It is not primitivity or backwardness but gendered culture. However, culture doesn’t have a once and for all meaning. Rather, culture can equally be very oppressive, especially of women as in this case.
It was the sort of thing the defunct Women in Nigeria, (WIN) was very good in fighting out. But WIN is defunct and the other women groups do not appear to have constructed the social space in a manner that makes most obvious the oddity of the power relationship involved in making someone to drink the water used to bath a dead body.
Yet, that is the reality of Mrs. Chioma Asomugha which the News Agency of Nigeria, (NAN) is reporting as resisting the practice. Although it is The Prompt News Online version of the story that Intervention is reading, the NAN story is based in part on telephone interview with the widow. And the 34-year-old widow from Ubahuekwem in Ihiala area of Anambra is raising the alarm that her in-laws were forcing her to drink water used in bathing her dead husband’s corpse. The great stuff there is that she is saying ‘over her dead body’. Above all, she is speaking up and utilizing the media. She has done her duty to herself and to womanhood. It is up to the civil society to mount an irresistible but contextually sensitive campaign against this practice beyond Anambra State where this is coming from. It has to be a nation shaking if not a continent wide campaign! An urgent one for that matter!
But this story raises questions about what we mean by intelligence in Nigeria, for instance. Intelligence is not about spying on so-called enemies of the government but being the eyes and ears of the state as the embodiment of order. If that is the case, then the DSS or a similar arm of the intelligence community in Nigeria ought to know about a hygienically threatening situation such as anyone being made to drink water used in bathing a dead body. And make a report about it so that the state will quickly move in and stop it. Is this not why the DSS, for example, has its men in the local areas? And is this not why intelligence is a power resource and a viable instrument of order in well arranged societies? It doesn’t seem to be the case in our clime where people mystify intelligence out of the realities in the spaces of the everyday.
Thanks to NAN and to the media. It remains the women’s voices, especially the National Council on Women Societies, (NCWS) and then the National Human Rights Commission! This is more so in the light of the activism coming from the women on the current security situation as testified to by the communique below:
Nigerian Women’s 10 Point Agenda on Resolving Security Issues in Nigeria Presented at the End of the One-Day National Emergency Dialogue on ‘The current Security Challenges in Nigeria and its Effects on Women and Children’ held on 10th June, 2021
- There is need for a Coalition of women who would dedicate time to dialogue until peace is restored in Nigeria
- History as a subject, should be restored and taught at elementary to tertiary levels, to reinforce our Nigerian socio-cultural orientation, and emphasising the role of Women as peace builders in their respective communities.
- Nigeria as a country must remain as one indivisible entity and all leaders should act accordingly.
- There should be social justice and equity for all.
- The Government at all levels should be more responsive, encourage dialogue and grant the citizens listening ears
- The Ministry of Women Affairs at Federal and State levels should form an integral part of the State Security Council Meetings to ensure that the women’s voices are taken into account in security issues in the Country
- Women should explore the opportunity existing laws, such as the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, (VAPP) Act 2015 in prosecuting perpetrators of all forms of violence
- Mr President as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and State Governors as Chief Security Officers of their respective states, should ensure adequate security for our schools, our homes and our lives.
- There is need for an independent body that will facilitate a “Safe Place” for dialoguing with various violent groups with women playing strategic roles in the negotiation processes, while
engaging the resilence, creativity and resourcefulness of women in convening an all womens conference in line with UNSCR 1325
- There is need to involve Religious, Traditional and Community leaders to sensitize their followers on the essence of peaceful co existence amongst us and to shun violence and embrace the culture of patriotism and peace.