In the western world, nuptial knot is being severed so easily, and thus, rampant. The understanding of the traditional concept of marriage, i.e. “for better or worse, till death do us part” has already faded in the society from which it originated. Since divorce is a parting of some sort, and it is not deeply felt by the couples, then even when the parting is of a permanent nature, the couples would still have nothing or little to lose except for the permanent physical detachment from the person they love and cherish. The same cannot be said for the traditional African society, and in this discourse, the Nigerian society.
Widowhood is the state of being a widow. Perhaps the reason why the widower is scarcely a subject of discussion is because men are usually seen as the “stronger vessel” and as such, their wives are only ancillary to their being, believed to play domestic roles and also so attend to their sexual needs, of which they can easily be replaced at their death, except for the few men who feel strongly attached and knitted to their wives. Yet, even upon that, their only undoing is the loss of their wives, but little will change about their condition of life. On the other hand, the widow who has lost her husband has double tragedy - the loss of the man she loves, and the sorrows that is to follow his death. This is more rampant in the rural communities of the Nigerian society.
In such situations, when the husband is certified dead, the widow knows that the story of her is gradually moving to its bitter state. First, the man she has conditioned her mind to stay with for the rest of her life has left her, and probably with kids - which in most situations, is something she has never planned for. So apart from the fact that his responsibilities have invariably been shifted to her; it is the case that she would hardly be married to another man. Most widows take it upon themselves to concentrate on how best they can foster the well-being and education of their children. Thus, the sexual chapter of their lives has been closed already.
On a second note, if only these widows have the capacity to cater effectively for themselves and their children, their agony would be less; but reverse is the case. Death is like a thief and so, most men die unprepared and leave their wives with little or nothing to hold unto. They die without knowing death would come. Alas! If only they knew, they would have made adequate preparations for the welfare of their families. But as it is, the widow who was tied to domestic affairs would now be forced to face the realities of struggling and hustling, probably from the scratch. I am tempted to say: life starts afresh for her!
Again, her plight cannot only be limited to the above, but on a more serious note, the relations of her dead husband would ferociously attack her, and make life unbearable for her. I remembered vividly when we were growing up; we lost a neighbour who was serving with the Nigeria Police force. Months after his demise, his brothers and other family members came with a truck and packed the whole of his property, which they distributed among themselves, and advised his widow to ensure that she relocates to the village where life would be relatively easier for her. I can never forget the fresh agony she underwent. It was as if her husband died again. Her story is just a tip of what widows pass through after the death of their husbands. There are instances where even the children would be taken away from her in the name of their welfare, only for them to be maltreated and abused. The deceased husband’s relatives lay claim to every belonging and property he left behind, and in some instances, want to inherit even his wife.
What more can we say about the agony of the Nigerian widow? She is subjected to all customary practices that accompany widowhood; practices that are barbaric, crude, savage, and above all degrading to the dignity and personality of a human being. In some instances, she is even labeled as the one who killed her husband– more so that it is believed that there is no natural death in Africa. So while mourning the original death of her husband, the pains she passed through is as if the husband has died again.
It is the plight of these women that makes it appear as if widows are accursed - but that is far from the truth. If only men will wake up to the reality that death is inevitable, and when it would happen is what cannot be determined, then they can plan for the future of their families when they still have the breath to do so, rather than fall back to such an uncertainty that they will not die now.
I was watching a report on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) some few years ago, where some men were interviewed on whether they have written their wills. To my surprise about 95% of the men interviewed had not written their wills. The reasons they adduced can be summed up in the following words: they are not going to die now. I was left asking whether the writing of a will carries with it a death sentence. Obviously that is a fallacious thought. Viewing it from another angle, if only men write their wills before death knocks at their doors, then their families wouldn’t pass through the agony they do.
On the part of the government, I believe it’s about time a legislation is enacted that will protect the vulnerability of all women- especially those married under customary law - from the exploitation and wicked machinations of their deceased husband’s family after his death.
Alas! The man died, and his widow is left in pain, horror, agony and anguish as a result of the death of her beloved husband. As if that is not enough, she is forced into another world of travails after the death of her husband, which is tantamount to, or even worse than her initial sorrow, and it is as if the husband has died again.