Last week such a stressful period for me; exactly a month after her passing, my grandma was buried. God bless her soul. Anyway, so many people came for the burial festivities and I saw people I hadn’t seen in a while, including one of my aunties whose husband had died some years ago. I leaned over to my sister-in-law and whispered: “If you had seen that woman 8 years ago, you wouldn’t have been able to recognize her today.” Considering what she had gone through, Aunty N was looking…happy…glowing even. A cousin confirmed later that she had just started dating again, hence her happy demeanor.
That weekday was just like any other; her husband had left for work as usual. She was with her daughter at home when a couple of hours later, some of her husband’s relatives showed up in her house, telling her “Sorry oh, our wife”. Her husband is from a South-South state, and from his town to Benin where they lived it was a journey of almost 6 hours by road. So you can imagine her surprise at their arrival. When did they leave the village for Benin? What was the large entourage for? Sorry for what now? They told her “Ah, we heard our son had died oh.” The first time I heard the story, I had goose bumps. Some people wouldn’t have believed my aunt if not that she had run next door to call her neighbour’s wife to please come and help her hear what she was hearing. Same neighbour was later able to corroborate her story to sympathisers. These people came to Benin to tell a wife that her husband she kissed goodbye to that morning, was dead. Some of Aunty N’s friends arrived and began to ask her in-laws whether they killed her husband. A shouting match ensued. The whole house was in chaos. Efforts to get through to her husband’s phone proved futile; it was switched off. She called her husband’s office and the receptionist said he hadn’t shown up for work yet. It was with trepidation everyone waited till it got dark. Uncle never came home that night. The next day police showed up at her house saying her husband was in the mortuary. He had been in a car accident the day before…
Aunty N was inconsolable. All the time she was in shock, the messengers from the village were quietly sharing property and moving cars and documents. By the time the quick burial (he was 37) was over, all she and her 7year old daughter had left was literally the house they lived in. They took everything: from the two cars to the furniture in the living room, down to her husband’s shoes. I kid you not.
I talked to some of my friends about the issue and one of them said: “God forbid oh, but no one should think because my husband or father passed that I will be crying too much to remember that I am still alive. And that I will still eat after the burial is over; abi will I be buried with him?” Another friend confided that she has a “Tragedy Contingency Plan” in case her husband suddenly passes and his extended family decides to be ‘cute’: number one on the list is “Move all important documents out of the house”. Also on the list is “Bank transfers” and ways to “hide all cars, electronics, jewellery and expensive items” that can easily be carted away. She also added that for her to hide EVERYTHING would be foolish; better to leave one car or a couple of electronics around for them to steal, so that they won’t say she killed her husband and cleaned out. She’s Yoruba, husband is Igbo, and she has three daughters. No son. At a time, her husband’s sisters tried to convince him into having an affair with one of their friends, in the hopes she will bear him a son. “It’s not that I don’t love the Mr.”, she said to me, “but if it happens that he leaves me alone on this earth I’m going to mourn him with one eye open”. Her husband made her stop work and become a fulltime housewife before the first baby was born, so he is the sole breadwinner. I figure my friend has a valid point.
Like most happenings in Nigeria, some people see death as another occasion to take advantage of. From the demands from villagers before the burial rites take place, to the “aunty” I saw who was picking up sprayed from the ground and stuffing in her wrapper when people were dancing, to the fight over a will, some people only show up when there is something to be gained – whether they have rights to it or not, or even if they plain deserve it. Not everyone is blessed with calm family members. I think it is extremely important for parents to discuss with their children and husbands to be open to their wives about any tiffs with family friends and relatives. Or any one close to the family that may have reason to be disgruntled towards the breadwinner; not that when the husband or father dies, the first person the wife or children run to for solace will be the one who will plot to take everything that has been left behind by the deceased. Extended family relations are a minefield: not every ‘uncle’ loves you; not every ‘cousin’ wishes you well.
The stories of a husband’s relatives or even a business partner leaving the wife with nothing are told every day, especially if there are no male children or the sons are very young. What do you think? If the man of the house (Husband/Father/Breadwinner) passes, what would be your first action? How can others be prevented from disinheriting you? Let’s discuss!
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