News Update

Idolatrous Cultures and Socioeconomic Dynamics in Igbo Land

By Polycarp Onwubiko

The article in the Vanguard 21/6/2023, page 30 captioned: “How traditional, cultural groups’ demands, delay burials in Igbo Land”, which was a collective information by the newspaper’s correspondents from selected states is a wake-up call for Igbo people in particular and other ethnic groups to substantially review their cultural (customs and traditions) practices especially in marriage and burial ceremony. The information on the demands during marriage and burial ceremony was scaring and horrible.

It is pertinent to say that the onus or responsibility to look critically at the ancestral idolatrous cultural values and beliefs cum practices lies on the educated and enlightened and more importantly, seriously minded Christians because of their exposure to civilized knowledge of human life in the physical and spirit world.

Common sense dictates that our forefathers had very little knowledge about the spirit world and physical world which led them to formulate customs and traditions that guided their human inter relationship.

One can say without equivocation that his forefathers were not more intelligent than him; and I can prove the assertion to the hilt because of socioeconomic dynamics as human beings come to the world from the spirit world and go back to it.

Our forefathers had the ‘right’ to formulate customs and traditions (rules of human inter relationship) with respect to the existing socioeconomic circumstances then. In like manner, their successors equally have the ‘right’ to dump their forefathers customs and traditions and formulate rules to guide human relationships.

Therefore, it is lack of deep thinking and courage by people,  in addition to the wider knowledge of the physical and spirit worlds that make them slaves to the stifling and crushing customs and traditions. The correspondents of Vanguard Newspaper that gathered the information, mentioned many horrifying cultural practices but one draws my attention which I want to offer advice on. It says:

“The President General of Igbele Community in Igboeze North Local Government Area, Chief Augustine Ugwu said they have reduced the cost of burial ceremony in his community. He said that they are trying to make traditional burial ceremony cheap. He said that they have reduced the quantity of foods, drinks and days of mourning BUT CAN’T REMOVE THE USE OF COWS BECAUSE IT WAS ESTABLISHED BY THEIR FOREFATHERS”.

“It was not everything that you can cut down during traditional burial in our community because some sacrifices were made by our ancestors and you can not change it”.

Let me add one funny tradition in Aboh, Mbaise Local Government Area, where the person reporting that his mother died and what family will bring, (apart from recommended items costing over N1m), will bring chocolate beverage and milk which Umuada and the family will take in the morning before their departure to the burial ceremony of their dead sister.

The critical question now is: Is chocolate beverage and milk their forefathers customs and traditions in the hoary past? Of course NOT; this is simply sadism and wickedness if not opportunist brazen exploitations all in the name of “our rich cultural heritage”.

Sadly, most of the educated people are foolishly echoing  the socalled “our rich cultural heritage” instead of using the education they acquired to enlighten the people who didn’t have the opportunity for education which everybody knows, enlightens the mind and make one to have civilized mindset in human relationships.

Igboeze Community should summon the courage, in addition to christian principles and word of God, and abolish using cows in burial ceremony because the cost of average size of cow is in the neighborhood of N800,000 to one million Naira whereas in the hoary past, it would be affordable. It is a shame for Christians to fear the sacrifices of the forefathers pertaining to marriage and burial ceremony.

Where then, is the demonstration of power of the Holy Spirit and the infallible Word of God? What then is the value of education if the educated ones in the community sheepishly adher to the crass ignorance and primitive cum idolatrous cultural practices of the forefathers?

That is why Oraeri people in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State were grateful to late Mr. ICK Anadi, a principal who after the NIgeria-Biafra war as President General, spearheaded the substantial review of the idolatrous customs and traditions which made marriage and burial ceremony not a source of severe headache to the bereaved families.

Burial ceremony of in-laws don’t require going with cow or any animal, rather, you present whatever amount of money you can afford with few cartoons of drinks. He simply deployed his education values cum Christian values to convince the ignorant people who thought that customs and traditions are sacrosanct and inviolate. It is high time education values cum Christian values guide people in marriage and burial ceremony.

Polycarp Onwubiko, public policy analyst, writes from Awka.