By Anayo M. Nwosu
It became very clear to me last year, after an initial wailing over the death of my 85-year-old mum for about few days, I had to come to the reality of what next to do, that was to plan with my siblings on how to execute the funeral proper. All I heard everywhere was that “you must provide this or that” for one group or the other. It was overwhelming.
And many radical thoughts found tenancy in my head like temporarily decamping to a more stringent pentecostal church to avoid the humongous expenses staring me in the face like the naked figure of Achalugo Nwanyi.
Even if I decided to decamp from Catholic Church to a more austere sect then, what about my siblings? They wouldn’t. Even my mum must be buried in the religion she professed while alive. I also feared that the hardline church I have in mind would easily see through my plans; they would not trust me. What about my adherence to the tradition of my ancestors? Therefore, as the Ikenga Ezenwegbu, I had to come to the reality that all the needful must be done.
With cleared eyes, I had to consult the book containing the records of my condolence investments; that book where I recorded what I had given my friends during their own parents’ funerals in my the past.
I was surprised to realize that I had many live cows and its monetary equivalent standing to my credit.
The record had the names of all those friends and relatives I had gifted either e-cows (i.e cash equivalent wired straight to bereaved’s bank accounts) or physical cows given during their parents’ or spouses’ funerals ceremonies. It was my payback time. I must not allow any of them claim that he or she didn’t hear of my mother’s funeral date. I had to personally notify them.
To avoid mistakes, I decided not to rely on e-invitations to them, I had to call all of them to announce my mother’s death and the funeral date. The Nnewi people amongst them got the message; which is: it’s time for them to give me back the cow condolence or its monetary equivalence.
In Nnewi, any gift during a funeral is meticulously recorded. It’s like a deposit into a savings account, where you deposit and withdraw at a later date during similar situation. The implication was that I had to open accounts for new depositors who by my current status and/or nature of our relationship are expected to gift me a cow or money at the funeral.
It is like Esusu or microcredit scheme.
I pray that more than two parents of my cow creditors don’t die in a particular month. Default is never contemplated. If need be, I must borrow to redeem my indebtedness.
But not all cow debtors would respond or repay their debts during a funeral.
There was this guy I would like to call Afiaghọlụ who I gifted a cow when his father died and another one when his mother died based on my assessment of our friendship and his economic status. Unfortunately, the guy died in a motor accident last year. When I was wailing at his funeral, people guessed that I was doing so because I loved him so much. Yes! I did, but I was also wailing because of my lost funeral investments. They buried him with my loss.
There was also nothing I could do to Mr. Nfiahụ, my other friend, who benefited from my cow gift when his father died. His business had been crippled by the “Change we voted for” and he couldn’t afford even a goat then. He was the first to volunteer to help me in the hard or manual labour during the funeral. He was expected to deliver work equivalent to a cow. What else does one expect him to do? His case was understandable.
My scope of understanding of Nnewi Funeral Economics was expanded by a wealthy friend, Paulinus Nwaọnụma from Azia in Ihiala LGA, who told me point blank that from his experience, that he had stopped gifting his bank employee friends cows during their parents’ funerals. He said it was risky. He told me not to expect a cow from him because I could be sacked by the time his own mum dies and by which time I would
n’t be in an economic position to repay his cow gift.
Chief Nwaọnụma was somewhat correct as a banker today could be a cab driver or economic refugee in Canada, US or Europe tomorrow. It is an endangered profession.
You can now understand why nobody is amused when a successful young man dies in Nnewi. He is not being mourned by his family and friends alone but by all those he is owing funeral cows and other debts.
I was not foolish to expect a cow from my sympathizers whose mothers and fathers had since died except those amongst them, who owed me cows.
It was only the new investors who were either my friends or associates, whose mothers or fathers were still alive, who also adjudged me investment worthy, that “deposited” a cow or its monetary equivalent with me at my mother’s funeral.
After my mother’s funeral I had to compile a list of all sympathizers and their gifts in cow and cash for future reference. I also incorporated the records of what my friends gave my wife. They are also my debt even though my wife was the sole beneficiary. They are my liabilities.Some inarticulate watchers or visitors from outside Igbo land who saw numerous cows and cash gifts I amassed during my mum’s funeral wouldn’t know that I had just received some repayments and incurred more debts. Since November last year she was buried, I have already repaid about ten cows to the investors.
Generally, whatever money gifts you receive from sympathizers at funeral of a dear one in Nnewi is a measure of your current worth, past performances on social investments and how you condoled people in the past. You cannot sow maize and harvest yam in Nnewi. Everything, both tangibles and intangibles, is recorded. This ensures that nobody reaps where he or she didn’t sow.