Regardless of the valid imports of the arguments for inert knowledge in philosophic discourse, the place of human experience in the conceptual understanding of the worlds’ processes cannot be understated.
It is why the long history of existential inquiries is replete with the human struggle to conceptualize, synthesize, and analyze the realities that define human experiences of the world, how in fact everything there came to be. It was the beginning of human’s journey at documenting knowledge based inquiries.
It is in line with this tradition of intellectual inquiry into social phenomena that the Professor B.I.C Ijomah Centre for Policy and Research, University of Nigeria Nsukka organised what was originally termed “First International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Witchcraft.”
But as with intellectual forays into metaphysical social phenomena in a society of deep-seated believe in the supernatural, mysticism, superstitious, and the metaphysical, the announcement of the conference immediately called out widespread condemnations from many, especially religious bodies both within and outside the university community; who felt, on the one hand that the conference was a call for a gathering of witches and wizards or that it was a needless academic exercise into a social phenomenon that is better left alone.
No other group was more confronting in their open rebellion to the conference than the Christian bodies. One of the protest banners placed in the university read “Say No to the Gathering of Witches and Wizards! We Are a Christian Community”.
According to the secretary of CAN in Enugu State, ‘Dr. Joseph Ajujugwa, CAN’s opposition to the conference and declaring that it won’t hold was because “those papers that will be presented will never go like that and then it will lead people into witchcraft or wizardry.”
How an institution of intellectual and social engineering will ‘lead people into witchcraft and wizardry’ by engaging in an academic exercise into a significant social issue, beats one.
The conference however went on as planned. By the time the conference took off and lead paper presenter Prof. P. J. Ezeh had sparked off wide debate both in the conference and online with his emphatic declaration that “witchcraft does not exist, what exists is the belief in witchcraft”, the relevance of such social inquiry was immediately apparent.
Aside the teeming crowd inside the Princess Alexandra Auditorium (PAA), which highlighted the level of interest the conference had generated, many people outside the auditorium sought to substantiate the veracity of such claim or outrightly debunk it.
The question became, does witchcraft exist? If it does, how is it known? If it doesn’t, why do people believe in it? It is akin to the question on the existence of God.
In analyzing the believe in the efficacy of such social constructs, it has to be said that not only is it possible for witchcraft to exist in Nigeria, in any dysfunctional third-world society riddled with poverty, anything can in fact exist. It is the third-world witchcraft of poverty.
Witchcraft works here, devil is powerful here; miracle is prayed for here, because those are key features of socialization in a dysfunctional society, begging for basic social amenities like clean drinking water. And that is what most third world societies are; poor and dysfunctional.
Anything can exist anywhere. Witchcraft may exist in first world societies, what is however different is that scepticism is a dominant quality of first-world socialization.
How would witchcraft not exist and be powerful here, when, for instance admissions don’t care about merit? How would people be free of such mental caging, when employments and career progression is about who you know and not competence and expertise?
How would witches not be responsible for the deaths of people’s loved ones in auto accidents when people have never used a pothole free road consistently for a decade at least?
How would witches not exist when even the President cannot be diagnosed in the country he leads? How would the miracle firing pastors and priests be relevant if such concepts are no longer believed?
Would there be witches blocking wombs if third-world societies like Nigerian tribal communities are not uncomfortable with adoption?
If a witch knows that no matter the efficacy of her witchcraft, your employment will be based on merit, your sickness will definitely be diagnosed and properly treated, if the witch knows that even if your womb is blocked with 10 bags of concrete cement, you will even thank God to keep your shape and opt for adoption, would the witch still find relevance?
What type of witch or wizard will be able to make Dangote, Innoson, or Otedola’s child beg for food or employment?
Witches, devil, religion, are powerful social phenomena in third world societies like Nigeria because poverty has left them physically and mentally dysfunctional.
By Guest columnist Chike Nwodo,Academic and social analyst, Enugu