When a Man Dies in Nigeria…

There is an uncomfortable truth about death in Nigeria, and that is the fact that no one is ever believed to have died of natural causes. Every incident of death is suspected to have been caused by the evil machinations of those who never wanted the man to be great. This widespread disposition to death is held regardless of the age at which someone dies, and interestingly, despite the glaring cause[s] of death. And the unfortunate thing about this way of thinking of death is that it does nothing good for anyone. If anything, it brews enmity between family members, even as it subjects so many innocent people (often the bereaved widows) to all sorts of inhuman treatment. 

In this article, I will share two experiences I’ve had of two women who were victimised being of the incredulous belief that they killed their husbands. This I have decided to do so as to raise some awareness as well as make a case against this age-long practice of wife-blaming that needs to be done away with as soon as possible. 

The First Experience…

In the year 2003 while I was still a teenager, I attended the burial ceremony of a distant relative in the village without expecting what I witnessed. Prior to this time, I had only watched in Nollywood films the unforgivable mistreatment of women whose husbands’ deaths were blamed on them. So you can imagine my surprise when the drama began to unfold before my very eyes. The woman in question was simply victimised! After being forced to stay in the same room with her husband’s corpse, she was then publicly humiliated, stripped naked and forced to sit her naked butt on a tarred, sun-scorched road. As she cried in pain and pleaded for mercy while the hot tarred road burnt her skin, the women (Umu ada aka daughters of the land) gathered round her and chanted many derogatory things. It wasn’t until the woman fainted that the punishment stopped. By this time, she had sustained much injury to her crotch areas.

She didn’t kill her husband by the way. If anything, she cared for him throughout his many years of blindness and complicated diabetes. It was indeed her who nursed him and took care of him for more than ten years of sickness until his death at the age of nearly eighty years old. But then her in-laws always had a deep-seated hatred for her because they believed that it was because of her that their brother stopped being as generous as he was to them prior to his getting married. 

The Second Experience…

  This one’s recent. A family friend had died prematurely after a protracted battle with leukaemia. He was a wealthy man, good and most beloved by all and sundry. Apparently, he used to be quite generous to a lot of his relatives before he got married and had to focus on his immediate responsibilities. And as soon as this happened, those relatives whom he used to help out a lot suddenly became angry with his wife. The blamed it all on her and secretly wished her all the bad in the world. And then her husband died, and those relatives accused her of killing him. They cursed both she and her children in the names of all the gods they know, and seemed rather to battle with her for all the things her late husband owned…

Two things are responsible for this Nigerian culture of attributing every death to the forces of darkness. One is the ignorance, the lack of enlightenment which has in so many ways held us backwards as a people, and the other thing is of course the poverty! Many of those who accuse women of killing their husbands do that because they would rather covet the deceased’s property instead of let their [wives] and children inherit it.

 Mind you, I am not jettisoning the likelihoods of murder, talking about poisoning and whatnot. Yet, I stand my ground that this rather convenient culture of attributing every case of death to anything but empirically-verifiable causes should stop. It should stop because it has torn enough families apart already. It should stop because it has destroyed so many innocent souls already. And most importantly, it should stop because it has accomplished nothing good for our society. It is high time people become enlightened and realise the immense importance of resorting to medical investigation towards uncovering causes of deaths when in doubt instead of assuming things/blaming innocent people.  

Related posts

Leave a Comment