Strange things do happen. And from Anambra State comes the weird story of some armed youths who last weekend wrested the corpse of a 77-year-old woman, Mrs. Celina Uwa, due for burial, from the deceased’s family, burning the vehicles conveying both the corpse and mourners and destroying their homes, all because the family of the deceased failed to adopt the new name imposed on the community by the youths.
The name of the community is Nkerehi in Orumba South Local Government Area of Anambra. But perhaps because the community is named after a totem (elephant), one of the sons of the community, U.S-based Dr. Godwin Maduka, had proposed that the name be changed from Nkerehi to Umuchukwu (meaning children of God), with a cross-section of the community refusing to accept the change. That was in 2007.
The mayhem last weekend is said to have been occasioned by that controversy and the need to compel residents to embrace the new name. The family members of the deceased woman had printed posters using the “normal name” of the community, Nkerehi, to the anger of those championing the name change.
The latter had threatened violence if the Uwa family insisted on using the ‘old’ name of the community in the obituary poster. Angered by the fact that the family ignored the threat, the youths went on the rampage during the burial.
Reporters who visited the area in the wake of the renewed violence learnt that one Mr. Kelechi Onyegbule was nearly beaten to death by the hoodlums, who also set ablaze two L300 Mitshibushi buses conveying mourners and family members from the mortuary to the deceased’s family compound.
In an interview with journalists, the first son of the late woman, Mr. Bernard Uwa, said: “They (youths) came to my compound the night before the burial, and one of them, Okechukwu Okeke, who claimed to be their leader, said they had come to warn me that they did not want to hear or see any poster bearing the name Nkerehi; or else they would burn down my house, kill me and destroy everything within the compound.”
Uwa, who looked visibly shaken by the event, said after the attack by the youths that made many of the mourners to run away, “only five of us carried the remains of my late mother to the grave and buried her amidst tight security provided by the police from outside the town.”
Ever since the crisis over name change broke out, the community has known no peace, so much that in 2010, some of the youths supporting the proposed name change, engaged the opponents in a duel and chased many of the families, including old men and women, to exile for two years.
When they returned from exile, they were forbidden from using their ancestral name for anything while in the community, even during burials and marriages.