The Ibusa Culture of Wasteful Burial: Causes And Remedy


“In our Ibusa, somehow, it is biting everyone; somehow only a few bother to make their complaints public. When death comes knocking, everyone weeps and there’s a bucket of tears; when it is time to bury the same loved one, the tears dry up and the society demands heaven from the bereaved”– Emeka Esogbue

In Ibusa, funerals assume such a huge feast that the bereaved mourns more as a result of expenses than the loss of that loved one. Even with your status in the society, if you ever conducted burial in Ibusa, you have a sad story to tell. The rich use the opportunity to flaunt their wealth while the society feels little concerned about the poor. Generally, for both the average and below, death in the family auspicates emptiness of the purse. Indeed, for the people, the sign of death prognosticate days of unending spending sprees.

It is time to spend on the familiar and unfamiliar; invited and uninvited guests in the name of traditional burial. Usually, in Ibusa, time for burial is the time to see faces you never knew. Nonetheless, tradition requires their presence. Burial leaves beneficiaries in the community smiling back home with the bereaved needing time to recover from unhappy, calamitous and ill-fated spending. But why does the society compel bereaved persons to spend so much against their will considering that the time of burial should be solemn?

Even when the deceased died because he was unable to raise money to pay his hospital bill, bogus ceremony is still required. It becomes more saddening that in Ibusa when death occurs, the question of “Onwe kwe umua aka si ike” (hope the deceased has financially buoyant children) arises.

Strange cultures in Ibusa burial

As everyone looked on, strange rites crept in. When did it become the culture of the Ibusa people to present souvenirs in time of burial ceremonies, something the community’s progenitors did not know about? Why is it now necessary for a female mourner to prompt her co-wives with drinks as a form of invitation? Writing in Uhuru Newspaper of October 2-15, 2017, Amaechi Omunizua recalled that culturally the mourner was assisted but that no longer exists in Ibusa.

According to him, “There used to be a time in culture when people come to sympathize with the mourner with gifts hence the word “condole” but that has apparently disappeared from the lexicon of the people of Ibusa”. He went on to observe that “burial has become so bastardized that even when a man loses his child, younger brother or sister, people come to rejoice with the bereaved and even dictate what to drink or eat”.

For him, “the changed culture of Ibusa in terms of burial is comparable to the coffin maker who prays someone to die”.

As he put it, “It is now the prayer of some people that everyday should be burial. In fact, they think of no other activity than burial so that they will impose their will and flex their muscle on the mourner like he feels like dying himself”.

Once in culture, only women who aged gracefully before passing away were accorded Okanga recognition but with time all that changed. Nearly every family now considers okanga to bid their mothers farewell even when it is considered unmeritorious and in doing so the village may require a life cow and some number of drinks to “honour” the deceased woman with Okanga. So the value of that culture became devalued and overvalued depending on how it is perceive by you; money, power and influence could now win it other than specified cultural requirements.

Historically, the Ibusa culture forbade the burial of their women outside their fathers’ compound like some neighbouring Anioma communities still uphold. However, with time the children of deceased women became culturally permitted to break this law if they agreed to give “Eshi” (cow) to the parents of the woman in return as a gesture. Thus with time and like everything else in the community, it became a rite as no one ever buried his mother in her father’s compound again. “Ikpu Eshi, the now first burial rite of a woman had evolved. With Eshi, children can now bury their mother in their own home. The customary observance of Ikpu Eshi is not as simple as that as the practice is usually complicated in structure and expensive to fulfill.

In burying the dead in Ibusa, you spend more feeding your invited and uninvited guests especially the elderly with goats and alcoholic drinks.

Death more expensive than living

Observers in the community have called for moderation in the rites that compel people to spend too much money on the dead. As many will agree, any tradition that compels people to collect loan to bury their loved ones should be discouraged. The culture of the Ibusa people should be pro-life and not pro-death so that people do not go broke after burying their dead or avoid the community after burying their loved ones.

The stiffening second burial

In Ibusa, the anguishes of the bereaved are compounded by the practice of first and second burial for the departed men and women. While everyone finds it befuddling to explain the presence of second burial in a modern world, the response from advocates of this superfluous and avoidable practice is that the people’s rich culture must be preserved at all cost. The questions again are whose culture is it in this modern world that a person dies once but buried twice? Is this transformative of the deceased to a primordial ancestry? Does it grant the dead direct passport to heaven? Why is the first and second burial culturally duplicative?

Who will bail the cat?

Who will deliver the Ibusa people from the grip of this culture? Sometimes ago, in the midst of cry to scrap the second burial in the community, it was announced that the cost of second burial of women had now been reduced to the sum of N70,000 but it threw up the question of its necessity. Is second burial still necessary? Why conduct second burial of women in the absence of the Omu as culturally required? Are Ibusa ancestors happy that there is no Omu to receive what culturally belongs to her?

Everyone agrees that burial is expensive in Ibusa

Speaking on this development, Hon Leo Nkeaka, a well-known politician in the community who spoke to this writer lamented, “I am completely aware that burial ceremonies in Ibusa are expensive hence, my first recommendation is that the community scraps wake-keep while other cultural aspects of the burial ceremonies are allowed to exist. It is very important that the cost of traditional rites be reviewed such as “Ikpu Nnu”.

He concluded: “I am also of the view that “Ikpu Eshi” be monetized to about N25,000 (Twenty-Five Thousand Naira)”.

What really makes burial expensive in Ibusa?

The factors responsible for this are multifaceted. The first is that hardly have the people of Ibusa come together on a round table to discuss and agree on reform of their culture where necessary. Therefore, even the most ancient and irrelevant are still in practice.

The origin of the unnecessary

On how it all started, Maxwell Ajufo, an entrepreneur and politician gave his opinion:

“My observation in the burial processes in Ibusa is that at any given time and place, any unusual practice becomes an aspect of culture when the people can genuinely make references to a previous place it initially happened. Example of such is my father’s burial where a fixed price was appended for the digging of his grave by the Okwulegwe as against the usual provision of food and drinks. Now one should ask: Inward and outward why this sort of strange practice?”

“My simple answer to that very question is poverty. Whenever a burial occurs, the people come with the mindset of “they (the bereaved) have money” and the mindset has degenerated to our present-day costly and wasteful burials in Ibusa to which everyone now laments”.

The cause

Mr. Peter Egbuchua from Umuekea Quarter of the community blamed it on the people. According to him, “Instead of that solemn quiet exit from earth, Igbuzo people now go to the extent of borrowing or selling their property to accord their departed what is termed a “befitting burial”. It is such a show of affluence and wealth that have ushered in the era of wasteful spending at burials. A situation where burial of a loved one is supposed to be a moment of sober reflections, but nowadays adverts and invitations card are the new ways of heralding exit of a dear one, and the society now sees it as the only opportunity to obtain whatever they can from the family of the deceased by setting standards which they must strive to meet”.

Egbuchua went on to explain that the bereaved family is asked to provide special canopies, choice drinks, assorted drinks, souvenirs and sometimes monetary compensation especially when the deceased is said to have fine on him prior to his demise. Then the children and family will bear the brunt. Unless they pay such fines, the burial will have to be deferred until the conditions are met.

He emphasized that sometimes it could be time for payback to the family if the deceased is not in the good book of those to bury him.

Compulsory funeral for all

Usually, unless burial meets the hurdles usually set by the people’s culture, it is not to be concluded to have taken place. For instance, where the deceased is an Alor initiate, Ndichie-in-Council will have to supervise the burial and in the end pronounce it done. This situation appears to set a common standard for everyone in the society, a situation less than average families struggle to meet.

It is somewhat perplexing that modern in Ibusa, everyone despite personal belief professed in his lifetime is compellingly buried according to the community’s traditional requirements. Thus, professed Christians have no choice in death than to be buried in a traditional manner. As things go this way, the people have started to bury their loved ones outside the community.

The remedy

  1. Blend the rites of first and second burial to make room for only one body of burial
  2. Remove unnecessary requirements in burial rites to reduce the cost
  3. Some people should just live less on burial ceremonies to simplify the whole process.
  4. Christian families should choose to bury their loved ones in a Christian way, if they so choose. This will remove unnecessary burden from the village heads
  5. If there must be second burial which though is unnecessary, the community should re-institute Omuship.
  6. Okanga groups where factionalized should be looked into with a view to bringing about harmony.

Conclusion

As someone has noted reforming burial systems in Ibusa is a good idea but are the same people who benefit from it expected to reform it? That is the question to be answered. Whatever the answer to this question is, time and tide are already re-molding mindsets. And unless the community’s traditional institution rises to the occasion, burial of important figures outside the community as already being witnessed will rise beyond prediction.

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