Thursday, 6 June 2013

THE LAWMAKERS IN AKWA IBOM STATE: WOMEN’S RIGHTS vs CUSTOMARY LAWS

Akwa Ibom State House of assembly -blog4all

We assume that the 26 members of Akwa Ibom State House of assembly squarely represent their various districts and are equipped with the customs and traditions of its people. The widows protective law which is aimed at eliminating the “extra mundane customs against widows” that has just passed in the house pending the signature of a governor is a typical example of what we have been writing about. I personally would think that customary laws belong in the customary courts, but at the end of this line-up, the statement concluded with, “This law will be cited as a law to prohibit certain obnoxious traditional widowhood practices and rites and for other matters connected there to; and that every trial for an offence created in this law shall be commenced in the Magistrate’s court.”
 
It is unfortunate that the sponsors of this bill are not established in the article, therefore we shall never be able to identify the customs portrayed here in the name of Akwa Ibom.
 
Within the unwritten customary laws of Akwa Ibom people, it should be known that it is the widow herself or her family that will request that an oath be ministered only if she is accused of killing the husband or having anything to do with his death. The runaway usage of the premise: (forced to) hereby is an indication that the sponsors do not really understand the custom of Akwa Ibom people. According to the tradition of Akwa Ibom people, the wives of Oku Inam, Oku ndem or Abia idiöñ of old will be expected to shave when she is bereaved. Today, nwan-Öböñ does shave voluntarily during such bereavement, and such custom is as old as humanity.
 
I am hereby challenging the twenty-six members of the state house to declare openly that in his or her local government area, clan or city/village, widows are asked or ‘forced’ to take a bed with the body of their dead husbands; asked or forced to drink a wash from the remains of their dead husbands. Recently, these strange practices have appeared in many Ibo historical movies – we have watched how a widow is forced to carry the remains of her husband to the burial side where she was forced to drink the dead husband’s wash before burial. Is this the culture you are imposing on Akwa Ibom people?
 
In my neck of the woods, there in Akwa Ibom, after the final rise, the mourners will sit by the bedside with the chief mourner on the left side while widow takes the right and all the mourners with them only to receive sympathizers as they file in and out of the funeral home.
 
The real Akwa Ibom people want to see how you voted on this matter, Mr. speaker. Let us see the minority opinion of this bill because our children, grand children and great grand children will search out; and when you leave, remember to go home with this bill which does not represent the tradition, the custom nor the interest of Akwa Ibom people.
 
In which local government area, clan or city/village can we find people practicing these disgusting, abhorrence, despicable and undesirable viles within Akwa Ibom State as found in this so-called: “DRINKING OF CORPSE BATH-WATER BY AKWA IBOM WIDOWS” bill?
        In section ‘c’ forced to cry loudly
                          ‘d’ forced to lie down next to the corpse of her husband;
‘e’ forced to drink water which has been used 
       to wash dead husband;
‘n’ forced to sleep in the grave yard; and many more.
It is so well and wisely said that, “The more learned they claim, the more stupid they become.” 
Are these not all what we watch in Ibo historical films and read about in their literatures? Who are the state commissioner, permanent secretaries and the officials in the Ministry of women affairs who are vested with such responsibilities as equality, empowerment and encouraging the academic ascendancy of Akwa Ibom women along with overseeing socially imposed constraints on them like forcing widows to marry or co-habited with a relative of the deceased spouse?
 
Where were these leaders when Okon Uya wrote and published a text book, which is read by thousands of students world-wide on the historical perspective of Oron people claiming that: Oron people can-not marry Ibibio women for the fear of cross contamination because Ibibio women are not circumcised due to the unclean or impure state that result from this, we have never married Ibibio women” (Professor Okon Uya).
We are the people who cried very loud to the world and decried or expressed strong disapproval on how misleading such information is.     
 
Pick up your phone today and call your state representative. They must give answer to these questions. They are:
 
  1.     Samuel Okon Ikon                  Etinan
  2.     Ignatius Kevin Edet                 Ibiono Ibom
  3.     Uwemedimo Damian Udoma   Abak
  4.     Jarome Paul Isangedihi           Oron/Udung Uko
  5.     Ekere S. Afia                            Uyo
  6.     Okpolum Ikpong Etteh            Esit Eket/Ibeno
  7.     Emmanuel Sunday Akpan      Essien Udum
  8.     Uenobong Otu Akpabio           Uruan
  9.     Daniel Effiong Akpan              Nsit Ubium
10.     Clement Adolf Bassy               Ikono
11.     Akanimo Edet                          Etim Ekpo/Ika
12.     Nsikak Okon Ekong                 Ikot Ekpene/Obot Akara
13.     Alice E. Ekpenyong                 Mbo
14.     Ekpeowo Archibong Ekpo        IbesikpoAsutan
15.     Anietie Sunday Etuk               Nsit Ibom
16.     Charles Constance Mbong      Ikot Abasi/Eastern Obolo
17.     Asukwo Effiong Odiong           Okobo
18.     Paul Akpan Owo                      Ini
19.     Ekong Sampson                      Mkpat Enin
20.     Asukwo Darby Udo                  Nsit Atai
21.     Iboro Joseph Udom                 Oruk Anam
22.     Jack Daniel Udota                   Eket
23.     Etim Uno Uno                         Urueoffong/Oruko
24.     Okon Joseph Uwa                             Uknafun
25.     Bassey Akpan Willie                Onna
26.     Ekaette Ebong Okon               Itu
                                                                                                                             E&OAE
 
Sir Gabriel Effiong Rumould
Los Angeles
 
How the real Akwa Ibom people react to this story?
“Akwa Ibom Culture uses the custom of 'inheritance' to protect women whose husbands are dead. In this custom, the surviving wife or wives are supposed to be inherited by someone within the family. The main aim of this custom is to protect the woman and to provide for her. Whoever inherits the woman is held countable for her welfare. 
Such a beautiful model is to show that the Ibibios had better organisation beginning from their early days. Up till today, I will still take responsibility for my late brother's wife. This is not just Ibibio custom alone, Christianity also supports it.   _____ Chris Udoh, Port Harcourt
 
“Such a thing has never happened in Ibibio land, if it is happening in Annang region, they are not surprised. Elders said Akpabio and AKHA should restrict their actions to what is real.”     _____ Akwa Ibom Elders Forum, Uyo
 
“If someone can not confirm this practice anywhere in the State, I will demand that AKHA retract this bill and tender unqualified apology to the good  and civilized people of Akwa Ibom State and concentrate themselves on churning out laws that will reduce  the current excruciating poverty and suffering of the people.”  
  _____ Obong  Noah Ekanem, Lagos
 
“Last nite a friend from Yoruba extraction sent this piece to me 
evidently from the internet and this is exactly what I told her "never 
heard of this tradition". I have been gone from Akwa Ibom for sometime 
now, I made a call to a relative who is at least 80 years old, she too 
never heard of this. It is a good thing for government to think about 
widows but not in this sense.”
 _____ Mma Grace Umoh, VA 

 

1 comment:

  1. In as much as I respect the concerns of the authors of this reaction to the law being passed in Akwa Ibom State, as a Women's Rights Activist please permit me to state that the fact that a practice is not a part of the culture of Akwa Ibom State people does not mean that the Legislature cannot legislate on it. Take for instance, stealing is not a culture of any particular community in Nigeria, but we have laws against it because whether you like it or not some people will steal. Child marriage is not a culture of the Yoruba people but all the States in the South West have legislated against it. One reason being migration is very common in recent times and as people move around they move with their culture and practices. You confirmed in your article that the obnoxious widowhood practices being legislated against are common among the Ibos and you cannot convince me that Ibo people are not residing in Akwa Ibom State. Do you want such people to leave their State and come and practice such freely in your State that is so caring about women? Please allow the Legislature to do their work if truly you respect the rights women. Women and girls in different parts of the country are discriminated against and subjected to different forms of abuse. We need to strengthen the legal environment so that women and girls are protected wherever they live in Nigeria. Wishing you the very best.

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