For some personal reasons, I have refused to comment or take sides on issues in Abia State as I have stated in most of my articles in the past. The Umuada have traditional roles to play even in the digital age considering that coordination of the Umuada in diaspora has become easier with technology. The Umuada are women or maidens who have common ancestry in a particular village or town married outside their original homes either in Igbo land or beyond. They are empowered to make peace and condemn evils called ‘Nsoala’ or taboos like incest and child birth outside matrimony.
The Umuada system is institutionally entrenched to intervene in matters at their homes of birth as captured earlier. Cases and issues that defy the courts have been thrashed by Umuada, pronouncing adequate sentences in extreme cases from Igbu Ochu (murder, patricide) land disputes to marital issues like divorce, domestic violence and paternity. These have been handled to the acceptance of all parties. It can be summed up as conflict resolution of immense magnitude. Customarily, sentences range from banishment, ostracism and restitution strictly in consonance with Igbo cosmology and morals. In most cases, they resort to traditional wisdom and the existing norms and mores. One of the existing mores today is the rule that a man not married to a female cannot claim a child or children from cohabitation. (Iko anaghi eku nwa).
Their roles cannot be exhausted here as most of their actions are based on social justice. Examples of their protectionist actions are marrying for their elder, younger brothers and widowed fathers and uncles. In some cases they have built houses for widows and the less privileged. The unending issues of mother-daughter in-law squabbles are not new to them. I can go on and on but have to pause and present the issue of the day.
The points in contention are the deaths that have swept through Bende Road. Bende Road is the long stretch from Umuahia Township Tower, passing by what was known as the Odida Anyanwu County Council, known today as the Umuahia North LGA headquarters and continues to Umuahia Central Police Station, Umuobasi and Amokwe Ugba, Nkatta, Isieke, Ajatta, Iyienyi and others to the Inyang River and Bridge in Bende Town.
Death is encompassing. It has swept across the world sometimes boldly and other times sneaky and merciless. Many philosophers have given their impressions like Geoffrey Chaucer who said ‘the world is but a thorough fare full of woes, and we but pilgrims passing to and fro. Death is an end to every worldly sore.’
Rabbinical authors and the psalmist have written many chapters and verses in this respect. Psalm 144 v 4, ‘man is like a breath, his days are like a passing shadow.’ Ist Peter 1v 2; ‘For all flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass, the grass withers and the flower falls.’
The most unfortunate is that man’s problems have increased with reckless manufacture of weapons of war and mass destruction. Not only these, some contraptions that aid life like the automobiles and some home gadgets often run off handle and pose serious danger to man. Man is a lame duck in that all his efforts and possessions are done in futility when death knocks.
Most people have wondered aloud when death strikes and in total shock would ask, should a medical doctor or health worker die? Should the preacher known for his dedication to God die as well? Ironically, death sentences seem to have been permanently pronounced on all men, only the time differs.
Couples of months ago, some Ibeku sons and daughters passed on. Obviously, many have died but some categories are less remembered. Nature has made it that most are remarkable based on their roles and achievements in the society and probably are more noticed.
The permanent secretary of the Ministry of Homeland Security, Deacon Samuel Odemelam exited. Dr. A. U. Mbanaso, eminent professor of medicine who was the personal physician to former governor Theodore A. Orji for eight years died also from Nkatta Ibeku next door to Isieke, Odemelam’s home. Not too long, Chief Johnson Okebaram Onuigbo from Umuobasi Ugba, erstwhile PDP chairman in Abia, close by, went the same way too. Curiously, all these are from Bende Road and from Afarata Autonomous Community of Ibeku.
As have been observed, death strikes when and where it wills. But these are high degrees of loss to Ndi Ibeku in Umuahia North and Abia State when you consider their roles in the community service and the service to Abia State. We have no choice but to accept it as the supreme will. As humans, we mourn ourselves and give befitting burials to our kins to the best of our abilities. With these deaths, the Ibekus as tradition permits resorted to Mgbaru, which is paying condolence visits to the bereaved solemnly and visibly in sympathy. No mocking or disrespect. Mocking is so abhorred that it is even given out as a name (Onye Anula Onwu) – don’t celebrate the death of another rather sober up and reflect.
With all these blood chilling incidences, an Ibeku chieftain often referred to as the strongman of Bende Road, B. B. Apugo went on air attacking his kinsman Chief T. A. Orji, a man who has done so much for his people with visible and undeniable human and capital development and graciously appointed Apugo’s children to enviable positions but Apugo went on the offensive when Ibeku prominent sons were in the mortuary, forgetting that these fallen heroes were close to Ochendo.
Ibeku sons did not keep quiet and have in strong terms warned Apugo among many others to stop or be exposed.
As a notable Nwada, of Old Bende extraction, I am demanding that Apugo should apologise to Ndi Ibeku and his brother for such heartless behaviour from an elder. I am sure that he knows what Umuada can do if defied. Let him be warned that the Umuada at home and diaspora will occupy and picket his compound if he delays. But the Ibeku Umuada should take the lead, even in the rumoured case within!
..Ifegwu writes from Umuahia, Abia State.