The premier web site of Edo speaking people.

Nation of people who are mostly located in the Midwestern part of Nigeria, Western  Africa.



To Olumuyiwa Obasanjo, Condolences

(On Esan Burial Tradition)



Onoho'omehen Ebhohimhen




culled from GUARDIAN, November 8, 2005


Your mother was no egbakhman because she had a grown child like you. This is notwithstanding that Esan cultural norms frown at a child that predeceased her own parents. The culture that gave you birth is dialectic; it imposes duty on both parents and offspring. While parents owe a sacred duty to nurture children to adulthood, it is the corresponding obligation of adult children to stay alive to celebrate their parents and conduct them through the lonely path home.

That was the hint inherent in the wish of your mother's'to be celebrated at death, as was her grandmother. In a word, your mother was interested in the cultural honours due to a deserving personage. The snag highlighted that an adult child that predeceased parents may be treated like a stillborn, has a few exceptions. Rare as they are, exemptions are granted if there were reasonable and extenuating circumstances in the manner of departure. Your mother, Stella Obhayelea's illustrious life, fit into this milieu. So, young man, I write to offer you condolences, clarify some issues of cultural significance and, perhaps, offer a guide out of the seeming impasse.

The most outstanding of the spats that many latched unto was the act of committal of her remains to earth in a foreign land. Some of the arguments were founded on cultural injunctions. Such was the strand that insisted, for instance, that the only right thing to do was to bring her remains home. Given the fait accompli of her rest in Abeokuta, however, I take it that the oversight was because no rational advice was proffered. Perhaps, credible opinions were not sought from the right sources. Alternatively, if any was vouched at all, it was mistaken and perhaps, from informants not familiar with the cultural demands. That explains the absence of prudence in managing the apparent cultural conflict.

Esan culture has in-built flexibilities. Like every culture, Esan's is dynamic and admits refinement. The point in issue is not unprecedented, the full panoply of requirements are not unknown. For the purpose of this discourse, the culture requires the eldest male child, accompanied by his siblings to lead his mother home, celebrate her life and do her deserved honour. There is no exception, no waiver and no compromises expected or allowed. Instead, it is understood that a child who cannot do honour to his mother is worthless; he enjoys scant regards among his mates. In this knowledge, therefore, and for the sake of illustration, when your grandmother lives long, her family expects your elder uncle to bring her home, even if home means the next village to Abia, Iruekpan!

The point through, is that the flexible freedom imbued in Esan culture and which admits of extenuating factors is truly reflective of the human condition. Thus, if the right things were done, an Esan woman could rest in a convenient place, whether in Abeokuta or anywhere else in the world. The persuasive argument for her interment in such an otherwise foreign land, it could be next village because it was not native to her, is founded on a valid request to that end; a consideration sought and obtained by the rightful person, the first male child. He may be accompanied by his age mates and may be advised by coevals of the deceased. An older person has no place in the delegation.

I hasten to state that such persons from Iruekpen, Ekpoma abound in the Lagos-Abeokuta axis. There is Odia Ofeimun from Abia quarters, same as your maternal family. I believe Alfred Ilenre from Idumeke and Joseph Akhigbe from Idumegbede would be honoured to accord respect to an Iruekpen notable like your late mother and would go with you in the journey. While Odia and Alfred if under sixty could discuss the matter, Joseph Akhigbe may advise for he cannot partake in the discussion of the funerary of his junior. Ask pertinent questions and locate these gentlemen soon, to accompany you and your friends to the segmental family.

Request them to assist you to appeal to Abia people that you be granted the dispensation for the remains of your mother to rest in a convenient place. It is a rare request, an exception but I assure you that it is never refused. With due process, your mother's family - it is beyond the Abebe unit in the lineage - would concede a few things. They would certify that the convenient place is ideal. I imagine they would enquire if the convenient place is your own house. Nobody would grant you permission for her burial in your father's house or in the bush or dustbin. All done, I believe the youths of Abia quarters would be dispatched to accord your mother the deserved honour and preserve her from dirt and insults. Their duty includes to protect her and take notice that she was carefully handled. Having been denied the ultimate honour to lower her into the crypt, they may impose a minor fine on you. It is not much; it may not be more than N50. However, if you do want to accord her full cultural rites of passage, of course, that would entail great celebration and merriment.

We note that your father indicated preparedness to pay any fine

that may be imposed. Sorry he cannot do so. Nobody would accept anything from him. The reasons are many but these two would suffice as a guide. The current tiff has revealed a few omissions. He did not seem to have fully conformed with the cultural norms in the marriage rites. He may have paid the bride price but there were things in Esan marriage he unwittingly left undone. Among others, he did not send the smelly he-goat and a bundle of seven yam tubers just before your birth. It was the deserving right of the youths of your maternal lineage. They were denied their entitlement to feast and celebrate the impending motherhood of an Esan maiden. That is the only fine your father may now pay to the youths. On payment, they may in turn, courteously inform the elders that the wrong has been corrected.

You can see why nobody, not even wise and thoughtful elders, would discuss with a man who did not perfect his marriage. There is a second point. It is that in Edo culture, a man does not discuss the burial rites of his late wife. It is strictly between the first male child and those younger than the deceased. Elders do not partake in all the talks about burials and do not plan the attendant cultural ceremonies. Though you now know you have a burden you cannot shirk, do not be askance in your resolve; you are allowed to receive assistance from friends and relatives.

I may reiterate that to accord with the lawful custom, it is important that the place where your mother now rests is a part of your own house. Your father may have his plans. Whatever they are, implore him not to complicate matters for you and his own family. Tell him, for his education, that he cannot himself rest, whenever God chooses to call him home, beside your mother. In Edo culture, where a man lives and dies and is buried is his Igiogbe; it is the sole inheritance of his first son. Igiogbe cannot be willed away to another child. The practice may not be too different, save details and nomenclature, in Egba tradition.

I regret I cannot accompany you to discuss with your maternal kindred. And certainly Julius Okojie, cannot do so, either. We are both from Uromi, far away. Despite that Uromi has ancient non-aggression pact with Ekpoma, I am afraid we may be justifiably treated as blatant busy bodies and irreverent interlopers in the practical deaths of this master. Not even everyone from Iruekpen, Ekpoma, for that matter would be well received by the family. But, thank God, you are grown up. You have been seasoned by the weather, clement or stormy. You seem to have good friends and your paternal family appeared able and willing to support you on your honourable journey.

Our sincerest wishes are that you do not forget whence you come from. You are at liberty to take a legitimate part in our common cultural inheritance. You are entitled to even a piece of land in your mother's quarters, to erect a dwelling, for instance. Demand it and nobody can refuse you. Take heart and be proud of who you are - the offspring of an Esan woman.


bulletEbhohimhen is a member of Ikolo Ogbakha Esan.


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