Nigerian Church ‘Bewitched’

Here in Nigeria, the unreflective rejection of all possible alternative ideas on how society could be organized, in total preference to the capitalist mode, has given rise to a variety of ways in which people in their survival bid engage the contradictions of capitalism.

The tense co-existence of poverty and wealth constitutes an embarrassing human drama that unfolds in different forms in different societies. The disintegration of the USSR is usually solicited to support our lethargic unimagination for alternative paradigm inspired by the charms of capitalism and socialism. Nor have we ever thought of considering the Chinese option of withdrawing from the world system if not for reasons of national pride, for our eyes to be clear to see and understand the trappings of global engagement. Is it possible that the current collapse of monopoly capitalism in the United States and some other West European countries could motivate some retreat in the developing countries including Nigeria?
Encouraged by the preponderant assurance of oil-based economy at home, an economy that is largely owned and controlled by oil multinationals, we became hysterical and failed to work on ourselves and map out our destination as a nation. The national drift set in motion by the private interests of public men for well over three decades, accelerated following the misfortune that befell the nation in 1999. By 2007 when the foundational phase of that misfortune ended, the scramble for the privatization of the country was complete, and the economic foundation of our nationalism destroyed. We collapsed unreservedly into a global economy as consumers of all sorts of things including social decadence.
The political aspect of our misfortune remains to be stated. And that is the total destruction of free and fair democratic election as the basis of leadership recruitment and, consequently, the destruction of the essence of democracy itself. Again, the nation became a willing victim of a devilish leviathan imposed by a handful of dangerous old men. Driven by hunger or greed or both, and totally bereft of a moral compass guided by nationalistic and patriotic fervor, the poorly educated (for the educational system had long collapsed) and lazy middle classes willingly surrendered to the occult promptings of authoritarian rule. Most of them became members of occult organizations of their mentors. Membership in cults in the Universities became valued assets for political recruitment. Supernatural forces of all kinds were employed to subdue a helpless nation. The Church which would have helped had long been “bewitched” as evidenced by strange teachings and practices completely outside the Word as it is written.
When the Amb Sam Edem saga hit the news stand, I quickly recalled John and Jean Camaroff’s thesis in the beginning of the millennium as they came up with the notion of “millennial capitalism” to highlight the tension developing everywhere in the world between increased visibility of wealth in relatively very few hands, and increased realization of large national populations that they will never have access to this wealth. They argue that it is this tension that finds expression in the proliferation of “occult economies” as the underside of formal capitalism. They conclude that witchcraft in Africa is to be seen as a manifestation of how people engage the contradictions of capitalism. Although I have never really doubted the influence of supernatural forces in African politics, my initial reaction then was to dismiss the Camaroffs’s thesis as part of the Western image of Africa as a dark and occult continent except that their conclusion of “global engagement with the occult” was not limited to Africa. 
Relating the Camaroffs’s thesis to the story of Amb. Edem and Pastor/ Occultist Perekabowei Ogar, it dawned on me that there are a variety of ways in which occult practitioners target their victims and eke out livelihoods through the operation of criminal syndicates usually using personal assistants to, and girlfriends of, people in high public positions to access and mesmerize them to have a share of the wealth they control. Amb. Sam Edem’s case is but an example. Quite often, governments, particularly those headed by fetish folks plagued with fear and limited exposure, become victims. For instance, some communities halt the opening of new roads or expansion of old ones when such roads run into a forest or an old tree believed to be a shrine. Contractors or the government concerned are usually threatened to pay some handsome amounts to facilitate the transfer of spirits to some other location. 
Sometimes occult practitioners cause rain to incessantly disturb construction work. The frustrated contractors would then be approached for money in order to procure things that would be used in appeasing the deity of the community. Perhaps the most frightening is how young men and recently women too initiate in the occult believed to insure them against bullets, machetes and other harmful weapons. Believing in such charms, and frustrated as they are because of hunger and misery arising from joblessness, they go out to rob banks and commit all sorts of criminal acts. The public including the Police also believe in the efficacy of the charms and are scared away easily when they are confronted. Before the 2007 so-called elections, weird stories were common and published in local papers of how under seven day old babies were stolen from their mothers in hospitals, young girls known to be virgins were kidnapped for occult rituals that would secure practitioners their desired public positions. Could it be that a lot of unexpected happenings in the public arena today are evidence that the nation is under the curse of the law and unrighteousness? 
One thing that cannot be doubted, however, is that Nigeria is a failed state. This of course, is no news. I have never really thought of the failure in spiritual terms given the large number of Churches and Mosques, until quite recently when I was forced by hindsight to recall how the nation accepted the pauperization of the Nigerian masses for eight years without blinking for a moment. What further evidence is needed to prove that spiritually, it has also failed if an oil producing nation with over 70% of its population living with less than one dollar a day could hail a government without any believable and people-oriented agenda of economic development? Whether it is the unenlightened and, if you like, primitive belief in and fear of occult practices is what has totally subdued the Nigerian electorate into accepting anything in the form of government over the years, or the electorate is actually subdued through the mesmeric grip of occult powers, is for the reader to decide. 
This brings to mind Edgar Wallace’s caution in 1911 that “there are many things that happen in the very heart of Africa that no man can explain; that is why those who know Africa best hesitate to write stories about it..” Perhaps if my friend and Chief Executive Officer of Newswatch, Ray Ekpu had ever read Wallace’s book Sanders of the River, he most likely would have disallowed the story about Amb Sam Edem or cast it to depict the national milieu within which the Nigerian ruling elite function either as occult practitioners, or as consumers of occult services or as victim as Amb. Edem has been. It is possible to argue that a large number of our ruling elite are occult practitioners and consumers of occult services. Those of them who claim to be Christians consult spiritual churches as if there is no difference between spiritualism and occultism. 
Recall how an Inspector -General of Police wanted to publish the names of public officials who are members of, or customers in the Okija shrine.. The effort was scuttled right from the top and the man was accused of stealing public funds and jailed. The captive nation hailed the arrest and imprisonment of the officer particularly as he was a policeman but disregarded the importance of the investigation. Of course, the issue died. Urgently needed now is a comprehensive register of occult/ secret organizations in the country and their members since the courts have never accepted nor categor
ized any known occult/secret organizations as such when members who hold public positions are challenged in the courts as being members of secret societies..
The story of Amb. Edem is like the story in the Holy Bible, John 8:3-11, where a woman was caught pants down in the act. Her accusers brought her to Jesus for possible condemnation so that she could be stoned to death. Men are never guilty and so the man was not brought along. Squatting down to scribble God knows what on the ground, Jesus’ hesitation prompted the accusers to temptingly insist to know what to do with the woman. “If there is any one of you that has not committed any sin let him be the first to pick the stone,” Jesus directed. As He looked up, the men, one after the other, had left. Looking at the woman, Jesus asked, “where are your accusers?” and the woman replied that they were all gone. Jesus healed her as He said, “Neither do I condemn you.. Go and sin no more.”
Scapegoating Amb. Edem is unnecessary and irrelevant to the needed solution; so also an investigation of the source of his travails. What is important now is the nation given its dire need of a leadership that is spiritually right with God, and, consequently capable of reorganizing governance to end the big mess aiding the luxuriant growth of occult politics and economy in the past ten years.
* Dr Anam-Ndu is Director, Center for Minority and Development Studies Uyo.    

Source: Triumph Newspapers
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