There is no doubt that idolatry is on the increase in Anambra communities. Perhaps this could be as a result of many factors; frustration by some with the Christian and other religious faiths due to many reasons which may include; unfulfilled life expectations, greed and the quest for material acquisition (Ego Mbute), increasing moral decadence in the society, sudden realization of the need to re-connect to African culture by young people, ignorance, coercion, unchecked campus cultism leading to advanced cultism in later years etc.
During the heavy period of incessant kidnappings and associated activities of unknown gunmen in Anambra state, Governor Charles Chukwuma Soludo remarked thus; “Idolatry is the fastest growing religion in the state and we must not take it for granted”. His assertion must have been informed by intelligence from security agencies who after every raid of kidnappers camps discovered shrines and other paraphernalia of idol worshipping. Confessions from kidnappers also pointed in that direction. One could easily agree with this as viral videos of barbaric acts including beheading of kidnapped victims, roasting of human bodies, drinking of human blood etc signposted a rising devilish counter culture in our society leading to the general outcry against widespread ‘alu’ (evil acts) people were beholding.
All manner of shrines dot Anambra’s many rural communities. The shrines are patronized by people for different reasons. It appears that young people are the main patronizers. I have always argued that we should make a distinction between ‘good odinana’ and ‘bad odinana’ to avoid a situation of throwing the baby away with the dirty bath water.
I subscribe to ‘good odinana’ which our forefathers practised, such as breaking of kolanut, pouring of libation, marking of chalk on the floor (itu nzu), honouring our ancestors etc. Back then, native doctors were respected for their knowledge of efficacy of herbs and roots which they used in healing the sick. Some of them specialized in ‘igba okpukpu’ – bone fracture repairs etc. Unfortunately, the activities of modern day digital dibias and social media pastors have led to the condemnation of everything odinana. The new-age dibias bait our young people and promise them riches through preparation of ‘Ibobo’, ‘oke ite’ and other such ‘ogwu ego’ rituals. New age pastors are not any different, they lure the gullible to streams and rivers with rams and chickens etc and perform all sorts of wealth rituals for them.
There was a time Anambra state government tried to regulate the practice of traditional medicine practitioners. The present Deputy Governor of Anambra state, Dr Onyeka Ibezim was in charge of that agency as Special Adviser to the Governor on Traditional Medicine Practice. This was during the administration of Governor Willie Obiano. This earned Dr. Ibezim the ‘Ezedibia’ appellation.
As part of the 13-part Igbo cultural series that I recorded which are being shared on my Facebook page and YouTube channel, titled ‘Journey To The Ancient Paths’, I captured my visit to Nemkpa stream in Enugwu-Ukwu in Episodes 6, 7 and 8 and had a conversation with the presiding Chief Priest of Ogwugwu shrine who goes by the name Akajiofor. I clearly propagated the practice of ‘good odinana’ during our conversation which eschews spilling of innocent blood and other such related evil acts.
We frequented the Nemkpa stream freely as youngsters to fetch water for my grandmother but to my surprise, shrines have now been erected near the stream as it has been taken over by ‘Ezenwanyi’ and ‘Akajiofor’. Members of the community don’t visit the stream anymore as the shrines scared them away.
I don’t think that the solution is to burn their places of traditional religious worship. I subscribe to regulating their practice and knowing what they do. Medical doctors regulate their members through the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), while the government regulates them through the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN). Christian pastors and priests regulate their members through the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) and other bodies.
We should not leave the traditional religion worshippers and their chief priests unregulated and to their own devices. That’s a more dangerous option.