Tina is visited by her childhood friends Bosun and Rabi, upon receipt of an SOS message by Rabi from Tina, in which she was informed about the passing of Tina’s husband, Abel. To their consternation, the two friends find Tina isolated in an ensuite room with absolutely no furniture. She is seated on the tiled floor, looking emaciated and unkempt, with her hair shaved clean. Upon seeing her friends, Tina bursts into tears and both Bosun and Rabi have a hard time consoling and calming her.
Bosun, visibly disturbed, starts the conversation with “Brace up Tina, this is not YOU. Abel is gone to rest and it was not your fault. You can’t keep doing this to yourself. I can’t understand why you are sitting on the bare floor anyway. Where do you sleep? Who is with you to ensure you eat and sleep because you need all the strength you can muster, if not for yourself, at least you owe the twins that. Undoubtedly, we may consider Abel’s passing premature but the truth is, it was God’s time”. After lots of counseling, Tina settles down to tell her friends her story.
“I preceded Abel on our preplanned vacation to the Maldives when three days into my trip I received word that Abel had slumped as he had suffered a cardiac arrest and in spite of the early administration of CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation), he passed on. He died at the hospital where he consulted. I immediately made arrangements for the next flight home and arrived two days later, only to find our home stripped of most belongings – the cars, furniture and fittings, appliances, etc. It was all a bad dream from which I wished to awaken.
However, the worst was yet to come. I met Angel, Abel’s younger sister who had lived with us while attending school and she informed me that the Head of Family, Abel’s uncle, had requested that I see him in the village immediately after I set foot in the house. We chartered a vehicle to the village and then, my ordeal started. I was held responsible for Abel’s death and to my utter amazement…hmm …Angel accused me of poisoning him in doses over a period of time. That I, Tina, maltreated Abel and confided in her that I will soon be rid of him”. Amid sobs, she continued “my God will surely judge Angel”. As a result of the allegation, the sentence passed was that I will be made to undergo the Traditional rites of widowhood the result of which you are seeing. Sitting and sleeping on the bare floor, the shorn head, remaining in the same garments until Abel is buried and to crown it all… I will be expected to drink the bath water from his corpse before burial”. With this, she launched into further bouts of weeping.
Wow, Rabi exclaims,” please pinch me, I must be dreaming! No wonder you look this way. Do you get to eat at all? Why are you allowing them to get away with this? My head is brimming with questions – Does your family know about this? Can’t they do something”?
Tina responds “Both my parents are late and my siblings are all abroad. I am the only one back here and you know my twin girls are still young. They are in school in the U.K and their entreaties will be of no use anyway. Ah, they even seized my android phone although I have this non-smartphone which enabled me to reach out to you. Rabi, I knew if anyone could find a way in here, it had to be you – because you are a commissioned Colonel of the Nigerian army”.
Rabi responded, “First things first, we must get you out of here, then we can fight to recover the things that have been looted”.
Tina replies, “For me what matters is my life and sanity. I would wish to bury my husband in peace and return to a sane world. Whatever has been looted, I leave to them, their conscience and God”.
The three of them settle down to agree on their plan of action as follows:
- Rabi will use her resources to rescue her from her “solitary confinement” and enable her to stay in a “Safe house” belonging to a mutual friend, to enable her to plan her late husband’s interment.
- Bosun will utilise her legal expertise to secure Letters of Administration from the probate court to enable her access to his accounts, insurance, terminal benefits and other assets.
- Tina will tidy up her affairs and relocate to the UK and reside there by using her dual citizenship status.
Havilah’s views on the issues raised above are as follows:
- Treatment of widows and the stigma attached to them in Africa, especially those whose spouses are believed to have died prematurely, can be despicable. They are often made to go through rigorous traditional rites that often add to the pain of such loss.
- Persons married under the Marriage Act (Statutory Marriages) are subject to the Statutory Law in matters of succession. Consequently, traditional or customary law of succession cannot govern them on the death of their spouse.
- It is better to die having made a Will than intestate (without a Will) to simplify the succession process.
- Enlightenment and empowerment of widows as to their rights should be emphasized. A number of NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) currently exist with this as part of their primary objectives.
Please do not hesitate to leave any further advice you may have for Tina.