In Nigeria, when there is a death, there is bucket full of tears and drinks. People from various parts of the world mourn their dead in different ways, but in Nigeria, we celebrate death and make a whole big party of it.
This culture of waste which I find most nauseating is a common practice among my people the Igbos of the South East and I am sure is also the order among other tribes in the country. Here we’ve made funerals such a huge feast that families who have lost their own seem to cry more due to the kind of expense they are sure to make than out of the pains of loosing someone.
It has become such an entrenched practice-to break bank for a funeral- that idlers actually sit around and grade various funerals that have occurred in the village within a particular time in terms of which was more grand and families who are unable to meet up with the expectations are often treated with some level of scorn such that, it is better to just bury a dead relative and perform the compulsory funeral cum feast five years after when you are buoyant enough to stage a great feast than to have a shabby unremembered outing.
The rich cease the opportunity of a death to show the whole world that they’ve arrived. For them, it doest really matter. I am however bothered about the many poor families who are forced to do the same even when they can’t afford it.
Sometimes, the person might have died due to lack of funds to secure prompt and effective medical care, yet at death, so much more is spent. Such are the families that weep more out of the financial scare than out of the loss. Most of such families go borrowing, sale choice pieces of family land or even give their underage daughters out in marriage just to raise funds with all its attendant consequences.
The paraphernalia for a funeral is simply endless. The corpse is placed in the mortuary at a mind burgling cost until all other arrangements are finalized or until such a time all the concerned parties which may include all the deceased children both at home and abroad, his/her siblings and close relations or the entire extended family, are able to based on their individual conveniences agree on a date for the funeral.
Before the funeral proper, the religious institution the deceased belonged to (either Christianity of Traditional religion) is specially induced/ motivated so as to anchor the funeral like they should. In the case of the church, all the deceased’s unpaid dues have to be paid before the priest would show up to perform the funeral rites no matter how active a member he/she had been while alive.
The house has to be repainted so as to satisfy the esthetic appeals of the expected guests. In fact in some cases, an entirely new structure (or the long uncompleted one) has to be raised. The guest must leave with a good impression as most of them are not coming because they find it so necessary to come and commiserate with you, but are coming to assess you and gossip about it later.
Then we print coloured posters and flood every nuke and cranny with it. The whole world must be aware that “ a rare gem” has been lost. There are also radio and television announcements and if for example it was a top political figure say a governor that lost say a father, sycophancy will assume a new name with every one who needs a favour from the governor taking up pages of advert in national dailies just to show how sorry and sympathetic they were.
There is always a uniform-the mourning cloth-which every member of the family (or any one with a certain degree of relationship with the deceased) must wear. The fashion statements people often make with mourning cloths often leaves one wondering if they are actually mourning.
There is often a wake keep preceding the funeral during which the most obscene things happen especially among young men and ladies. A whole lot of unwanted pregnancies have arisen from such nights with people who came supposedly to mourn, stealing away to dark corners and having fun. Of course alcohol and music is in unlimited supply and you can imagine the trio of alcohol, music and gaily dressed girls.
The coffin has to be the costliest, preferably imported as though it wouldn’t end up being feasted on by termites. Then we get coffin bearers (a fast growing business in Nigeria) to in their black apparels bear and perform all sorts of show with the coffin amidst loud trumpeting and dancing. There is a printed brochure for the funeral which contains biographies of the deceased, a few old obscure pictures and an avalanche of “goodwill messages”.
After the burial, the real feasting starts. Guests or rather mourners who continue to turn out in numbers for the three (in my village) days the funeral lasts are served in groups, some with specially designated canopies viz In-laws, age grade mates, club associates, friends, business associates, near and distant relations etc, and believe me, what is served and subsequently gathered as waste would go a long way is solving the humanitarian crises in Sudan.
The food and drink has to be in excess. It was un heard of that any one left a funereal hungry, in fact such would amount to an anathema.
Then like we do in weddings, we give souvenirs at funerals which sort of says” thank you for joining us in our feast”. There is so much music and so much wild dancing that you might need to be reminded that this was actually a funeral not an owambe party. Except for the mound of the freshly dug grave at a corner of the compound, there is usually hardly anything to show that some one had just died.
Now, what justification is there for this extreme show of excitement and happiness at the death of some one? What sense did it make to spend a fortune just to bury the dead? Why should the living be so deprived just so as to satisfy the dead?
It really makes no sense and I consider it one of the greatest failures of reasoning for us to still be engaged in such acts in this age. I think the dead require our respect not our feasting. This respect should come in the way of quiet reflection on the person’s life and prayer (if you believe in that) for the person’s soul.
Funerals should be solemn occasions. We should use what we have to secure a better life for the living and if there is any good we ought to do to any man, do it while the person is still alive, don’t wait till he/she is dead before remembering how wonderful the person had been to you.
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OMOTAYO, J. A. Lagos, NIGERIA July 05, 2008
It is a pity that we have to grudge over this issue. We are a part and parcel of the problem we now complain of. How many of us have behaved like the late Tai Solarin mentioned by Paul here?
Only our actions can change the tide, not our writings on the pages of interner. Have any of us exhibited any resistance or speak in our various village gatherings, socio-cultural meetings, political gatherings, etc that the tide must change? I think otherwise.
Most elderly people involved in burial ceremonies in Nigeria do not have assess to the internet. Some of them are illiterates. They rely on age long tradition and culture. If they stick to tradition, then we must admit that our generation has failed to convince them about the reality on the ground.
If they are unwilling to change, it is because our reasoning is too poor to move them or we are too weak to defeat them in arguments. I do not blame these people but we, ourselves.
Until we are able to tell our Bishop that Jesus did not demand a "tithe" in his three years of religious activities even though he came to "destroy the law but to restore it", we cannot make any meaningful impact.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, I thank the writer for the mind-buggling details provided here. But we must note that unless we become the agent of change, the tradition will pass on to generations yet unborn.
God bless Nigeria
Paul Ojukwu Scotland, UK July 01, 2008
I support you 100%, I have just returned from the village where I went for burial of my dear and lovely mum. I cannot tell you for sure how much we spent, but what I know is that I am now in debt, and only God can help me to repay, by blessing my effort in life.
I think something should be done to actually ameliorate the soffering of people or persons who lost their dear one. I can remember what Tai Solarin said, "I cannot loose my mum and still lose my money. The authorities. in different locality and clan should come together as a matter of urgency and ban these activities.
As the dead is dead and not conscious of what ever we do here, no do they partake in the expensive and senseless expenditure and follow the death of
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