Thursday, August 27, 2015

Burials Are For Hyenas

I attended my very first burial about a week ago. It was that of grandparents, who had passed away within two weeks of each other. But this post isn’t about them, no, it’s about the indecorum, the false sense of entitlement and mind-boggling greed displayed at their funeral.

Shortly before the funeral service was over, tents began to fill in anticipation of what, in the minds of most guests, was the most interesting and important part of the ceremony. ‘Forget the requiem’ (not that they missed much, for the pastor droned on mostly about the negative effects of trousers on women), ‘we came to fill our stomachs and grab souvenirs’ was the disposition they bore.

After my grandparents were lowered six feet under, pandemonium ensued over food and drinks. An inexplicable frenzy swept through the crowd, transforming them into wild, ravenous beasts. Impatient hands shot up in the air, feverish arguments broke out, while some bottoms grew increasingly allergic to seats. The melee wouldn’t have looked incongruous in a refugee camp, but at a funeral it was abhorrent.

Hyena: Running to profit from death
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The area where the enormous cooling fan was parked almost became a war zone. People kept trooping from their tents to the back of the van, even though drinks were being served at every tent to those seated. But of course, people weren’t satisfied with what they got—they wanted more. Some went as far as taking bottles of hot drinks that had been served to a table, and then returned to say they hadn’t been served.

The lies incensed the drinks coordinator, who yelled at them to return to their tents. Still, they remained standing like statues until a fight broke out between two thoughtless idiots, and the cooling van door was ordered shut. The recalcitrant crowd, on realizing drinks would no longer be served, left one after the other.

When the distribution of souvenirs began, all hell broke loose. Both the young and the elderly fell over one another just to get a piece of cheap, impersonal gift items. Urgings of ‘Sit down, you’ll get one,” fell on deaf ears, as they surrounded whoever took on the role of Father Christmas. When the most unruly ones began shoving their hands into the souvenir bags, I decided I had seen enough of the imbecility.

Armed with a wooden spatula, I began spanking random hands and snatching what they had stolen, but even that didn’t deter the tide of marauding fingers—not even close. Like zombies preoccupied with seeking human flesh, they continued shoving, yelling and burying their hands into the gift bags.

Nigerian burials, like aso-ebis and churches, have become a lucrative business. Ogbuefis, Umuadas, church societies and age grades all want a huge piece of cake regardless of the financial state of the bereaved. They make excessive demands for drinks (that they themselves can’t even afford) as their entitlement per tradition, only to turn around and sell them for profit. Some groups brazenly ask for money in lieu of drinks.

It seems the driving force of many at funerals are the freebies; even the caterer never returns leftover ingredients that were provided for the cooking—not that it surprises anyone anymore.

But what happens when the ‘survived bys’ aren’t wealthy to sponsor the community’s greed that’s disguised as burial customs? They go a-borrowing in an effort to appease and satisfy the vulture’s appetite, leaving their dead to darken and accrue more rent in the mortuary.

Burials, like weddings, need not be an expensive venture. Ideally, they should simple and a bit more reflective with a religious service at the burial site or crematorium followed by a private reception with close friends and family members at home.

Granted, my grandparents were advanced in age, therefore their funeral mood was expected to be of a celebratory nature. However, that doesn’t mean their ripe old age made the loss was any less painful for those closest to them. So the least the hyenas could have done was to acknowledge their pain with some reverence and civility.

Tradition is a beautiful thing when it’s not abused, oppressive or Machiavellian. And if we claim to be going by tradition, then let’s stick to palm wine, kai-kai and kola nuts and lay off the Johnnie Walkers, Bailey’s Irish Creams and Made in China souvenirs that have come to mark burial ceremonies. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Why I Won't Marry a Typical Nigerian

Choices: A dog or a child for security?
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
All too often, the guardians of tradition prescribe marriage as the next logical course of action to anyone who has a degree and/or a job. For them, marriage is that one giant leap everyone must take for mankind, as it is the ever so crucial cornerstone for baby making. Nothing more.

When it comes to marriage, Nigerians, for the most part, are monomaniacs. They rarely believe in being married for the sake of it, but think that marriage should be a means to an end—the end being children. Love, companionship, compatibility, reasons commonly attributed to marriage, have no meaning and don’t take root until a child is born. This is why bearing children, especially sons, is a major and important determinant of marital health and longevity—an all too familiar reality for the barren.

The common perception here is that marriage can’t be consummated without children.

A typical Nigerian man operates under the assumption that children are the marriage’s ultimate achievement. For this wild obsession, he is willing to cast the cloak of his religion aside and commit adultery. Case in point, if his wife is barren, more often than not, he and his family would seek another woman to bear his kids. Sometimes, this decision is made with her consent, other times it isn’t. But consent or not, no sane woman willingly allows her husband sleep with another woman. The only reason she brooks this aberration is to save her marriage.

But at what cost?

To be sure, if tables were turned, an impotent man would never, I repeat, never ask his wife to sleep with another man, and then adopt his kids. Rather than accept this travesty, he’d suggest adoption or demand a divorce—which usually comes with trumped up lies and allegations against his wife. The issue of his impotence never arises.

But should children really be the raison d’étre of a marriage? According to the religious, yes. Yes, because children are necessary to fulfill God’s desire for man to multiply and populate the earth, which is why churches and their congregation scream at God to bless barren women with the fruit of the womb.

While I understand their pleas, I find such entreaties superfluous and ironic since there is a huge population of orphans in need of a loving home and family. What’s more, as Nigeria’s population burgeons and exceeds available resources, shouldn’t adoption be the moral, pragmatic, humane and sensible choice to safeguarding our planet for future generations?

Perhaps God or Mother Nature, seeing the world for what it is, should impose a moratorium on childbirth.

Incidentally, there is an intrinsically dubious desire behind every reason for wanting kids. The motive ranges from the narcissistic need to indulge, admire and extol a mini version of ourselves to the security of having someone take care of us when we become infirm with age. No human, in other words, is altruistic enough to bear children for the sole pleasure of smothering them with love—that’s what dogs are for—and not expect something in return.

Accepting marriage as a sacred institution is difficult when its true legitimacy and purpose hinges on child-bearing. Every party to a marital contract deserves to know what they’re signing up for, so none is blindsided or disappointed in the inevitability of failing to meet their end of the bargain. For to pretend to love and cherish through life’s vicissitudes, when what is truly sought is to multiply and populate the earth, is to deceive and defraud another.