Burden of widowhood

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From Magnus Eze, Enugu

A people’s culture is their pride and could as well bring them reproach. And that is the case in some communities of Anambra State.

Recently, the social media were saturated with story of Anambra State widow stripped naked, paraded and grossly dehumanised by a mob for allegedly killing her husband with multiple sex romp.

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There was also the version that Ajuese indulged in adultery, which allegedly led to her husband’s death in Aguleri. The woman was subjected to ignominious treatment. She was not only publicly condemned, but paraded stark naked on the streets.

Ajuese has since denied having a hand in her husband’s death. She explained that after the demise of her husband, his kinsmen accused her of being responsible for his death, as a result of sexual relationship she kept with another man who was not her husband – a secret they claimed was revealed to them by an herbalist they consulted for divination.

She said when she was brought to Ajaani Ukwu shrine to swear, the people started forcing her to rather confess and accept that she was dating a man, who had invaded their living home, to avoid them beating her to death, which she said she unwillingly did under compulsion.

According to the widow, it was after they came out from the shrine that the women of the village grabbed her and stripped her naked, while people surrounded and started molesting and making videos of her, which were eventually posted on various social media platforms.

President-General, Aguleri Community, Hippo Onwuebuke, said although adultery is an abomination in the community, “the woman deserves fair hearing. We have condemned the act and the way it was handled. If a woman is found guilty of committing adultery, you send her home, simple.”

Traditional ruler of Aguleri, Igwe Mike Idigo, said the action of the few, whom he doubted their Aguleri origin, was not the custom of his people.

Prior to this period, precisely in June 2021, another incident at the Ihiala area further exposed what widows pass through in the state. There was a story of 34-year-old widow, Chioma, from Ubahuekwem, Ihiala Local Government, who was told to drink water used in bathing her late husband’s body, as a way of proving that she had no hand in the death of her spouse, according to the culture of the community.

The story drew wide condemnation across social and traditional media, because, such practice was perceived to be wicked and barbaric. Such obnoxious practice had long been abolished in Igbo land, following the advent of Christianity.

Chioma raised the alarm alleging that the brother of her late husband, said she must drink the water to prove that she was not responsible for her husband’s death; but that she would not do that.

She claimed that she lived peacefully with her husband in Lagos State, where they resided before his death: “I have four children for my husband. We lived at Ajangbadi in Ojo area of Lagos, before my husband died. The burial was fixed.

“But when I returned for the burial, the relatives of my husband pushed me out of my husband’s house. They had insisted that before I would be allowed to come in, I must drink the water used in bathing my late husband’s corpse.”

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She reported the matter to her Oraifite people, in Ekwusigo Local Government, as well as the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in the state, headed by Laura Ugwuanyi, with a view to resolving the matter.

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Reprieve came the way of the widow. She was saved from suffering further injustice and intimidation by the intervention of the then Commissioner for Social Welfare, Women and Children Affairs in the state, Ndidi Mezue, and her Information and Public Enlightenment counterpart, Don Adinuba.

However, brother of the deceased, Friday Asomugha, denied that the family forced the widow to drink water used in washing the body of his late brother, as according to him, it was an archaic practice.

But Daily Sun gathered that younger brother of the deceased, who lives in Liberia, actually made a voice note shortly after the brother’s death and allegedly threatened his wife, Chioma.

In the voice note made from the West African country, he threatened to compel her to drink water used to wash the husband’s body. The threat infuriated the Asomugha family, the Ezikechima kindred and the entire Ubahuekwem community and everyone rose in unison to condemn it. The younger brother did not eventually come for the burial.

Regardless, the Oluoha in Council and people of Ihiala expressed shock over the threat and waded into the matter: “Having investigated the existing family dispute which gave rise to the voice note and the threat in it, we see absolutely no justification for this (his brother’s) strange conduct. Chioma has done no wrong to warrant this kind of response.

“It is disappointing that rather than think of ways to protect the 34-year- old widow of his elder brother and the four children, who are between four and eleven years, he has resorted to strange antics.”

Another widow was again subjected to despicable condition by the brothers of her late husband and her mother was murdered in the process. Benita, from Okorouba-Ozalla autonomous community of Nkanu West LGA of Enugu State, had gone for her husband’s burial with her mother, Monica, at Obosi in Idemili North LGA of Anambra State.

Brothers of Onyedika who died in December 2021, but was slated for burial on January 6, 2022, had allegedly sponsored masked assailants who struck at the venue and killed Monica on the spot. Benita’s sister-in-law, Nkiruka, who accommodated them in the compound was also killed by the attackers.

Some family members of the deceased, since December 6, 2021, when their sibling died, accused Benita, his wife, of complicity, an allegation she vehemently denied, vowing to swear to an oath to prove her innocence.

At the moment, the Ozalla Development Union (ODU), consisting of the five autonomous communities in the area, is calling for justice. It appealed to the Anmabra State Government and security agencies to fish out the culprits and prosecute them.

President General of ODU, Charles Nwagbara, who presented the community’s position after an emergency meeting at Ishi-Ozalla said: “Monica died, but what offence did she commit, simply because her daughter is married to a man who suddenly died? Is that why they should commit such heinous crime against these women? We as Ndiozalla are demanding for justice.”

Founder, WealthyGen, Dr Charity Onuaku, urged governments in Nigeria to enact laws that would see to the protection of women and widows. He decried challenges women particularly widows in Nigeria face such as deprivation, marginalization, degradation and denial of rights; expressing worry at the absence of known law or laws protecting widows in the country.

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