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30 Nov 2019

Those Christians Who Criticized Witchcraft Conference Are Hypocrites - Professor

Professor Benedict Ijomah is a retired Professor of Political Sociology with the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, whom the school’s Centre for Policy Studies and Research was named after. During the week, the centre held a controversial conference on witchcraft. He speaks with RAPHAEL EDE about the event

The interdisciplinary witchcraft conference was held despite criticisms from some quarters, why did you choose to go ahead with it?

The aim of the conference was to unravel the mystery behind witchcraft.

Why was it important to unravel the mystery behind witchcraft?

Scholarship is based on curiosity. What is the cause of this (mystery)? You will try to give an answer to what is happening. If you can’t get the answer, you go back and start constructing hypothesis; that is research methodology.

It is when you are looking for answers that you know you have to research. Now for the Christians that were making noises, I say they are hypocrites. Somebody talked about it on social media and I have already replied the person. He said as long as he was alive, the conference would not hold. I said sorry, the conference was held so you lost out. They made noises to confuse the public; the Bible says, ‘My people perish because of ignorance.’ How can a professor be talking and an elementary catechist will be telling him that as long as his God was alive, the conference would not hold. Is it not the same God I serve? I have just written the most revealing book about the Catholic Church. I asked a question: how did the Blessed Virgin Mary conceive to carry the immensity of Jesus Christ in her small virginal womb? That was my question.

God has no limit; the universe cannot contain God and yet the miracle of incarnation of God as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit descending into the small womb of Virgin Mary, has anybody wondered about it? I did and started doing research. I came up with the book. But I don’t want to publish it until I get approval from the Catholic authorities in Abuja because it deals with the dogma of the Catholic Church. When we pray, we say: ‘Hail Mary, full of grace’; what does it mean to you? We just chant and say we are Christians but we don’t even understand what we are saying and when a scholar wants to do a research to explain it to the people, an illiterate catechist will say as long as his God was alive, a conference would not hold.

I couldn’t attend (the conference) on the first day but attended the second session. I spoke and lashed out at all of them. I abused them. They are pretenders. If you watch T.B. Joshua, you would see him blowing out and everybody would be falling down. He would say he is driving away demons and witches and yet you open your mouth and say there are no witches. Why did you go there to be delivered? I didn’t ask him to deliver me. I am a Christian and I have written more than four books on Mary and Jesus. So they cannot be better Christians than me but they are making noises in the newspapers as if they own Christianity. After making a lot of noise about the conference, they didn’t show up at Nsukka. People who read what they said would think there would be trouble at Nsukka. I was there, waiting for the trouble to come.

So you’re not happy about the criticisms, especially from Christian organisations and their clerics.

It is a pity they didn’t come. They threatened to burn down the university. The vice-chancellor was agitated but I told him that having an academic discussion was not a crime. What do academics do? I will give my view; if I have a superior argument, I win. The Christians saying they would protest at Nsukka, I waited for them. I would have given them a dose of what was on my mind. It is hypocrisy. The venue was packed to full capacity and there was no space.

Was it the first conference on witchcraft held in Nigeria?

I don’t know but in Europe, people do a lot of research. The Guardian of London raised a question last week about the effects of witchcraft on the growing of children in London. I sent a copy to the university. People in London are studying the effect of witchcraft – witchcraft affects every family in Africa. If a marriage breaks down, they will say the woman is a witch or the husband is a wizard. Sometimes they will arrest a small boy and say he is a wizard because his brothers are not making any progress. This is the experience in Africa but we don’t want to study it because we are hypocrites. We don’t want people to think we are witches.

After much pressure, the theme of the programme was changed, why did you yield to the pressure to do so?

That is where intelligence is better than ignorance. We said witchcraft, everybody cried out. I called the vice-chancellor and he said change the title and go ahead with your conference. We didn’t change anything in the conference; we merely modified the title. All the papers were the same but the illiterate people making noises didn’t have the intellectual perceptiveness to know that you could just modify a sentence and there would be peace.

Intelligent people and professors were there; we have to discuss what is happening to our society. If you go to Calabar, they still burn children because they think they are witches.

We are collecting papers from the conference and we are going to publish them. We will publish a book on witchcraft.

Some people believe that we have been brainwashed through imperialism by accepting everything brought by the white man, including religions and neglecting our own traditional ones, what do you make of that?

You see, when I was young, I was very radical. When I was a student at UNN, I founded a group called ‘Society for the Promotion of African Culture. We were doing everything in the typical African way. We wanted to preserve the African culture. You will see people learning how to dance like foreigners but you will not see anyone learning how to dance Atilogwu. I introduced it at UNN and students were learning how to dance Atilogwu. You don’t condemn what you don’t understand. I did not understand witchcraft but I could see its effects on children and marriages. In marriages, you would hear that they tied a woman’s womb and therefore she could not have a baby. They will stupidly talk about some religious mumbo-jumbo, where they will blow out and they will all fall down and say they have been delivered. It is painful that pastors, even those who have PhDs, are ignorant of the working of spiritualism. Witchcraft is only a dimension in the astral level. It is not the ultimate spiritual level but people don’t understand. The Cannon of Anglican Church who came from Owerri for the conference spoke at length and I also spoke at length. People now saw the stupidity of some (people) telling us not to discuss witchcraft. What do you know about witchcraft?

The university is a place where we search for knowledge. The philosophy of UNN is: “To seek Truth, teach Truth and preserve Truth.” When we study it, we will say if it is good or bad and take a position but I cannot condemn what I don’t know. People who attended are very happy because they now know more. The Christians lied that we were inviting witches to Nsukka.

Some people wonder how the study of witchcraft or understanding it can help us as a people. How does that knowledge help Nigerians?

That is what I am telling you. I have gone to (see) T.B. Joshua; a scholar takes risk. When I was writing a book, I went to Okija (shrine) in Anambra State. There is a place where they see things that happen elsewhere in a mirror. Out of curiosity, I went there and I have written a book on it for people to know what is happening there. I didn’t go there because I wanted to cause trouble; I went there as a scholar because the place influences the way many people behave. If they stole your money or property and you go there, you would return and say you have seen the person that stole it. If the accused person swears falsely, he will die.

So the Africans have a way of doing some things. If you go to Pentecostal churches, you would see how their pastors would wave or blow out and people would fall down. You would hear you are delivered and they believe. If I do the same thing they do, will people fall down? What is the power behind it? We are credulous people, we don’t ask questions. If they tell you something is true, you believe and follow them, fooling yourself.

But some people believe that such things don’t exist and that by having such a conference, we will continue to give it relevance in our lives and that it will continue to hold us back. How would you react to that?

They are wrong; in the Bible, the Witch of the Endor was mentioned, who was there even before Jesus Christ came. The Jews consulted the Witch of Endor. Witchcraft existed before Christ came, existed until Christ left, and will exist till the world ends. It is an integral part of God’s creation. Witches don’t create themselves; everything that lives was created by God – even Satan was created by God and we keep making noises.

But in the advanced world like Europe and North America, they don’t talk about witchcraft affecting their progress the way we do here, where people in positions of authority have even blamed lack of development and poor power supply on witchcraft, how would you react to that?

You cannot say Europeans don’t talk of witchcraft. If you go to London, there is a signpost where (some people) state that they are witches. Knowledge dissipates superstition. If you consult and pay them, they will tell you what you want to know. The governments know that witchcraft cannot be destroyed in the world and that it gives them the scientific knowledge used in building planes and other things. The governments patronise them and they pay taxes.

Everything God created was put there for a purpose, including Satan. The knowledge that the Satan is opposed to God will make us pretend that we are Christians; we will clap our hands and say we follow Jesus. Many witches have found salvation in churches and nobody disturbs them. Confess your sins and you are a good Christian but in the villages, if you are suspected (to be a witch), you will be asked to swear and if you are guilty, you will start confessing.

The natives control witchcraft more but churches accommodate them and give them a kind of sanctuary but in the night, they wreak havoc. Some of them kill their own children. People still confess in the villages that they are witches so how do you deny the existence of witches?

Are you a wizard as some people have described you organisers as witches and wizards?

(Laughs) Even the witches will tell you they are not witches. I have done empirical research and interviewed witches who had confessed to be witches. We put the knowledge we gained from that in books to guide our children. So let us study it, then we can scientifically approach it. What is the usefulness of witchcraft? Like in the US, there are covens where witches meet – every year, they come up with what will happen in their world and it helps the American government in the direction of their policies. In that regard, witchcraft becomes useful.

It is only in Africa where you hear complaints of witches eating somebody’s child. In Europe, they hold meetings with the witches and map out policies that will help their society to grow. So it becomes beneficial but here in Africa, we are denying what we know to be true; that is why we cannot harness the knowledge to help the society.

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