Nigeria’s Omugwo (Postpartum Care) Problems

November 20, 2018 Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

EU/ECHO photo



Prince Charles Dickson



Last week, Damilola Dimeji-Ajayi wrote on ‘Omugwo: Understanding The Culture Behind Igbo’s Traditional Postpartum Care‘.


I love the fact that possibly a Yoruba person had taken the pain to do an enquiry on the subject matter, and arrived very near at conclusions of facts. I will just do a few add ons and them my admonition to beloved Nigerians will suffice.


Babies make us happy as they serve as a physical reminder of the love between the couple. Nigeria at independence was supposed to make the world happy, it had prospects, a future, great one at that, it was supposed to be the giant elephant… with resources of all types. After delivery, the baby has to be cared for which can be challenging for first-time parents. In Nigeria, various tribes have various practices to accommodate a new baby into the family like “omugwo for Igbo”, “ojojo omo for Yoruba” and “umaan for Akwa Ibom…(In Hausa we call it wanka’n jego).


Sadly we either refused to accommodate ourselves, how much more the baby. We did not know exactly what we wanted, whether it was a marriage of love, convenience, arrangement, or whether infact the baby itself was a product of love, rape, adultery, fornication or simply an orphan.


Omugwo is a traditional Igbo custom for postpartum care by the mother of the couple. The importance of this practice is that it helps the new mother to ease into her new role through the experience of the mother (husband or wife). Really it is the mother of the bride that comes, and she after three months she leaves with goodies…in Yoruba culture it is the groom’s mother.


During omugwo, it’s the responsibility of the mother (of the husband or wife) to put her through what she needs to eat to help with milk production for the baby’s consumption, Swedish massage techniques and hot water therapy.


After childbirth, the grandmother helps the new mother with hot water therapy and sitz bath. Hot water therapy involves soaking a cloth in hot water and using it to massage the new mother’s belly. Sitz bath is a necessary practice if the new mother gave birth vaginally so that blood clots in her womb can come out so she can heal properly internally.


The new mother will be given spicy foods such as pepper soup to help to flush out unwanted blood clots in her body and help to boost breast milk production. Pap is also another food option given to the new mother as it helps to boost her breast milk supply.


After-birth care, omugwo, is necessary so that the new mother can rest well to regain her strength. The practice of omugwo is helpful although there might be friction between the new mother and the mother of the husband or wife because of conflict in ideas.


The question therefore is who was responsible for the omugwo of Nigeria, is that the grandmother purposely refused to put us through what we needed to eat to help with milk production for our consumption, Swedish massage techniques and hot water therapy.


What went wrong after our birth as a people, okay, looks like our grandmother did not help us with hot water therapy and sitz bath. Our soaking in hot water and massage on the new belly was done in anger or maybe never done or we refused the offer. We did not get the benefit of the necessary practice of sitz bath so that so that blood clots in our womb can come out so she can heal properly internally.



Let me look at a few cases, last week the Chairman, Congress of Northern Nigeria Christians (CNNC), David Kadzia, asked the national president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Dr. Supo Ayokunle, to quit over alleged plans to sell the association to a political party.


This came barely three weeks after the vice president, Prof. Joseph Otubu, had written a petition against the president over fraud. In a statement issued yesterday in Yola by Kadzia, after eight hours closed-door meeting with CAN chairmen of the 19 northern states, the group said that the allegations of fraud and secret romance with the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) affected the integrity of the association.


According to the statement, instead of the president to defend the weighty allegations of fraud against him by his deputy, he formed a committee in CAN to sweep the matter under the carpet.


The group claimed to have evidence of Ayokunle defrauding the association of over N2.8 billion during his tenure through collection of rents from the association’s guest house, parking space hired by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), office spaces, conference hall and other CAN property.


“CAN cannot be turned to a political wing of any political party. What APC leaders don’t know is that we, Christians in Nigeria, have lost confidence in Osibanjo, the SGF and other Christians serving in the present administration. We can only support those that can protect Nigerians.” The group asked Ayokunle to come out clean and defend the official vehicles purchase scandal that involves over N1.8 billion raised in the petition of his deputy.


What manner of Omugwu…If the Christians are not at it and themselves, the Muslims whether Shi’ites or Sunnis simply go for it like in Kaduna where Abdulganiyu Alabi aptly captures our omugwo issues, “Despite the fact that the electorate will determine who governs them in Kaduna State in 2019, a lot of interest is generated by the choice of Hadiza Balarabe as running mate to Governor Nasir el-Rufai. The reason is that Balarabe, like el-Rufai is a Muslim.


By the peculiar nature of Kaduna State, the choice of backgrounds of political actors has capacity to enhance or diminish overall presentation of a party in the eyes of a perceptive audience.


Considering the ethno-religious configuration of the state, notable political platforms that underwent primaries recently, invested immensely in choice of candidates and their flag bearers. This was to ensure that the overall interest of the majority was a crucial part of that determination.


Truth be told we have not ceased behaving like a people that lack Postpartum Care, those responsible for our omugwo failed us, as a people we equally have made no effort in correcting the manner in which our “ojojo omo” was carried out, we blame everything, and everyone but our “umaan or wanka’n jego”. We kill ourselves, hate ourselves, despise our leaders and not that they have given us much to respect. We continue to suffer the sins of our fathers, and in cases mothers, nothing seems to have changed. We take few steps forward and derive joy in retrogressive steps, promissory notes of a bright future keep falling and failing like a pack of cards, how long, and do we ever want to get anything right—Only time will tell.






Prince Charles Dickson

Currently Prince Charles, is based out of Jos, Plateau State, and conducts field research and investigations in the Middle Belt Region of Nigeria with an extensive reach out to the entire North and other parts. Prince Charles worked on projects for UN Women, Search for Common Ground, and International Crisis Group, among others. He is an alumnus of the University of Jos and the prestigious Humanitarian Academy at Harvard and Knight Center For Journalism, University of Texas at Austin. A doctoral candidate of Georgetown University

Born in Lagos State (South West Nigeria), Prince Charles is proud of his Nigerian roots. He is a Henry Luce Fellow, Ford Foundation grantee and is proficient in English, French, Yoruba Ibo and Hausa. Married with two boys, and a few dogs and birds.

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