Ombatse Cult, a fetish group which draws support from majority Eggon tribe of Nassarawa State is seen as an alternative to the failed social justice and security in Nigeria. Ombatse cult came into national limelight when their followers murdered over 100 personnel of the Nigerian police and the SSS. The national uproar which followed the crisis was well intentioned- if security personnel could be slaughtered like goat, then there is no hope for the common man.
Everybody condemned the massacre and afterward a paltry N1millon naira was given to the families of slain policemen. The case has died down, everybody has forgotten the event, till another group rises up and kills yet more number of security personnel and another round of uproar will ensue. This is Nigeria where root causes of events are swept under the carpet.
I was expecting to hear about Federal Government Commission of Inquiries on why Eggon people of Nasarrawa see a 76 year old man, Lega Ahgu, popularly known as Baba Alakyo, from a sleepy Lakio village near Lafia, as a saint, savior and messiah of a sort. Having interacted with many Eggon politicians, administrators and professionals over the issue of Baba Alakyo , there is unanimous affirmation that the man is innocent and those who wanted to kill him are the villains. It is painful that even clerics from the state, Christians, Muslims, Pagans and their elite including professors, PhD holders all see Baba Alakyo as a persecuted citizen whom the gods delivered from the hands of a power drunken state. How can a fetish man whose followers killed security personnel be seen as a persecuted citizen?
The answer is simple, Baba Alakyo was the first person that gave the Eggon tribe of Nasarrawa State the fetish powers they needed to reverse the series of defeats they encountered in the hands of Fulani Herdsmen. Fulani Herdsmen have terrorized the people for long, killing, maiming and raping their women. They also confiscated and destroyed their farmlands until Baba Aalkyo came to their fetish rescue. When the man took over the battle, Fulani Herdsmen were severally defeated that for them the fear of Ombatse is the beginning of wisdom. Fulani Herdsmen recently have tried to avoid Eggon people and their incessant victories over communities in Kogi, Benue, Plateau, Enugu, Delta, Kaduna and Cross River states have not been extended to the Eggon people of Nasarrawa states in recent times. Thus this old juju man helped the Eggon people obtain a sort of respite from the marauding herdsmen. What the Nigerian Police, Army, SSS etc couldn’t do for them, an old fetish master did. That is the origin of allegiance to Ombatse and Baba Alakyo’s rising fetish profile.
Baba Alakyo is revered by some persons in Nasarrawa State. According to them, he doesn’t charge money for spiritual consultations and he gives herbs for medicinal purposes. He also consults spirits on behalf of persons. This fetish priest organized his people to form Ombatse, a cult whose aim is to ensure that Eggon people live in peace with each other by adhering to oaths of morality, fairness and equity especially when dealing with their fellow Eggon tribesmen. This cult group worships a deity known as Azhili and they indoctrinate their followers that their principles tallies with the Bible and Quran, principal among which is that an Ombatse member must be holy and shun theft, adultery, false witness, intimidation etc.
Ombatse cult also metamorphosed into a spiritual court where aggrieved persons bring their cases for the spirits to adjudicate. Cases of adultery, theft, robbery, ritualism, confiscation of family properties etc which normally should have been adjudicated upon by normal administrative courts were being handled by Ombatse group because the people lacked confidence in the courts.
It seems the state apparatus hates the faces of Eggon tribesmen. Eggons in the police force are also being transferred en-masse to other states. In one of the transfer letters with Ref No CH:5250/ZN.4/VOL./194 dated 19th June, about 32 policemen from the zone were transferred out of the state in one fell swoop allegedly under pressures from the state. Governor Al-Makura had performed better than his predecessors in terms of providing infrastructures to Nasarrawa people but the culture of suffocating the Eggons did not abate under his regime.
It is obvious that the failure of security agents to provide adequate protection, the failure of the courts to dispense justice and the failure of the government to secure a better life for its citizens led the Eggon people to migrate towards a fetish medicine man as a savior. Chris Mamman, the President of Eggon Cultural Development Association (ECDA) had told newsmen severally that in recent times about 259 Eggon tribesmen had been killed and over 2500 houses burnt and the government never bothered to send in single police personnel to protect them from the regime of Abdullahi Adamu in 1999 till date. Listing litanies of unprovoked attacks Mamman said that ”On March 30, 2007, the Alago Militias attacked our peace-loving people in Assakio town in Lafia East Development Area to annihilate or cleanse the area of the Eggon people for no just cause. The Eggon lost so many lives and over 200 houses were totally razed. Despite our cry to both the state government and the law enforcement agencies, nothing was done to either compensate our people over the loss of properties or even a visit from any government official to condole with us over the loss of lives.
On Saturday, April 7, 2012, a band of Fulani militia attacked our people in Yelwa Ediya in Doma Local Government Area, killing Eggon people and burning 22 houses belonging to Eggon people.
On June 1, 2012, the Alago Militia with the support of other invited ethnic militias attacked Eggon quarters in Assakio town, killing some of our people. The reason for the attack is what they called non-payment of royalty/tribute on a bag of rice per Eggon farmer as imposed by the Alago community leader. Our people defended themselves. The rest is now history.
On October 18, 2012, a band of Fulani militia attacked our people in Angwan Alaku and Kadarko Railway Villages of Giza Development Area. This led to the death of nine Eggon people who were not only butchered but parts of their bodies were mutilated and removed and their corpses deposited in the bush close to their farms”.
Okija Shrine was one of such sister cult in Anambra State where people took various cases to for strange spirits to judge. Those whose properties and family land were confiscated, apprentice salesmen whose masters refused to settle, cases of robbery, mysterious death, theft, scandals and malicious defamation of character all took their cases to Okija Shrine. The Shrine attendants then sends emissaries to invite the accused to the place within 7-21 days to clear self of all accusations or the spirits will declare them guilty and mete justice. Such was the powers of this fetish Shrine that those allegedly killed by it are taken to the place and deposited to avoid spiraling death for others.
Politicians also used the shrine to administer oaths of secrecy and allegiance from followers. Senator Andy Uba allegedly ordered his brother Chris Uba to drag ex-Governor of Anambra State, Chris Ngige to the shrine to swear oath of surrendering state coffers to their family, and it took the resistance of the combined voice of Anambra people and some anointing oil Ngige obtained from an Anglican Bishop, before he wriggled out of the fetish oath. Former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia State dragged his successor to the place to swear oath of subservience.
Therefore, it is shameful that a society that has up to 20 million literates and about 5 million graduates from various universities in the world cannot put forward an effective social security, justice administration and policing system. It is disturbing that a nation like Nigeria is gradually retrogressing towards allegiance to fetish organizations in search of justice and protection. Even if more policemen were killed by Ombatse cultists, it will not change the minds of Eggon people, because they believe that during their hard times, the apparatus of the law offered no defense.
Days after the Ombatse attacks, some herdsmen attacked villages in Abutu, Guma and Gwer local governments of Benue State leaving over 40 persons dead. A month later, the herdsmen attacked Nzorov ward in the same Guma Local Government where the earlier attacks took place, killing over 45 persons again and the security agents seems helpless. Thus over 85 persons dead within weeks and the state offered no security. Soon these Benue communities will gravitate towards a sinister juju man for deliverance and the fetish self help cycle goes on. These strange spirits Nigerians are gravitating towards for communal deliverance will soon make strange demands on these wards because their protection is not for nothing. All the family and town prayer deliverances all over the place is because some forefathers mortgaged themselves to strange spirits in order to obtain reprieve from attacks, oppressions and injustice.
Nigerians travel to Ijebu- Ode, Calabar, Kano, Asaba, Warri, Bauchi, Benin and different places searching for groups and cults like Okija, Ombatse etc in an effort to obtain justice, protection and security. As a result, more educated persons including those trained in the US are paying loyalty to suspicious spirits for protection and preservation. This does not make for a good social and spiritual development .Churches and Mosques looks silly in the face of all these, while faith in God is being substituted for faith in juju priests. The earlier the Nigerian government and religious leaders develops a system of effective policing, security, justice and conflict resolution based on equity and the rule of law, the better for the nation. Deliberate confiscation of electoral mandates through corrupt connivance of the executive, judiciary and security agents are giving rise to such fetish allegiance, especially for people whose faith in God had suffered fatality.
Any Nigerian who thwarts justice, delays justice, oppresses his neighbor and embezzles funds meant for the welfare of the citizenry have indirectly contributed in driving people with little faith in God to hold allegiance to fetish groups like Ombatse , Okija, Egbesu , Civilian JTF as alternative to justice and security and soon God’s judgments will fall on them.