The caption might have provoked several thoughts in you. Perhaps wondering who died, where the death occur and the cause of death, etc. Don’t panic! The issue under discussion here is not about who died but how we, the people of Eleme take care of our relations while living and how we cater for them when they died; i.e. how we provide for their lifeless body; corpse or dead body.
The phrase, “My Relation Died” is common in Eleme today not because of the negative impact of pollution necessitated by the activities of oil and gas exploration and exploitation companies but by the way and manner we provide for ourselves. Do we value the person or his corpse? Do we do everything humanly possible to give our relations comfortable/acceptable standard of living, just as we do when he died, to give him a befitting burial?
The Eleme man is proud to announce the dead of his relation and to broadcast the type of burial arrangements put in place for him to show how wealthy he is but never bother under the condition in which the man lived and died. However, when the person was living nobody helped him; he was like someone without relations. He was jobless, helpless and hopeless throughout his lifetime but have relations occupying managerial positions in various organisations; he lived a poor man with a dilapidated building that must be renovated and painted to make it look nice and lay him in state in the house that he never enjoyed while living. A well-furnished bed was provided for his corpse, his corpse is dressed nicely and a female relation sits closely to dry away flies. Worst still, the parcel/piece of land(s) he refused to sell and use the proceeds to rehabilitate the dilapidated house or build a new one and live comfortably with perhaps family, hoping that things will change for better will be sold at giveaway price just to raise money for his burial. What honour for the corpse.
His relations, paternal and maternal, (egbá nsĩ bãrã egbá nnwɛ) that neither helped him nor care for him during his lifetime now surfaces from all nook and craning of Eleme to put things in order to give him a befitting burial. They will end up singing his praise. After all, don’t talk bad of the dead!
During the burial of this man who probably was killed by severe frustration, hunger and lack of care, his rich relations will gather to provide enough food and drinks for the whole community and celebrate his death for at least seven days unending. What a people we have turned out to be. How did we get here? Elemes hitherto were their brother’s keeper, showing genuine love and hospitality. Help is given even without asking. Elemeness was uppermost in the mind of the Eleme Man.
What is Elemeness? Elemeness is the Eleme man concern for the good and welfare of fellow Eleme man. It involves brotherly love. It is Eleme man doing everything humanly possible to put smiles on the face of fellow Eleme man. Yesterday, building of house was through communal efforts, food was an element of hospitality. Owe nja was common; that is, invitation to eat food was a practice across Eleme. The rich helps the poor get rich. Friend encourage friend to take yam title. Ndele is a standard that all women aspire to reach in their lifetime. It is a title of fame and honour. Ndele is a requirement for the conferment of the prestigious title of Emere Owa. The people of Eleme rejoice together and mourn together. They share their feelings, hopes, and fears together. They keep each other’s back.
All these uniting factors have been eroded by the flood of distrust, disunity, hatred, individualism and greed. These factors have alienated us from our roots, culture and tradition; and alter our value system for the worse.
The fear that helping your relation get gainfully employed will jeopardize you at your place of work does not hold water. Again, the fear that extending golden opportunity to your relation will provide him avenue to gossip you or reveal your personal or family secrets are all fallacy. A tree can never make a forest.
Let us learn from the Ibos who have a universally acclaimed special way of empowering youths; or the Hausa-Fulani and Yoruba who understand how to plant their people here and there; or the Ogonis who know how build communities wherever they find themselves. In fact, once an Ogoni man enters a place and finds it good, he builds a community by planting his people all around there. Why can’t Eleme man help Eleme man instead of waiting for the day to say, “My Relation Died”