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Explainer: Magoha’s funeral procession and Nigerian burial rites

By Winnie Mabel February 8th, 2023 3 min read

The late Prof George Magoha was one of Kenya’s top academic giants. His sudden death shocked the country having just left senior civil service as the cabinet secretary of Education- having overseen the transition of the Kenyan education system from the 8-4-4 to the Competency Based Curriculum.

He left behind a widow, Dr Barbara Odudu Essien Magoha, who is Nigerian, a son, Dr Micheal Magoha and one grandchild.

The late Magoha is set to be buried at his home in Umiru Nyamninia, Yala on February 11, 2023. There will be several funeral processions to various institutions around the country before he is laid to rest.

The first of these processions took place on Wednesday (February 8). The procession first headed to the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists’ Union (KMPDU) accompanied by two police outriders, his family as well as Igbo traditional mourners who sang and danced to traditional Nigerian dirges.

Also read: All set for Prof Magoha’s burial as family announces details

The procession will thereafter head to Kenyatta National Hospital, Kenya National Examinations Council headquarters, St Georges Primary, State House Girls, University of Nairobi and Starehe Centre – all institutions where the late Magoha spent part of his life.

According to Chief Pauline George Otieno, a Nigerian married to a Kenyan man, and the leader of the Nigerian procession accompanying the late Prof Magoha, explained the significance of these processions.

“His wife is celebrating her husband’s life and that’s why you see we are going from place to place where he served tirelessly. So for us, we are here to celebrate him. I’m a triple chief from Nigeria, that’s why I’m leading this delegation,” the chief explained.

So for us it is a very serious thing. If we were back home, we would have walked all the way from the morgue to here. But because we are now in a civilized nation, and you see how well fed we are, that’s why we are going halfway and stopping, and then continuing,” she added.

Also read: Magoha’s widow shares memories of how she met her late husband

She further explained that people should not think they are not mourning because they are doing it the Nigerian way. She told Nairobi News that they remember Prof Magoha for the good works he did in his lifetime.

“We are not mourning like people who have no hope. A king does not die, he transits. Everyone whom he impacted will continue from where he stopped. He has handed over the baton to us and that’s why you see those of us dancing are younger than him. Anyone older than him will not dance. We are his legacy, each and every one of you Kenyans are his legacy,” she explained.

She said in Nigeria, the late Magoha’s casket would not have been inside the car but carried on pallbearers’ shoulders. For those dressed in costumes appearing to be spirits, Chief Pauline said this was a masquerade signifying that they are spirits who have come to mourn their fellow spirit.

In some Nigerians communities, it is believed a deceased person becomes an ancestor upon death and will reincarnate; therefore, no expense should be spared in preparation for their funeral and burial to honor them.

Also read: We owe this man so much: Uhuru pays glowing tribute to Magoha

Some families hire performers for entertainment, and this can be a symbol of status. Further, in the Igbo culture, a funeral is cause for celebrating the deceased’s new life as an ancestor.

“Families often hire expensive bands to sing and dance throughout the village. They are also a tribute to the deceased. Family members worry that without these multi-day performances, the deceased will be unhappy. Then their spirit won’t cross over or they won’t be able to become an ancestor,” reported Nigerian publication, Cake.

When it comes to attire, Nigerians wear white as a celebratory colour and guests pick either black or red clothes. Women are expected to cover their hair with a scarf to show respect to the family of the deceased.

It is also reported that the Igbo tribe also holds second burial rites – a celebration of the dead – that is held between weeks or a year from the first burial.

It will be interesting to see what will be done for the late Prof Magoha.

Also read: Magoha’s family of doctors: Urologist, gynecologist and neurosurgeon

Check out the funeral procession below.

Nigerians honour the late professor George Magoha in style during the funeral procession in Nairobi #Magoha #procession #funeral #fyp #viral

♬ original sound – Nairobi News