By Anayo M. Nwosu
Up until I left Nnewi in 1988 to pursue higher education, I never heard or witnessed any desecration of our ancestral places of worship except that historic one in 1904 when God of our colonial masters disgraced our local gods to the embarrassment of the chief priests and devout worshippers.
It was as if all the deities in Nnewi were being judged and sentenced to irrelevance by their own God. 1904 was the turn of Edo, Uzukpe, Udo, Egbo, Nweke, Ele, Ani, and other popular Nnewi gods to be disgraced. But their worshippers were not forewarned.
Nnewi elders hearing how British Expeditionary Army destroyed the revered Igbowide shrines at Arochukwu in today’s Abia State, decided to surrender without bloodshed. But, the elders donated as a poisoned chalice, the fearsome evil forests to the whiteman for his administrative offices and shrines he called churches. The deities were expected to wipe out the intruders through plagues of strange diseases going by the expectation and rating of the citizens who never skipped any sacrifice or ceremonies demanded by the deities.
At that time, no man or woman except native doctors would enter the evil forests and come out alive but the whiteman and his followers cleared the forests built their offices and residential quarters there. The gods were probably scared or they converted to whiteman’s religion.
Being a practical clan of Igbo race, majority of the Nnewi people decided to understand and learn about these new supreme beings that scared the ever reliable Ogwugwu, Edo, Egbo, Udo etc. Even the chief priests and the community leaders resolved and actually sent their children to go learn about this new religion and their way of life.
In line with our people’s saying that “ọgbọ m kam efeem ya” (meaning “I will have no other option than to obey or worship my conqueror even if he is my age mate”), our people moved in droves to the religion of the colonial masters. Even some chief priests sent some of their children on espionage to the new competitors.
It was a complete sense of spiritual impartiality and not wanting to deny the victor its prize, that made Nnewi people transfer their awe, respect, devotion and obeisance to the new idol of the colonial masters called God who we were to learn had a son called Jesus.
But the elders ensured that the transition was managed in line with proper risk management. Therefore, not every child was allowed to join the colonial school or religion. What if it failed? Nnewi believe that “ahọlụ ụmụ mụ gbuo ichi ahọlụ ụmụ mụ chie ọzọ” meaning that our people don’t put all their eggs in one basket or test the depth of a river with two legs.
In less than 100 years of its celebrated potency and believed invincibility, the christian churches and sanctuaries are becoming unable to inspire the same fearsomeness on evil men and armed robbers who break into holy places or sanctuaries to steal even the holiest of the holy objects or relics.
How would terrorists succeed in besieging a congregation inside the palace of God and kill his children on December 25, 2011 at St. Theresa Catholic Church Madala, Zuba district of Nigeria’s capital Abuja
Many could say that Zuba near Abuja is too far, what about the daredevil invasion of the St. Philip’s Catholic Church, Ozubulu by armed men killing the worshippers in the very place of worship they went to pray for all encompassing divine protection?
Not even the chief priest could stand and confront the invaders with the instruments of his holy and almighty God. He escaped, just like other survivors.
As a child, I thought that a true worshipper of God should have, as a given, an Odeshi or Etiada meaning “impregnability” or “immunity to impactful force, slap, cudgels and hits” armaments. No priest or man of God can even boast of “ọdụ ụna” or “ability to disappear from danger scene and to reappear safely elsewhere”.
Who would ever succeed in shooting the late Nwakobe Ogbuebunu or Ezennaya in their elements and achieve results? I had watched as they diverted evil darts of dizziness, downing arrows and “ọkịrị mgbawa isi” in a battle of masquerades at many fora.
They were great dibias or native doctor.
I have also come to learn that none of the new religions offer any protection for their worshipers here on earth neither do they provide immortality or invincibility to them in this world but a vacuous promise of eternal bliss in the world yet to come.
Some religions have gone a step further to ask the living to kill themselves in exchange for an unbelievable sexual experience after death. Perhaps, with spiritual penis! Not even a promise of an advance sexual trailer or appetizer here on earth.
I have since noticed that even the men of God who promise divine protection and receive upfront rewards from their converts, customers or congregation don’t play with their alternative protection even while in their places of worship. I have also concluded from hard facts that death would occur whenever it is appointed.
Let nobody hoodwink you.
All of us and every living thing must exit this earth one way or the other.
The person or the religion who promises you an earthly protection needs the same protection too. Even if there is any, it is like a mirage. It disappears as soon as you think you have got it.
Excerpts from a book titled ORGANISED TO SUCCEED : NNEWI SOCIETY, CULTURE AND TRADITION written by Anayo Nwosu (Ikenga Ezenwegbu)