very expensive casket, adorned in expensive apparels, cows Slaughtered, bags of rice cooked and assorted expensive drinks used for the Burial!

This is not our culture, we must follow directives from IPOB leadership in saving our land by burying our dead and also reducing the unnecessary high cost of burial rite in Biafra land.

Written by Austine Uche-Ejeke

Re-edited by Family Writers Press International.

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