TITLE: Modern Burial Ceremonies in Igboland: Feasting or Mourning
AUTHOR: Cornelius Jibuaku
PUBLISHER: Jenison Publishing Company, Onitsha
REVIEWER: Isidore Emeka Uzoatu
It goes without saying that modern-day burial ceremonies among the Igbo has slowly transformed from solemn commemorations of the death of loved ones to lavish celebrations of wealth. It has become so prevalent that even where there is no money for this, families have been known to have borrowed to keep up with the Okoronkwos as it were. This forms the crux of this timely book Modern Burials in Igboland: Feasting or Mourning by Cornelius Jibuaku. Like opined in the thought-provoking forward to it by well-known Igbo language advocate Professor Pita Ejiofor, Jibuaku first presents a graphic picture of what is happening, portrays the economic, social and moral implications they carry and the tremendous waste they bring about before daring to avert possible reasons for them and offering very viable solutions to them.
Jibuaku – an octogenarian and retired civil servant – is a 1965 Economics graduate of the University of Ibadan. He had joined the Civil Service of the former Eastern Nigeria as an Industrial Management Officer where his duties had enabled him see the disparity between the investment and spoilage ratio in the general area. The ‘high propensity for conspicuous consumption’ he saw as one of the factors retarding development in Igboland and indeed all parts of Nigeria is given vent in the work. He was to add an M. Sc in Management from the Arthur D. Little Management Education Institute, Cambridge Massachusetts in the USA in 1976 before he retired in 1987, upon which he engaged himself as an industrial consultant. Retired but not tired, he was to further serve as a member of the Federal Public Accounts Committee of the Presidency in Abuja from 1989-1994.
After a dogged attempt at the explanation of terminologies he homes by looking at the problem inside out with the hindsight of the seasoned technocrat he was in service. He even goes extra miles – after limning a clear picture of goings-on at these ‘carnivals’ – to address the economic, social and moral implications they unleash upon the society. A condition he traces as far back to up to a century ago as recounted in G. T. Basden’s Among the Ibos of Nigeria published in the 1920s. Characteristically, baffled is all Jibuaku is about its continuation without hitch ever since which, in part serves as a prompt to the book.
But by far the richest part of the book remains the part that dealt with the un-farfetched reasons for the anomaly. Ranging from what by the author’s perception, amounted to an inherent ‘low level of maturity’ in the people, it also covered areas as varied as egotism, competitive achievement, and sundry vested interests. A very, though, interesting aspect hinges the problem to the prevailing thought among the people that everyone has the right to spend their money anyhow they so pleased. In this clique are numbered those who wonder why they have to go through all the trouble to make money if they cannot lavish it.
The author also made space to criticise what he sees as a certain lack of sufficient vision among traditional, political and religious leadership among the generality of the Igbo for the birth and continuance of the malaise over the years. A development he blamed inter alia for the demise of the Crusade Against Squandermania launched in the then old Anambra State. Back then, because the exercise was taken to have been envisioned to also come against the annual lavish celebrations by traditional rulers, was fought head on by one of them. So much that the commissioner under whose portfolio the duty fell was redeployed and the crusade could not but die a natural death.
In all, Jibuaku has written a more-than-timely book from the hindsight of his active days. Indeed, if his proffered solutions to the problem can only be upheld by those in authority, our society can be better off for it. The well-appendixed book ought to be sought out for by all still interested in us having a better future; one better than the quagmire we are presently bogged in.