“Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings” Provers 31:3 (KJV)
By Sotonye Iyuye Dagogo
History is adorned with exploits of women; some heroic and valiant; others atrocious and villainous. Women build men and empires and bring down kings and kingdoms.
Apart from the overriding love for God and humanity, the other driving force that propelled High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs from the proverbial grass to grace; from a hand truck pusher to a household name and from an agricultural labourer to an oil mogul - the unquenchable zeal that propelled him through his checkered life history, was the institutionalization of the Lulu-Briggs family within the pantheon of the Young-Briggs chieftaincy stool and the Oruwari Briggs House of Abonnema.
High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs spearheaded a renaissance that restored the pride of place to the Young-Briggs stool and the Oruwari Briggs House of Abonnema, recounting history and erecting monuments, whilst announcing the strong presence of the Lulu-Briggs family among the great families and houses in Kalabari Kingdom.
All of these are at the brink of destruction and are about to be consigned into the dustbin of history, ruined by the ongoing feud within the Lulu-Briggs family since the death of the patriarch.
The family is entangled in a succession and inheritance battle to determine who is the proper person to spearhead and ensure the permanency of the Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs legacy.
But history is replete with stories of how Kingdoms, communities and families go into long and arduous search for worthy successors to uphold the cherished legacies of forbearers and ancestors.
King Saul was anointed because he was head and shoulder above his peers and King David was chosen because he had fought off lions from devouring the family herd. King Amachree was a warrior King that led his people to war against enemies.
But the conflict in the Lulu-Briggs family is that of “minimalization”, the act of reducing the bar, even when there are ready and very capable hands to fly the family flag. Unfortunately, those who are propagating these aberrations, cling on to feminist and anti-cultural sentiments, without also upholding truth and rectitude, even as they say that they are pastors.
At the center of the crisis are the second son of the late High Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs, Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs, who is the incumbent chief of the family and the all-powerful widow of the late High Chief, Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs.
How did Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs acquire so much powers and influence in her husband's family, to the extent of pushing for her younger children to supersede the older sons of her husband, considering that she was married to Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs for only 16 years of his 88 years on earth and got married to him when he was already well established at 72 years old and she in her early 40s.
*Agrippina complex and the Lulu-Briggs family crisis: Comparative analysis*
The story of Empress Agrippina of Rome sheds light on the puzzle in the Lulu-Briggs house of Abonnema. How Agrippina schemed to marry Claudius, lured him to adopt her son Nero, allegedly killed her husband and ultimately installed her son as emperor over Emperor Claudius' biological son, Britannicus.
The term “Agrippina Complex” is used here to encapsulate the complicated and difficult behaviour of a woman, as exhibited by Mrs. Seinye Lulu-Briggs, in her uncontrollable desire for wealth and power, often of suicidal proportion, that destroys everything in its path to achieve that desire.
It is adapted from Sigmund Freud's “Oedipus Complex” which the Austrian psychoanalyst derived from Sophocles Tragedy (drama), "Oedipus Rex" in which King Oedipus of Thebes unwittingly fulfilled a prophecy to kill his father and marry his mother.
The Agrippina story has a lot of similarities with the ongoing crisis in the Lulu-Briggs family. Julia Agrippina was a Roman Empress who lived from A.D. 15 to 59. She was the mother of Emperor Nero and was overwhelmed by the uncontrollable desire for wealth and influence which brought unspeakable sorrow on the Roman Empire.
The quest to make her son Emperor, saw Agrippina scheming her way to become Emperor Claudius wife in an intriguing story full of betrayals and murders. She was ruthless, ambitious, violent and domineering but physically very beautiful and was a woman of means.
Following the killing by Emperor Claudius of Messalina (his third wife), who was his wife for 10 years, Agrippina became Emperor Claudius wife. She was recommended to the Emperor by one of his advisers, Marcus Pallas, who was Agrippina's lover at the time. Claudius had accused Messalina of treason.
Agrippina's marriage to Claudius was not based on love, but for power. It was her third marriage and the fourth for Claudius and she became an Empress and the most powerful woman in the Roman Empire.
Agrippina came into the marriage with a son from her previous marriage and lured Claudius to adopt him. Claudius did and renamed him, Nero. This is significant because Agrippina would exert great influence over Claudius regarding the advancement of her biological son, in spite of being the stepmother of her husband's children from previous marriages, prominent among them were a female, Octavia and a son, Britannicus, children of the slain Messalina.
Empress, Agrippina eliminated anyone from the imperial court who she thought was loyal and dedicated to the memory of her husband's former wife, Messalina. She also eliminated or removed anyone she considered a potential threat to her position and the future of her son.
Agrippina systematically took control of the Imperial government while Claudius was left to appear as a figurehead in front of his wife's real power.
Meanwhile Agrippina's son, Nero continued to be advanced as the heir to Claudius while she deprived Claudius biological son, Britannicus of his heritage and further isolated him from his father and succession to the throne.
By the time Emperor Claudius repented marrying Agrippina and adopting Nero and began to favor his son, Britannicus, and preparing him for the throne, it was too late.
By 54 AD, Agrippina was secured enough in her position, and that of her son, that she no longer needed Claudius to rule the empire. She took matters into her own hands. On October 13, AD 54, Claudius died while attending a feast.
There are conflicting reports on how Claudius died but most indicated that he was poisoned by tainted mushrooms, even though Claudius had reached the venerable age of 64 (quite advanced for the ancient world, though not uncommon among the aristocracy) and had shown a history of poor health.
Regardless, the scheming of Agrippina proved fruitful and the 16-year-old Nero was immediately hailed as the new Emperor without any consideration for Claudius' biological son, Britannicus.
Like Agrippina, Seinye the wife of High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs is physically beautiful and is a woman of means. She has shown evidence of ruthlessness and a domineering character as can be adduced from some of her recent posturing in the ongoing family dispute, especially her blatant refusal to release the corpse of her husband to his family of origin and to his chiefs.
The manner Seinye became the wife of Chief O. B Lulu-Briggs after the ousting of his wife of seven years, Madam Udakwu Lulu-Briggs, nee Obiora, is reminiscent of the introduction of Agrippina to Emperor Claudius.
Like Marcus Pallas, Dumo Lulu-Briggs was the matchmaker who brought Seinye to his father straight from the cell of the Olu-Obasanjo police station in Port Harcourt where she was allegedly locked up by the W.W. White family for financial impropriety. Seinye was Dumo's friend but not his lover like Agrippina was to Pallas. Dumo and Seinye were friends all the same.
The choice of Seinye by Dumo has brought untold crisis to the Lulu-Briggs family just as Pallas choice of Agrippina brought a terrible twist of fate into the life of Emperor Claudius and the Roman Empire.
Like Agrippina and Emperor Claudius, Seinye married Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs as her second husband and became the fourth or fifth wife in his life and the most powerful person in the family, although she has two daughters of her own out of wedlock.
Like the marriage of Agrippina to Claudius, the marriage of Seinye to the ailing Lulu-Briggs who was 72 years old at the time, was said to be more for what she can get than for her love for the old man. This is supported by how Seinye brought in a grown child into her new marriage and like Agrippina, she is advancing her own biological daughter over her husband's older sons. Seinye would not have married O.B. Lulu-Briggs if he were a pauper.
Seinye is scheming to make her own adopted children the inheritors of Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs estate in total exclusion of his older biological sons, Senibo, Dumo and Sofiri, just like Agrippina made Claudius to adopt her son as his heir.
Another trait of Agrippina exhibited by Seinye is the maligning of the older sons; accusing them of abandoning their father just to cast them in bad light and claim her husband's estate for herself and her children.
Above all, Seinye systematically took over the Lulu-Briggs business empire while High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs was still alive and made him play the role of mere figure head while she wielded all the real powers.
Just as Emperor Claudius, in his last days, regretted adopting Agrippina's son Nero and began to prepare his biological son, Britannica as heir, Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs began to favour Dumo as his heir but like Claudius, Chief Lulu-Briggs also had to die.
Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs and Emperor Claudius both died in controversial circumstances. Claudius was alleged to have been poisoned at the age of 64 which was quite advanced for the ancient world and Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs died at over 88, buoyed by modern medical sciences; Claudius had a history of poor health so was O. B. Lulu-Briggs.