Oba’s curse on kidnappers or those who aid kidnappers refines Nigerians knowledge and extends debates

Oba’s curse on kidnappers or those who aid kidnappers refines Nigerians knowledge and extends debates

Written by Odimegwu Onwumere

Security, what does this word mean in relation to life as we know it today in Nigeria? For the most part, it means safety and freedom from worry. It is said
to be the end that all men strive for, but is security a utopian goal or
is it another word for rut? All over the whole world, security has
become an issue of great concern, ranging from kidnapping, serial
killing to terrorism. Wanton kidnapping emerged in Nigeria, and has
become a herculean task to curb. Like a wild fire, it has spread too
fast to many places in Nigerian cities and villages. Hence night life
and moonlight folk tales are now turning history in our society because
no one wants to be a victim of kidnap.

In an attempt to weaken this menace, the Oba of Benin, Ereduawa Omonoba of Edo State, marshalled out the traditional
priests/priestesses of the African cultures and traditions in his
dukedom who gathered together at Urhokpota Hall in Benin to invoke
curses on all those who either kidnap or aid kidnappers as well as armed
robbers and their abetters. The Chief Priest of Benin Kingdom, Chief
Nosakhare Isekhure, said, “The exercise is to protect our people’s lives
and property as well as the government. For us, the traditionalists, we
know when crimes are going to the extreme; the police and security
agents cannot do anything. We have the power to invoke the gods of the
land and that is what we are doing right now. It is always the last
resort.” Priests from
Sango, Olokun, Aiyelala, Ashigidi, etcetera, were all dressed in their
ceremonial regalia. Sculptors, amulets, talismans, gong, etcetera was
taken round the city and some were buried. The land of Benin was cursed
orally against the men of the underworld on the 10th to 12th
of June 2010. This act, however, raised eyebrows. Different opinions
ensued among Nigerians: from the traditional and the religious
perspectives. From East, West, North and South of Nigeria, people were
either in support of the act or were against.

This writer investigated the different opinions of people on the saga and
anonymously or unanimously chronicled the opinions of the debaters. Those
that were against this practice were of the opinion that it was
illogical to be glamorizing myths and oral tradition in the 21st
Century, as opposed to written records. They said that Africans should
keep out from idol worshipping, even the moon, as a god in the name of
culture and tradition, whereas other developed worlds were busy
exploring scientific ways that would better the lots of the human race.
The documented fact that civilization began in medieval Egypt has provoked questions among scholars on when did Africa start retrogressing.

But in a twist reaction, some reminded those opposed to African beliefs to note that even the Emperor of Japan worships the Sun; and if that is the case, is Japan not far more
developed than Africa? It was argued from the supporters of the Oba’s
ordinance that those calling Africans backward people are doing so,
because their knowledge has done no single input to better Africa,
except in condemnation. They added that such people are a big tragedy to
Africa. Furthermore, they enthused that as a matter of exigency, there
is great need for those who believe in Africa to unite formidably,
without those who condemn African heritage. (“To hide under any form of education or civilisation and criticise the customs and traditions of a people that have passed
the test of time is hypocritical.").

It was a shocker that the Nigerian authorities pride in giving her
citizens freedom of worship, but only recognized and boast with
Christianity and Islam as the ‘chosen’ ones, to the detriment of the
African traditional beliefs. Against that backdrop, the Nigerian
authorities perhaps forgot that the two religions mentioned above are
alien. However, Oba’s supporters saw his act as the only way out of the
cesspit Nigeria has fallen into in moral decadence, describing
Christians who go to church on Sundays and are hell bent in seeing that
all Nigerians become Christians with their preachment that they force
down one’s throat even when the person was not ready to listen (without
many of them exhibiting what they preached) as learning the ‘truth’
only on Sundays. Otherwise christened, “Sunday-truths.”

Does it mean that without the teachings of the two alien cultures –
Christianity and Islam – that Africans had no cultural values? Many
Nigerians saw the beliefs and principles of the adherents of the two
religions as people who learn in awe, eschewing the cosmic ways of life
that are deep-rooted in the African cultures and traditions. Criticisms
had trailed the Oba’s action from the unbelievers of the Oba’s action.
They attributed his action to the axiom: "With Faith, you can move
mountains".

However, they do not believe that the curse would have any effect on those it
was intended for. They gave their examples thus: “Everybody will sagely
nod their head in agreement when you utter that sentiment. But, does
anyone really believe it? If Mountain Everest has to be moved or
levelled, will faith be the chosen tool? When Aso Rock (Nigeria’s
citadel of power) was carved out from a small mountain, was faith
deployed? Of course, not! Bombs and excavation tools were
the chosen tools, so the theory that faith can move mountains is just
feel-good Sunday-truth to be professed in awe, but never acted upon.
Similarly, the theory that swearing on the Holy Bible or placing a curse
will deter criminal and kidnapping
activity is no different”.

While many gave their explications that hammer could be supplemented with a
heavy metal in nailing things down the wood, meaning that the Oba’s
curse was divine, some felt that Nigerians didn’t know the bottom-line.
“Here is the bottom line: A hammer is the right tool for nailing things
down, but it is not the correct tool for laundry. Similarly, curses and
vigils are not at all the way to stop criminal and kidnapping activity.”

It wasn’t too long this curse was placed in Benin than the ‘insurgents’ wrecked havoc in Abia State, some kilometres from Edo State, and some traditional rulers and
police officers were arrested for their alleged involvement in abetting
the kidnappers to carry-out their nefarious activities. Before this
arrest, it was awash on the media among Nigerians that they knew who the
criminals were. “We know the criminals. We know where
they hide. Where kidnapping is worse, we know who provides logistic
cover – the Police. We know above all the social conditions that ferment
this predictable decadence of community values. So, all these prayers
and vigils and Babalawo curse-sessions are just beating around
the
bush. They are creating useless hope while the problem gets worse. We
are wasting our own time. When we get serious about solving the problem,
we will take the battle to the enemy.”

Following the contribution above, many Nigerians were in contemplative opinions
of the efficacy of the curse with reference to government officials
taking oath of office with the Holy Bible and Quran and yet deep their
necks down the depth of corruption, what the tendency that Oba’s curse
would act magic. “You hit the nail on the head! When Nigerian
politicians swear with the Bible or Quran and hear the thunderous
preaching of the pastor on Sunday and Imam on Friday, do they deter them
from crime and corruption?”

Some of the people were of the opinion that even the clerics in the alien
religions were not free and left out from corruption and it could be the
reason the oath of office the politicians take doesn’t have adverse
effect on them when they do the contrary. “Criminals and looters, even
the ones in religion-infested Nigeria, are no fools. They know Amadioha will not strike anybody down. They know that the Babalawo
curses don't work. They don't expect to spend an eternity in hell for
looting the money that was budgeted for the maternity ward or for
murdering one million Biafran infants.”

To a large extent, questions and questions were brewing over the curses
individuals rain on the alleged thieving politicians, kidnappers and
criminals. “The important question is whether these paranormal measures,
whether Christian, Islamic or Voodoo really work.” The argument splat
Nigerians in the public parliament; a Nigerian threw in his hat in
questioning the supremacy of the analyst above on the things of Africans
traditional matters and their culture, describing him as one of those
who still believe in the myth that Satan is a Black man while Angel, a
White man.

“There you go again, writing about things you're not qualified to write about. How many Babalawos have you consulted? You guys tend to believe anything Western
scientists say even without proof. For example, you believe everything
they say about their encounters on the moon but you have no empirical
proof that they are telling you the truth. You are educated in Western
ways but can't use the Western ways to achieve anything because the
deeper secrets about certain Western things are hidden from the
‘third-worlders’ as you.”

He went further to cite his proof using the chemistry behind the nuclear bomb mechanization as an example of the truths the West hide from the ‘third-worlders’. “You
may have PhD in physics, chemistry and whatnot, but the secrets to some
of their deepest research will never be revealed to you. What then can
you do with your Western education? For certain, it has confused you
enough to speak on matters such as Babalawos that you have never
experienced. I however supposed that the empiricism of the Western
culture which I assume you have imbibed would have led you to seeking
the truth about Babalawos before you claimed their curses don't
work. Several Europeans have written on their experiences
with so called "voodoo or juju". Stephen Farrow, a 1926 missionary to
Abeokuta was one of them. Believe me; you don't want to be on the
receiving end of a spiritual attack from a Babalawo. And, that is a fact. Denounce it at your own peril.”

They admonished Nigerians that they will realize that the progress made in
contemporary civilization, the advances in science and technology and
the progress in human and societal developments are all associated with
the OPENNESS of knowledge promoted by Oyibo. “There are ways to
retain proprietary rights to knowledge and its application, and societal
laws have addressed most of these; however, the time-tested truism
about knowledge is that the BEST APPROACH to derive the optimum benefits
from knowledge is to OPEN IT UP and make it available to all persons,
cultures and perspectives. Such an approach will likely further refine
the knowledge and extend its application beyond the wildest imagination
of the originators.”

Does the African traditional knowledge still lies in secrecy and myths? “One
can’t speak of it. People are afraid of abuses; people don’t trust
themselves and each other. Consequently, Africa
suffers in all sectors, considered to be contributing little beyond
arts to contemporary civilization, and reduced to a dumping ground for
stale technologies and vague knowledge the people can’t apply to their
daily lives. Thus, Africa continues to lag behind and suffer... You and I
are the Africans you are talking about. The ball is in our court now;
let us play the game. What are we waiting for before we handle knowledge
to make progress? Don't we think that we have what it takes to achieve
these objectives? Or, do we think that our Western ways of education
we received are not enough to do something now?”

While it was said that Africa continued to lag behind and suffer, Africans
have been admonished to take care and must do a re-think about how they
handle knowledge so that they could make progress. “What we are waiting
for to utilize African knowledge and traditional practices to advance
Africa? I just said that a fundamental element in the use and
application of knowledge is THE OPENNESS and ACCESS to the traditional
knowledge by scientists or others, who then apply contemporary
analytical and production methods to translate the knowledge into
societal benefit/use...”

For instance, the formula (knowledge) of Egbe was asked, invisibility, gun-proof. Somebody said that all sorts of
supernatural stories are associated with the knowledge about why it
cannot be available to everybody and familiar tales about the spiritual
consequences of mishandling the knowledge; and on the end, Africans will
go nowhere. “That is our main problem. One solution to this problem is
to write a book on the formulary of African traditional knowledge. That
way, the knowledge and the cautionary statements or warnings will be
there for people to experiment and verify the claims independently. That
is how empiricism is built with knowledge, how knowledge is better
translated and applied and how knowledge wins regards and respect for
its merit and
for the originator.”

The people argued that the world people do a lot of heinous things to
humankind for economic want. They ascribe that even as dangerous as
radioactivity is, people have published volumes to keep the knowledge of
it for posterity. “The knowledge is out there. People have even
published the contents of the 7 Books of Moses and the Tora that are
thought to contain magical formulary used by early Jews, from Moses in
the Exodus, to Joshua, Elijah, King David and King Solomon. People
(Africans) are free to follow suit and acquire the knowledge and verify
their claims, if they so wished. So, why are African knowledge and
traditional practices still shrouded in myths, mysteries and
superstitions?”

Adherents and adept believers in the African knowledge and traditional practices
were admonished to publish a book on them and that African scientists
will take it from there. “Mind you, the formula associated with these
African knowledge and traditional practices should not require something
out of the ordinary (e.g., human body parts, toxic wastes, etc), that
will give us problems. Take care... On the contrary, we can't have the
knowledge free. We have to pay the prize in money and time to learn the
science behind the traditional medicine, Ho! Ha!
To have access to European knowledge you and I paid. Why shouldn't we be willing to respect whatever is our own?”

From the opinions, it was gathered that the bane of African history was the
dearth in the art of chronicling events, because according to the
people, the European knowledge is available in schools, training centres
and vocational institutions, but an opinion said that Africans are not
gluttons who sell knowledge for money. The question is: where is the
African traditional knowledge? Is there any authentic published works?
“Why do you say show you authentic published works. Have you any
authentic work in any library in Nigeria I can lay my hands on right now
on anything about African you have written to promote African ways of
life? Have you gone to Oba's kingdom to register for a course in their
science? Have you shown any interest to learn the ways of your
fathers, which is free? I don't think so from your actions toward
anything Africa.”

One man commented, rebuffing an attack on him by a member, saying that he
had not shown himself as an adept of African traditional knowledge. He
said that he was using the medium to ask whether there are published
works on African beliefs to educate him because, according to him, most
of what he had heard were shrouded in secrecy, myths and superstitions,
similar to what people know about the traditional knowledge of the
Arthurian era of Britain.
To him, contemporary civilization is going past that era. Therefore,
those who are frequently taking refuge in the demagoguery of “African
This, African That”, should lead the way in showing to people the meat
that is inherent in African knowledge, without resorting to secrecy,
myths and superstitions of course.
Thus, he asked, “Where is the beef?”

While he argued that he needed to see books with formulary on African
traditional knowledge which he said would challenge people to experiment
with them independently and Africans will know they got something and
not keep swimming in the benefits/use of the Open and Available
Knowledge of other people, riding fancy cars, flying planes, living in
comfortable air-conditioned homes, using the Internet, telephones
etcetera, one other person said: “...I have seen a book on workplace
Voodoo. The problem in Nigeria is with thieves, kidnapping, etc. You can
write a book on how to make a band of thieves dance around in someone's
compound in confusion until the morning when the owner of the house
wakes up to hand the thieves over to the authorities. Am I day
dreaming? African tradition works!!! Tell us how to solve the problems
in society.”


Odimegwu Onwumere, Poet/Author and Media Consultant, is the Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA), Rivers State. Mobile: +2348032552855. Email: apoet_25@yahoo.com

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