This is the first article that I am really excited at writing. My exhilaration is steeped in the knowledge that if Casmir Igbokwe’s report – Okija Shrine: Who casts the first stone? is a redoubtable one; then along with a few fellow countrymen, I am sui generis; a part of a class that have never visited or been attended by a Voodoo priest. So, here is the first stone! As it is becoming clearer that our nation and our people are of the night (a term once used to describe Michael Howard – United Kingdom Conservative Party Leader) – those of us who have mothers that believe whatever difficulties and anxieties cannot be resolved on bended knees, fasting and praying behind our closed door to the Almighty Creator is not worth craving can set our heads high; mouths agape and our Schadenfreude spirit rejoicing – ready to point fingers at revelations of those who cannot cast the first stone for soliciting Voodoo priests. Are we now set to hear of these cosmetic adherents of Christianity and other religions, who in the day are worshippers of God; and at night are at the altar of the Devil? This is big stuff. It is Voodoo Anambra, Voodoo Nigeria.
If the account of the Daily Independent Newspaper that the Pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohaneze Ndigbo, has frowned at the raid on the now infamous Okija shrine in Anambra State is true – this is unfortunate. Was it not said that the raid is a ploy to mock the Igbo? If so, it is time for a clarion call to reasonable Igbos to disassociate themselves from this mindless stance. Secretary General Joe Achuzie, who described the raid as both “ridiculous” and “condemnable”, is better described with the same adjectives. This man does not deserve to represent a people – whose culture, aspirations and adherence of Catholicism is stained by the affront of this evil. Is it that Mr. Achuzie cannot a cast a stone because his Christian beliefs also accommodate the practise of Okija Shrine? It is the words of this supposedly respectable man that ensorcell a nation. His abstruse position makes difficult to resolve a practise that fouls the environment; intimidate fellow citizens and make out our nation and the black race as cannibals and outlaws. If the Secretary General is sciolistic as his words portray him – there is a need for Ohaneze to find another man cultured in understanding, when it is appropriate to speak and when silence is better than Gold.
The utterance of Mr. Achuzie is not as important as what Okija Shrine symbolises for us as a people. It is not because the Shrine is in Anambra State that it requires national attention. Part of what Okija Shrine has exposed are not only cannibalism, ritualism and other crimes; our national system and organisation of society will be on trial and shall be terribly mocked as various shrines turn up more corpses and fetishisms. It would be of little surprise if the priests of Okija Forest and of darkness, now have to rely on the protection of patrons whose money they have collected and for whom in the past, all sorts of portions have been prepared. There would soon be a reversal of roles. It is of a medical doctor relying on his patients for prescription to alleviate or cure ailments. In this matter, evil priests will turn to powerful patrons to assist in subverting the course of justice. This must not be allowed.
I anticipate this a story that may be likened to the genesis of the arrest of Ms. Margaret MacDonald – a Brit arrested in Paris for running an international ring of high-priced call girls. Her arrest sent shivers down the spin of her rich and powerful clients. It was assumed that once she “grassed” on those clients, many of them would be in trouble. So, there was a need to protect her and the course of justice. In France – that was achieved. She was sentenced to a four-year term. American Heidi Fleiss is another Pimp that was feared would reveal the list of her clientele. Again, it was appropriate to protect her and the course of justice. As expected the law dealt with her. But, in our country – the outcome may not be the same. Would hidden secrets of the dark and of the forest overcome truth? The failure of the State will in this matter will be appalling.
Unusually, I congratulate the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun – whom I have criticised on several occasions; and Anambra State Police Commissioner, Mr. Felix Ogbaudu together with the Commander of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Mr. Gabriel Haruna. These men deserve national honours for standing against infamy and Okija Evil Forest. As more Shrines are discovered, the police need all the encouragement they can get from fellow Nigerians. This is not only a civic responsibility issue nor a moral one, it is a social contract between the forces of good and the citizen; and it is a bidding against a practise that defiles humanity. There is nothing cultural in Okija Forest. It is evil and no more.
With all the focus on the Police at this time – the only inquiry to be settled is why was an anti-robbery Unit of the Nigeria Police used in the raid? Are we to believe that the Police had no fore knowledge of the practises at Okija Shrine? If that were so, it should be understood that no one is safe in the country. What of the environmental breakdown in that part of Anambra State? Has that not bothered anyone? I remain unconvinced. There now remains the identification of the corpses. As a result of what has happened for so long a time in that forest – we may now appreciate the need for a national dental databank. With such information as it operates in developed nations – the identification of the corpses would have been a matter of seconds; and the cause of death – if firearms were used would be easy to establish. Even, where murder was by poisoning – the decomposing corpses can yield evidence. These priests may have a long and difficult ride in the arms of the law.
The ruse that some of the corpses were offered in life by the dead must be debunked. We cannot and must not proceed from such a baseless assumption. The question this begs is whether the arrested priests were regulated as providers of alternate medicine. Could they argue that they were not evil but were “healing” practitioners? This argument is hardly tenable and better not considered. So, if the corpses found were not vested in the Shrine or its Priests – the question is how they got to the forest. Are we looking at murder in some instances? As the country has no effective missing persons data does Okija not present a need for one? If one were in existence, it would have assisted in providing factual evidence. But, we have a nation that long overlooked such simple needs to protect the citizen. From this raid – the government must consider its internal affairs ministry look into provision of a missing persons databank.
Would it therefore, surprise us, if the raids do not make murderers out of the Okija priests? At least, where they have not killed directly, they may be accomplices in crimes that delivered the corpses. Or, are they just tomb-raider priests? If they have stolen the corpses from burial grounds, complexities arise as to whether they are thieves and if they are, whose are the corpses – the Estates of the deceased? The State? I cannot see how the State could claim the corpses as its properties; and neither could the Estate make a claim. This may well provide the technicality for the priests to be acquitted of theft – a lesser charge. It is imperative that where a charge of murder cannot be sustained for dry skeletons, evidence gathering must now concentrate on decomposing ones. But of what crimes could the priests be charged? Arguably, extortion, blackmail and where evidence exists, murder.
As for the Okija Evil Forest prosecutions, the Federal Government through the Attorney General should consider establishment of a special court to try these priests. Trials in a normal court will be delayed and acquittals shall result. The spectacle of the prolonged Lagos Trial of Mr. Abacha’s Chief Security Officer would also be the end game. That, in itself would grant victory to the priests. We must not allow evil the victory that it does not deserve. But then, if ineptitude sets into the equation – even the astute will start to believe in the potency of this wrong. The lesson an acquittal of the priests would deliver to society is anyone’s guess. The enshrinement of the evil practise and a foreboding for the safety of the citizen can only be two that readily come to mind.
Therefore, can the governor of Anambra State be trusted not to interfere in the prosecution of the Priests? May be – as it can be said that State Executive Governors do not interfere with prosecutions. If that is believed – it cannot be Nigeria. Well, is it not the same Anambra governor who swore to a contract with Mr. Chris Ubah at one of these Shrines? It is curious though, would the governor now confirm the sight that attended his visit to the Shrine he visited? Were there dead bodies in varying decomposed stages? What has he done to annihilate a practise he has not observed the contract sworn or one he said he did not believe?
Was it not Okey Ndibe in: “Of God and Ungodly Deeds” that demonstrated how even our young people and societal mores are constructs of Voodoo, Spiritism, Cultism, and Abracadabra beliefs. Even University students no longer believe in logic, reason, hard work and excellence. Doctors seek the Shrines to conceive children; civil servants seek them for promotions; politicians for power; spinsters and housewives to find and retain husbands; professionals for success – pecuniary and otherwise. The only favour that these priests can do for the nation is to expose their patrons. We should consider such exposure in plea-bargaining for lesser sentences. May be at last, hypocrisy and evil in the country would be rolled back a little.
Have I just stated – at last? Nay, the last of this treatise and this has troubled my mind since Okija Forest was raided. Is it possible that when a righteous man is at the helm of the affairs of a nation – God exposes evil? Is God now answering the prayers of the righteous amongst us? Is God now moving in our nation to sweep evil out of the land? I can only believe the above, if Okija is replicated from Ijebu to Ijesha; Edo to Eko; Zaria to Zunguru; Jos to Jaji; Nnewi to Nkuru; the Nigeria Police may need a new department dedicated to rooting out these evil forests. If that happens then at last excellence and hard work will be rewarded amongst us.
In closing, we must protect the whistleblower – Mr. Chukwumezie Igwe from Umuhu Village in Okija. We must not only protect him, we must celebrate him. Without the courage of a man like him, evil will continue to flourish. May I be the first to encourage our president to invite Mr. Igwe to Aso Rock to congratulate and pray for him. After all, Mr Obasanjo now has another feather to his cap. It is a feather of the opportunity to rid the nation of evil. The only instrument to bring about this feather is Mr. Igwe. It would amount to evil – if he were ignored.