It is no longer a hidden fact that Igbos particularly those from Anambra do not conduct funerals to make loss. The ceremonies are conducted in such a way that a painful or funeral profit is made. The worst expectation is a breakeven.
Recall that in many cases, loans are taken with lands pledged as collateral and most often, property are sold to fund the funeral.
Wouldn’t it be stupid for one to make a loss or lose the collateral by making a loss?
You now understand why no sympathizer is entertained in Anambra funerals until he or she presents the monetary equivalent his/her sympathy to the bereaved. No one would drop N100 and expect to be given food or beer.
Revenues from funeral activities or ceremonies of grown adults or parents in Igboland consist of cash gifts, assorted drinks, cows, goats, chicken, food items and wrappers gifted to the bereaved family by various sympathizers which consist of remote and distant relatives, friends and well wishers.
Days after the funeral, most of the material gifts would have to be sold and converted to cash except for some of the clothes or wrappers which are distributed to the daughters and wives in the family and those reserved for further use. The first son or his nominee keeps them.
All the children of the deceased, especially the sons, expect an account reconciliation meeting as may be convened by the first son few days after the conclusion of the funeral ceremonies. At this meeting, the expenditures are deducted from the revenues and whatever is left is the funeral profit which is to be shared.
It is easier in a monogamous family where there are say, two or more sons or if the funeral is for a mother.
In the case of a two-son family, the first son shall divide the proceeds into three equal parts. He will take two portions and give the younger brother a portion. This is a ratio of 2:1.
If the brothers are three in number, the sharing formula is 2:1:1, that is, two portions to the first son and one each for the rest.
It is noteworthy that the first son is, no matter the number of his brothers, entitled to two portions while others will receive one portion each. It is never shared equally. The extra portion is to maintain his obi or firstsonship.
In a polygamous setting or when the funeral was that of a father with many wives, the first surviving son takes a double portion while the each of the first sons from each wife would take one portion. The first sons from respective wives of the deceased would then share their portions with their brothers in the ratio that guarantees the first son a double ration.
A share of funeral profit is in contrast with what happens at the fundraising meeting prior to the funeral, which is not necessary if the first son can foot the entire bill.
When the first son cannot raise the needed amount, other brothers including the married sisters are encouraged to contribute money to fund the funeral ceremonies and one of the siblings is appointed as an ad hoc treasurer.
During the funeral, a tray pan is placed on a table in front of the canopy where the male children and their clansmen sit to welcome sympathizers.
Each condolence visitor or sympathizer is expected to monetize or commoditize the equivalence of his or her sympathy. People, who cry loudest are not appreciated at this point. Cash or cheques are dropped into the tray while other commodities like clothes, drinks, yams, goat, chicken or cow are presented to the bereaved in the full glare of all. A clansman with an eagle eye armed with a note book and pen is positioned in the second row, behind the sons of the bereaved, to record who brought what.
There are always a big fight or long tenured enmity among brothers after their father’s or mother’s funerals due to the way the funeral profit is handled by the first son.
A greedy first son would wait until after the funeral to pick quarrels or even refuse to call for an account reconciliation or profit sharing meeting. He would become so busy and irritable until his brothers get annoyed and leave him alone to enjoy his greed. Sometimes, physical combats ensue.
That’s why younger brothers in many families in Igbo land conduct their own funeral receptions in separate venues or in their own respective houses to collect their own condolence proceeds because of the fear that whatever is put in the central purse would be seized by a greedy eldest brother.
When the first son is known to be greedy based on his antecedents or when some well-to-do younger brothers, usually in polygamous homes want to recover all they had given to friends in the past and wouldn’t want to share, they make arrangements for their very important guests to be received and entertained in their houses or in separate venues immediately the corpse is lowered into the grave.
In a case where brothers fear inequitable sharing or greed, everybody would be made to contribute money for common things like casket, ambulance, entertainment of statutory condolence visitors like in-laws, their married sisters and common relatives.
Smart younger brothers saddled expectation to bring the bulk of the money to finance the funeral are better off telling the elder brothers that their contributions are loans which must be refunded before the profit is shared. They should demand to keep the daily condolence collections while the first son appoints the record keeper.
The option of dubbing funeral contribution as a loan is hardly refused by the elder brothers because if the funeral expenses are not refunded, the person who footed the bill of the funeral of his father automatically becomes the head of the family or obi. So, the first son would be quick to refund the loan but what happens thereafter depends on his greed level.
When next you attend a funeral ceremony in Igbo land and you see numerous reception venues with each of the sons or group of sons of the deceased sitting under a tree or canopy with a tray pan on top of the table in front of them, note that they are trying to protect their funeral revenues.
Come to think of that, how can a reclusive or an introverted brother earn where he didn’t sow?
So, an elder brother is very comfortable, who would not give to others during their own funerals would now position himself to corner the cows, goats and cash gifted by sympathizers in the name of his younger ones who are more kindhearted, generous or better known? No way!
Thank God for the kind of elder brother I have. He is my only brother. In the upcoming funeral of Mama Obiora, our mum, on 23 November 2018, we shall do it with no division. What he doesn’t approve won’t be done. He can take all I have while I’m alive except Uche Ukwuoma Obiabaka. If he tries that Pope must hear it.
Sincerely speaking, Catechist Obiora, my elder brother, is a man of God, who is heaven minded. He will receive all the prayers and best wishes from sympathizers while I will inherit the earth and fullness thereof.
Igbos outside Anambra might dispute the above described Igbo practice which I admit differs from what is presently obtainable in their areas. However, it is not contestable that early Igbos first settled somewhere in today’s Anambra State, and like a smelly fart, Igbo culture has started losing aroma as our people “diffused” away from the epicentre where the ahụrụ or fart was first released.