Thursday, 9 August 2018

OPINION: When a Powerful Leader Becomes a Demon an Remained Alive in The Grave

By Anayo M. Nwosu

The Catholic community in my town is still grateful to Rev. Fr Kettle, one of the catholic missionaries to Nnewi in the first quarter of the twentieth century.

My people can never forget how he walked the streets of Nnewi with Blessed Sacrament hosted in a Monstrance to scare away evil spirits, the very way police would do a "show of force" to tell the criminals that "there is a new sheriff in town".

But the spiritual warfare of the revered Irish priest was not enough to banish the ghost of Chief Ojenamuo (the real names withheld) or to stop him from tormenting his victims in and around Umuanuka Otolo Nnewi.

Ojenamuo was a great warrior in his prime, who enamored himself with all manner of charms he used to deal with his war and peace time enemies.

People that challenged him in meetings or in the market places never got home and remained normal. He was that bad.

People who loved their lives would forsake their lands once Ojenamuo indicated interest in the lands. It was the wise thing to do otherwise, the owner would die mysteriously.

Ojenamuo was not a native doctor but native doctors feared and would rather avoid him.

He was referred to as "ndi muo na aga ije" or a walking dead characterizing the name I have just given him.

It was a great relief when news filtered around that Ojenamuo had died. He was aged over 90 years.

"Finally!", his people exclaimed.

But their joy was cut short few days after Ojenamuo's burial.

The supposedly dead Ojenamuo would beat up men and women passing particularly along Anuka-Awka Etiti road to the Eke Ogwugwu or Afor Nnobi markets and spoil their wares.

To some, he merely slapped while he afflicted others with some deadly diseases like "otolu  okala" i.e. Paralysis, "ono n'ana ahu egbe" i.e. Stroke/Parkinson's or complete blindness.

All those he attacked saw him and could recognize Ojenamuo as their tormentor.

He even announced to his victims who his next target would be.

Many native doctors engaged by the fear stricken community to chain the spirit of the troublesome Ojenamuo would initially agree to come but would fail to appear on the D-day.

Upon enquiry, the community would learn that either that the dibia died over night, was warned by Ojenamuo not turn up or that the dibia was forced to go back home halfway.

Ojenamuo could be a ghost but his relations' desire to live energized them to keep searching for the best dibia or native doctor that could help.

Until when the solution was found, members of the community had to  fortify themselves with "egbo" or insulator they wore on their waists and those they placed on the major entrances into their compounds.

The "egbo" or insulator worked like a thunder protector that earthed a spiritual dart or simply attenuated or reduced the impact of spiritual attacks.

Egbo was made of two long poles cut from long stems of  "ogiri" or "ofor" trees.

The poles are joined at the top with long and weaved palm fronds or "igu nkwu".

At the midpoint of the final structure resembling a football goal post-like , a live "abuke" (i.e. a variant of a cock) was tied with a rope of about 12inches long.

The live cock without blemish, tied to the egbo, is left dangling until it died and became  food to the grateful vultures.

To complete the insulation, the residents lined whole length and breadth of their compounds with the "mmanu akwu ojukwu" i.e. oil from "ojukwu" species of palm tree.

It was widely believed in Igbo land that no evil spirit could pass beyond an egbo or across a line drawn with akwu ojukwu.

The demonic spirit of Ojenamuo also knew about these precautionary measures by his people and was not perturbed.

He would studiously wait for that time his targets mistakenly stepped out of the protected zones or forgot to wear their insulators. Then he would strike.

Before a delegation of elders from Umuanuka arrived, Nwokonkwo, a great native doctor that lived on the fringes of the evil forest of the Uzukpe deity, had been told  by the source of his power the reason why his august visitors came.

Nwokonkwo was instructed to accede to the request of his visitors and that he had been empowered to bind the troublesome ghost of Ojenamuo.

The great dibia also was told that chaining Ojenamuo would be his last function as a native doctor and the "ije ahu ga-ata isi ya" meaning that "that mission he would undertake, would claim his head".

Great Nnewi native doctors or dibias had always had the grace or privilege to know when they would die but the powerful ones would be further informed of the circumstances that would lead to their deaths.

Nwokonkwo was one of those powerful dibias.

There has never been a principled and ethical native doctor or dibia in Nnewi  "onwu dala n'mbelede" or who died unprepared.

Having carefully downloaded clear instructions from his eternal power base, Nwokonkwo prescribed to his visitors, what needed to be provided for the rites.

He also demanded and collected his charges in advance, which he handed over to his first son, because he knew that he wouldn't be alive to collect his fees after the rites.

Nwokonkwo arrived Umuanuka as early as appointed.

It was an Eke day.

He proceeded straight to the grave housing the supposed remains of Ojenamuo.

He stabbed his "oji" or sharp-edged staff on the ground, halfway on the grave.

He  then formed a fence around the grave with fresh palm fronds or "omu" hoisted on four sticks pinned into the ground at the four corners of the 6-foot deep grave.

By so doing, the wicked ghost of the great Ojenamuo had been pinned down in the grave.

Nwokonkwo ordered four strong young men (he had initially fortified with "nzu" or chalk and sprinkled on their heads, the blood of a cock he killed by hitting it on their chests) to commence excavating the grave.

The body of Ojenamuo buried several months ago had to be exhumed.

Nwokonkwo instructed his assistants to kill any animal that tried to escape from any openings or holes from the grave.

The strong-hearted crowd, with eye on history, was amazed as they watched a possible rare occurrence in their lifetime.

The first to emerge from the grave was a lizard, then ewi or rodent, followed by a fiery cobra. They were all killed instantly.

And the digging continued as the snipper hunter aimed and felled an owl that emerged from nowhere and perched on the nearby "ngwu" tree.

"Wait", commanded Nwokonkwo as he poured a reddish concoction onto the grave being  excavated.

The exhumed body of Chief Ojenamuo was as if it had just been buried. It didn't and had not decomposed.

Very obvious was the gaping eyes of a supposedly dead man; so wide as that of an owl.

Also striking was an "omu" or a strip of florescent palm frond found in his mouth.

That the exhumed Ojenamuo could not talk didn't detract from him, the life he had shown in tormenting the living.

The demonic corpse of Ojenamuo was set on fire and the residue was mixed with "mmanu akwu ojukwu" or palm oil and was later re-interred in a new grave.

Despite his after life misbehaviour, the ashes of Ojenamuo was re-buried with respect.

He was in his lifetime, the head of his Umunna or a clan head and a great warrior.

His spirit was finally transported to his ancestors with seven gun shots.

And his village has known peace since then.

But the courageous native doctor Nwokonkwo still had to keep a date with fate.

He was found dead, lying beside a bush path by passers-by near his Okpuno Umuenem village.

Even his own departing spirit wouldn't have protested his end which was long foretold.

It takes a great sacrifice to perform a great feat.

Interestingly, parishioners of St. Peter Clever Church, located at the confluence of three communities of Umuanuka, Umuenem and Eziogwugwu, who were seeking for spiritual validation for their new christian religion believed that their prayers solved the problem.

They attributed the quietening of the menacing spirit of Chief Ojenamuo to the cleansing actions of Rev. Fr Kettle.

The other members of the community and the strangers alike were free to believe whichever side of the story that strengthened their religious inclinations.

But the reality is that the citizens of Umuanuka Otolo Nnewi now walk around their streets without harassment by "ajo muo" or the "evil spirit" of Chief Ojenamuo.

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