So, I was in the homeland for the greater part of last week, and onto the weekend to attend an uncle's funeral, representing myself and my family. I intend to write about an aspect of Igbo Funerals I'd neglected in my series on the subject, but for now I'll like to share something else that happened at the time the occasion I'd travelled for was taking place. If you're conversant with these things, you'd know that funerals especially are usually scheduled at certain times of the year in Nigeria's Southeast, not by any kind of law, but usually because two or more people have scheduled theirs at about the time, so that people who attend one, can also avail themselves of the opportunity so provided, to visit other families grieving the loss/celebrating the exit (as the case may be) of a loved one. This time around, in the space of four days, I actively attended three of such, and passively (in passing) two more, while my compound was used by my uncle's son to host his Ògbo (age grade, to which I belong also) for the all-night wake keep, and the funeral, the following day, for which I made myself available, as well as provide "Kola" for "our" guests. It was while I was on a visit to my father's Nnaochie (my grandmother's birthplace), that I encountered the story the first time, though it will recur severally when I returned to my village. The body of a certain man from my town was finally brought home for burial after thirty years. One man who claimed to have visited the mortuary where the remains had been all those years, said the body had become so stiff like "stock fish", that it wasn't laid down (on the floor or slab/table) like the other bodies, as you'd find with local unrefrigerated mortuaries in the hinterlands of Nigeria, but was kept in a standing position by the wall, with only the fact that the limbs were still joined to the body, suggesting that the figure must've been human. The account regarding the fee paid for the retrieval of the body from the mortuary varied from ₦3.4M to ₦10M depending on whom you asked. A few attempts had been made to bury the man in the past but those proved abortive. The first time, weeks after the man died, access to the family compound was blocked by the deceased's brother, then on another occasion fifteen years ago, after some attempts at reconciliation, saw to the retrieval of the corpse from the mortuary, only for a turnaround to be made along the way, as the convoy conveying the body became inundated with news that the reception back home will be hostile. Then some other person claimed it was said that the body was missing, and people forgot about the issue until a few weeks ago when negotiations was once again reignited, and an agreement was finally reached by the late man's kinsmen, to allow for his body be brought home for burial. I haven't been much of a fan of Chimamanda Adichie, not necessarily because she espouses feminism, but because I've found that she's guilty of what she'd severally accused others of doing, as regards the dangers of the single story/narrative. My friend, 'Luoye agrees that we may think the way we do because we haven't really lived, or neither did we grow up in societies where females didn't have as much rights as their male counterparts, even though we both have largely lived the most of our lives in Nigeria, much like Chimamanda before she moved to the States. My grouse therefore was with her "generalisation" of the situation of, and with the African woman. I quipped this in, because of the underlying story behind the body that had just been buried in my town, thirty years after the man died. This man was married to woman, with the union blessed with a girl child. He'd known to will his property at home (in the Southeast), and abroad to his wife and daughter, which was at the core of the refusal by his family to allow his internment in his village, after he passed on. Some of the men I listened to while they discussed the matter, considered what the man had done sacrilegious, and berated his wife (who'd also died a few years back) for been obstinate. It didn't matter to them (they probably hadn't heard) that the Nigerian Supreme Court had recently ruled in favour of female children inheriting from their father, a landmark case that was interestingly brought by female offsprings of a wealthy Igbo man who died intestate and without a son). I'm not privy to the compromises the late man's daughter may have accommodated, or to which demands of her father's kin she gave in to, that now led to the approval given for his burial and funeral last week, but the tone of discussions that I observed suggested to me that she might have conceded a few of her father's property, especially those in the village to her uncles, to allow for peace to reign, and thereafter give her father a befitting burial and funeral, without which in Igbo culture, the spirit will continue to roam in the nether world. Now, before you start thinking, "Oh, this is the way of the Igbo", just a fortnight ago, the Lagos State Government came to the aide of the widow of a man from Edo State, when members of her late husband's family, besieged the lying-in-state programme in church, to convey his body back home to Edo State for burial. The Lagos State Government intervened because the man had stated in his will, of his desire to be buried in Lagos. It was mentioned that the deceased hadn't been to his village in a long while. His son, even alleged that one of his uncles was being lined up to "encyst" (for lack of a better word to describe literally the expression in the local dialect) his mother. Unlike the first case I cited which happened while the daughter was still a kid, the latter is happening with children that are adults in their twenties, and the man's kin insisting that they, not his immediate nuclear family should exercise the "Power of Attorney" over the man's estate and if you like, legacy. No regard whatsoever was given the woman, such that her sons' voice was accorded some respect over hers. When my father died, I insisted that none of those degrading things widows have to endure (like the shaving of her hair) should be meted out on my mother. Interestingly, I found that my action wasn't novel, and I was glad that I contributed (in my own small corner), to ongoing efforts in Igboland to curb degrading and inhuman activities against women, especially widows. In essence, what I'm saying is this. In Africa, strides have been made, in spite of any effort by government or Non-Governmental Organisations, NGOs to champion the cause of women, by individual women against all odds, mostly because of the situation and conditions women have found themselves in today. Women in Nigeria, compete favourably with men in the economic, academic, careers, and many other fields, especially in the emerging aspects of our civilisation (including in what's becoming the democratisation of sex). Sadly, it is only in the entrenched areas of culture and tradition for instance has not much progress being recorded. It is why the ability of the women to run the affairs of their late husbands continue to be questioned, even when it is the wish of the deceased for such powers to be granted her. Maybe in the cities, we may not notice these things, i.e. acts of discrimination and disenfranchisement, and the likes, of women folk, but they are ever present and rife, if we pay some attention to it. I read a litany of what Gimba Kakanda tweeted ( recently on the same subject, and it reminded me of my former classmate whose wife was delivered of a bouncing baby girl as their first child. He'd go on to have a male as the second within two years after the first, but he appeared so disappointed with this female first child, that he made a point of letting anyone that cared to listen know that he didn't feel bad having her, if you know what I mean. That is where these things start, and it is even at that level that we must begin to advocate for the rights of the girl child, unto adulthood, so that the likes of the stories I've just narrated, amongst several others won't continue to make headlines, or feed the gossip mill used to fill the time in between activities when attending funerals anywhere in Nigeria. 'kovich WHY IT TOOK THIRTY YEARS TO BURY MY TOWNSMAN

Published by m'khail madukovich