Death of A Husband

by Chinwe Azubuike

The next morning, the day of the burial, my father’s brothers and sister, Mr.Christian Azubuike, Mr.Leo Azubuike, and Mrs Rozaline, arranged with other members of the Azubuikes of Duruigbo clan (where I come from) of Oka Village in Isiala Mbanno Local Government of Imo State to stop the burial of my father, Wisdom. My Uncle, Christian accused my mother and siblings of killing their brother,(meaning my Dad)… that they should bring out all the money my father had, because his daughter (meaning, I ) lives abroad, and seemingly has received a small fortune from me…. the accusation was that we had all, including I, planned and executed our own father’s death and that it was only us, the immediate family, that would benefit from whatever came from me. Me, the pauper female poet living in London.

My Uncle Leo had hired mobs and touts who carried sticks and weapons to batter my mother and family. My Uncle Christian, and his sister, (our Aunty) Mrs Rozaline, gathered all the women of the Duruigbo clan who carried firewood and cains to beat my mother with, according to Tradition. Then, in full view of the public, including people of other tribes and some staff of the Intercontinental Bank as well, who came from Lagos to our village to witness the burial, my Uncle Mr.Christian Azubuike stripped my father’s body of his funeral clothes, which had been carefully chosen and dressed by my younger brother, Chukwuma. Christian took out a large sharpened knife and to the horror of all, desecrated the body. Splitting my father’s stomach open, like a gutted fish, and then started to probe inside, justifying his action by stating he was searching for some vital organs or bodyparts in the absurd thought that we, Wisdom’s immediate family, would have used them for money making rituals. Eventually yet still in the eyes of the amazed public, everything was carelessly put back to the way the mortuary workers had left it but the damage had been done and witnesses had overseen this cruel barbaric act by their fellow Nigerians. Once one has witnessed such an act nothing will quite seem the same again.

My younger brother, Chukwuma Azubuike, being the first son of my Dad, insisted that he wanted to bury my father on that same day, but my Uncle refused. Three men from my village intervened and tried to make peace, demanding that the burial take place that very day yet my Uncle Christian refused. My brother again eagerly enquired when they actually intended burying his father but my Uncle told him to leave, that he had no idea about any burial anymore. They brutally chased my family away, who ran for safety, back into the coastal bus. Even while they were inside the bus, the people kept shouting and banging at the windows and doors asking them to come out of the bus. My Uncles seized my Dad’s corpse along with the others, put it back in the coffin and asked the ambulance driver who had brought the coffin from Lagos to take it back to a mortuary situated near our village. Members of my mother’s family, who came for the burial as well, were the ones who took my family back with them in the coastal bus to their house at Owerri where the whole family took refuge. Consequently they had won and denied us the proper Christian Mass we had wanted for our father, moreso, denied me of the speech I had written to be read at Mass for my dead Dad and (obviously) squandered the Eighty Thousand Naira they had collected from my family’s benefit back in Festac. There are witnesses who can testify to the money that was given to my father’s brothers.

While talking refuge at Owerri in Imo State, my family tried to see if there was a way they could get information about the burial and attend, because it is unheard of that a man be buried in the absence of his wife and children. My mother and younger brother made official reports of the case to different Police commission zones in Imo State.

On Friday 1st September 2006, my family in the company of my mother’s relatives and many other people who were also armed went to what they thought was my father’s funeral. They had received word that my Dad was to be buried on Friday (although none of them had actually been properly informed). On the Friday 1st September, that was thought to be the burial, my father’s brothers had once again shifted the burial to the next day, Saturday in the hope that they could perform it in the absence of my family… However, this did not deter anyone because my family and all the rest of the people that accompanied them from Owerri all stayed over until the Saturday morning, which was the D-day. There was a lot of friction, initiated mainly by my father’s people, but then they saw that my family too were really out for them that day. Everyone attended the funeral Mass, which to the amazement of many, had become a biased occasion, for the priest who celebrated the Mass gave a very angering and chiding speech for the benefit of my family- on hearsay from the words of my father’s brothers, indirectly accused my family of being instruments of my father’s death.

After Mass everyone went back to our compound for the final ‘lay to rest’ act. Then my father’s brothers and their entourage tried to create some barriers again, by physically and morally trying to cause outright War between them and my family with her own entourage. The resistance on my mother’s part was very clear to them. She vehemently refused to partake in some incongruous fetish rituals that were presented to her. It had become a matter of War if push came to shove. Lives were willing to be lost if it would eventually allow my father to have his rightful burial. Eventually my father was laid to rest, but sadly ungracefully.

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Observer October 29, 2007 - 2:27 am

This story is NOT representative of the experiences of widows in Igboland. Simply put, your mother had a problem with your father and her in-laws. I wish you the best in the future and hope your ENTIRE family will find peace and reconciliation.

Reply July 17, 2007 - 9:45 am

I recently was in Nigeria to bury my father and it was not fun. The fact that my mother had been in a wheel chair for over 13 years did not deter some hopeless people from trying to make the occassion a get rich quick scam operation. Something has to give in the way we do things in Nigeria

Reply July 8, 2007 - 10:37 am

It takes great courage to expose such outrageous behavior on the part of ones own people and greater courage still to work to ensure that other people do not suffer the same fate. I wish you strength and success as you build a shield for others. Nwanyi bu ife…Women have worth.

Chinemerem July 5, 2007 - 7:48 am

Hi Chinwe, i didn't know that all this happened in your dad's burial, it is sad to hear this kind of story that only happens in Nigerian movies to be a true life story. God will promote you here in London, they haven't anything yet from you and they are raging war, when God begins to bless you, they will shed there own blood in that war. Please try and send your number to my email, I've tried to contact you, but the people i left message for in Cancer Research, seems not deliver the message. please call my mobile. Chichi

Anonymous May 25, 2007 - 11:58 am

I am an Nigerian American Lawyer based in the U.S.A and I have been wondering what is the intent of the message.

I do accept that this is a barbaric action and should be condemned.

I am from Delta state and if such statement was said by my brother about his wife before his death.If not properly andd and my Village Community should get wind of this it will be suicidal for my wife brother to enter the Village.

You have not stated that this action is given to all women in your father's Village ,if your mother's case is an exception then there should be a reason.

Chinwe there are avenue to address issues like this even in the rural areas of Nigeria.A whole community will not attack a woman and her children for no just reason.

I do not understand the intent of this message but I would advise that you are you grievance through the proper channel.Posting this message will only give Americans a wrong impression of our beloved Country Nigeria.

I offer condolences on the death of your father

Lola May 21, 2007 - 4:49 pm

I offer condolences on the death of your father. There is a God and he does not like injustice. I was amazed that the babaric actions against your family happened in this the 21st century. A lot of Africans in the diaspora that have never been exposed to such things except in the Nigerian movies have no idea this is still going on in our beloved continent. I pray your voice is heard and the plight of the widowed can be brought to the forefront of the intenational human rights stage. It is indeed deplorable and I applaud your efforts.

Anonymous May 17, 2007 - 10:17 am

Brother of the deceased, your comment above really says a lot about you. His wife was cruel since the start of marriage yet they were both able to have kids together. They were able to live under the same roof for almost twenty years from what I can deduce. Which sane Nigerian man will stand such a marriage and not find his level. Even if a wife was cruel, will his kids also want him dead? Does that have anythign to do with you desecreting the dead body or your brother made it his wish that such should be done to him in the full glare of people? Whatever happened to autopsy?

What about the money issue. Paltry 80,000 naira and you went to war like that.

I pity the end of people like you who further compound the shame of the Black man.

Anonymous May 16, 2007 - 6:54 am

I am brother to the deceased i find it crazy that people will read things and come to a conclusion without even thinking twice or logicall.there is a saying that there is no smoke without fire.

My brother has been living a miserable life since he married his wife and informed his family before his death .that if he dies that his wife and children should be held responsible.he has been living with a wife that caused him sleepless night . There is a lot more to what you read.i would want to honour my late brother and remain silent on the matter because whatever i say will make no change.please do not read and conclude like that we are not a bunch of lunatic

Rosie May 15, 2007 - 5:54 pm

I hope your documentary will take on this fight to give it a voice. When a spouse dies, the other is left with dealing with all kinds of emotional problems. It is up to the families to come together to help the mourning family through the tough times. It is a shame some families in many ethnic groups still cling on to ancient beliefs … thinking and suspecting death of a loved one might be the doing of another. Shame on us. Shame on how we treat our widows … the same woman who took care of your son, brother, uncle, nephew is now the same one accused. Shame I say! I thank God for my family. There have been times when some distant relatives tried to accuse my parents of being involved in the death of their son (my uncle). Thank God for my family. We did not tolerate that nonsense. We dared anyone who had beef with us to stand before the altar of God in church and accuse us before everyone. We dared them to ask God to punish my family before the altar of God. NO ONE CAME. End of story.

Take heart my sister. I hope your documentary gets made. I will promote it with my own money.

Reply May 15, 2007 - 11:42 am

I found this story very shocking and sad! For one thing, I thank God that I am an American, and just as important, and American woman who has rights, privileges, and a law for protection. No widow in the United States would ever allow their husband's family to simply take over or take the money. I know things are different there, and my heart goes out to women, in particular, for they do not seem to have a voice in most matters of life. In the United States, the beneficiary (the person who is listed as the one who will inherit any money or property left behind) is normally the deceased husband's wife. She gets everything and makes ALL the decisions about the funeral and the future of her family from that point on. To me, one of the problems of Nigeria is that men seem to be in total control, and women do not seem to have to many rights. That would "never" happen in America, and although I am sorry to hear of this very sad story, for the family was treated horribly, but the decesased husband was not respected in his time of death, which should have been a time to honor his life.

I am so sorry about how these types of things could happen. It is so very sad. What can a Nigerian wife do to ensure that this does not happen to her?

Anonymous May 15, 2007 - 8:11 am

My Sister, please accept my condolences. And i pray God will grant you peace and succour at this present time. Dont worry. It is well. Just know that your uncles will reap their just reward for thier wickedness becoz God specifically said in the Bible that He is 'the Father to the fatherless and the Husband to the widow". Be strong and continue to forge ahead with your life, committing it prayerfully to God. And forgive them. Vengeance is the Lords and He will repay.

luvincali May 14, 2007 - 6:45 pm

I am very sorry for your loss, as they say, time heal all wounds, by God's grace, with time, things will get better for you and your family.

May your father rest in peace

Agabi May 14, 2007 - 5:21 pm

I sometimes wonder why we call some arCulture they say is dynamic however in Africa where I come from, culture is at a stand still. I wonder what aspects of Nigerian, Ndigbo or any African culture demands that a grieving window and her children be put through this kind of barbaric Neanderthal way.

These sorts of barbaric tales of extortion involving the dead and relatives, is common place in many Nigerian and African cultures. I am a witness to such extortions from so called relatives.

Until we Africans learn to live, act and socialize among ourselves as other cultures of the world do, we are forever going to act like cave men.

Why disembowel a dead relative in the guise of looking for missing body parts that are supposed have been taken by the immediate relatives of the deceased. When in doubt call the authorities.

Unfortunately, your father relatives, seems to have forgotten that parts of your dad blood that run in their veins also runs in his children veins. I will advice that you and your other siblings distance yourselves from those Neanderthal relatives on your father side of the family.

My condolences to your family on the loss of your father.

I am hoping that within this 21st century, Africa and Africans come of age and realize that other cultures are progressing and advancing in science and commerce and not in human body parts ritualistic fetish.

An illogical mind will always exhibit illogical thoughts.

chiddy May 14, 2007 - 2:56 pm

Am sorry for your loss dear.It is sad that in this day and age,people still choose to live and act the way your dad's family did.Sorry.

Uduak Ekanem May 14, 2007 - 2:46 pm

Oh Chinwe!!!!

What a sad and devastating story to read!!!!

It's sad enough to lose your father and it's even a double tradegy at the pain and hurt your widowed mother and other members of your family had to endure at the hands of your father's relatives.

The same scenario happened to a friend of mine who lost his father some years ago. He encountered a lot of hostility from his father's relatives in Igboland when he went to bury his father. They were demanding so much and initially even refused to have the father buried there.

Why should widows suffer from this kind of treatment in Nigeria? Why? Is it all about money? There should be a legal law that protects women from this type of harrasement.

I am shocked that in a country like Nigeria where majority of people invoke the name of God, these are the same human beings that will resort to treating people in this despicable manner – Even so called priests. There is so much hypocrisy going on down there. Don't you think so?

I think the bottom line is MONEY & GREED. They want money and will find all means to acquire it.

My heart goes out to your family and I hope you will be able to put this horrible incident behind and move ahead with your life. You have a lot to live for – Your Dear mother and your siblings. You should use your first hand experience with this ordeal to inform others about this issue that is ofen ignored in our country.

I wish you the very best in the future.

Abavogirl May 14, 2007 - 2:13 pm

Chinwe please accept my condolences on the death of your Dad. The happenings you wrote of tore open my heart and the actions of your uncle Christian were definitely unconcsionable and against tradition (It is an abomination to desecrate a deceased body). I pray that your family and yourself are able to fully grieve and rise as champions in this situation. You already are, and you will make your family proud of all your achievements. It is not easy losing a loved one, and it is even harder with the circumstance you narrated; but God will grant you the fortitude to bear your loss, and the wings to soar higher above the tragedy.

Adaora Obiora May 14, 2007 - 11:40 am

I'm sorry your family had to endure these additonal trauma after the loss of a loved one (your father).

Igbos are generally known to be cruel to widows; ofcos much of this depend on individual families; but i still dont know an Igbo widow, who doesnt have a tale of woe to tell..

You are already doing the right thing, by exposing their wickedness..keep up the good work and continue to do your mom and siblings proud…

best regards,


mrskenna May 14, 2007 - 10:14 am

I am so sorry this has happened to you. I think sometimes you figure out what your calling is in life and you go for it. My grandma is a widow and fortunately where she is from, her church gives her a stipend so she can sustain herself. It's such a shame that family is always the ones who hurt us the most. I wish you well in your efforts to help widows who are abandoned and mistreated by so called family members.

Mayo May 14, 2007 - 4:47 am

I hear of such things especially from the south-eastern part of Nigeria. It could be in other places too, but i hear it coming more from our Igbo brothers. It's really unfortunate. I wish you the very best in your endeavours.


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