In the extant time, life was lived in the society based on the working system or what could be termed the way of life of a people. It is this way of life that has remodelled the society to what it is today.
However, several changes have emerged along the path the society threads. Hence, as the society moves from one phase to the other, certain traditional beliefs and cultures that are termed barbaric are often discarded along the way. This may not be entirely different in Idoma land.
The Idoma people, especially native of Owukpa, a district in Ogbadibo LGA of Benue State have greatly developed and moved with time.
Strict adherence to some old cultures and traditions has, however, become the greatest undoing of the people.
Residents of Owukpa might at the moment be attempting to wake a hungry and sleeping dog after it dared the gods by exhuming corpses of married women buried months and years in their husband’s house.
It would be recalled that funeral ceremonies among the Idomas are often theatrical, with superior attention accorded members of the community who have reached transformation stage before bowing out. This implies that such an individual is ripe, waiting for death to beckon on him or her. It is then tagged, the celebration of life and not mourning as the case may be.
Extensive funerals are held for both women and men in preparation for a perfect ‘escort’ on their final journey away to the (Olekwu) spirit world.
A commemorative plaque ceremony, or second burial, is held for the departed after the main burial in order to ensure that the dead passes on to the ancestral world as the tradition demands. The above has been the systemic order of burial in Idoma land, which many neighboring tribes have emulated for long. A woman is often taken shoulder-high in a beautiful casket to her father’s house after having spent the most important part of her life in her husband’s house. The burial rite of an Idoma woman is often more celebrated than when She got married. The ceremony lasts for 14 days before family members could resume their normal work.
However, some segments of the Idoma society are not comfortable with the way burial ceremonies have remained unchanged, especially the Idoma women who recently came out openly to challenge an archaic tradition that is bent on putting their womanhood to question.
These women launched a major campaign against what they tagged the patriarchal dominance that has characterized the Idoma nation.
Their agitation portrays that they have seen reasons beyond what the Idoma men can see and emphasized on the need to bend the old tradition of burial that they consider ominous, barbaric and unsophisticated, hence calling on the entire Idoma nation to revisit the old tradition of burial where a deceased woman is taken to her father’s house for burial.
These same women maintained that such tradition has put the traditional oath of marriage to question, establishing that it is only a display of dominance by the masculine gender over the Idoma women.
They argued that the Idoma marriage tradition is in agreement with the universal institution of marriage, which maintained the interminable union of two different genders.
Following this protracted protests and agitation, the traditional leader of the community, HRM, Emmanuel Odeh bowed to pressure and gave his nod that married women should be buried in their husband’s house.
This development sparked jubilation among the women folks as many were consequently buried in their homes (Husband’s house).
Controversy, however trailed the decision by Owukpa elders and leaders as a section of the community kicked against their resolve.
They anchored their argument on the grounds that the extant tradition must not be tampered with, and as such, women must continue to be buried in their father’s home.
Our investigation reveals that the Owukpa Development Association, the apex social-cultural group in the community became uncomfortable with the decision and threatened to declare the Och’Owukpa incompetent.
Consequently, the monarch mobilized some men who went and exhumed all the corpses earlier buried in their husband’s house and were taken to their family home for proper burial.
AFRIPOST observed that over 18 corpses have been exhumed and reburied in Owukpa within the last six months.
An eyewitness said once the corpse is exhumed, the undertakers would kill a lizard and replace it in the grave before taking away the body for second interment.
Speaking on the development, a traditional worshiper and elder, Agada Akogwu described the development as a dangerous route.
The septuagenarian said the decision to trouble an already-resting corpse is invitation of calamity upon the community.
“It has never happened anywhere. This is a dangerous route and we might be inviting calamity upon our land. Inasmuch as I am not in support of the decision to bury women in their husband’s house, I am equally not in support of the removal of the corpse from grave. I have spent over 80 and have never seen such abominable act,” Pa. Akogwu said.
Also reacting to the development, an Owukpa-based cleric, Samuel Edeh said the tradition of taking women to their family home for burial is obsolete and should be dropped. He called on the Owukpa community to emulate other tribes who don’t practice such.
“I am sure those women won’t be happen being taken from their husband’s house. The fact remains that old ways are not always the right way. Owukpa people should learn from other tribes who have since discarded such archaic tradition.
A grassroots politician and community mobilizer in the area, David Ujah Abakpa said Owukpa was on a dangerous pedestrian, as nowhere in the world will families continue to exhume buried corpses due the mere fact that they were buried in their husband’s houses. Abakpa said his effort and those of others had been frustrated as he was in the forefront of ensuring compliance.
”Disappointingly, those who were in this battle with us derailed along the line because of some influence. It’s unfortunate. We have ODA, why can’t they compel people to do the interest of the community? It’s unfortunate wherever we are heading to” Abakpa said.
Another deity worshiper and commander who does not want his name in print said Alekwu Owukpa is angry and that the decision had earlier been sealed at Aje-Owukpa and reversing it, means calamity will befall the community.
Contributing to the debate, ace journalist and native of Owukpa, Ali Abah Adoyi said it was high time Owukpa moved with change and forsake adherence to some old and wrong decision.
Adoyi voiced his conviction thus, “One would think that it is high time the wind of civilization and modernization blew away those archaic traditions. The question is, would the ancestors be happy?
But to their offspring, the psychological trauma and inequalities that becloud their existence as a result of this barbaric tradition are inexplicable.
“This is because most of them have seen that the life of an Idoma woman can best be compared to a wanderer who finds herself in the desert and taken back home after being exhausted completely.
“The women have referred to this situation as most unfortunate, since the way they are been buried shows that the men who appear to be dominating every sphere of their lives have no value for them.
“But the issue of union, eternity, and most importantly, the law of nature are completely besmirched if a woman who appears to have children for her truly wedded husband is taken back to her father’s house after her death.
“The answer these women seek at the moment is whether they are part of the home they build with the men or could simply be called outcasts.
“If cultures like mourning a late spouse without going to the market or farm for one good year could go unto oblivion, why won’t the women be bailed out of the fetters of some repulsive traditions that are not befitting to humanity? If the great Onyikpechi, Idenyi Ai-Iko, Ekwu Anya and the rest gods could pushed away, what is then wrong in allowing a woman rest in her hubby’s house they all struggled to build for years?,” he queried.