Hours after the birth of her twin girls, Margaret Emmanuel gave up the ghost, leaving her husband with the twins and their three grown-up siblings. To make matters worse, Margaret’s family in Ebonyin are demanding that Emmanuel fulfils a vital aspect of their culture before the burial ceremonies even commence.
At first it was congratulations and celebration galore as Madam Margaret Emmanuel was delivered of a set of beautiful twin girls. But few hours after, the joyful mood turned sour and mourning took over, as news filtered in that mother of the twins had passed on. She gave up the ghost on her way to the hospital, living the twins behind without the very vital motherly care. It also marked the beginning of the trauma of her husband and father of the twins, Mr. Adejo Emmanuel. Aside being shattered by the news, he was suddenly faced with a somewhat insurmountable challenge of weaning two infants alone. But the trauma did not end there, only Emmanuel didn’t know at this point in time.
While lamenting his predicament, Emmanuel said, “My life is like a balloon that was punctured with a pin, which immediately deflated it of all the joy.
When a woman is pregnant the prayer is to hear the babies’ cries and that of the mother’s joy; but now the mother is gone, leaving the babies,” Emmanuel said, sobbing.
That was the story of the Emmanuel family last December 21. As if the agony was not enough, the deceased’s family members sent a message to the husband that he has to obey their custom and tradition by performing certain rituals and rites. Chief amongst these rights includes performing the mandatory marriage ceremonies with the deceased wife, an activity the couple had failed to perform while the late Margaret was alive. Without that, they told him that he is barred from coming to his wife’s village in Akenze, Ebonyin State, let alone, burying the corpse.
Emmanuel, a peasant farmer in his mid-50s is thus being called upon to go through wedding ceremonies with his late wife’s corpse. Coming from Emmanuel’s Igala ethnic background, this is rather bizarre and unimaginable. He lamented, “I don’t know what went wrong and I don’t know my sin. Like any other fellow Christian, when everybody was preparing for Christmas, I was preparing as well, both for a merry Christmas, safe delivery for my wife and a successful naming ceremony for the babies; not knowing that I had another thing coming.”
Narrating his wife’s last moment, Emmanuel said he suddenly saw his wife at Ugbagbo farm in Owo, where he was working unannounced. “When I saw her, I scolded her and asked why she came all the way to the farm, because she was already heavy and ready to deliver. I also asked why she did not go to the hospital instead of coming to the farm to meet me.
Of course, this was not her first pregnancy, as she had previously had four children before this pregnancy. To compound matters, there was no vehicle to take her back to town that evening. We therefore waited till the second day. However she went into labour in between and was delivered of the twin girls. She was attended to by Traditional Birth Attendants, but the placenta did not come out. We quickly got her into a vehicle and headed for the General Hospital at Oke-Ogun in Owo. Unfortunately she did not make it, as she gave up the ghost at the entrance of the hospital. I noticed that her condition had worsened and she was getting dizzy. She thus got to the hospital, dead. To say the least, I was devastated.
I became confused and almost ran mad. The nurses, who knew her, were surprised that she went to the farm instead of the hospital. She was well known at the hospital, because that was where she had all her children. She had also attended antenatal there.”
Twins under custody
Honourable Segun Obasekola, a Councillorship aspirant in Igboroko Nla Street, Owo and landlord of No 44, Igboroko Nla Street, where the family resides, said he pitied the man, Emmanuel for losing his wife at childbirth: “When they approached me for a room and I discovered they had no money, I have no choice but to allow them use the room free-of-charge. I did not know anyone of them, but as a community leader and a man with milk of kindness, I think this is one way I can render help. Here a Good Samaritan, Mrs. Femisola Akilamilo is taking care of the twins. Mrs. Akinlamilo, a prophetess who is also called Mother of Children (Iya Ewe) in her Cherubim and Seraphim Church.”
When The Nation got to 44, Igboroko Nla Street, the woman and the babies were found in a room, where she takes care of them.
Speaking, the twins’ guardian Madam Akinlamilo said she was called by a church member to come and assist the motherless children who had just been delivered. She said: “My cell phone just rang last December 23 (2015), and a friend broke the news that a mother of twins had just died and there was nobody to take care of them. She added that since I am a mother of kids in the church, I should try and assist in taking care of the babies. He also said I would be given stipends. So I obliged. I am a widow, I have four children and my last child is 11 years old. Since I am not under any man’s roof, I gladly accepted the role of a guardian, as God sent me.”
Asked if she breast-feeds the babies, the woman declared in a touching voice, “There is no milk in my breasts anymore, but the nurses and doctors have recommended their food (SMA). They consume a tin of the baby food within three days, but their father is a poor farmer; so when I ran out of their food, I went to Alhaji Jamiu Ekungba, a gubernatorial aspirant in Ondo State and narrated the story to him in order to solicit his to assistance. I also met one Mr. Jide Tububo, who advised me to go to the press and do the necessary legal papers, for I was ignorant of all such stuff. As I speak, we have no food to give them today, because they have exhausted what we had in stock.”
Asked whether she had intimated the welfare office or the police that she is in custody of the babies, Mrs. Akinlamilo became a bit jittery and said, “I am ignorant of that. I am just acting as a Good Samaritan; I don’t know that I should report to the Welfare Office or the police. Please can you enlighten me more to avoid any problems,” she pleaded with this reporter. Mrs. Akinlamilo said she is appealing to the state government and NGOs to come to the twins’ aide.”
In the course of this discussion, Emmanuel, father of the twins came in with a tin of SMA baby food. He announced with relish that he just bought one tin from the money given to him.
Many rivers to cross
Now the corpse of the late Margaret has been deposited at the mortuary while preparation is on the way to go to Akenze in Ebonyi State to officially announce the news of his wife’s demise and also perform the necessary rituals and rites. But there still is a snag. Emmanuel has no money.
He said: “The family of my late wife have asked me to come and do marriage ceremonies h my wife and come up with the sum of 350,000 naira before anything could even take off. Where would I get the money from? I am confused. They should pity my condition and understand that I’m still taking care of her four children. Three of them are in secondary school, not to talk of the twins,” he said.
So while Margaret’s corpse lies in the mortuary, Emmanuel is confused and disturbed, as he is facing three hurdles: “I have no money to pay for the mortuary; I also have no money to feed the children; and my in-laws are demanding for the death certificate of their daughter, which they say I must bring along whenever I am coming. They also say it is compulsory for me to come over and do a compulsory marriage with her before she could be buried. They say some rituals must be performed and 350,000 naira must be paid to her family as part of her bride-price, before talking about the burial at all. Where do I get the money from? Am I not in trouble now?”
According to Emmanuel, his in-laws don’t even want to entertain or listen to any excuse or explanation; all they care about is for him to fulfil all the necessary requirements.
Asked how he met his wife, Emmanuel replied that, “You can meet your wife anywhere, so far there is love and the woman agrees to marry you. I am from Idah in Igala, Kogi State, and we met here in Owo, Ondo State. I never knew this is what I would face.”