Felix Ikem, Nsukka
The University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) 1st international conference on witchcraft organized by Prof. B.I.C Ijomah Centre for Policy Studies and Research kicked off on Tuesday in Nsukka after the theme was dropped to ”Dimensions of Human Behaviour.”
The management of the institution had last weekend directed the organizers to drop the initial topic of the conference after protests by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), students and some individuals over the choice of the topic.
However, the conference started smoothly as scheduled with Princess Alexandra Auditorium venue of the conference was filled up to capacity.
In a welcome address, the Director of the Center, Prof Egodi Ucehndu said: “We have for too long glossed over this matter of witchcraft, but it has persisted, even as people pray against witches and the strategy of prayer, alone, is not enough to combat the challenges of belief in witchcraft.
“Many men and women in different parts of Nigeria have been treated badly in the 21st Century because of witchcraft-related accusations.
“Charms and charmers have been included in both the arsenal and the medium for publicly contending with banditry in a state like Zamfara and Boko Haram under the guise of the joint task force.
“Considerable confusion attended this conference in social media and several real and virtual platforms, engineered by persons who set out the course of mischief,” she said.
She, however, admitted that, “the only casualty of the conference beyond being asked to change the title on our banners, is the withdrawal from the conference, on Sunday, by the Keynote Speaker, Prof. David Ker.”
A lead paper titled “The Wealthy are no Witches: Towards an Epistemology and Ideology of Witchcraft among the Igbo of Nigeria,” was delivered by Prof Damian Opata.
He said that the current manner in which witchcraft is propagated in Nigeria has continued to kill the development of knowledge in Igboland, Nigeria and Africa in general, adding that it just kills the initiative for creative indigenous thinking.
Apata who is a senior lecturer in the Department of English and Literary Studies said: “Diviners and seers in the indigenous traditions – many a time find that witchcraft is the source of the problems of many people who go to consult them.
“Pastors, prophets, sears in the foreign religions, charismatic priests of variegated persuasions very frequently use perceived attacks by witches and wizards to put fear in the minds and hearts of their various congratulations,” he said.
Opata advised that it is good to acknowledge the fact that the phenomenon ‘witchcraft’ exists in Igbo cosmology and worldview. He stressed that it is within the realm of cultural studies that the phenomenon of witchcraft can be adequately studied among Igbos.
Prof Peter-Jazzy Eze the Head of Department Sociology and Anthropology, UNN, in his presentation titled, “Which witch? What anthropology knows of the adult bugbear,” said, “witchcraft does not exist, it only exists in the mind of the people; science and technology have overtaken the superstitious belief of witchcraft which has no proof.
“Africa should drop the belief in witchcraft and embrace robust knowledge production in science and technology that is very practical.
“If Africans can fully embrace science and technology, in the next 50 years, there will be nothing like a superstitious belief in witchcraft,” he said.