OCTOGENARIAN WIDOW WEEPS
Besides debilitating physical health conditions associated with old age, octogenarian widow, Orie Nwa Ajibo of Umuchoke Edem Ani, Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State, is also faced with the problem of a place to cook her food.
As the harmatan season approaches, her plight would become worse as her kitchen which has been in existence for donkey years has allegedly been demolished by a Catholic priest, Reverend Father Dominic Ajibo, a relation of her late husband.
The widow's plight began when the priest allegedly decided to do a perimeter fence to protect his house.
On that fateful day, the widow was said to be in her house when hefty-looking men arrived with diggers to begin a foundation through her kitchen.
Hear the widow: 'I was in my house that day when I saw some hefty men with implements cutting the floor of my kitchen. I was confused at first, thinking they may be hunting for rabbits. But I know I have not seen any rabbit hole in the kitchen. I gathered all the strength in me and walked to the scene and challenged them. To my chagrin and dismay, they only veered at me and burst into derisive laughter. I was sorely pained by the fact that mama father (Rev. Father's mother) was there, but could not utter a word.'
At first, the widow declined to talk to Daily Sun apparently apprehensive of what would happen neither were other villagers around eager to render any assistance as one of them said in confidence: 'I don't want to be connected with things concerning Father. I am a Catholic and my comment may land me into trouble of being denied sacrament'.
However, after further persuasion and upon assurance that her speaking will do her no harm, the poor widow opened up to Daily Sun.
'The kitchen has been there even when my husband was alive. It has been there and nobody dared to touch it that time. E-woo, death has done me bad. I cannot calculate the number of years since my husband died, but all I know is that he died many years ago. Nobody claimed ownership of the land when he was alive. Can't you understand, the person doing this to me is Father that I gave water and nursed in his infancy? He is a child of yesterday. He is a child born into my own palms. Their father did not dispute over the land with my husband. They are relations. Now they want to oppress me because they think I cannot do anything,' she said.
Thus on that fateful day, Mrs. Orie had watched helplessly as they cut foundation inside her kitchen and latter pulled it down.
She said, 'After cutting the ground, they started pulling down my house. I raised an alarm which attracted some people. But seeing it was a matter connected with Father all of them then shied away. The labourers were all laughing at me while I was crying. I was helpless. I thought of my husband and sorrow and grief overtook me. What pained me most was that Father's mother was at home and saw what was happening. She did not utter even a word. I am shocked by her action. I thought she would have ordered the people to stop demolishing my house because she knows that, what they are doing is not right.'
On what she wants to do, she said: 'My son, I don't know what to do. What can I do? They have pulled down my kitchen. There is nothing I can do. I am homeless as far as kitchen is concerned. You can see where I am spreading my food stuff, in the open. The harmatan is fast approaching. Anything can happen to it, it is risky to expose one's food stuff. If there is rain, the food stuff I want to preserve will be beaten by rain. The kitchen helps me dry our food stuff. At first, I was disturbed and it made me to think too much. I am devastated and have not been feeling fine since then. Many of the villagers have been coming to me, some openly, others secretly, to console me. For now, I have resigned to fate. I believe that God will intervene at his own time.'
But when contacted, Father Ajibo's mother said that the widow's kitchen was standing on their land.
'The disputed portion of land where the kitchen was built belongs to us. We did not take one's land, that portion of land belongs to us. Before the fence was erected, Father involved the elders who witnessed the demarcation of the boundary. Those who marked the boundary did not exceed the boundary. Orie's son was also involved in the demarcation. He did not complain about any trespass by Father. He came from where he is living and did not complain. I am surprised that his mother, Orie is complaining,' she said.
In the heat of the controversy, the Igwe of Edem Ani, Sunday Asogwa, had written the priest inviting him for a dialogue.
The Igwe had in the letter accused the priest of not being amenable to peaceful settlement of the matter.
The letter which he also copied to the Catholic Bishop of Nsukka and the parish priest of Eha Amufu Holy Cross Church further alleged that the priest rebuked the Igwe's emissary and locked up the traditional orderly of the royal father at the Nsukka police station on trumped up allegation.
The Igwe's letter reads in part: 'On top of that, when efforts were being made to resolve the matter, he went further to lock up some other relatives of the widow at the police station. We now consider it necessary to bring this unbecoming incident on the part of the Rev. Fr. to your attention'.
Father Ajibo's response
Daily Sun's effort to hear from the priest who was said to have travelled abroad yielded fruit on October 29. In a telephone chat, our reporter booked an appointment at the priest's parish house, Aku in Igbo-Etiti Local Government and this dialogue ensued in the priest's car:
Daily Sun: Good day father, I want to see Father Dominic Ajibo. I have an appointment with him. I am The Sun reporter.
Father: I am Father Ajibo. I am going for a burial. Just open the car door and get inside.
Daily Sun: Father, you will recall our phone conversation. I told you, we needed your comment on an allegation by a widow who said you demolished her kitchen. I need your comment to give my story a professional balance.
Father: You did well, but you know I can't talk to you about the widow. I am a priest and anything concerning a priest concerns the church. I must obtain permission from the bishop.
Daily Sun: But the house you fenced that caused the demolition of the kitchen belongs to you, it does not belong to the church.
Father: You see, that is what I am telling you. I also read mass communication myself; you should do investigative journalism. If you want anything go to the bishop. The Igwe wrote a petition against me to the bishop.
Daily Sun: Father that is why I had to come all the way from Nsukka urban to Aku to hear from you.
Father: Well, the issue is not about demolition of kitchen. The matter is that the Igwe wants to kill my mother. I have since replied his petition, but I did not give him a copy because he did not give me a copy of his own petition.
Daily Sun: Did you say Igwe wants to kill your mother?
Father: Yes, that is what I told you.
Daily Sun: Have you reported to the police?
Daily Sun: Father, thank you for giving me a lift.