By Erasmus Ikhide
LAST week Friday, the ancient City of Benin was rapped around by red apparels-wearing chiefs, priests, witch doctors and sorcerers on the auspices of the Benin Monarch, Omo Nova N’ Edo Ukuakpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare 11 to purge and exorcise the City and its environs of the infamy known as the City of “blood and prostitution”. The purpose of the rituals was to deactivates and/or activates deities, grooves, shrines, idols and other deified antiquities in a bid to blend ancient and modern in the Monarch’s shrive to ride Benin Kingdom off the disheartening social strives that has enveloped the State, desecrated the land and debased our humanity, as a people.
It will be recalled that sometimes in July 2011, Oba Erediauwa who has joined his ancestors activated a similar ritual on some unknown group of cultists who had beheaded one Endurance Obanor, a 100-level student of the College of Education, Ekiadolor, stuffed his mouth with grass and posted his severed head on a metal school gate! A month later, Edo State Police Command arrested two of the suspects – Osagie Omorodion (23) and David Odigie (24). Both Omorodion and Odigie were said to have participated in the killing of Endurance, a member of a rival cult group. Omorodion (aka Musa), told journalists that fighting broke out among the two rival gangs, the Neo-Black Movement (aka Black Axe) and the Eiye confraternity, resulting in casualties on both sides.
In a similar incident in May 21, 2015 the Edo State Police Command through its then Spokesman, Mr. Emmanuel Ojukwu paraded 41 suspected cultists, including 30 Auchi Polytechnic students who were arrested for allegedly killing members of the public and destroying property. Eleven of the suspects were alleged cult leaders. The rest were students and artisans who have played various roles in the recent crimes plaguing Edo State.
Mr. Ojukwu had further stated that the suspects were nabbed by an Anti-Cultism team recently set up by the then Inspector General of the Police, Solomon Arase. In his words, “the suspects who are leaders of cult confraternities are being interrogated for their conspiratorial involvement in the murder of ten Nigerians. The Black Axe Confraternity, Nosman Confraternity, and Judas Confraternity were among the names of the cults involved in the killings”.
These are very few reported cases of mass killings resulting from cult related violence or Community Development Associations (CDA) motivated bloodbath in the State that prides itself famously as the ‘Heart Beat’ of the Nation. In 2013, yours sincerely became a victim of the CDA motivated blood-soaked enterprise that happened between Amagbon and Evbukhu communities land’s profiteering. Several lives were lost and property worth millions of naira destroyed including building consisting of six number flats of three bedrooms was grounded in a matter of days, while the police failed to intervene but rather entertained themselves with the orgy of violence as it unfolded.
The seeming impunity with which these violence erupts and hopelessness of the security agencies to contain the perpetrators has again led credence to the activation of deified antiquities which appears to have been accepted for their efficiency and effectiveness in arresting the orgies of violence from non state actors. Through Chiefs, the Odioweres, (clan leaders ), Priests, sorcerers and sorceresses, witch doctors— the Benin monarch placed curses on all the pastors, churches, individuals, groups, families and parents, who sponsor, promote, indulge, contract or participate or encourage perpetrators in any of the vices that has defiled the present security architecture. Also cursed were the native doctors who also subject the perpetrators of the heinous crimes to oath of secrecies, cultists, violators of the order banning the activities of the Community Development Associations and others whose businesses are to initiate the sons and daughters of the ancient Kingdom into various cult groups.
The Benin monarch further warned those aiding and abetting human trafficking through the use of black magic and subjecting the victims to the oaths of secrecies to desist or face the wrath of the gods and the ancestors of the land. In his own words, he said “You native doctors whose business are to subject people to the oath of secrecies and encouraging this evil act on the land, you have to repent, stop doing it. “We want to use this medium to tell those who are under any oaths of secrecies that they are now free. We revoke the oath today,” he encouraged the victims.
Now, Oba Ewuare’s alliance with chief priests and some palace chiefs, placing deadly curses on sponsors and perpetrators of all forms of social vices that hinder development in the state and those putting the image of the Kingdom at disrepute has been received with mixed feelings. Apart from priests, priestesses, traditional religious worshippers, Benin chiefs, dukes, village heads, market women, shrine worshippers who were in attendance, Directors and officials of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) as well as the diplomatic corps and security agencies were in attendance.
Is anyone surprised that of the nearly 5,000 Libyan returnees or repatriated Nigerian migrants — those who died in the desert or submerged in the Mediterranean Sea unaccounted for are 85% Edo State origin? What does that say about the people and the successive political leadership of the State? What is the present government doing to bring the scourge to an abrupt or instalmental end?
Strictly speaking, who can then fault the Monarch’s patronage of the traditional means of social control to boost the nation’s security architecture which appears to have failed? Why will the State House of Assembly abandon the legislation against human trafficking and elect instead, to legislate itself into bondage by rejecting autonomy for itself, local government and the judiciary?
Shouldn’t the Monarch be praised for adopting traditional means or ‘ancient science’ to solve our modern day crises resulting from some of the rebellious African children visited upon the continent that is now threatening to erase her humanity? Africa is the only continent on the planet earth that has failed to develop her medieval science methodology to the point of acceptability in solving social problems imposed on her by modernization.
The crises of human trafficking, cultism and other acts of violence associated with the CDA have all conspired to threaten to erase Edo State, using global indices of civilization. For instance, the total collapse of the family, educational, political, economical and religious institutions put in place to secure and safeguard our primordial civilization is a culprit. It’s now common place in Benin City to see some pre and/or post secondary school students soliciting for a pay for sex to fend for their family upkeep! It’s even more debasing when families now boastfully pound their chests to announce the number of their children whom they have sponsored abroad usually by land through the Sahara desert enroute Europe with most of these not having basic skills nor education. Most of these parents would have sold off their thriving businesses and sometimes their houses.
More damming — on the other hand — is the fact that nobody aspires to become successful in Edo State politically. This is because no one can except s/he must one way or the other belong to a member of the deadly cult groups. Yet, in the midst of these one is rattled by government’s casual and shallow approach to bringing these known charlatans and the vices to book. We want to see Edo State Government on the auspices of Mr. Godwin Obaseki convoke inter-institutional conference to address the menace of unwarranted blood letting and human trafficking. His government can come up with educational policy such as the one being implemented in Kaduna State where parents who refuse to send their kids to schools to be educated are liable to be imprisoned for upward of 10 years.
It is the wide acceptability if the Benin Monarch’ recipe that we call on other Monarchs and traditional rulers in other troubled parts of Nigeria and indeed Africa to look inwards in proferring workable solutions. The trouble with Nigeria in particular and Africa in general is that the more we pretend to run away from our culture and tradition, the more we’re closer to it. More than 80% of pastors, Reverend fathers and bishops in Edo and elsewhere in Nigeria and other African countries who lay claims to civilisation, Christianity and Islam run to witch doctors whenever their fortunes or health take debilitating bashes.
We love to be seen as being civilised without abiding by the ethos of civilization. We like to outperform those who sold their cultures and religions to us without competencies and honesty. We mimick them by the way they dress, eat, make money, organise our society in their own stead, even to die and be buried in their styled tomb without recourse to here and the hereafter. That’s why Africa will remain a basket case if it refuses to revisit her original civilization.
Erasmus, A Public Affairs Analyst writes from Lagos
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