THE Urhobo people are inexorably obsessed with matters concerning their customs and traditions. They hold on to their tradition with pathological imperativeness notwithstanding the hybrid of Western bastardies and civilisational interfacing (religion and education ). The Urhobos believe that death is a continuation of life in a different realm. Hence, the belief in transcendentalism, transmigration, transmogrification of the soul, reincarnation and ancestral worship, etc. In secular terminology, death is a cessation of life. Death by extension is lifelessness, inanimately deceased, dysfunctionally demised (legal) and extinctly late. William Shakespeare the English Playwright observed that death is an inevitable end and it will come when it will come.
He said “There is no armour against fate, hence death lays its icy hands on Kings”. Implying that death is a common denominator, a leveler and a landlord that reminds us of the expiration of our tenancy agreement on earth. A studied and educated understanding of life and death by Philosophers, Religionists, Necromancers and Occultists has introduced semantical neologisms into the “death” lexicon. They say it is a transition from mortality to immortality, departed, a move to eternal bliss, end of a chapter, a touch of the Elysian ladder, end of story, Elysium transcendental, joined the saints triumphant, gone to the grand theatre, a time to be born and a time to die, etc. It remains a pasteurised fact amongst the Urhobo people that nobody dies a natural death under the age of 60 years. Such deaths must have been caused by witches and wizards, etc. Hence, the recourse to look for the cause of the death of such a person. It is the oracle that determines the type of traditional burial the person gets.
However, under normal circumstances, if a young person dies with or without children, it is a sad story and does not attract too much fanfare. But when an elderly man, chief, king, or queen dies it is given all the trappings of traditional grandeur. In most parts of Urhobo land the elderly or a wealthy elderly man of note is given complete traditional burial rites within seven days, fourteen days or twenty-one days burial ceremonies. This entails the formal interment after death or after several weeks in the mortuary. Then the family of the elderly man or woman now sits down to fine- tune the burial logistics. In some cases the burial is combined with Christian wake keeping and then on to traditional rites. Depending on the family, the Agberen (effigy) is carried. This symbolises the completeness of traditional honour to the deceased, etc. The families of the deceased have their traditional roles to play. In most cases, the eldest son is given specific roles to play.
The elders are called upon to pour and offer prayers to the ancestors (Erhiwin) and to shrines where the deceased worshipped. It could be any of these: Onerungberun, Ayelala, Eni, Eshu, Ogun, Erirhie, Aguarode-Ogbu, Aguarode-Ogidigan, Olokun, Amenojigbe, Ekpenakpewen, Oreshugbo, Aigbiroko Daderhie,etc. It is then capped with traditional gun salute (Ekurusu) as a mark of honour. There are other clandestine rituals which cannot be discussed here. However, the traditional burial rites in most Urhobo areas are virtually the same with slight variations in different kingdoms making up the Urhobo nation. But the gravamen of this submission is the wantonness, waste, mutant immorality and splendiferous theatrics that have in recent times become fashionable in most Urhobo burials and being disguised as tradition. We have seen corpses lined and decorated with beads and gold rings. Some buy caskets lined with gold rings. Most burials in Urhoboland are carnivals of immorality and bazaar of Babel. Divorcees (Omotogbes) and social nitwits have taken burials as a rendezvous for grandiose debauchery. Most Urhobo families try to almost wake up the dead through these terrible grotesque burials, some still call them traditional burials.
A belief in the continuation of life after death and a desire to gratify their arrogance has given rise to this state of affairs. The reverence for the dead in ancient Egypt led to the dead being mummified and preserved, buried with gold, diamonds, silver, clothes and horses, etc. All the Empires that grew in Upper Mesopotamia, (the river Euphrates and Tigris) Samaria, Babylonian, Hittite and the Persian Empire follwed suit 9400-330BC). Nobody is saying that the dead do not deserve a good burial, Afterall the Bible says in Ecclesiastes chapter 6 verse 3 that “if a man begets a hundred children, and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many but he does not enjoy life’s good things, and also has no good burial, I say that an untimely birth is better off than he”. A decent burial is the crowning glory of a worthy life. But must we Urhobos kill the living to bury the dead? All types of demonic levies are stamped on unemployed children. In Wole Soyinka’s play “the Bacchae of Euripides,” he described such wantonness as the display of unmajestic, orgiastic, Dionysian exuberance and salacious revelry. Mr. Bobson Gbinije, a social critic, wrote from Warri, Delta State.
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