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TRADITIONAL FUNERAL RITES OF COMMUNITIES IN ORUK ANAM LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA OF AKWA IBOM STATE
1.1 Background of the Study
Man’s journey on earth starts from the moment of conception. That is after the fusion of the male and female gametes to produce offspring. The terminal point of one’s sojourn on this planet, is marked by death. Although, death is the physical end of man’s existence on the physical realm, there exists a life that is obscured from the ordinary eyes of human beings.
This life is perceived differently by individuals. Some claim that there is no life after death. Others upheld that life continues after the demise of the physical body. According to Annang, philosophy, the neglect to accord a befitting funeral rites to a departed relation may spell doom on the living members of the deceased’s family, since he could haunt them, ruin their fortunes or at worst, deprive them of life.
In this wise, this research is intended to describe the traditional funeral rites of communities in Oruk Anam Local Government Area ofAkwaIbom State that aid the smooth arrival of the departed into the world beyond.
Subsequently, the investigation is analysed in three phases as follows:
(1) It points out the ‘traditional heritage in regards to beliefs and practices associated with funeral rites in Oruk Anam communities. Albeit, the fact that people’s ways of life are in a constant change, elements of traditionalism still persist. It is this fundamental part of the “tradition” that the research is about to examine.
(2) To outline the various ways of performing traditional funeral rites in regard Oruk Anam communities.
(3) To attempt and analyse the most important aspects of the “traditional heritage” in line with funeral rites and its current alterations.
As traditional funeral rites in the nine clans that make up Oruk Anam local government area vary considerably, the main thrust of the research is to dissect the phenomenological evidence of what I see here and gather from field work to develop this dissertation.
1.2 Statement of Problem
The beliefs and practices associated with traditional funeral rites in Oruk Anam communities are not carried out the way they used to be in the olden days. This has posed problem to traditionalists, scholars and students of traditional religion as the exact method of burial is forgotten.
Prior to the advent of Christianity in the area, the remains of dead traditionalists were put in native chest made of palm tree frond (mkpata). Fresh leaves of the same palm-tree were weaved as mat (odon) to raise the head of the deceased in the chest.
Inversely, carrying the corps of a traditionalist to the mortuary is an innovation that has crept into traditional societies. For Oruk Anam, quick disposal of the corpse of a traditionalist hasten the journey of the departed to the other world. Mortuary usage, as Oruk Anam believe delays swift passage of the spirit of the dead to the world beyond.
There is also an on and on controversy about lying in-state of traditionalist in Oruk Anam communities. Long before the introduction of exposing the corpse of a dead person for people to see, when a traditionalist died in Oruk Anam, the corpse was not exposed for public views. But now, because of modern changes that had cut across Oruk Anam traditional communities, corpses of traditionalists are allowed to be seen by other individuals.
Furthermore, the interment of a traditionalist in Oruk Anam communities in a christian style, especially when the deceased was poor and the children cannot afford funeral ritual is ambiguous. For a pastor to conduct funeral service for a traditionalist is a strange thing that happened in Oruk Anam communities. It is a serious blow on the traditional religion of the people.
Subsequently, widow of departed traditionalists are not accorded the usual treatment done in the past. When death occurred to the widow’s husband, funeral rites performed in the past are not carried out in the same way. This is detrimental to the widow’s longevity as essential burial rites are denied.
For traditional funeral rites in Oruk Anam communities to be done in a suitable way, adherents of traditional religion must maintained burial process of their forefathers. The traditional burial rites in Oruk Anam communities vis-à-vis widespread irregularities in the funeral process poses a problem. Is traditional funeral rite performed the way it ought to be done? Which methods do adherents of traditional religion in Oruk Anam communities employ in the burial of traditionalists? This study therefore will examine the traditional funeral rites in Oruk Anam communities.
1.3 Objective of the Study
What are at the back of the researcher’s mind in embarking upon this investigation are as follows:
- To examine the traditional funeral rites of communities in Oruk Anam Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
- To assess the various ways of performing traditional funeral rites in the localities.
- To make necessary recommendation on how traditional funeral rites should be undertaken to avoid blending Christian rites of passage with traditional funeral rites.
- Critically examine the consequences of neglecting the traditional burial rites as the people believed.
- Examine the implications of the beliefs and practices associated with traditional funeral rites on the Annang religious thought.
- Determine the relationship between traditional funeral in OrukAnam communities and the Christian rites of passage in the communities.
In an attempt to carry out this research, focus shall be on following questions.
(a) In which ways do traditional funeral rites in Oruk Anam communities, blend with Christian rites of passage?
(b) What are the different ways of performing traditional funeral rites in communities of Oruk Anam Local Government Area?
(c) How relevant are these methods to the modern day religious life of the people?
(d) What changes are necessary for effective traditional funeral rites?
(e) What modifications should be made to curb extinction of some vital traditional funeral rites?
The above questions, if well treated and follow-suit by the masses, could ameliorate possible extinguishing tendencies of traditional funeral rites of OrukAnam people.
1.4 The Scope Of The Study
The study is supposed to cover the whole of Annang land which comprises of eight local government areas. These are: Oruk Anam (researcher’s own clan), Abak, Etim Ekpo, Essien Udim, Ika, Ikot Ekpene, Obot Akara and Ukanafun. This is not possible due to plethora of impediments, such as time, financial constraints, terrain of the areas, largeness of the localities, rudimentary nature of agriculture of the rural populace in which they could not be found when needed for interview, syncretic lives of the present day traditionalists.
Consequently, this study is concentrated on Oruk Anam communities, the largest local government area in both Annang land and in Akwa Ibom State. Oruk Anam local government area as a geo-political entity is splitted into nine clans which the investigation covered. These include, Ibesit (researcher’s own clan) Ibesit Nnung Ikot, Abak Midim, Inen, Ndot, Nnung Ita, Ekparakwa, and Obio Akpa. In addition, there are 165 villages and these are politically divided into 13 wards with the headquarters at Ikot Ibritam.
This research which was to cover the whole of Annang land is narrowed down to one local government area (Oruk Anam) for effective research coverage as the people are believed to have common ancestral lineage.
1.5 Significance of the Study
This study is of great significance to Oruk Anam communities in particular and other African societies in general. It will provide a “bank” of information for future research on traditional funeral rites of Oruk Anam societies. This in a way will provide a take off for studying other beliefs and practices of Oruk Anam people instead of condemning them as superstitious for lack of written account.
It will remain a reference point in academic circles thereby saving Oruk Anam beliefs and practices that go with traditional funeral rites to go into extinction due to the influence of western culture.