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Thoughts On Burial Ceremonies In Urhoboland

Posted: Mar 9, 2016 at 12:58 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Bobson Gbinije

“Anyone Can Be A Barbarian, It Requires A Terrible Effort To Remain A Civilized Man” Leonard Sydney.
The Urhobo people are inexorably obsessed with matters concerning their customs and traditions. They hold on to their tradition with pathological imperativeness notwithstanding the hybrid of Western bastardies and civilizational interfacing (Religion and Education ).

It remains a pasteurized fact amongst the Urhobo people that nobody dies a natural death under the age of (60) sixty years.  Such deaths must have been caused by witches and wizards, etc; hence, the recourse to look for the cause of the death of such a person.  It is the oracle that determines the type of traditional burial the person gets.  However, under normal circumstances, if a young person dies with or without children, it is a sad story and does not attract too much fanfare.

But when an elderly man, chief, king, or queen dies, it is given all the trappings of traditional grandeur.  In most parts of Urhobo land, the elderly or a wealthy elderly man of note is given complete traditional burial rites within (7) seven days, fourteen days or twenty-one days burial ceremonies.  This entails the formal interment after death or after several weeks in the mortuary.  Then the family of the elderly man or woman now sits down to fine- tune the burial logistics.  In some cases the burial is combined with Christian wake keeping and then on to traditional rites.  Depending on the family, the Agberen  (effigy) is carried.  This symbolizes the completeness of traditional honour to the deceased, etc.

However, the traditional burial rites in most Urhobo areas are virtually the same with slight variations in different kingdoms making up the Urhobo nation.  But the gravamen of this submission is the wantonness, waste, mutant immorality and splendiferous theatrics that have in recent times become fashionable in most Urhobo burials and being disguised as tradition.

Most Urhobo families try to almost wake up the dead through these terrible grotesque burials. Some still call them traditional burials.  A belief in the continuation of life after death and a desire to gratify their arrogance has given rise to this state of affairs.  The reverence for the dead in ancient Egypt led to the dead being mummified and preserved, buried with gold, diamonds, silver, clothes and horses, etc
Nobody is saying that the dead do not deserve a good burial, after-all the Bible says in Ecclesiastes chapter 6 verse 3 that “if a man begets a hundred children, and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many but he does not enjoy life’s good things, and also has no good burial, I say that an untimely birth is better off than he”.  A decent burial is the crowning glory of a worthy life.  But must we, Urhobos kill the living to bury the dead?  All types of demonic levies are stamped on unemployed children.

In Wole Soyinka’s play “the Bacchae of Euripides,” he described such wantonness as the display of unmajestic, orgiastic, Dionysian exuberance and salacious revelry.  As soon as an Urhobo man or woman dies the family is thrown into jubilation because an opportunity for social recklessness has been opened. Each member or each gate is asked to pay some money and they go on to erect temporary brothels euphemistically called family booths or canopies.  Members of each gate or the general family go into a competition of “my Mercedes is bigger than yours”. Some go to money lenders for loans; whilst some sell their properties to enable them massage their egos and give a, so called, good account of themselves during the burial ceremonies.
As soon as you mention development projects to these ones they develop cold sweat, cold feet and the donor fatigue syndrome.  Their greatest love is for this meaningless waste.  Sometimes they use these burials as political campaign ground and for snatching other people’s wives.  Burial has become a major industry in Urhoboland.

The time has come and it is now for Urhobos to start re-orientating their social and traditional thought patterns on burials, to mirror what is reflective of modicum of moral moderacy and discipline.  The traditional rulers in their various domains and kingdoms have a great role to play here, by letting burial mongers know where tradition starts and where it stops.  They should draw a line between traditional degeneracy and abuse, and where it is loftily lifted up.  Any burial that is beyond laid down criteria should attract fines for community development.  The blocking of roads for burials must be stopped and the immorality and salaciousness inherent in most burials must be checkmated.  The Urhobos will be lifting up the banner of social decorum if they implosively forestall these antediluvian antics.

Gbinije, writes from Delta State.