By: Theophilus Izobofolo
AFRICA AND THE BURDEN OF FUNERAL RITES – The Lessons not Learned!
Africans have great value for celebrations. Death is celebrated even more than birth unless the death of an infant or a young person.
The death of a father, mother, grand and great grand parents is a celebration of life, which brings together all members of the family. Including extended family members, friends and associates, colleagues, neighbours, and towns people. It’s a fun fair that hold great tourism value.
The length of the funeral varies from place to place ranging from three to seven days or more. Food, drinks, clothing, decorations, musicians and dance groups, canopies, chairs, security, transportation, casket, and requirements for traditional rites constitutes the sum of the budget for funeral.
The traditional funeral rites which is the burial itself has witnessed evolutionary transformation. Chickens were acceptable for the burial of women, goats for men and cows for tittle holders (chiefs and kings) depending on the financial status of the affected family. In modern times only cows are acceptable for funeral rites which cost between One Hundred and fifty thousand and three hundred thousand naira (N150,000.00 – N300,000.00). Today, poor families use between two to three cows while the rich may use between five and as many as ten or twenty.
Financing the funeral is a huge burden. Some families have had to sell family assets such as land, plantation or borrow from money lenders at exorbitant interest rates. In recent times, family members have resorted to sharing the total budget as levies. In some cases, unemployed youths and women are also task to pay the compulsory burial levy.
Every family member strives to pay the levy so as to participate actively and fulfill the wish of their parents.
The unemployed members of the family usually will face some conditions that reminds them of their financial status. There are cases where they have to borrow money to pay the transport fare back to the town or city. After the funfair, everyone returns to his or her place.
While family celebrations and parties are good in themselves, the issue that should be of serious concern to every African is the financial implications imposed on poor people in the family and society.
Can’t a family task themselves in like manner to start a family business and provide employment for their members? Imagine if the N5,000,000 or N7,000,000 spent for funeral was invested in some viable members of the family or on a viable venture that can empower members, or relations.
Imagine how many assets has been lost for funeral of parents.
Educated Christian elders who retire to their communities have a great role to play here. The culture of exorbitant funerals must be discouraged. Funeral should not bury assets of the family along with the dead. The imposition of levies upon the viable members of the family is good where the proceeds forms a family pool to empower her members or create a family business.