The interdisciplinary witchcraft conference was held despite criticisms from some quarters, why was it important to unravel the mystery behind witchcraft?
In this interview with the punch newspaper professor Benedict Ijomah gave reasons why they chose to go ahead with it the conference despite criticism from all quarters? enjoy some excerpts from the interview
professor Benedict Ijomah is a retired Professor of Political Sociology with the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, whom the school’s Centre for Policy Studies and Research was named after. During the week, the centre held a controversial conference on witchcraft
he said The aim of the conference was to unravel the mystery behind witchcraft.
‘’Scholarship is based on curiosity. What is the cause of this (mystery)? You will try to give an answer to what is happening. If you can’t get the answer, you go back and start constructing hypothesis; that is research methodology.’’
It is when you are looking for answers that you know you have to research. Now for the Christians that were making noises, I say they are hypocrites. Somebody talked about it on social media and I have already replied the person. He said as long as he was alive, the conference would not hold. I said sorry, the conference was held so you lost out. They made noises to confuse the public; the Bible says, ‘My people perish because of ignorance.’ How can a professor be talking and an elementary catechist will be telling him that as long as his God was alive, the conference would not hold? Is it not the same God I serve? I have just written the most revealing book about the Catholic Church. I asked a question: how did the Blessed Virgin Mary conceive to carry the immensity of Jesus Christ in her small virginal womb? That was my question.
God has no limit; the universe cannot contain God and yet the miracle of incarnation of God as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit descending into the small womb of Virgin Mary, has anybody wondered about it? I did and started doing research. I came up with the book. But I don’t want to publish it until I get approval from the Catholic authorities in Abuja because it deals with the dogma of the Catholic Church. When we pray, we say: ‘Hail Mary, full of grace’; what does it mean to you? We just chant and say we are Christians but we don’t even understand what we are saying and when a scholar wants to do a research to explain it to the people, an illiterate catechist will say as long as his God was alive, a conference would not hold.
I couldn’t attend (the conference) on the first day but attended the second session. I spoke and lashed out at all of them. I abused them. They are pretenders. If you watch T.B. Joshua, you would see him blowing out and everybody would be falling down. He would say he is driving away demons and witches and yet you open your mouth and say there are no witches. Why did you go there to be delivered? I didn’t ask him to deliver me. I am a Christian and I have written more than four books on Mary and Jesus. So they cannot be better Christians than me but they are making noises in the newspapers as if they own Christianity. After making a lot of noise about the conference, they didn’t show up at Nsukka. People who read what they said would think there would be trouble at Nsukka. I was there, waiting for the trouble to come.
Questions: So you’re not happy about the criticisms, especially from Christian organisation and their clerics.
It is a pity they didn’t come. They threatened to burn down the university. The vice-chancellor was agitated but I told him that having an academic discussion was not a crime. What do academics do? I will give my view; if I have a superior argument, I win. The Christians saying, they would protest at Nsukka, I waited for them. I would have given them a dose of what was on my mind. It is hypocrisy. The venue was packed to full capacity and there was no space.
Was it the first conference on witchcraft held in Nigeria?
I don’t know but in Europe, people do a lot of research. The Guardian of London raised a question last week about the effects of witchcraft on the growing of children in London. I sent a copy to the university. People in London are studying the effect of witchcraft – witchcraft affects every family in Africa. If a marriage breaks down, they will say the woman is a witch or the husband is a wizard. Sometimes they will arrest a small boy and say he is a wizard because his brothers are not making any progress. This is the experience in Africa but we don’t want to study it because we are hypocrites. We don’t want people to think we are witches.
After much pressure, the theme of the programme was changed, why did you yield to the pressure to do so?
That is where intelligence is better than ignorance. We said witchcraft, everybody cried out. I called the vice-chancellor and he said change the title and go ahead with your conference. We didn’t change anything in the conference; we merely modified the title. All the papers were the same but the illiterate people making noises didn’t have the intellectual perceptiveness to know that you could just modify a sentence and there would be peace.
Intelligent people and professors were there; we have to discuss what is happening to our society. If you go to Calabar, they still burn children because they think they are witches.
We are collecting papers from the conference and we are going to publish them. We will publish a book on witchcraft.
Some people believe that we have been brainwashed through imperialism by accepting everything brought by the white man, including religions and neglecting our own traditional ones, what do you make of that?
You see, when I was young, I was very radical. When I was a student at UNN, I founded a group called ‘Society for the Promotion of African Culture. We were doing everything in the typical African way. We wanted to preserve the African culture. You will see people learning how to dance like foreigners but you will not see anyone learning how to dance Atilogwu. I introduced it at UNN and students were learning how to dance Atilogwu. You don’t condemn what you don’t understand. I did not understand witchcraft but I could see its effects on children and marriages. In marriages, you would hear that they tied a woman’s womb and therefore she could not have a baby. They will stupidly talk about some religious mumbo-jumbo, where they will blow out and they will all fall down and say they have been delivered. It is painful that pastors, even those who have PhDs, are ignorant of the working of spiritualism. Witchcraft is only a dimension in the astral level. It is not the ultimate spiritual level but people don’t understand. The Cannon of Anglican Church who came from Owerri for the conference spoke at length and I also spoke at length. People now saw the stupidity of some (people) telling us not to discuss witchcraft. What do you know about witchcraft?