“The gratification of wealth is not found in mere possession or in lavish expenditure, but in its wise application” – Miguel de Cervantes
“I learned that we can do anything, but we can’t do everything…at least not at the same time. So think of your priorities not in terms of what activities you do but when you do them. Timing is everything” – Dan Millman
“Nobody’s life is ever all balanced. It’s a conscious decision to choose your priorities everyday” – Elisabeth Hasselbeck
Ebubedike is dead. A cultured mortal is gone. He died before the cockerel could wake the villagers from their sleep. The women had gone for a night vigil. And he died before they came back home; sparing them the unpleasant sight of exchanging his earthly life for eternity.
When he died, no one dared to wail or scream. The mourners cried in muffled notes; sobs barely audible that even the spirits conveying the dead couldn’t hear them. This was because Ebubedike was an Ozo and according to legend, an Ozo’s death shouldn’t be announced by screams of women or the cries of the loved ones. One of his sons would convey the message to a palace guard, who would in turn disclose the bad news to the members of the Nze na Ozo.
We got the news of his demise a few days after he died. When I heard the news, I pondered on the life of a fine gentleman as unmanned tears meandered through the rough contours of my cheeks, making their way down to the edge of the jaw and eventually dropping off as tiny droplets onto my white shirt, as I stared blankly at the portrait of an African warrior hanging loosely on the wall. Ebubedike, the warrior was no more.
About a week later, we set off to his hometown for the final rite of passage for the kind man. In the bus, everyone fell under the spell of sleep; a deep slumber so surreal yet enchanting that even the frequent bumps encountered on the road couldn’t awaken them. But Nina Simone refused to go to sleep. Her jazzy voice serenaded my ossicles and in my mind’s eye, I worshipped at her temple. She was a modern day Athena and I, a mere mortal enchanted by the passion with which she sang; a passion so strong yet effortless.
Ebubedike is dead. But he never dictated how he wanted to be buried. A strong man he was, until the tumour ate deep into his liver. Shriveled and lonely, he spoke few words in the last days of his sojourn in the land of the living. Ebubedike will be greatly missed. A man of few yet powerful words.
We arrived to the roars of the villagers in the evening. There were large colorful posters of the good man along the way. When we drove into the compound, the villagers that came to welcome us thanked our Chi for bringing us safely from township. Some mischievous ones kept asking for what we bought for them in the city. Didn’t they know we came back to mourn the dead? Won’t they have a little patience before they commence fleecing us of our hard earned cash? At this point, I held firmly to my wallet as we made our way towards our abode. Well-wishers had arrived and were already munching on pomo, goat meat, fufu and any delicacy they so desired. Some even pretended to cry while staring at the pot of soup in front of them, waiting to pounce on the food like a hungry lion staring patiently at a brown antelope.
Ebubedike is dead. An unassuming warrior is gone. As we gathered at the Obi for the meeting of the male members of the clan, Nnoli – his last son – cried. An elder quickly rebuked him. It wasn’t manly to cry in the midst of men, he said to him. A few minutes later, Ochina, the palmwine tapper walked in. He greeted everyone. He was directed to say the opening prayers since he was the last to arrive. He asked us all to bow our heads and remove our caps. He then proceeded to remove his flip-flops and said a prayer for the welfare of the kindred and clan members, also thanking the Almighty for the life of Ebubedike. After the prayers, I quickly asked an elder beside me why Ochina removed his footwear. He promptly told me it was so that the earth goddess, Ana, would bear him witness that all his words and prayers were honest and meant no harm.
Ezendu broke the kola nuts and gave thanks to our Chi. He then dropped some on the ground. These were inedible offerings meant for the unseen spirits. I pictured Amadioha smiling wryly as the nuts fell upon bare floor. The merry feast of gods and men has begun.
Soon, Agu, the hunter walked in. He brought bush meat and ele for us. He looked so bedraggled and limp inside the Obi like a lonely scarecrow amongst withered corn stalks on a grief-stricken land plagued by sorrow, awaiting the raindrops that’d shower torrents of life upon the dead ground. His wife, Nwuyediya, had prepared the delicacy into tiny pieces garnished with pepper, ukpaka and uziza. As was the custom, Agu first took a bite of the meal and we waited patiently for any sudden jerky movements or foaming from his mouth. There was none after a few minutes, so it was safe to partake in the scrumptious meal. Everyone ate!
In two days, Ebubedike was buried in a grave beside his father’s; a lonely journey to his ancestors’ abode. There was no abobaku to go with him. Or a charming damsel to stroke his testosterone-laden desires. The dibia came after the Bishop left. He wore a red piece of cloth around his girdle and performed the last rites. With omu leaves in between his lips, he mumbled hushed whispers as he poured nzu over the grave. The warriors behind him danced the dance of the dead. They reminded me of the escapades of Kill-We Nwachukwu. The masquerades – Ojionu and Agaba – danced with the warriors. They embodied the spirits that spring up from the soil.
Afterwards, it was time to wine and dine. Ebubedike’s daughters had framed portraits of the great man. They danced around with the portraits. As they danced, elderly women followed them behind. They had metallic trays with which they collected cash from the sympathizers. Now this was another method of fleecing us of our hard earned cash.
Ite Ego aka Pot of Money walked into the compound with his entourage, wearing regalia befitting a king but he wasn’t one. He was just some rich dude no one knew what the source of his income was. As he walked, a stocky man followed him quickly behind with an open briefcase filled with Naira notes. The Highlife musician and the band of merry fellows were quick to serenade him and sing his praises. As they did so, Ite Ego aka Pot of Money sprayed Naira notes on them as he danced to the tune of the songs they were singing.
In the evening, we watched as the merry-making continued well into the night. Ebubedike is dead. There is no coming back to life for the good man.
Burial ceremonies in most parts of Nigeria have become occasions where people are milked of their hard earned cash. It is as if there is an unwritten creed that at such events, people are meant to compete with each other on who would drop the largest amount of cash. The ceremony starts many weeks prior to the day the dead is finally committed to mother earth. The body of the dead is left at the mortuary for weeks and paid for at inflated costs. Relatives, friends and well-wishers are meant to be catered for. They eat and munch on food without recourse to where the food is coming from. The Umuada endlessly refuse what is given to them citing some flimsy reasons. The elders even go as far as rejecting gifts such as goats, ebini and cows if the numbers and sizes they requested for are not given to them. Do these goons even know how money is made? Most of them live in dilapidated structures and pitiable conditions. Yet, instead of requesting that these funds be used to better their lives, they are simply after what their stomachs would contain. Issorait!
Most of the relatives demand to be adorned in expensive fabrics. As if the expensive clothes would bring back the dead. There are different canopies for different categories of people. And each canopy would have its own demands, depending on the class of people in it. Some families even hire people to cry and express grief all day long; the louder and protracted the cries, the stronger the demonstration of filial piousness.
People have been left in near-penury after embarking on burial ceremonies. Their finances are badly depleted. Let me not even talk about the man hours that are lost as a result of the extended period the burial ceremony would take place. There are also many ploys employed to take as much money as possible from sympathizers. In some places, eggs are also sold on such days. A tradition meant for weddings is now being employed at burial ceremonies. Eggs sell as much as a thousand naira. Phewww!
We are victims of a culture that encourages glorification of misplaced priorities. It is important to note that in the process of honoring the dead, one mustn’t lose sight of what lies ahead after the day. There are pertinent issues that would need the attention of our finances desperately after the burial must have taken place. Therefore, it is very vital to thread with wisdom. Honour the dead but make sure you are not left in a worse financial condition afterwards. Because the dead wouldn’t be around to console you when the landlord throws out your belongings from the house for failing to meet up with payment of house rent. The dead won’t cry with you when your finances are so depleted that you can’t afford to pay for basic health care of your wards. The dead won’t lend you money when you don’t have any to purchase pampers for your little kid. Be wise, my friend…be wise!
As Jesus said: Let the dead bury themselves. Capisce!
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Word to Mutha: This work is STRICTLY the opinion of the writer. No Love Lost; No Love Found…It is what it is!