By Gabriel Chy Alonta
Academic activities in tertiary institutions are hinged on quality research output aimed at solving myriad issues bedeviling education and the nation at large. The extent to which such research provides lasting solutions to different economic, political or social problems depend on the topic under discourse and the implementation of resolutions reached.
As all roads lead to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State on November 26, 2019, to witness the first international and interdisciplinary conference titled: ‘Witchcraft: Meaning, Factors and Practices’, thousands of speculations and outrage are trailing the upcoming conference.
The conference, according to available information, is organised by the B.I.C. Ijomah Centre for Policy Studies and Research, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and is said to be particularly convened by one Prof. D. Egodi Uchendu of the university.
Some critics have described the conference as meaningless, saying it would add nothing to the growth of the institution or the country while calling on the management of the university to call off the conference.
A staff of the institution, who preferred anonymity, said that there had been widespread criticisms since the announcement of the conference, and wondered why such a highly reputable institution would start propagating such topics at this time.
“Why hold such a conference? Is it to prove witchcraft or what? The topic is meaningless contemporarily. In fact, the topic is malicious and bogus,” she said.
A prophetess, who gave her name as Obiageli and would not want her ministry mentioned, said such conference must not be propagated in order not to attract the wrath of God.
Obiagaeli expressed shock that the management of the institution was aware of it, questioning what was academic about the conference and why the institution should support it?
“In a university where we know that an average graduate are finding it difficult to defend themselves, instead of lecturers developing methods to properly equip them, they are here propagating witchcraft.
“How can it solve our problem? What is the rationale behind science of witchcraft? Are we subscribing that witchcraft is what will give us a breakthrough or solve the inherent problems within the university?
“Is that a solution to hunger facing us? Is that all the institution can research upon? Is that a solution to joblessness? Is this the scientific step to save this generation,’’ Obiagaeli asked.
She continued: “Let me remind you that the Book of Leviticus 19 verses 31 says: ‘Do not turn to mediums and necromancers. Do not seek them out or make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 20:27 also says, ‘A man or a woman who is a medium or necromancer shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones, their blood shall be upon them’.
“Also, Exodus 22 verse 18 says: ‘You shall not permit a sorceress to live’, interpreting it means that their level of wickedness can never advance any institution.
“In the Book of Revelation 21: 8, God says: “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexual immoral, sorcerers, idolaters and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
“I, therefore, warn that the university has taken the wrong path and if not stopped, they will cut themselves off from God’s plan and grace,” the prophetess added.
She further argued that whatever that came from the witchcraft cannot be the solution to the systemic problem plaguing the universities and Nigeria as a whole. “Of all topics, if it is only witchcraft that the university wants to focus on, it means that the institution has no regard for God.”
Contacted, Dr. Chidi Ugwu, one of the organisers of the conference, who spoke on behalf of Prof. Uchendu, regretted that people misunderstood the whole conference, while reiterating that it was merely an academic discourse and not a gathering of witches and wizards.
Ugwu, who is a senior lecturer in the department of anthropology, UNN, while admitting that such topics were rare in Nigeria’s academic institutions, added that “It exists in other climes such as South Africa, United Kingdom, Germany and so on”.
“These critics are driven by overwhelming religiosity we experience in Nigeria and our religious leaders aren’t helping matters too. There is also a lot of ignorance and intellectual laziness among Nigerians,” he said.
According to him, there are people who specialize in research on witchcraft. In South Africa and Ghana for instance, they award degrees on witchcraft studies.
“Witchcraft is an issue that needs to be interrogated in Nigeria because there are cases of how people are labelled witches in those days and killed without seeking for evidence.
“In some states in Nigeria like Awka Ibom, a lot of people are disowned by their families because someone branded them witch. We also see wives label their mothers-in-law witches.
“Since there is this misconception in the whole climate, in the ecosystem in Nigeria as to what is witchcraft, we decided as scholars, who believe in evidence, to interrogate the subject with a view to establishing its true meaning in Nigeria.
“Let it be emphatically stated, we are not doing a conference to call witchcrafts to come and have their meeting. We are not calling people who know witchcraft to come and demonstrate for us how they operate. It is purely an academic conference, where we will have speakers from the world over, such as Japan, Ghana and so on”.
OrientDaily investigations indicate that the organizers believe that “Witchcraft” (amusu or igbansi in Igbo language; Aje in Yoruba; Ohe in Idoma; Ifot in Ibibio; Pou in Ijaw and Opochi or Enebe in Igbira), had come to be associated with strange activities bearing on the supernatural, which affects the human world.
According to them, “witchcraft differs from country to country and from community to community. Likewise, all cultures do not share a consistent pattern of witchcraft practice and beliefs.
“In Nigeria, for instance, the practice of witchcraft often interferes with other concepts like magic, sorcery, esotericisms, diabolism and even religion.
“From an interdisciplinary point of view, this conference seeks to find answers to pertinent questions such as: What is witchcraft? What factors influence witchcraft labelling in various communities? How does the practice of witchcraft affect society?”
It also has its sub-themes as secret cult and witchcraft, conceptual issues in witchcraft, the science and witchcraft, spirituality and witchcraft, witchcraft in traditional African society, witchcraft and governance, among others.