Brandishing The Weapon of “Tradition” For Dishonest Economic Gain Is Vile. The Government Should Intervene

By Darlington Ehondor

SO SAYS a community where a traumatizing tragedy has just happened, to our utter horror and dismay: Junior Pope Odonwodo and the four of his Nollywood colleagues, who, sadly, died in the River Niger a few days ago, cannot be buried outside that river. Dear God! 

Unless some ridiculously extravagant rituals are performed by the river bank, or the bereaved families cough up outlandish sums and pay to the community, all the victims of this shattering tragedy must be interred near the river. 

Already, the crew’s make-up artist has, reportedly, been buried there because her family could not raise the money. Junior Pope’s family is required to pay a vexatious N40 million, if they wish to bury their son elsewhere. 

And this is “Tradition”? Oh blimey! What is this – the latter-day triumph of Stone-Age medievalism over Computer-Age modernity?

A “Tradition” embodies the cultural dignity of a community. It preserves its ancestral heritage, handed down through centuries of trans-generational succession. It’s an endless continuum that, by its sheer resilience, propagates and perpetuates the cultural essence of a people and its communal cohesion.

“Tradition,” however, is not, and should not, be a weapon for opportunistic extortion. It is not a garrotte for the manual strangulation of people – or families – already mired in the suffocating quagmire of bereavement.

So, what is going on at the moment in a community around the River Niger in Delta or Anambra State is simply intolerable to the reasonableness of rational minds. It is blatant, brazen, barbaric – covetously insensitive. The government, assuming one exists in Nigeria, ought to intervene immediately and bring reason to bear.

African, particularly Nigerian, traditions shouldn’t have to be brazenly and unsympathetically extortionate. African traditions ought to be humane, rational and reasonable, especially with those mourning their loved ones. But, when a community flagrantly turns its “tradition” into a weapon of cold, calculated exploitation of people’s pain, it raises large questions, and even larger concerns, about the humanity of those traditions. 

The tragic deaths of the Nollywood 5 have become a barometer for measuring the mind of those who brandish the sceptre of “tradition,” ostensibly, to preserve the honor and dignity of those traditions. Actually, as the evidence increasingly reveals, there is a dishonestly convenient economic complexion to the whole “tradition” charade. Our fear of “Tradition” is being wielded in our faces to make us unwilling cash cows for ruthlessly voracious communities deftly seizing a golden opportunity. It’s just so wrong. The challenge is for the government to stump into the arena and put its foot down. But will it? Can it. The people in government themselves fear “Tradition” like fear itself. Oh dear!

Darlington Ehondor is United Kingdom based public affairs analyst from where he contributes this piece.

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