This story was first published on my old blog, Karo’s Story Blog, in March 09, 2014.
The Edos, Isokos and Urhobos share a common believe in a lot of things. One of them is the punishment given to a cheating wife who refuses to change her ways, cleanse herself and most importantly appease the gods.
If a supposed married woman commits adultery, the gods of the land will either punish her alone or her husband and children will share the consequences.
Now the consequences could be severe sickness and death for the children, or extreme poverty for the man, as he’d not be able to keep a job or run his business effectively.
The man is only affected if he knew about his wife’s infidelity but does nothing about it.
Most women who still go on to cheat know the tradition and still they ignore it just because they feel they are having fun. An example of such woman is Elo (not her real name though).
Elo was a married woman who despite her husband’s efforts to please her materially and sexually, still decided to commit adultery. She dated different men not just for their money but for the fun of it.
Her husband was aware of the situation and it made him sad. He later went to the family elders to report the issue and Elo was asked to quit adultery, make a sacrifice to appease the gods and also cleanse herself. If it was not done she and her family will suffer. Elo called their bluff.
“Which gods?” She asked as she walked out on the elders. Afterall, her husband could not satisfy her in anything.
About a month later, she was returning from one of her boy friend’s house when the news of her son’s death greeted her ears. Ovie was in his final year at the Delta State University, Abraka, when he died mysteriously. Even after being rushed to the hospital, the doctors couldn’t find what was wrong with him.
Elo and her family mourned and buried Ovie but she still did not do the sacrifice even though she was constantly reminded. She repeatedly told anyone who cared to listen that her son’s death was a coincidence and nothing more. As long as she was concerned, the gods didn’t have anything to do with it because according to her, there are no gods.
Two years later, after Elo’s first daughter, Ovo, married and conceived, two men, Oke and Felix, went to her provision shop along their street to buy some food stuff. Due to the familiarity between them, they felt free to bring up the issue of her mother’s delayed sacrifice.
Ovo told them to leave her mother alone and mind their own business. After all, the gods cannot do anything.
“But what about your brother’s death?” They reminded her. “Who do you think caused it?”
“That was pure coincidence.” She insisted. “Please you people should leave my mother alone with this issue and let her live her life the way she wants to”.
When they saw that she didn’t believe in the tradition of the gods and also supported her mother’s actions, they decided to let her be. They bought what they wanted and left the shop.
Close to the end of that same week, Felix was getting set to go to his workshop when Oke came in and asked if he wasn’t coming for Ovo’s burial.
“What? He asked. “Ovo? The same Ovo we talked with earlier this week?”
“Yes” Oke sighed. “The gods must be very angry with her for supporting her mother’s adulterous act.”
“God goodness me! But how did she die?” Felix asked.
“From what I heard, she suddenly started bleeding and nobody knew the cause, not even the doctors.”
Felix shook his head in pity as he put down his bag and decided to go with Oke to the burial, after all, Ovo was a close friend.
When they got there, they were surprised to meet people crying openly and when they asked what was wrong? An old woman who couldn’t bear her pains any more cried as she narrated to the men in Isoko language, how the people who went to the mortuary to bring Ovo’s corpse for burial had a fatal accident and all died on the spot.
The aggrieved sympathisers blamed Elo for the deaths while others abused her. The burial was cancelled for the day and everyone went to their homes.
Elo, seeing that things were getting out of hand decided to quickly do the sacrifice. Everyone was happy that at last, she had decided to do the right thing. Her other children, Clement and Joan, were beginning to get scared and so was her husband. They knew that death would visit them soon if Elo had remained stubborn.
After the sacrifice, she knew she couldn’t stop seeing the other men so she divorced her husband so as to free herself from his grip as well as the wrath of the gods.
Another day was fixed for Ovo’s burial and when the day came, things went smoothly and everyone was happy until a car coming into the family compound mistakenly hit someone and the person died instantly. This caused another fresh round of sadness and mourning but the burial went on.
After the burial, the elders of the land met. They were not happy about the death rate just because one person was to be buried. It simply meant that the gods were seriously angry with Ovo and as long as her body remained buried in the soil of the land, more deaths and calamity will follow. To prevent this, they decided that Ovo’s body should be dug out of the ground, cut into pieces and thrown into the evil forest.
After agreeing on the decision, a decree was given and as early as 6:AM the next morning, the young men in the community who were assigned the task were already at work. They dug up the body, cut it into pieces and threw it into the evil forest. They were happy doing it because of the number of deaths her dead body caused.
Elo knew she couldn’t fight the elders, neither could she fight the youths who were working based on the instruction given by the elders. She couldn’t do anything about the situation but it pained her that the youths carried out their orders with no remorse.
The above story took place about 4 years ago in Isoko land. I wouldn’t state the exact town it happened. I didn’t witness it. My immediate elder brother did. And he told me the story when he came visiting.
For me, I think Elo should have been made to pay for her infidelity in other ways. The children and husband shouldn’t suffer for one person’s adulterous act.
But then. This has been tradition long before I was born. How does one go about changing tradition?
So, over to you. What are those terrible traditions you still see in your land today?