“The living knows they will die” and “there is time to be born and a time to die” are well known biblical sermons which relate to the relationship between life and death. Such sayings and many others reveal the fact that speculation on life is also speculation on death.
Man looks on death of others as an inescapable common place of everyday occurrence or as the fulfillment of a fate a man is bound to accept. Although its arrival may be delayed there is no escape from death.
It is true that man shares mortality with other living creature, but it appears man is unique in knowing that he will die. Of course, it has been argued that all organisms have a trace of some kind. All the same, man’s awareness of the inevitability of death is uniquely and unambiguously clear. Since man always live in awareness of certitude of death, a study of death in relation to its cause, types and its effects is quite necessary.
The Annang people, like other Africans are very religious, they believe in the existence of Abasi Enyong (Sky God) and Abasi Isong (God of the earth). These gods are divided into two which are-the benevolent ones and the malevolent ones. They regarded the sky God as the supreme God who created everything and so must be acknowledged at anytime while sacrifices are offered to the earth gods 2.
The Annangs believe in life after death that is why departed members of the community are prepared for a safe journey to the next world. For this reason, any departed members of the community who has attained a ripe old age must be given a befitting burial. In the case of Chiefs, their belongings and slaves were also buried with them in order that they may maintain their status quo in the next world.
The people of Annang believe in reincarnation, for this reason such mortuary customs as blindfolding the dead, removing the body from a house through special door which is then sealed, taking the corpse to the grave by a round about route and so on are accorded to those dying bad death to discourage them from rebirth.
The Annang believe in ancestorship, that is why people live good life since they know that “only good people become ancestor after they have received the well done” judgment of Deity or of the “Court of the ancestors.” Bad or wicked people will be cast into a place of rubbish heap ,” the hell of pot herds”3.
They also believe in totemism which is collective religious objects considered to have supernatural or mystical power for the group.
1.1 Statement of the Problem
Death is really a thick subject, it is hard, perplexing, and perennial phenomenon. Death is a word so common but so elusive. It is common because its meaning and interpretation is problematic.
Death is always received with shock, fear and sorrow especially the death of young and prominent people, but the death of an old person is regarded as going to ancestral homes and it is always followed with ceremonies. There is always crying, weeping and mourning when kinsman is dead, especially when relationship is quite close as that of father, mother, sister, brother or intimate friend and relative. This shock, sorrow, crying and so on at times lead to sickness which may result in spending a fat sum of money before the person recovers.
The burial rite depends on age, status, sex of the decease and is related to time and place. “The methods and types of rituals depend on traditional beliefs which are not likely to be persisted as cults often stem from daily life of the people” 4.
Burial ceremony is an expensive event in Annang. It has always posed great problem to the bereaved family that people starts to wonder why such excessive spending and why is it that anybody who does not give his or her relative especially father, mother etc, a befitting burial is looked down upon in the society.
The advent of Christianity has shaken the foundation of traditional beliefs in Annang. Social changes have set on and social activities are changing in forms and methods in Annang.
1.2 Purposes of the study
1.3 Scope and Limitation
The study is limited to the Annang people of Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria. Finance and increase in transportation fare pose limitation because, wider inquires would have been carried out in many villages and clans in Annang land.
Some of the chiefs and elders were happy and willing to have their names documented, while some especially uneducated ones were unwilling to release information due to latent fear and suspicion against the inquirer. Inspite of all these, effort have been made to gather relevant information and to present an objective study on the concept of death in Annang land.
1.4 Significance of the study
The intention of this research is to study the basic ideas and beliefs of death in Annang land, and to find out what changes have taken place in the belief system.
This work is in an attempt to present a study of the Annang philosophy in respect of their belief in death. Belief in death, the family and the community are of sufficient interest and deserves considerable attention from psychical researchers and philosophers who concern themselves with the nature and destiny of human beings.
It is usually believed that any future participation in the new human dispensation will be significant, though not exclusively determined by the way we live and act in our present span of life. Consequently, belief in death and life here after awakes us to respond positively to the demands of the present life.
I therefore hope that this work will lead to valuable conclusions and yield a lot benefits to the readers especially the youths in Annang who are not born into traditional religious homes and may not have witnessed real traditional rite accorded the dead.
In this project paper we shall adopt an approach which involves library research. We shall also employ the use of information gathered through oral interviews.
The few available books consulted and those interviewed on this research work are listed under the reference section of this work.
1.6 Organization of the study
The report of this research is presented in five chapters. Chapter one as the introduction sketches the statement of the problem, spells out the purpose of the study, scope and limitation and the significance of the study. Also the methodology adopted in the study is presented.
Chapter two which is literature review, deals with the general concept of death. Chapter three focuses on preparations for death, causes of death, types of death, burial rituals, type of rituals, the Annang Traditional concept of Death and life after, the second burial in Annang and the effect of these rituals on the bereaved families and the society. In chapter four, effect of modernity of Annang concept of death is examined. Finally, chapter five presents the summary, conclusion and recommendation of the work.
Ekong, E. E, Sociology of the Ibibio, (Calabar, Scholar Press 1983) P.30.
Mr. Boniface Abara, aged 40 years, Interviewed at Effen Ikot OKoro, Ika on Oct. 2, 2011.
Mr. Mammy Thompson Udoidung, aged 71 years, Interviews at Imaman, IKa on Oct. 2, 2011.
Udo E. Udoh, The History of Annang People, (Calabar, Apcon Press limited 1983) P. 2