The Dean of Aaji Enugu-Ezike Catholic Deanery, Very Rev. Father Thaddeus Ukwueze has decried wicked widowhood practice in Igboland as a form of gender-based violence against women. The Catholic cleric condemned the evil practice of dispossessing women of their late husbands’ property especially in a pathetic situation whereby the deceased had procreation challenges during his lifetime. Rev. Father Ukwueze issued the warning while delivering his homily during a requiem mass for late DSP Donatus Eke at St. Patrick’s Parish, Ọlido Elugwu-Ezike over the weekend. For the Reverend Padre, the Eucharistic celebration, which he officiated was like a homecoming, having served as the pioneer priest of St. Patrick’s parish, Ọlido from 2012 – 2015 and laid the foundation of the on-going church building project. In an emotion-laden voice, the highly embittered priest literally screamed “Ọlido, why?!” severally to register his displeasure over the needless controversy that not only delayed the prompt commencement of the requiem mass but almost ruined the chances of celebrating a mass for the late police officer, whose love for truth marked him out in the community. He warned those individuals warming up to tamper with the deceased’s property to steer clear and reminded them of God’s threat to visit His wrath on any errant fellow that dares maltreat a widow or an orphan as recorded in Exodus (22: 21). He prayed for the eternal repose of the soul of the faithful departed and enjoined the deceased widow, Mrs. Philomena Eke, her children, family members, professional colleagues, friends, well-wishers and the entire Ọlido Catholic community to bear the irreparable loss of DSP Eke with fortitude and to take solace in the inviolability of God’s love.
Rev. Father Ukwueze equally charged the Catholic faithful of Ọlido to imbibe the virtues of Jesus Christ and make conscious efforts to abide by the teachings and regulations of the church. In particular, he enjoined the lay faithful to cooperate with the Parish Priest, Rev. Father Ken Eze, whose express consent authorized him to celebrate the requiem mass for DSP Eke. Going by Catholic tradition, and in line with church hierarchy, the Parish Priest is the Commander in-Chief and nothing should be done either by error of omission or commission to breach that sacred order. He extolled the leadership qualities of Father Eze, which saw him through the challenging task of taking the church building project from its preliminary foundation stages to the current finishing level. Also, Father Ukwueze thanked the Ọlido parishioners for their resilience and implored them as members of the greater Ọlido community to be a model for others especially non-Christians by embracing peace, truth, and love. They must strive to avoid unnecessary quarrels, squabbles, bickering, and supremacy battles, which most often lead to endless court litigations. Such bitter rivalries tend to constitute a cog in the wheel of peace, progress, and development in Ọlido community.
The priest recalled with nostalgia the good old days when Ọlido ranked first or second in terms of human and material resources among the league of foremost communities in the entire Ezikeọba Kingdom. Regrettably, that golden era had been lost to demeaning years of locust; no thanks to the bellicose dictates of conflict merchants, who have held the community by the jugular and engaged it in a permanent reverse gear. In his satirical allusion to the ‘alụido’ metaphor, the Head of Aaji Deanery suggested a name-change for Ọlido if that would suffice as an antidote for softening the gladiatorial belligerence of professional case vendors and free the community from the enslaving manacles of ‘motion without movement’. That was the kind of change that St. Paul recommended for Christians in Ephesians (4: 22-4) ‘to put off your old self, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness’.
At the end of the requiem mass, the funeral pyre moved down to the compound of late DSP Donatus Eke in Mgbede Ọlido, where the remains were finally interred after the final prayers by the officiating priest, Very Rev. Father Thaddeus Ukwueze. As he took up a shovel of sand to observe the dust-to-dust ritual by the graveside, Rev. Father Ukwueze caught the picture of a cleric, who appropriated the pulpit as a veritable platform to pass a soul-searching and sobering message on wicked widowhood practice as one of the manifestations of gender-based violence against women in Igboland and indeed, sub-Saharan Africa. It became more urgent and imperative than ever to rethink the patriarchal ideology in a manner that would perhaps stem the tide of obvious cruelty meted against women and by extension narrow the yawning gender gap, and bolster African feminism, which is an advocacy for women’s unfettered rights over their lives, bodies, and decisions.