Monday, October 12, 2020 4:09 pm
With Coronavirus, like war, ravaging the world now, not a few Nigerians see it as a spiritual problem that requires a spiritual solution. Below is an illustration of how, during the Nigeria-Biafra war, especially shortly before the fall of Enugu in October 1967, Professor Ben Nwabueze, SAN, the eminent Constitutional Law scholar, and others went to consult a mystic!
He recounts his experience in this chilling and interesting incident below, entitled:
Consulting the oracle: Soothsayers and the Nigeria-Biafra War
By Ben Nwabueze
I cannot fail to mention another action involving me, which was taken as part of the desperate effort to try and halt the advance of the Nigerian troops into Enugu and so prevent the fall of the city to them so early in the war. A group of us, consisting of Joe Emembolu, the Attorney-General, Professor Kalu Ezera, Dr Okechukwu Ikejiani (accompanied by his wife) and myself, went to consult with mystics operating from Umuahia about our prospects in the war and what we should do to win it!! The visit to the mystics was supposed to have received the approval of Ojukwu, but I am not sure of that. The mystics had acquired a name, and had quite considerable clientele, which included some prominent people in Biafra, including Mrs Nzimiro, the wealthy Port Harcourt-based business woman and Alex Mbanefo, a prominent Onitsha-based lawyer (later a Judge of the High Court), both of whom also came on their own to consult with the mystics on this occasion. As a supposedly government-sponsored team, our group was put in a special room, connected by an open door to another much bigger room where the general body of clients or ‘patients’ was kept.”
Gospel music from an instrument was being played non-stop until 3 a.m. when we were told the process of consultation would begin. The process did begin with a mighty, noisy wind which shook the entire building. There was an impenetrable darkness resulting from heavy blinds in all the widows. The mighty, noisy wind was repeated three consecutive times, after which there appeared on the low-constructed ceiling of the building, a flicker of light, which was coming down slowly; it moved round the room our team was kept to the general consulting area, and was speaking in a shriek female voice. We had been told to address it (or her) as Dr Tew and to say ‘welcome madam, welcome madam’ and not to make any noise or flash any light, as she could be dangerous if provoked. Dr Tew finished, and the flicker of light went up slowly to the ceiling and vanished.”
The mighty, noisy wind occurred again three times, and thereafter there landed just by my side, a figure wearing heavy piked shoes, but we could not get a glimpse of him because of the impenetrable darkness into which the rooms had been thrown by the heavy blinds in the windows. The figure in his heavy [piked] shoes marched up and down the two consulting rooms, and finally started the consultation/divination itself. He spoke throughout in flawless English with a certain continental accent. The shadowy figure gave us a rundown of the war so far, and what had been happening in all the war fronts, the role he had been playing, the way he often appeared, unnoticed, in front of our troops, and what needed to be done to ensure continued success until final victory. A large amount of money, well-packaged, should be taken and dropped at a spot in Cross River. Moving thereafter to a place just by my side, the shadowy figure said: ‘Be steady’, and vanished. The blinds were immediately drawn, and it was bright day light. He must have been speaking for upwards of three hours. (The mystic claimed to be a medical doctor, and even administered an injection in the presence of all of us on Ikejiani’s wife for an undisclosed ailment, with the poor woman crying in pains.
What to make of all of this was now the question before our team. Although I could not fathom out the manner in which the mystics (both of them) appeared and vanished, I was satisfied that it was all a trick, a fluke, and so advised, against the views of some members of the team, that no money should be taken and dropped in the Cross River. I was criticised for being a skeptic. Happily, Ojukwu refused to provide the money. I gathered, however, that some wealthy Biafran citizens got the money together, and dropped it as directed. The money must have been picked up somehow by the mystics. I gathered too that, as the habit among many Biafran military commanders of not embarking on major military campaigns unless given the green lights by the mystics became a matter of great concern to the authorities, the place in Umuahia from where they operated was raided by soldiers on the orders of Ojukwu, the mystics arrested and detained, and incredibly large sums of money were found in the place and confiscated. I gathered further that, after the war, the mystics re-opened the business at Enugu to which they had re-located.
I think the mystics played on the gullibility of people faced with a desperate situation involving life and death and the loss of their earthly possessions, as the war faced us in Biafra. It illustrated in a practical way the tragic consequences of war.
SOURCE:— Ben Nwabueze, ‘His Life, Works and Times—An Autobiography’ (Vol. I), (Ibadan: Gold Press Ltd 2013) 177-179
-Ugo Ezeh posted this on FB’s Nigeria Nostalgia 1960- 1980 project