The 70 “Senior Elders from Nigeria” are still in St. Peter’s Square – praying fervently for our country. Other nationalities have cast aside their own woes to join us in supplicating for the bountiful mercies of the Almighty. What stares us in the face are chaos and anarchy, unless we mend our ways.
Already, the moral architecture has been destroyed while the social pillars of our society have been uprooted. Besides, the political economy has been taken over by bulldozers leaving whatever is left of the human tapestry in shreds.
Anyway, we Nigerians are the flavour of the month in Rome and in the Vatican – following the demise of our own Professor Chinua Achebe, the literary giant and inimitable wordsmith. After Nelson Mandela, Achebe is a pretty close second among the pantheon of great Africans who have captured the love and imagination of the entire global village. Both Mandela and Achebe emerged from their rustic respective villages, Qunu in the case of Mandela, and Ugonabo-Ogidi in the case of Achebe, to capture the world through pure genius and dogged determination. They simply sizzled and dazzled.
Of all the accolades and encomiums showered on Chinua Achebe, post-mortem as he commenced his journey into the afterlife, perhaps the most touching was delivered by none other than Pope Francis I. The Holy Father graciously proclaimed:
“Professor Chinua Achebe devoted his life to debunking the verdict of Sir Hugh Trevor-Roper on Africa:
“The history of Africa is darkness, nothing but darkness.
Achebe brought knowledge and delivered light.”
However, Vatican Radio and TV were deeply troubled to learn that in accordance with Igbo culture, Achebe’s widow, Christy (unless granted special pardon) would have to undergo traditional widowhood rites. The rites include making the widow to shave her head, drink the water used to bathe her husband’s corpse, sit on the floor and sleep in the same room with the corpse.
However, it turns out that these strange rites are not the exclusive prerogative of the Igbos. On its website, Nigeria’s Akwa Ibom State, where they are mostly Ibibios, Annang and Oron, has published the following official statement:
“A law to prohibit certain obnoxious traditional widowhood practices and rites and for other matters connected thereto”
By the provision of the law, it is now a criminal offence in Akwa Ibom State for a widow to be forced to take any form of oath; compelled to cut the hair on her head or in her private part, while she can no longer also be forced to cry loudly or be compelled to sit next to the remains of her husband and forced to drink water which has been used to wash the deceased’s body.
By the provisions of the law also, it is an offence for a widow to be stripped naked or made to bathe in public; jeered or pushed around if she fails to cry loud enough or forced to sit on the floor or a mat to mourn her husband. A widow can also not be made to dress in filthy clothes or rags as a sign of mourning; prevented from having a bath; forced to cook with or eat from unwashed or broken pots or bowls; forced to observe a period of supervised mourning; prevented from cleaning her surrounding during the period; forced to sleep in the graveyard; forced to marry or co-habit with a relative of the deceased or spouse, or subjected to any kind of confinement or ordeal.”
Francis, the first pope from Latin America, was elected on Wednesday and has been staying in a hotel on the Vatican’s premises until the papal apartment is ready.
“The Pope is down-to-earth. He is a people person and it is amazing,” said Emanuel Anatsui from Britain. “He is going to do wonderfully for the church.”
After Mass, Francis again put his security detail to the test as he waded into an intersection just outside St Anna’s Gate. Francis stepped up to the crowd, grasping outstretched hands. The atmosphere was so casual that several people even gripped Francis on the shoulder.
“Francesco! Francesco!” children shouted in Italian. As he patted one little boy on the head, he asked “Are you a good boy?” and the child nodded.
“Are you sure?” the Pope quipped.
At one point he glanced at his watch and turned to his aide – as if to ask “How much time do I have?”
The Pope then ducked back inside the Vatican’s boundaries to dash upstairs for the address to St. Peter’s Square.”
Unknown to most Nigerians, the Vatican keeps a very keen and watchful eye on its schools. Technically, the Pope is the “Proprietor” of all catholic schools all over the world and is expected to ensure both the academic and spiritual development of those students who enrol for tutelage. I was intrigued by the vast amount of records kept at the Vatican. For example, tucked in a little corner of the Vatican Library is a small plaque which lists the 1952 First Eleven football team of St Gregory’s College, Obalende, Lagos.
Randle is a former president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and former chairman of KPMG Nigeria and Africa Region. He is currently the chairman, JK Randle Professional Services.
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