'Inheritance' of Dead Brother's Wife in some Parts of Igboland.

Discussion in 'Igbo Culture' started by Izu, Sep 7, 2016.

  1. Izu

    Izu Admin Staff Member

    "She will suffer. She thinks she is smart. She will never know peace as long as I live", Chief Amuebuka was muttering to himself. He was livid with anger.
    His only brother, Frank had just been buried and his brother's wife, Frank's widow, had played a smart one on him. He didn't give him the knife. She had ignored his stretched hand hence making him a laughing stock before the Umuada and Ndinwunyedi (i.e. married sisters and wives in the extended family).
    In Nnewi tradition, when a man dies and is buried, the widow's head is shaved by the deceased sisters and some senior wives in the extended family. When the head is shaven clean, the shaving knife is given to widow and all the responsible men in the family are summoned before her. It's a decision time.
    The widow is expected to give the knife to one of the male members of her husband's family in attendance. Some jealous wives would lock up their husbands at the risk of being beaten just to make their husbands miss the short ceremony. The knife is not reserved for anyone in absentia.
    If the man accepts the knife from the widow, then he would take the widow as an official concubine. The chosen man automatically sees to the upkeep of the widow's children. He is free to make her bear more children. The practice provides an economic and emotional umbrella for the bereaved and to shut out male intruders as the sexual needs of the widow would be taken care of from within the family.

    But Christiana did the unthinkable. When the men assembled, she requested for the presence of his first son Obiako who was brought before her. She gave the boy the knife to a loud applause of the three wives of Chief Amuebuka. It was a huge disappointment for the expectant grown men. The ceremony was short as usual but the disappointment was long as could be seen written on the faces of the men present. Christiana was very beautiful. Her husband called her "mkuru mma" i.e. the seed of beauty.
    Chief Amuebuka was polygamous. He was also a known womanizer in the town. Could it be that his wives and other women connived with Christiana to scuttle his ambition of acquiring his brother's widow-his traditional entitlement? He was furious and couldn't hide it. Why won't he be annoyed?
    But, Chief Amuebuka would not take any of that. How can he lose his right and a sumptuous cultural gift? Which loss is lighter to forget? Is it the luscious waist or the standing breasts of the brother's wife?
    The thought of sleeping with Christiana preoccupied his mind as his dead brother was lying frozen in the mortuary. Now, his right was being denied by the woman that thought that she was wise.

    "The idiot has locked her legs and everybody would expect me to train her children and still fend for her. Not me! Tufiakwa! Let her go back to where she bathed to collect her clothes. I'm not from the tribe of Aaron as such, I will not go empty-handed", Chief Amuebuka told himself.
    The extended family known as Umunna had to meet on this strange development. Chief Amuebuka was the family head and had called for an emergency meeting a day after this incident. What Christiana did, the first in Nnewi, had to be analyzed with a view to stopping or even reversing it to prevent the cancer from spreading. Our culture was being threatened!
    All seated, each with his own thought as a handbag with an unknown content, Chief Amuebuka rose to speak. "My brothers, I requested that we hold this meeting for us to address the embarrassment our wives have introduced from the back door into our culture. That my brother Frank is dead is no longer news but that the wife wants to turn his house into a brothel is novel. Perhaps, she thinks that our manhood are not endowed or long enough to satisfy her; otherwise how can a young woman of 36 years brazenly reject all of us and choose his 11-year old son as foster husband? What wealth did my brother leave behind to guarantee their sustenance? I'm sure that a bird dancing on the main road must be dancing to the tune of an invincible drummer hidden in the bush" he concluded.

    Ogbuefi Ochiliozuo, a cousin to Chief Amuebuka was listening attentively. He waited until his elder cousin finished his address and sat down. Though he lived in Lagos and just returned for Frank's burial ceremony, he suspected that his kinsmen at home would try to undo what Christiana, the widow, had done. Therefore, he decided to wait to attend the meeting.
    Ochiliozuo told his kinsmen to pipe low; that it was the widow's prerogative to choose who she wanted as long as the choice was a male member of the family and that her action was still in order. He encouraged anybody who liked the woman to warm himself to her heart through kindness and charity; that women would always fall for people who were kind and would be there for them and their kids. The matter died as three other respectable members of the family spoke in favour of the widow.

    Gossip had it that Ichie Ochiliozuo had a hand in what Christiana did. He had a plan of ingratiating himself to her when the embers of the fire had died down. He had sent his own share of funeral contributions directly to Christiana herself. Though he secretly would want the widow as a concubine, he couldn't openly signal his interest being that Chief Amuebuka was the closest relative to the deceased who never hid his desire to claim what he deemed a right; and the fact that Chief Amuebuka had many native doctors as friends. His life might be snuffed out.
    But before Ichie Ochiliozuo left the village for Lagos, he visited Christiana in late hours of one night telling her not to worry; that he would pay the school fees of her four children up to university levels. He would also place her on a monthly stipend until the mandatory 6 months mourning period. He dropped with her, some money that would last them for two months with a promise to top it up. That was a soothing news that would be sweeter in its continuation and performance being that the sickness that killed her husband sapped all the family's wealth including savings.
    Ichie Ochiliozuo made the widow swear to an oath of secrecy. She was not to let even his own wife know how she had been surviving. An open disclosure would bring out the animal in Chief Amuebuka.
    23 years after the death of Frank, his children have become so successful. Their mother had refused to tell them the tale of her widowhood experience and the harsh treatment meted out to her by their father's only brother. She didn't want her children to be prisoners of vengeance!
    Greater abominations are happening nowadays as many widows no longer shave their heads for their dead husbands while some shave theirs in private.
    Brothers of the deceased are being left. Churches and the law courts have not helped matters.
    What a changed world!

    By Anayo Nwosu.

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