By Anayo M. Nwosu
In most pre-colonial Igbo hinterland, the responsibility of funding the funeral of a father lies squarely on his first son. Other sons, daughters, and inlaws only lend a helping hand. This was the case if the deceased had not shared his estate before he died; a situation that would warrant the first son to do the sharing at a time of his choosing after the funeral of his dad. Just like our president has been sharing political positions, whatever measurement the first son applies in sharing is not appealable.
But if the first son has no capacity to finance the funeral of his father, any of the sons who can, are encouraged to foot the bill.
In Nnewi, we say “onye ji ego wepụta kwaa nna na ọ bụghị dị ọkpara gburu ya” meaning “let any son who is capable, finance the father’s funeral since the first son didn’t k**l his father”.
In a polygamous setting, the projected funeral expenses are shared along the matrilineal lines. The first son of each wife would share him with his mother’s male children. There is no compassion for an only son. Anybody who fails to pay up before the funeral would have the expenses deducted from his own share of their father’s property.
If none of the sons can or is willing to help to foot the bills, the first son could sell any of his father’s property to fund the funeral.
But if the deceased father had shared his property while alive in a tradition known as “I du ụnọ”, each male child may decide to conduct a separate funeral ceremony in his own house, same day but the canon shots can only be released from the compound of the first son where the father is buried.
If the children of the deceased are still very young, the extended family would hold a meeting and resolve to sell one or more of the d**d man’s property to finance the funeral. The widow is usually consulted before executing the resolution to know if she has money or kept her husband’s money enough to finance the funeral. She might decide to bring the money or to borrow to protect her children’s inheritance which is usually sold at a pittance.
Some good and capable relations may decide to task themselves to foot the bill and leave the widow and her children alone.
If the deceased is childless, whosoever amongst his relations that fund the funeral inherits his estate including his wife.
Funding for the funeral of a d**d mother is a bit different.
The first son could become funny knowing full well that all the mother’s landed property will be owned by the last male child while the daughters would take the clothes, pieces of jewellery and cooking utensils. Nothing is left for the first and other sons to share except those items openly given to them by their mother when she was alive.
I’m my mother’s last son by default. The two after me had died.
Can you imagine if my mother was Mrs. Alakija? I would have since taken an ọzọ title known as “Akụnne”.
Given the above, the last son knows his responsibility for the funeral of his mother.
However, it must be noted that the first son still owns the condolence money and materials after the funeral expenses have been deducted. If he has a charitable heart, he would share the “funeral profit” with his siblings using any formula his greed level permits.
The daughters in the family, whether married or not, are not under any obligation to contribute to the prosecution of the parents’ funeral. They can only do so out of compassion or fear of being disparaged by friends and relatives as wicked and insensitive. But they usually help a lot. Some daughters actually bankroll the entire funeral expenses of their parents. Those daughters are called she-men.
Unfortunately for me, my mother did not leave much for me to inherit. She died rich in character and good works but not intangible assets. All her clothes will be shared by her sisters and my own sisters.
My brother knows already. We have to do it together. Perhaps, being a man of God that he is, he might allow
me to take all the condolence money that’s if he mistakenly gets carried away speaking in tongues. That’s most unlikely. Not an Nnewi man.
There is always a fight after the funeral between brothers and between sisters and don’t ask me the cause.