With the ‘oke ite’ phenomenon, an unimaginable fraud goes on in many cultures in Nigeria in the name of the gods. Under the pretext of cultural revival and the renaissance of the traditional religion, fetish ritualists masquerade as ministers of the local deities and exploit their clients with false claims to power. They invented the fetishistic ritual pot of charm (oke ite), a concoction generally prepared with human parts, animals and herbs gathered in a mud pot, as a panacea to all challenges and as a key to unlocking key to great fortune.
But in effect, these charlatans are doing a great disservice to Nigerian cultures and traditional religions with evil practises that are neither good culture nor good religion. Though by conceptual origin ‘oke ite’ is exclusively Igbo, in reality, the practice is also found in other cultures of Nigeria. If true lovers of African culture do not rise to say NO to the destruction of our rich cultural values and expressions, African culture will be corrupted by these fetishistic practices and ritual killings.
African culture is not, and cannot be, about ritual killings; the ‘oke ite’ ritual is only a corruption of culture and a fraud. Even in their crudest groping and religious expression, the African traditional religions served the religious needs of our forebears and satisfied their thirst for meaning and quest for God. In those years, many Africans who practised the African traditional religions (ATR) worshipped and served God through the mediation of local deities and localised gods to the best of their religious awareness and convictions.
In following the divine paths, they trained their consciences and filled their consciousnesses with the right reason so that their actions would flow from a proper moral foundation. They groped in the shades and shadows, but God did not fail to shed His light to enlighten their ways. As such, many of the ancestors lived in anticipation of the Incarnate Word, Jesus the Christ. Irrespective of their inadequacies, these traditional religions served and prepared the African people for the emergence of Christianity, which is the fullest, finest and best expression of humanity.
The dawning of Christianity caused a great light of grace, faith and reason to shine and enlighten the nations and all peoples. The grace of experiencing the good news of Christianity is a privilege many of our ancestors missed. The ATR is still fraught with imperfections (the product defect), even in its best expression. Beyond the natural imperfections featured in their praxes, there is also the user defect, which is the subjective imperfection generally exhibited by the religious practitioners of all faiths, given humanity’s imperfect nature.
It is the failure to attain the best and fullest expression of their religion’s tenets. Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, etc.the faithful of all other religionscan also fall into such failures. However, Christianity escapes the danger of product defect because it is a faith instituted by Christ and co-instituted by the Spirit for the glory of the Father and human flourishing. As such, Christianity is a unique divine gift for the salvation of humankind. Others are human initiatives in their search for the divine and for meaning. In contrast, Christianity is a gift, a revelation and indeed a Trinitarian project with human agency for the salvation of the world.
In reality, Christianity faces a significant challenge with its abandonment or rebellion against it, or disregard for it under the pretext of returning to the ways of the ancestors. These youth baptise the evil cravings, devilish appetites, and unsatisfied longings in their hearts into their culture and religion. Their misgivings against Christian religious officials, revolt against occidental civilisation, disappointment over false hope of emancipation, and misguided anger for failures of the system find expression in the new, pagan lifestyle. These unconscionable men and women erect an evil system that manipulates, dupes and misdirects people, all in the name of the gods—the unsuspecting public fall for their evil machinations. Because the self is far from conversion, these agents embody the worst human fragility, invest them with religious praxes, and claim them in the name of the gods.
As such, they give the impression that African gods support wealth without work and success through fraudulent and wicked paths. Killings and other fetishistic practices are inadvertently presented as the magic wand for the attention and action of these gods. They present these gods as bloodthirsty cannibals and monsters who must require human parts to listen to the requests of their subjects. These are purely evil ways of men attributed to gods, giving the gods a bad name to pitch them as purveyors of evil. Arguably, a people’s theology reveals their anthropology, and based on that, these charlatans are misrepresenting the ATR, thereby giving a false testimony of Nigerians, Africans. The psychology of gods is a reflection of the people.
Suppose the impression is that our gods need body parts to make people rich; in that case, those evil gods represent the hearts and psychology of the people who are disposed to go to any extent, including ritual killings, to get their desire. These ritualists and ‘dibias’ profane the name of the gods, misrepresent them and destroy the purity of religions. Our youth need rescue from the grip of these evil men who parade themselves as the agents of deities and gods. Nigerians and Christians must say no to this grand fraud in the name of the gods. Without a doubt, religious groups are as guilty and complicit as Nollywood.
These groups signalled to the youth that success is a function of magic or miracle, to the ex-tent that it robs the youth of their diligence and confidence in the pursuit of success. While some Christian groups preach the prosperity gospel, which amounts to selling Christianity at a discount, they help to delink wealth from work, freedom from responsibility, and grace from action. In the euphoria of ‘little labour, plenty harvest,’ many pious Christians have disconnected success with effort and preached the easier path of ‘I claim it and say amen’.
The failure to attain the expected result has gradually but steadily contributed to weakening their faith and confirmed their false conclusion that Christianity is a scam. On the other hand, in an indolent mercantile and gullible enterprise, Nollywood, in its haste to make money, has contributed immensely to misrepresenting Nigerian cultures. Unfortunately, it has succeeded in portraying culture as being about fetishism and success as being a magical product of one who follows the path of secret cultism, pagan rituals and ritual killings. Some Nollywood agents, unfortunately, unleash their value-bereft talent as an agency of damaging cultural upheaval. Families and other social institutions, especially religious groups, should help the youth to appreciate that a lot of the content in the social media space is fake life.
Success in life goes with hard work achieved through diligent, honest, and consistent development of skills and talents in a chosen aspect of life. Success is a function of time-tested commitment to a project, and it does not happen magically but procedurally. Grace works with concerted action. The unfortunate separation of grace and action in relation to success is a contributory factor, and unfortunately, many Christian groups teach such a dangerous doctrine. This piece is an invitation for everyone to figure out the negative consequences of this ‘oke ite’ atrocity and put an end to it. No atrocity goes unpunished either in time or in eternity.
• Very Rev. Fr George Adimike is a Priest of the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha. He can be reached via email@example.com.