I felt that it was necessary that I talk about this issue especially as regards to my people. My people here is in reference to the Akwa-Ibomites. This was necessary after I wrote THE TRAVAILS OF MFON and where regrettably I could not come to defend my character and story due to extreme circumstances purely beyond my control. Needless to say that the story was not purely fiction and even though most of us have heard about some so-called Men of God and their atrocities, the story gets crazier – for lack of a better word- as new twisted exploits by these men/women are perpetrated. THE TRAVAILS OF MFON happened to a distant relative and caused so much havoc that I felt that what ‘Christianity’ has done to my people has to be documented for posterity sake. I will try to be objective even though I might lean more towards the side of the victims.
Akwa-Ibom was carved out from Cross-River in September, 1987 and her religion has been the orthodox form of Christianity and paganism. I put the two religions together because almost every church goer still had a tie to one god perhaps not intentionally as some were bound to these gods through the activities of their ancestors. But then again, I am not writing on paganism but Christianity and its abuse.
Almost every Akwa-Ibomite can boast of a tie to the Methodist Church. This was the first church to be established and to which many people attended because it brought a sense of belonging to its worshippers. The Methodist Church is like the Catholic Church to the Igbos, a church that can lay claim to almost half of the citizens in the state. Perhaps it would have been best if nothing had happened to change everything. But it did because people were still not content. It will be erroneous to believe that there were no other orthodox churches like the Catholic, Anglican or Pentecostal churches like the Apostolic and its likes but the Methodist was a church of the people. Most people had believed that in leaving other gods behind, their worries would become a thing of the past; there will be no more sudden deaths and misfortunes but this was not the case and this led to the establishments of prayer houses. These secret prayer houses were in the homes of acclaimed prophetesses as the church frowned against any gathering outside that announced by the church. It also frowned against too much spiritualism, by this I mean, speaking in tongues, visions and the likes; activities that were touted by these prayer houses to be more effective.
These prayer houses were headed by women called the prophetess who saw visions and ‘helped’ prevent misfortunes. I cannot readily proffer reasons to why it was started by the women. Nevertheless, these women still attended regular churches but now had a side thing which the church was unaware of. Needless to say that the church later got wind of these activities and in a bid to put a stop to it threatened such women with a suspension from the church. Perhaps, the threat came a little too late because by these time some women cared little about such pronouncement and left the church of their own accord going ahead to establish their prayer houses openly. The people torn between an establishment and a ‘perceived’ solution center took the easiest route by attending the establishment regularly and the ‘perceived’ solution center when they perceived trouble in their households.
The prayer houses, perhaps in a bid to bind these people to themselves started giving extreme prophecies; prophecies that did more harm than good. Witchcraft had always been spoken of in undertones, for instance, a suspected witch or wizard was always avoided but these prophecies advocated for them to be maltreated and cast out of their houses. It started with the aged and slowly trickled down to the children. Children were being cast out of homes due to the fact that they have been proclaimed witches and wizards. This caused many broken homes as some mothers were also being cast out for giving birth to these little witches, mermaids and wizards and therefore bringing misfortune to the home. One would have thought that the advent of education would have brought more enlightenment but alas, even the enlightened ones are more prone to these prophecies as house helps have been maltreated due to these pronouncements.
Do I then believe that there is no evil? If I believe in God, I surely believe that he has a counterpart, the devil. That is not to say that because I know that these two being exists, logic should then be lost. I had a craving one day, here in Uyo, Akwa-Ibom state; I was at work and I wanted so bad to eat puff-puff/buns, and I asked someone to go get it for me only to be told that it would not be found and so I shouldn’t bother. Misunderstanding the person, I told her that she would probably find it where the women that fried akara and yam would be and she reiterated again that no one fried it publicly in the state again. Her reason was that this was due to an Helen Ukpabio’s movie, many years back where children were drafted into witchcraft through puff-puff and this sunk into the people that puff-puff was bad especially for the children and so because no one would buy the puff-puff from them, the women stopped frying them. Aghast I could only stare at her, first in anger and then later in sadness. This was not directed at her but at my people, for they are my people; what would it take to convince this people otherwise? How do I stop the depression when I see another child with torn clothes sleeping in a public place and people saying “Hmm…another witch/wizard”?
The governor of the state, Governor Godswill Akpabio said in his first term bid that whosoever came to tell him in a bid to curry favour that his mother who suffered to put him through school was a witch he would have such a person arrested because it didn’t matter what his mother was, her deeds and his love was enough to exonerate her. There is also an advert here in the state, even though I saw it in an estate meant for the very wealthy of the state, a place that I didn’t think was appropriate for that kind of advert since the people that were targeted by the advert rarely frequented the place. The adverts in effect chastised the poor, telling them that no one called the children of the rich/wealthy witches, mermaids or wizards and that they shouldn’t allow anyone destroy their homes by labeling their children with such names. That is a good step but I believe not enough in eroding decades of the brainwashing brought about by these prayer houses. Perhaps they all started out with good intentions but along the way something happened to change all that. Perhaps it was to keep the people bound to them or perhaps it was a way of lashing back at the Methodist Church. I am not a member of the Methodist Church but yet I feel their helplessness in being bound to certain traditions and practices and yet I know people have found succor in them. This is not to say that succor has not been found in other places but you can only perhaps begin to understand if you attend a funeral service, the set routine can be quite therapeutic.
With this, perhaps you might understand Mfon’s Plight. Will this not break the home if Mfon even tries to intimate her family on her sexual assault? Who do you think the family will listen to, Mfon or the Pastor especially after the Pastor has declared her to be a mermaid? People have advocated poverty and ignorance as one of the main causes of this brainwash and even though I am inclined to agree, I would still have to ask about the enlightened ones that maltreat their domestic help once the church proclaims that person to be a witch, the enlightened ones that refuse to look after their parent(s)/other relatives in the village because the church has proclaimed one of them a witch/wizard. What reasons/excuse do you give for these ones? What is to be done in stopping this effective brainwashing that has a hold on the previous and present generation? I wish I could say with full confidence that beliefs like this would die with my generation, but it will not because these deep-rooted beliefs cannot just be destroyed by mere wishes or willpower. Something else needs to be done, but what is it, what needs to be done?