The Crime of An African Widow: A Nigerian Man, Anayo Nwosu Narrated How His Mother Suffered Hatred In The Hands Of Her Late Husband’s Male Relatives For Refusing To Marry Anyone Of Them

In a tribute paid to his late mother, one Anayo Nwosu narrated how his mother incurred the wrath of his father’s relations particularly the men because she denied them their traditional entitlement known as “ikuchi nwaanyi? or “?machili nwaanyi?”.

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 Mama Obiora, my mother, was not that loved by some of my father’s relations, especially the menfolk and some ?m?ada (i.e the married sisters from my father’s family). The enmity she attracted to herself by her strange conduct when my father died was to haunt her and us, her children for a long time.
It was not until I became an adult that I came to exonerate my uncles and forgave them for the years of ill treatment and inexplicable hostility towards my mother and my siblings.  Perhaps, I could have reacted the same way if I were in their shoes. My mum invited the trouble to herself and her children, pure and simple.
The problem started after my father was buried in June 1978. It had to do with who my mother chose as her foster husband.
In core Igbo tradition, once one’s husband is buried, the head of the widow is shaven clean, and the women who shaved the widow would hand over the shaving knife also known as ag?ba to the widow to give to a man of her choice.
Lined up before the widow would be all the willing brothers of the deceased and their male cousins. ?m?ada and other women of the compound present are mere spectators. It is an extended family affair.
Whosoever the widow gives the shaving knife would automatically take her home as a concubine in a process known as “ikuchi nwaany?” or “?machili nwaany?”.
If the deceased and the widow already have a homestead, the lucky or chosen man would be the official visitor to the house and is entitled to whatever benefits the widow used to give her dead husband. This Igbo tradition ensures that the widow and her children are not forsaken or uncared for.
The caretaker husband picks the bills in the deceased home and also provides the bed warmth to the widow. This keeps interlopping widow predators at bay and prevents birthing of a prodigal bastard into the ?m?nna or family stock.
However, any child that is born out of this arrangement belongs to the dead husband of the widow unless the caretaker husband performs what we refer to as “?k?ghar? nkw? nwaany?” which entails visiting the widow’s people to announce the change of marital status. The ceremony for this is not as elaborated as that for fresh marriage.
Even though my father’s relations were so pained by his death, my mother and her children must be catered for in line with our tradition but my mother had another plan.
While my uncles were grinning from their left ears to the right ones, my mom bypassed them and asked that her 23 years old first son be called. Obiora appeared and my mother gave him the ag?ba or shaving knife to a loud applause by the married women of the extended family. It was a selfish clap as my mom wouldn’t have to come share their husbands with them.
That was how the acrimony started.
My father’s only brother, who already had three wives, felt particularly deflated. His male cousins also felt that my mum, referred to as nwa?kp? ?kp?nyo Nnewichi or the woman from ?kp?nyo Nnewichi had done her worst.
They must teach her a lesson.
Many of my uncles refused to help my mum during her mandatory stay at home mourning period and years after. They told her “b?a b?r? Af? ?kp? ka ? z??” meaning “let us see how you can do it alone”!
At 45 years of age in 1978, my mother who hailed from Nnewi had all the attributes of a woman indigenous to Adazi Enu, Adazi Nnukwu and Adazi An?. She was so beautiful and naturally endowed with physique admired by saintly and sinful men alike. So you can now imagine why my uncles were livid with anger.
Could it be that my mother had an unmatchable attention from my father, a former soldier and masterful romance dispenser?
Probably, my mother didn’t see in all my uncles, any man who approximated my father’s attributes.
Could it be that my father’s death made Mama Obiora to become so frigid and unresponsive to my uncles later day overtures? It could be possible because my dad had harvested 12 children from her before before he died .
But I doubt if that was enough for a woman to close her sex log book at 45.
Mama Obiora surely had to stew in her own juice.
And she did.
She braced up to the challenges of raising her children by herself and she succeeded.
I was to realise later that my mum, who had an early child education at Holy Rosary Primary School Enugu, run by reverend sisters, initially wanted to become a nun before marriage came upon her. I guess she saw my father’s death as an opportunity to live that celibate and acetic life she had craved for as a teen.
I can now understand why I never, as a child, saw any uncle or strange family friend sneak in and out of our house or my mum keeping late nights or travelling without any of her kids. I rather saw a rosary clutching mum who most of the times “punished” us with her insistence that we pray 15 decades of Holy Rosary and would continue praying even when, we her children, we had slept off.
As I pray for the repose of the soul of my mercurial and examplary Mama Obiora, I also remember those my uncles in prayers. Theirs was a righteous anger caused by my mum who denied them their traditional entitlement.”
Nigerian man narrates how his mother was hated by her late husband

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