FEATURE ARTICLE

Clement MuozobaWednesday, February 18, 2009
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Awka, Nigeria

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ODESHI!

he word Odeshi is simply a compression of this Igbo sentence, "O dighi eshi" which literally means, "It is not leaking". Odeshi was popularised during the reign of the dreaded Bakassi Boys in the dark ages of the Mbadinuju Administration when they were introduced as the vigilante group in Anambra State. They had earlier performed the miracle of effectively checking the daredevil armed robbers that terrorized the neighbouring Abia State then under the leadership of the youthful and popular Gov. Orji Uzor Kalu. The Bakassi Vigilante was formed by the Ariaria Market Traders sequel to the failure of the men of the Nigeria Police to check crime in their state then. It was just an effort to take their destiny in their own hands and a child of circumstances.


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The Bakassi Boys were surrounded with the myth of not being harmed by live bullets or machetes or any metal objects capable of harming any normal human being. That was when Odeshi came to mean 'impregnable' as it was said that the Bakassi Boys shouted whenever robbers shot them during an exchange of fire. The movie, ISSAKABA in which Sam Dede, the university lecturer and a Nollywood star featured as the major actor and the commander of the Bakassi Boys, praised the exploits of this dreaded group. Their unconventional method of crime busting especially, the playful beheading of robbery suspects and dissecting their dead bodies and burning them in a jungle manner in full glare of the public was applauded. Since then, people learnt to "fortify" themselves like the Bakassi Boys and this type of "spiritual fortification" of oneself came to be known as "Odeshi". It is just for fear, not of Odeshi but of committing murder that I have not asked any person so fortified for a test with a gun.

The story of the immediate past Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Ambassador Sam Edem and his 'spiritual director', Mr. Perekabowei Ogah as carried by the Newswatch Magazine of August 11, 2008 really sounds too unbelievable. I still pray that it turns out to be untrue or else it will be another indecent exposure of our rump as a country. The story was that Sam Edem was about losing his job when he secured the services of Mr. Perekabowei Ogah, a sorcerer, to safeguard his job at the whopping cost of N15,000,000 (Fifteen million Naira). It was done and he secured his job. He now found an ally in Mr. Perekabowei Ogah and decided to entrust him with more difficult jobs of killing or inflicting the Managing Director of NDDC, Mr. Timi Alaibe with stroke, making Godswill Akpabio, the governor of his home state, Akwa-Ibom to do his bidding always by way of award of contracts and making Goodluck Jonathan, the Vice President to do his will by coming to his aid whenever his job was threatened.

The deal was to cost the jaw-breaking sum of N570,000,000 (Five Hundred and seventy million Naira) of which N310,000,000 (Three Hundred and Ten million Naira) was paid immediately. The story had it that Gov. Akpabio was affected by the charm and he awarded a contract worth of N7,000,000,000 (Seven billion Naira) to Edem. But Edem forgot to perform a ritual, which nearly claimed the life of Akpabio. He had to pay another N50,000,000 (Fifty million Naira) to Ogah to appease his gods and save the life of Gov. Akpabio. The deal then backfired according the story when Timi Alaibe, the man marked for death refused to die because his spirit is too strong as revealed by Mr. Ogah, the native doctor. What his spirit being strong meant was not explained. It was then that Mr. Edem insisted that he should have his money back as the job was not done whereas Mr. Ogah insisted that his balance of N260,000,000 (Two Hundred and Seventy million Naira) should be given to him. Ogah was then arrested by the Police on the orders of his client, Sam Edem and the bubble burst with this shameful story. Mr. Edem had earlier as alleged by Ogah, burnt the sum of N270,000,000 (Two Hundred and Seventy million Naira) at night in a cemetery in Port-Harcourt and the ashes rubbed on him to spiritually fortify him. Who is sure that Ogah did not carry away the sack that contained the huge sum and made Edem burn a sack full of newspapers?

The story of juju scare in the government circles did not begin today. One of the past military heads of state was said to have believed so much in the powers of his Odeshi, which he had, in a wooden crocodile. According to the story, he refused all warnings of the surrounding danger, as he was very confident that he could easily disappear into the air, thus averting any trouble and saving his life. But his Odeshi failed him as his administration was abruptly ended through a coup and his life went with his administration. They said his body could not be penetrated by the bullets but an ugly method of having his feet tied to a moving jeep and his head dragged on the ground till he died was used. This story has not been verified.

In 1983, when Chief C.C. Onoh of the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) was to take over from Chief Jim Nwobodo after a keenly contested controversial Gubernatorial Elections, this type of story was told. It was said that the Government House of the Old Anambra State in Enugu was full of juju and some traditional medicine men were invited to remove them with their spiritual powers so that the new governor could take over his functions without harm. This was shown on the television stations then.

In a particular state in Nigeria after the thrash in the name of April, 2007 elections, the story of how a certain governor that did not last invited an Ezenwanyi to go the length and breadth of the state to make sure that he did not leave the office of governorship is still told. For the water spirit worshippers, Ezenwanyi means mermaid, an imaginary spiritual being with the head of a beautiful lady and the tail of a fish, believed to inhabit the waters and which is said to be powerful. It is also called mammy water. Her agents who are mostly women are equally referred to as Ezenwanyi. She was said to have gone round the state in question, spraying salt at the entrances of the different local government headquarters and other strategic points in the state. But her client later fell and is yet to recover from his fall. When the rightful governor came back, in an effort to wash away Ezenwanyi's amansi, he gathered priests to pray and bless him and sanctify the desecrated state before he resumed duties.

Another story is that of two commissioners in a state who were said to have tied the hands of the governor through some spiritual means so that the governor could not perform and do their bidding always. It was said that this governor was tied in the form of a fowl and put inside a drawer in his office and that as long as this spell on him lasted that he misbehaved. It was not until the fowl was brought out through some spiritual means that the governor came back to his senses and began to perform. How the said fowl survived in the governor's office neither eating nor drinking during the period of this spell was not explained. Stupid stories! But be that as it may, no one can deny the fear of charms among our politicians and public servants and sometimes too, among the lecturers and students in our institutions of higher learning especially as it concerns struggling for power. The story is also not unheard of among the businessmen as they struggle to progress more than their counterparts. Some of them have been alleged to be behind their partners' or neighbours' deaths.

One of the governors who later won the people's approval in the state he ruled after he usurped power through election rigging was said to have been taken to the infamous Okija Shrine to swear an oath of allegiance to his godfathers. He acknowledged going there and swearing, albeit falsely in an attempt to capture power in an effort to save his state from the godfathers. What a sweet story! That could have accounted for why an order of knighthood in his church made a caricature of itself by receiving him into its fold as a knight and the leaders of the church watched and applauded. The reward for apostasy has become knighthood instead of the usual long penitential rite and acceptance into the church as a new convert, which should have included three years catechism classes. He is a proud bearer of the initial of the members of his knighthood. His admirers still want him a second time as their liberator and he is still jugging up.

Again, the story of 'Prophet' Edward Okeke a k a Eddy Nawgu who was said to have possessed unlimited spiritual powers and who became the friend of the leaders of the country, both military and civilian is still there. He prepared special Odeshi for them. During his lifetime, the self-acclaimed prophet terrorized his town and the neighbourhood and was a thorn in the flesh of the Christians especially in his town, Nawgu. Many of our politicians and important personalities proudly bore the staffs given to them by the 'prophet' as a sign of protection and importance. Musicians sang his praises. Alusi na-eje uka- a deity that goes to church, as he was called then was untouchable as those he shielded spiritually shielded him from the law. Even when he was alleged to be behind the death of a popular traditional ruler that did not believe in him, nobody made any move to arrest him. When the unconventional Bakassi Boys later arrested him after what was thought a fight of two devils and against the expectations of his admirers, it was said that efforts were made from the top to secure his release. But the Bakassi Boys rebuffed them and killed and burnt his corpse to mark their triumph. Many said that was the best thing the Boys did before their proscription.

If this has been happening among our primitive people, it would have been more understandable than when it is heard of among our so-called elites. It now speaks volumes of the destination of our hard earned resources and the type of leaders we have. Ambassador Sam Edem may be a first class candidate (though he does not look it), but having stooped so low as to be deceived by a local fraudster is a minus from our leaders. Mr. Perekabowei Ogah made it known that many other politicians had engaged him in this type of job from whom he received gifts of cars about ten of which were found in his possession. He refused to name those politicians. It is not important for him to name them because we do not need to know them. The important thing is that our money is used to enrich native doctors whereas our teachers go hungry and have to go on strike for their salary to be increased. Many a wise man cannot but pause for a moment to ask the source of the money totalling about one billion Naira, which was just spent on charms. Again one cannot help asking how many of our leaders and government functionaries that are involved in this. I was among those questioning why our local movies stop at just secret cults, women, native doctors and undue display of wealth. The scriptwriters saw something, which the story of Ambassador Edem has confirmed.

Jesus' ageless saying that "Anyone who wants to save his life will lose itů."(Matt. 16:25) has come to fulfilment. Sam Edem has been shamefully suspended from office and Bassey Dan-Abia has taken over from him as the Chairman of NDDC. But more shameful is the fact that his greed and avarice saw him off. He sought to gain the whole world but lost his job and reputation. His only prayer now may be that the police investigation into his case does not indict him. He had addressed a press conference denying ever involving himself in such an ignoble act and some sponsored magazine and newspaper advertorials have been on to exonerate him. We keep our fingers crossed and watch as events unfold.

The story of Edem represents the story of our so-called leaders and their leadership; leaders who do not believe in anything including the country and the citizens they claim to govern; leaders who believe only in money with which they foster their luxurious lives and protect themselves and kill others through some unwholesome means; leaders who do a battle to clinch power by all means not to serve but to suck the country and her citizens dry and maintain their constituencies in acquisition of the best cars and women.

This in no small scale explains also why cultism has refused to leave our institutions of higher learning. The root is in our leaders. But the failure of Edem in his evil intent should be a teacher to those whose intentions still run his course. His predecessors failed. The wooden crocodile failed its bearer. The charms in the old Anambra Government House were exposed. The Ezenwanyi's amansi did not succeed in making her client retain the governorship. The governor who swore at Alusi Okija did not succeed. The commissioners who allegedly tried to encage the governor with charms failed. The self-acclaimed prophet of Nawgu, Eddy Okeke who 'protected' and enriched his clients could not save himself and died a shameful death in the hands of the Bakassi Boys. The Almighty Bakassi Vigilante also crumbled like a pack of cards and what was thought invulnerable became vulnerable. They were proscribed by the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo and were forced out by a team of mobile policemen. This shows that life and death do not belong to man but God and that no one can give or take life. Our people have made the mistake of looking for protection where it is not. The only Odeshi is the living God without whom we are nothing and can do nothing.

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