A sneak peak into a typical Igbo burial

Barely a week ago, Nigerians from all walks of life had an opinion as to what went down at the burial of Late Lady Uche Iyiegbu, who was the mother of socialite club owner Obinna Iyiegbu, popularly known as Obi Cubana.

The burial, which metamorphosed into a feisty carnival, attracted people from all walks of life – sitting governors, past governors, senators, Politicians, business men and even celebrity police man Abba Kyari.

What actually set tongues on fire were the quantity of items gifted the mourning family. At the last Social Media count, the family garnered 300 cows and trailer loads of drinks. The display of wealth in form of money spraying has been referred to as wasteful, show off or “the usual Igbo thing”.

While it is the prerogative of a mourning family to decide how to bury their dead, it is worthy to note that the Igbo culture does not demand extravagant display of affluence during burials.

Evolving culture and religion has no doubt radically altered the way Igbo bury their dead. It is not uncommon to hear instances where a family keeps their deceased in a morgue for close to one calendar year in a bid to save enough to give the dead a ‘befitting burial’ ceremony, neither is it strange to hear that a family completes the rites and buries their deceased in just few weeks of passing.

When late Pa Alfred Nwogwugwu of Umunmesuru in Aba, Abia state passed, it was a time for the sons to show financial strength. Mr Emmanuel Nwogwugwu, the first son of the deceased told 774ngr that his family”… showed gratitude to God by giving their father a befitting burial.”

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“A man that died at over 100 years deserves celebration. I personally bought two hefty cows for the burial.”

When asked the purpose of the cows, he said “the cow is a traditional requirement for a person that lived well into old age. The surviving elders took some parts, my brothers were given some parts, the head of the cow was given to me as my right. That head will be divided from the jaw down. The jaw part was given to my own first son to take to the elders in his mother’s (my wife’s) village while I took the other part as the first son of my own father.”

“The women group demanded a number of goats and chicken as dues from my Wife and first daughter; and they were duly given. The tens of tubers of yams, gallons of palm oil and other items used to entertain the kings of various autonomous Communities who showed up at the burial cost me a whole lot.”

“The burial drained my resources no doubt but I am happy that I buried my father well and hope that my children will reciprocate by giving me a great burial”, he concluded.

There has been instances where funeral mass or service cannot be conducted in churches till the debt which the deceased owed are cleared off, sometimes running into few hundreds or thousands of naira.

For traditional title holders, the funeral rites are more tedious and in some cases last for seven days . In these cases,the family may leave the ‘ikwa ozu’ till they are financially capable to fulfill the traditional rites.

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In general, burials in Igbo land are of great social and economic significance. When it is learnt that a family is bereaved, long standing strife are set aside or eventually settled as there is a saying that you cannot take anger to a funeral. Villagers also tend to make income selling and supplying all that pertains to the burial rites.

A popular Igbo saying loosely translated as “a tall man’s jacket would hang higher than a short man’s” means that has to this day given credence to the fact that not all burials would go the way of Obi Cubana’s mother.


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