For most widows, it is a terrible, cold world out there. It is an unimaginable world of loneliness, frustration, anger and confusion among many other ill fates. Death’s cold hands have not only snatched their companions and leaning shoulders to lean on, it has also dealt them blows of rude and crude exposure to harsh world of realities such as fending for the family needs and single responsibility of catering for the children. Their lots are just beyond description, unutterable in some cases. Oluwatosin Omoniyi writes
Their burdens are too numerous for a sympathizer to brazenly offer to shoulder. For some widows, the death of their husbands is like being thrown to another world entirely where they are left to carry the cross and unfortunate bags of bitter experiences, disappointment, rejection and scorn in most instances.
Unfortunately, in this part of the world-Africa, Nigeria in particular, men (husbands) do not die ordinarily! It is believed that their surviving wives murdered them perhaps in order to inherit their properties and for other materialistic excuses. The reason it becomes a pathetic and sympathetic experience for widows. Some of them go through unimaginable and gory ritual rites in the hands of their in-laws.
June 23, was International Widow’s Day. Make Mee Elegant, a nongovernmental organization, held an empowerment programme to mark the day for some widows and to honour them. According to Kehinde Okoroafor, the programme was to raise awareness on the violation of human rights that widows suffer following the death of their spouses.
At the event, some of the widows shared part of their terrible experiences with the audience.
One of them, Dorine Obi, had been widowed for about four years and has not had life too pleasant for her. Nevertheless, from her body gesticulation and self-expression, New Telegraph observed that Obi has moved on, only trying to strike the balance of coping with sole responsibility of being the provider. For her, she said she suffered negligence, rejection, raw and open hatred from her in-laws. She was four months pregnant when she lost her husband and her first child to a ghastly motor accident four years ago. According to her, life was hellish! It was difficult coping without her husband around her; she also could not sleep and urinate for eight straight days. “Upon all the drips and injections, medical personnel administered on me didn’t work until after eight days. The shock of losing my husband was too much for me to bear.
But that was the beginning of my ordeal,” she said. Explaining further, Obi said that her mother-in-law did not even bother to identify with the new baby she had for her late husband. “She only told me congratulations on the phone and that was after I made several phone calls to her. With a cold and distant voice, she congratulated me and that was all. She never called again and did not bother to come see the baby.
The family also did not support me and the kids,” she added. Even on the burial day, her in-laws did not console her and they were friendly with her before the death of her husband, according to her.
While pregnant, she said she hawked different type of hair products to sustain herself and her child. Now, she is into clothing business. “I can comfortably pick my bills now and take good care of my children. The only thing I am not paying for is accommodation because I am staying in my parent’s house,” she said.
Moving on with life, which she described as a bit difficult, she asserted that she attempted starting a fresh relationship but it didn’t get anywhere because they both could not cope and understand each other. To add to her trauma, she said some of her friends did not see reason she should be happy or celebrate. She said they told her to assume the status of a single- mother, “that way, they believe men would not be scared to associate with me. I told them never,” she said.
Yetunde Raji, another widow of six years told New Telegraph that she chose to be blind to the stigmatisation of widowhood around her. “My friends even stopped inviting me to parties. In fact, they said it to my face that I am no longer beautiful of my legs; hence, associating with me becomes difficult for them. But I have no issue with all of those attitudinal displays because grace is in motion in my life,” she said. Raji also lost her husband to a ghastly road accident in Saudi Arabia. She was hospitalised for two years, bed ridden for eight months in the hospital in Saudi Arabia. While there, the Saudi Arabia government denied her children visa entrance to come see her, her in-laws rather sent one of their cousins who was staying in London to come pack the dollars with her in Saudi Arabia. “When that one came, no single gift or greeting card for me in the hospital,” she alleged.
According to her, she sustained many health complications, like losing her legs, while one is complicated and not balanced; the other is in prosthesis (artificial limb). She also lost her shoulders, has a pipe in her eyes. “Really, the journey has been rough and bumpy for me but I still thank God for His mercies,” she said.
For Raji who was married to her husband for nearly 20 years before his death, she said his demise remains a vacuum no man can fill in her life. “Because, we had bonded too deeply, did many crazy things together, we grew too fond of each other. Even, my children found it difficult to believe that I could exist without my husband. When they eventually learnt of their father’s death, the boys’ chorusly asked me, ‘and you survived without our daddy?’ Long story short, their daddy and I were like inseparable twins,” she said fondly.
However, Raji has tried to move on with life. Instead of continuing in her former business of gold jewelries and Swiss lace materials, she now invests her money into businesses that yield profitable interests. “I don’t want to talk about my in-laws but God has been my pillar of support and great provider,” she said.
It is a different story with Balogun Kafayat, a two-year-old widow with three kids. In fact, she said she is not thinking of re-marrying because her in-laws have been wonderfully too nice to her. “To be sincere, they are very supportive, especially my late husband’s elder sister. Even at that, the vacuum is too wide, thereby, leading to great depression for me,” she said.A group of police officer widows who spoke to New Telegraph lamented issues bothering on negligence, callousness and insensitivity of the Nigerian Police Force towards them. They accused the system of being crude and harsh towards them once their husbands have died.
Esther Otobo of Mopol 20 barracks told New Telegraph that she has been widowed for 11 years, she grumbled that since the death of her husband, she became alienated from the society. “My friends avoided me completely. My husband family accused me of killing him even though it was glaring that he was sick for a long time before he died.
The family dehumanized me, subjected me to abusive burial ritual rites. They washed some parts of his body and asked me to drink a little part of the water to prove my innocence about his death. I bored it all, refused to complain to my own family to avoid clash between both families. My joy today, is that my children are successful. I am happy that they are actually doing well. But I didn’t like the way the Nigerian Police Force ejected us out of the barracks when my husband died,” she said.
For Funke Sunday, it is double jeopardy! In her case, she has a cripple child, four young children and early death of her breadwinner- husband. She narrated that, “two months after the death of my husband, the top officers within the barracks had already sold my apartment while we were still mourning my husband. One early morning, some people barged in and started throwing our things outside the room. I thank God for rescuing us through a good Samaritan-church who paid for a two-year accommodation for us and gave me soft loan to start a small business. Four years after the death of my husband, the police are yet to give us our due gratuity.
Rose Michael, a widow and mother of six children said she was moving from one church to the other to pass the night with her children until the last church where she spent a night, came to her rescue and rented a room apartment for them. “Now, the rent is almost due, I don’t know how to pay that yet. My prayer is that the Nigeria Police Force to take pity on us and pay my late husband gratuity who served for 24 years,” she said.
Linda Akpan, a widow of ten years and mother of three, counted herself lucky because her children were already grown, working and even married when her husband died. “As my husband died, my children immediately relocated me out of the barracks to a bungalow they built for me. They wanted to use it as his 60th birthday surprise,” she said.
The above stories are just the few out many widows stories out there.
However, Ojapa Rebecca, also a widow and pastor of Lifeway Chapel, said widowhood is a trauma that cannot really be overcome but rather managed. She added that widowhood rites are meant to suppress women, as such, encouraged widows to be strong and be themselves and hold on firmly to their God as HE is the husbands of widows and only sure supporter that can never fail. “I was down with depression, no financial and emotional support from anywhere, except an inexplicable comfort from God. I am truly happy now, in fact, I am almost a grandma now,” she said.
The programme coordinator, Okoroafor, reechoed the words of encouragement the widows gave themselves. She urged them to look beyond who they were before they got into the marriage; they should first accept their situations to be able to move forward. “Ask God for grace, peace and joy. Make yourselves loveable so that others around you can love you. Encourage others often because there is always light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
Mrs Yinka Adeyemi, Director, office of the Public Defenders, Lagos state reassured the widows of the state government support anytime of the day. “Lagos state government is ready to render free legal services to them,” she said.
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