Henry A. Onwubiko Ph.D
What recently happened in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka over the palaver of witches and their witchcraft parodies a similar but more macabre tragedy in history which led to the eclipse and final dissolution of Peoples Temple in Jonestown, Guyana. In both cases the authority of the Church was evoked by its ecclesiastical witches to domesticate a community of African People and then test their gullibility to obey and trust the gloomy leadership and diktat of Western imperialism. Through such mental slavery, Africans were deprived of their liberty to seek the much needed scientific knowledge and political solutions to their social development as their hour of liberation continued to recede into the ferment of Western chicanery.
From the growing population of disenchanted African Americans in the United States who, defying Malcom X, chose to flee persecution from racism than to confront it, the Reverend Jimmy Jones – the racist and charismatic founder of Peoples Temple – found it easy to set up a sanctuary under the subterfuge of a humanitarian and philanthropist who offered Peoples Temple to African Americans as a political solution to racism and White supremacy and an alternative land of freedom.
After patiently investing time and money for evangelizing, indoctrination and conditioning, Jones set up his rules and regulations for the black fugitives. Cardinal among them was a weekly rehearsal of mass suicide in which adults and children members of Peoples Temple were served ordinary fruit cocktail drinks until that fateful day chosen by Reverend Jones when the drinks were laced with the deadly cyanide toxin and consumed by every member. The delusion that led to mass suicide was for members to prevent being captured alive by intruders from the CIA which the Reverend Jimmy Jones was alleged to be a covert member.
But despite such a pallid crime in God’s name which claimed the lives of over seven hundred members of Peoples Temple, the neocolonial witches of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) may also be inadvertently engaged to repeat it. It came as no surprise to CAN watchers when it quickly acknowledged that Christians were unjustly more oppressed in Nigeria than other religions, including our traditional religious identity before colonization to support the propaganda of Mr. Pompeo –America’s ebullient Secretary of State – to place Nigeria in its watch list as a violator of its International Religious Freedom Act of 1988, when much of the funding of CAN for its evangelism and retrogressive religious neocolonialism to contain intellectual freedom, encourage underdevelopment and the liberty to pursue scientific knowledge in Nigeria Federal Universities, comes from the United States and its Western allies.
CAN is blessed with its Rolls Royce, international estates, and powerful jet-owning apostles and funded by Western Agencies. It incubates several student religious bodies, academic, non-academic staff and public figures in the University of Nigeria. Its recent predictable and triumphant order wisely obeyed by the university administration to cancel its Academic and International Conference on Witches at the B.I.C Ijeoma Research Centre or to change the title of the conference was its own litmus test to determine the vulnerability of the university community to its blind trust and obedience to the Empire from its many years of social engineering through the sound and fury emanating from its churches and student programs; its high powered crusades for the saved and unsaved multitudes; its unbridled and bellicose evangelism from invited foreign and local men of God which all have drowned the gentle voice of reason that guide research and teaching, and makes learning coherent.
Indeed, the surrender of the university administration to the authority of CAN further confirms its escalating powers through its myriad members to manipulate employment, promotion of workers, securing strategic administrative or academic positions from the Registry, Deans, Heads of Department, Directors of Institutes, leading positions in the Senate, Deputy Vice Chancellors as well as Governing Council members. Thus, skills, qualifications and ability, are no longer sufficient to evaluate workers or even students but ethnicity, religious and church denomination are now increasingly determinant variables in being successful in Nigerian universities. CAN, through members of its churches and numerous sanctimonious groups exert considerable influence on the choice of subjects or academic curricula to be taught at various departments. In the natural sciences, courses linked to the subject of evolution often appear and disappear or are quietly phased out by silent CAN warriors, thus retarding the growth of scientific knowledge, the pace of national industrialization and social development. The present religious imbroglio in the University is best represented by the present dean of students call for a special crusade and open prayers by the university community as a solution to the unusual increase in the death of prominent members of the university community. Also the present leadership of the Academic Staff Union (ASUU) has not escaped from the spell of CAN as it has instituted church-worship in the opening and closing of its congress meetings ironically in a secular university belonging to a nation with many religions.
It may be considered a bemusing paradox that with the lofty goal to restore the dignity of man, the University of Nigeria was founded under the guiding principles of secularity, enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution to ensure justice between its diverse multi-ethnic and multi-religious groups. Yet, today, more than half of the valuable land on its main campus is occupied by the church with some of the choicest residential areas reserved for priests.
The lecture theatres, administrative blocks, prefabricated laboratories, student hostels, workers residences, the medical center, the stadium and recreational areas with their bushes and unfinished buildings appear as mere appendages to the churches, with most of these poorly maintained buildings also used as worshipping centers on weekends by old and fresh student converts. While the environment around the churches are carefully groomed and lined with flowers, their roads tarred with diamond – surfaced respectability, it is not so with the only primary school of the University looking mangled and abandoned.
It will be economical to state that out of a month of thirty days, twelve evenings are punctuated with wild raving evangelism, supported by blaring loudspeakers, improvised and emotion laddened sanctimonious songs with the obvious aim to reach out to people at study or asleep. To accompany this unwarranted suffocation of the imagination and intellect are also visual pollution. For many years, the University buildings, bus-stops, and garbage disposal containers have been decorated with the posters of the lucky countless anointed men of God in their three-piece suits with their seductive wives. Apostle Johnson Suleiman whose poster still hangs on a billboard by the university gate is oddly not in the company of a wife.
However, it was Evangelist Reinhardt Bonnke that pulled together the largest multitude at the University of Nigeria. Unlike the rooky pastors in suits, Bonnke who sent his team two weeks ahead before landing in the university in a white helicopter, wore a colourful African brocade – no doubt a gift from his CAN handlers. Together with the ubiquitous posters of his evangelical team, the blind, the cripple, the sick and needy and even those who could bring their newly dead had sufficient notification from the team to come and receive their miracle and healing from this wonderful man of God.
It was the Vice Chancellor, Professor Nebo, who performed the first miracle by clearing a two-kilometer thick wilderness, with beaming electric lights to welcome the teeming multitude, while ensuring a comfort zone of pleasure for this omnipotent man of God in a University of Nigeria that had been in darkness in the past twenty one days. It was now past twilight and it appeared the entire university premises were empty and filled with darkness. There were no more cars on the roads. Only a few university security men were now sent to patrol much of the empty residential quarters. With a family of six, I sat at the over-filled sewage reservoir at No. 4 Ezenweze Close, responding to the interrogation of stern and armed security men while we watched the beaming electric lights four kilometers away.
Then I heard Bonnke’s booming voice above the incoherent cacophony of his black victims. I remembered the Reverend Jimmy Jones, his cocktail party and the more than seven hundred adults and children who trusted and obeyed him in search of a solution and scientific knowledge to resolve their troubles whose lives were extinguished forever.
Henry A. Onwubiko Ph.D, Professor and Head, Department of Biochemistry, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.