Death of A Husband

by Chinwe Azubuike

It is one of the greatest misfortunes that can befall a woman at any point in her life – to loose her husband. No matter the length of time she spent with him in matrimony, the grief and sorrow she experiences cannot be quantified. It is an eternal loss; and so, no matter how much we try to console or encourage the truth is, she has lost her soul-mate. All we can do is give her time. For it is only time, as they say, that heals all. It is vital that she finds the right support – morally and otherwise from relatives, friends and loved ones so that she can see her way through this mournful period. Unfortunately, more often than not the reverse is usually the case.

In different parts of the world, irrespective of religion, tradition and culture, widows are victims of violence and oppression at the hands of close family members and so-called friends, especially their in-laws. The story below clearly illustrates my thoughts on this matter. The characters and locations are real.

Personally, I believe that my father allowed himself to be the sacrificial lamb for my sake. It was as if he was communicating from his grave and saying, “Here my eldest daughter… Chinwe, take it… this is your breakthrough in your course to support the widows of Nigeria… For my sake your voice and desire will be heard and accepted finally by our people,” and if I tire in this campaign through my poetry and writings, then I have disgraced my father’s memory. This is the only way I can appease my father’s soul.

So I ask this question – Do widows deserve to have their human rights stripped from them and violated when their husbands die?

Factual Story….

My father, Mr. Wisdom Azubuike died on the 8th of August 2006, aged 60yrs and was to be buried on the 24th of August 2006. He died seated while on duty at work. He was thought to be asleep on duty, but instead, he was dead…(he was a security guard at the Apapa Branch of Intercontinental Bank PLC in Lagos, Nigeria). Autopsy result stated he had suffered a sudden attack of ‘Hypertension’, because he did not know that his blood pressure had been rising for quite some time.

My mother, my siblings and my father’s elder brother, Mr.Christian Azubuike, along with other family friends accompanied the corpse to our village on the 23rd August 2006 following the wake-keep that was held on the night of the 22nd August in Festac Town, Lagos. Before leaving for the village, my father’s brothers, had collected eighty thousand naira, (the whole money) which was given to the family by the Bank, as support for any expenses incurred on the burial arrangements. His brothers said it was the fee that was to be paid to perform some burial rites for the corpse and also prepare things such as refreshments, etc for the reception of guests after the burial. My recently widowed mother was left penniless. Regardless, they heartlessly demanded for more but for the fact that she and my younger brother scolded them and argued the fact that there was no more money left to give.

On the night of the 23rd when my family arrived at the village, at our compound my Uncle, Christian suddenly and surprisingly ran into occupy the family house, (just a 2 bedroom bungalow-like house, which was owned by my late Grandparents) with his other brother, Leonard and their children, and my Aunt Mrs Rozaline – stating that my father had no house of his own therefore they would take over the bungalow. In this way my mother and her family were not even given any welcome or a place to lay their heads for the night. They actually rested in the coastal bus (donated to them by the Bank as means of transportation) and slept without food or bathing. Betrayal is an ugly word, especially in the context of family.

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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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