Lavish burials for parents by Nigerians

By Maria Famakinwa

Pa Egbile, (not real name) died last month in his village at the age of 77. The man who was said to have been abandoned by his six children survived on his neighbours’ goodwill.

The neighbours were however surprised to see his children who refused to come and check on their father before his death planning to renovate his house ahead of his burial which they boasted would be the talk of the town.

The case of Pa Egbile exemplifies what is happening in our society today. In most parts of the country, a certain impression is unwittingly created that a befitting burial of the dead is more important than taking proper care of the person while he/she is alive.

The so-called befitting burial is premised on a certain belief that such will enable an easy transition of the dead to the great beyond. It is also to show the class and status of the deceased children and families because many see burial ceremonies as competitions. Thus, befitting burials become a multi-million naira proposition.

Some borrow from banks, friends /relatives or sell parcels of land and other belongings to live up to their definition of befitting burial and social expectations. It is not unusual to see parents who were not properly taken care of in their lifetime buried like royalty, with choice food provided to hundreds or even thousands that graced the occasion with expensive souvenirs as a remembrance of the dead.

Some of the aged parents who spoke with The Hope on their preference between befitting life or befitting burial preferred the former to the latter on the ground that they would not be there to eat any food prepared or see how much money spent on their burial ceremonies.

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In the submission of a 75-year-old petty trader, Mrs Ibilola Isaac, the culture of the land supports giving the aged who died befitting burial but warned that one should not punish the dead in the name of cultural practice.

Her words: “There are some issues that we should get clear. It is good to give your dead aged parents a befitting burial. But what is the essence of a befitting burial when they died of hunger and neglect? That was why I said earlier that we should not make the dead suffer.

“We prefer to be well taken care of while still alive than throwing big parties after we might have gone. I feel so much pain anytime I see elderly people begging for alms. These are people who have children and families but were abandoned. Don’t be surprised to see their children and families organizing what they term ‘befitting burial’ for them when they are no more. I always remind my children to take care of me now while I am still breathing instead of organising an expensive burial ceremony for me when I am dead. That is the only rewarding thing to do for one’s parents. We want to eat good food and get good medication at regular times,” she said.

Sharing a similar sentiment, 79-year-old, Pa Afolarin Ogunjimi, warned children against neglecting their aged parents while alive and throwing big parties for their burials and added that it has great consequences.

His words: “Sometimes, I wonder how people feel when they do show off at their parent’s burials by killing chains of cows with assorted menus on the table when they did not even kill ordinary fish for their parents to eat while they were alive. They hire the best and reigning musicians, and spray bundles of money on the musicians who praise them without spending much for their parents while they were alive. Most of the dead would still be living if the money spent for their burials were used to care for them.”

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Also, Pa Bamidele Akingbade, who is in his mid-80s explained that the reason for investing in one’s children was for the parents to enjoy their old age when they will not have the strength to care for themselves again.

He said: “Before I retired as a civil servant, anytime I want to give my children money for their tuition fees, I tell them loud and clear that they must take care of me and their mother when we are old. Their mother also does the same. That has been registered in their minds. They often make jest of us with the statement, thank God, today, they are doing all they can to take care of me and their mother.”

The man hinted that the idea of giving befitting burials to the aged ones who died of hunger is one aspect of our culture that must be addressed. While saying that he was not against befitting burials, he urged children to give their parents befitting lives first, because the dead cannot see or feel the children’s love anymore.

“What is the essence of spending a huge amount of money on a casket to bury neglected parents who died of hunger-induced sickness? No matter how much money is spent on what they describe as a befitting burial, children culpable of neglecting their parents will also reap what they sow because it is the law of karma. If I am treated like that, my spirit will continue to haunt such children,” he warned.

In the words of Mrs Christina Adeboboye, who celebrated her 68th birthday recently said the culture of throwing big parties for the dead is not commendable.

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She asked: “How many of the dead were alive to eat from the cows and assorted menu prepared for guests on the day of their burials? We all understand that death is inevitable but parents must enjoy a good life full of love with adequate care while still alive.

“What the aged cherish most is to see someone besides them showing them love. Sending money to one’s parents is not as important as spending time with them. Many of them have the money but lack companionship which kills faster. Taking care of the aged is all-encompassing, giving them a befitting life is necessary because we believe that only parents who get adequate care in their old age are blessed with good children. It is high time we emphasized caring for the aged rather than planning for their burials.

“Like I keep telling my children to take care of me now and when I die, they should give me a low-key burial instead of running into debt to give a befitting burial. Some neglected aged are in my area that depend on colleagues and churches for their care. Some of them though have the money but are not happy because their children are far from them. This is one of the areas we need to address. Children should cultivate the habit of checking on their aged parents or better still, let them live with them. If anyone borrows money for my burial without giving me a befitting life, such will not be free of debts,” she warned.

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