The bizarre story of man, 25, who married his 17-year-old sister in Anambra State
- Catholic Church to perform cleansing rites on family
FOLLOWING the bizarre marriage in Ekwulobia in Aguata local government area of Anambra State between 25-year-old mathematics teacher at Community Secondary School, Isuofia, Mr. Chiadikobi Ezeibekwe, and his 17-year-old sister, and the subsequent attempt by youths of the area to banish the entire family, natives have resolved to cleanse the community of the taboo.
The ceremony would be performed by the parish priest of St Joseph's Catholic Church, Ekwulobia, Reverend Father Ignatius Onwuatuegwu, on Saturday, March 24, 2018. The family has agreed to participate in the cleansing. However, the man at the centre of the controversy, Chiadikaobi, told Sunday Vanguard that he had ended everything concerning the marriage to his sister following the controversy the issue had generated and added that he would subject himself to the cleansing. But he said the cleansing did not mean he would return to the Catholic Church which he left several years ago as the ceremony is to appease the people of his community. Even as he appeared not to have shown remorse, Chiadikaobi admitted that he was once a Catholic but said he would not return to the church after the cleansing.
Father Onwuatuegwu said the cleansing must be performed regardless of whether or not Chiadikaobi is present. Efforts to speak with the head of the family, Mr. Louis Ezeibekwe, 78, on the development proved abortive as his statements were incoherent. Speaking with Sunday Vanguard at the premises of St. Joseph's Church, Fr. Onwuatuegwu said: “The young man was a member of this church because his parents were worshiping there, but he started acting in a way that we did not understand. He was confronted but he was not ready to take advice from anybody. His younger brother was even in the seminary and that one left. “Soon thereafter, Chiadikaobi defected to another parish in Ekwulobia.
When I learnt about his movement to that parish, I alerted the parish priest of that church, who was new, to monitor him. “When he discovered that the Rev. Fr was monitoring him, he left the Catholic Church and joined one of the Sabbath groups in Ekwulobia. I can't remember the name of that church, but it was alleged that the church also found some of his actions strange.
He left that Sabbath church to establish a church in his father's compound where he and his siblings were the only members”. The cleric said the Catholic doctrine and the scriptures provide for the cleansing using a lamb. He said: “The reason for using the lamb is that, of all animals, it is the one that is not contaminated. The Igbo tradition also considers what the young man did as an abomination and, to correct the abomination, you must use an animal that is not contaminated.
“In the New Testament, our Lord Jesus Christ called himself the Lamb of God and Christ is the only one that has no stain of sin. If not for the grace that has been so gratuitously given to us, we might not have been reconciled with him. “So in the cleansing that we will do, we are not reconciling humanity with God, as Christ is the only one that can do that. Our function is to announce the freedom Christ has given to mankind. It is not the priest that is doing it, Christ has performed the sacrifice once and for all and we are only applying what Christ had done.
“We are planning to do the cleansing on the 24th of March and the family has agreed to it. Before they came here to pick the date, they said they had agreed to perform the cleansing ceremony so as not to be banished by the community. But my observation of what people are saying, I don't think the young man will come for the cleansing ceremony.
“They are also planning the funeral ceremony of their grandmother who died recently and, for that reason; they agreed to do this cleansing so that people can attend the ceremony.
“From the look of things, therefore, the young man might refuse to come for the cleansing, but whether he appears that day or not, the cleansing must take place. For members of the family to liberate themselves and distance themselves from the abomination committed by the young man, they have to perform this ceremony. It is like the Igbo adage that says when one finger touches the oil, it affects other fingers. The sin cannot be forgiven unless the person that committed it repents.
“As for the marriage, it cannot stand. The community cannot allow that. I must add that, in this matter, it is not for us to persuade him to come for the cleansing. It is the people around that can advise him to do the right thing. I am the minister that will carry out the cleansing and it is not for me to persuade him. As a minster in the church, I can only carry out the cleansing.
“I had seen a situation whereby after the cleansing, some people came up to say that it was not properly done. But once the lamb is used, every Igbo man will agree that proper cleansing has been done. Also, some people who belong to a different faith can also reject it, but that is not the concern of those who believe in the cleansing.”
Explaining how the ceremony would be performed, Fr. Onwuatuegwu said: “After blessing the holy water and the lamb is brought in, a bucket which contains water will be placed on the lamb and the person in question will wash his hands inside the bucket placed on top of the lamb. That is an outward sign. After that, the water will be poured out and the lamb will be taken away. The lamb is not for sale, but it can be sold and the money used sorely for helping the poor.
“It has to be borne in mind that we can heal the situation, but we cannot heal the personal decision of the main characters. However, as far as Ekwulobia community is concerned, that marriage cannot stand. They could have done all kinds of things when the issue was not in the open, but now that it is in the public domain, they will incur the wrath of the people if they commit the abomination again.”
According to the cleric, it was the traditional prime minister of Ekwulobia, Chief Gabriel Ezeukwu, who managed to quell what could have resulted in a major uprising when the people learnt about what happened as they tried to use jungle justice on that family and possibly eliminate them. “But the traditional prime minister reminded the people that we are in a civilized world and things must be done with caution, otherwise they run foul of the law”, he said.
Fr. Onwuatuegwu observed that one thing that is destroying the society is the new information age, advising parents to always monitor the activities of their children. “Most times parents are engrossed in their businesses that they don't have time for their children. Human project is more important than any other project one can think of because, if young people are well trained, that will determine how long their parents will live. But if they are not well trained, they may be the cause of their parent's early death. We should therefore imbibe moral teaching in the children,” he said.
Many things, he said, are deceiving and distracting young people these days, adding that the young man in question chose to quote Songs of Solomon in the Bible out of context, which, he added, was why, in the past, the Catholic Church did not allow unguided reading of the Bible. “Before one understands the Bible, he has to understand the culture and the era in which it was written. In Leviticus chapter 19, it is written that if someone marries his blood relation, such a person should be cast away from the people. “In the Old Testament, it is stated that such a person should be stoned unless he is trying to imitate what happened during the time of Sodom and Gomorrah,” Fr. Onwuatuegwu said.
How the bizarre marriage started
Cornelius Chiadi Ezeibekwe, 25, recently caused a stir in Ekwulobia in Aguata local government area of Anambra State when he wedded his younger sister, aged 17. In Igbo land, such a marriage is a taboo and it was on the basis of this that youths of the community burnt down the Sabbath Church where Chiadi and his sister were thought to have been joined as husband and wife. Chiadi, the sixth of 10 children (eight boys and two girls) by Mr. Louis Ezeibekwe, is a mathematics teacher at Community Secondary School, Isuofia, also in Aguata local government area.
At the time Sunday Vanguard visited their home at Agba, Ekwulobia, Chiadi was busy marking examination scripts and there was nothing in the compound to indicate that any abnormal thing happened there. Chiadi Ezeibekwe His sister is a student of Federal Government Technical College, Awka, but she left school to enable her observe what Sabbath people call 'Shimta'. During the observation, which Chiadi said lasts for one year, she must remain in the compound. It was during the observation that the marriage took place. Before then, she had left school because of the controversy generated by her marriage with her elder brother.
Louis Ezeibekwe, their father, 78, and who recently buried his mother who died at the age of over 100, appeared not to be in control of the behavior of his children as he exhibited signs that all was not well with his health. His eldest son, Emeka, who lives in Port Harcourt and who is not a member of the Sabbath Church, said he belongs to the Winners Church.
He also confirmed that their father was not well. Though members of the family were originally Catholics, they later changed to Seventh Day Adventist Church and subsequently to their own brand of Sabbath worship, with Paul, one of the children of Louis Ezeibekwe, as pastor. Justifying his reason for marrying his sister, Chiadi said: “I am a Sabbath and, in searching through the scriptures, I discovered that one could marry his sibling. So, we went ahead with the arrangement to marry my younger sister.
“The marriage ceremony was observed inside our family compound, which also serves as a place of worship for us. My immediate elder brother, Paul Ezeibekwe, the pastor, was present during the ceremony. “What happened is that when we decided to get married, we told our parents our intention and my father asked us if we knew what we were about to do. I told him that we searched through the scriptures and that God sanctioned it. It was after this that our parents consented.
“However, our other relations objected to the idea when they learnt of the plan and when we ignored them and went ahead with the marriage, they and other villagers burnt the Sabbath Church where we used to worship because they thought it was in that place that we worship, not knowing that we have since abandoned the place and worship in our compound. The burning of the church does not mean anything to us. “God told me to marry my sister and she also saw same vision.
There are places in the Bible that support such marriage. Those in doubt should read Songs of Solomon Chapters 4 and 5 and 1st Corinthians Chapter 7. “Since we took this decision, I have not felt anything unusual, or felt that I did anything wrong. In the school where I teach, many people ask me about it and I boldly refer them to the Bible”.
Worried by the development in the community, some elders went to the traditional prime minister of Ekwulobia, Chief Gabriel Ezeukwu, to lodge a complaint because the traditional ruler of the area, Igwe Emmanuel Onyeneke, is out of the country.
After consultations with other elders in the community, Ezeukwu ordered that the marriage be dissolved and a cleansing of the community of the bad omen arranged. Sunday Vanguard gathered that the Parish Priest of St Joseph's Catholic Church, Ekwulobia is handling the cleansing process, especially when it was realized that the family was originally Catholic. Asked if he would subject himself to the cleansing by the Catholic Church, Chiadi said in as much as he would not like to break the law of the land, he would leave everything to God to decide because it was God that gave him the vision to marry his sister.
He said further: “Except my eldest brother, Emeka, other members of the family supported the marriage and our father only changed their minds following the uproar generated by our action. It is not the beauty of my sister that made me to marry her. The attraction is that when God wants you to do something, you should do it. “One of the reasons for marrying my sister is to avoid divorce which is rampant these days because even if we divorce, we will remain in the same family. Besides, by marrying one's sibling, there will not be the possibility of introducing ugly situations, like diseases or social vices into the family”. The traditional prime minister of Ekwulobia, Ezeukwu, a mass communication lecturer at Madonna University, Okija, said the people of that village reported the matter to him. He said:
“Before coming to me, they were considering various options, including whether to involve the police, resort to jungle justice or parade those involved round the town before subjecting them to other rituals.
“But I advised that the first thing was to investigate the matter thoroughly. I personally went to their compound and met their parents. I did not see the young man involved and when I was told that he was teaching at Community Secondary School, Isuofia, I went there, but still did not find him.
“I saw a burnt structure that looked like a church beside their house and I urged those who gathered at the scene to disappear in their own interest. “Because what they committed was a cultural offence, I invited the family to my house. I knew that what they did was bad and I ensured that the matter did not escalate by further unwholesome action.
“But when I invited the family, their mother and children ran to Abakaliki, Ebonyi State where their mother hailed from. I sent a delegation to the area and their people confirmed that it is also not in their culture for someone to marry his biological sister.
“After receiving the information, I summoned a meeting of the Igwe's Cabinet and members of the family and we deliberated on the issue for several days until the children admitted that they committed atrocity. I made it known to them that they will purify the land and that is why we went to the Parish Priest of St Joseph's Catholic Church, which is the family's original church.
“However, I ensured that the girl in question was subjected to rigorous pregnancy test to ascertain that she had not been impregnated by her brother and, after several tests, it was confirmed that she was not pregnant, which is a relief to everybody.” Ezeukwu said they met with the Parish Priest four days ago on the purification process, expressing delight that the affected family was already showing remorse.
According to him, March 17, 2018 has been fixed for the purification ceremony.
He said the surprising thing was that even the Sabbath Church, which the young man claimed supports such marriage, had since denied and disowned them, advising that the development in Ezeibejwe's family should serve as a lesson to everybody. The good thing is that the eldest son of the family, Emeka, 33, has vowed that nothing would make his siblings get married, adding that he had never heard such a thing in Igbo land. “I cannot be alive and see them live as husband and wife in this compound,” he insisted.