Many people, including medical experts, seem to be pointing to depression as the possible cause for Dr Allwell Oji’s tragic suicide. But two renowned Ifa priests have maintained a different stance. They spoke to Isioma Madike and Adeolu Adeyemo in two separate interviews about what they suspect could have pushed the doctor to such a sad act.
Allwell Chiawolamoke Oji’s tragic death shook the nation to its foundation. It reverberated across Nigeria with many giving suggestions on why the young doctor, who was widely viewed as successful by Nigerian standard, did what he thought was best for him. There has not been any consensus on the possible cause of the act since Sunday when the incident happened.
In an attempt to solve the mystery, Saturday Telegraph team decided to consult the Ifa priests. But, the journey to one of the Ifa temples at Morogbo Village via Agbara, a boundary town divided by a major road that runs through to Badagry, was as tortuous as it was interesting. The temple, however, is very popular among the inhabitants of the area. Right from the Morogbo junction, every one appears to know where it is located. Though, the community is better accessed with Okada if one is not driving, it is not a place where a stranger will easily miss his or her way.
The shrine is located on a near rough, sandy terrain, adjoining the almost ghetto-like street that was freshly rehabilitated. Nevertheless, the neighbourhood is an interesting sight to any visitor any day. Such fascinating things greeted Saturday Telegraph when its crew entered the temple that is tucked away in a beautifully carved architecture, overlooking a darkish canal at the back of the building hosting the traditional worship centre.
Within a few hours that the crew was ushered in, Chief Omo-Oba Olorunwa Ayekonilogbon, the priest of Ifa deity, sauntered in clad in casual robe; his lieutenants, in more expensive attires, were in circle formation. Together, they went through motions of holy ecstasy, chanting incantations. They muttered seemingly unintelligible, perhaps, spiritual words and danced to beats of native drums. Yet, the drummers were not anywhere near the shrine.
As this was going on, visitors to the temple were being tutored on how to behave in order not to incur the wrath of the gods inside the outsized edifice. Women were ordered to look away from the shrine as it is forbidden to do otherwise. Those who came for prayers and spiritual consultations were asked to remove their footwear as a condition before stepping into the holy arena.
As the first step preceding the consultations, those awaiting cleansing were taken to the inner chamber, where some invocations were made. Others clapped and danced to the priest’s tantalizing ditties. This, according to one of the adherents, was necessary to appease the gods and ancestors. The chanting, no doubt, electrified the atmosphere.
“It is everyday process of supplication here,” the priest said, after completing what looked like an obligatory ritual before commencing the business of the day. Clearing his voice in a manner reminiscent of Chief Zebrudaya of the famed New Masquerade, Ayekonilogbon, offered a very lengthy prayer for all around, the nation and its leaders, and surprisingly to both Christian and Muslim clerics.
“We prayed for everybody here because we believe Eledumare (God Almighty) created all of us. We do not discriminate as it is the case with the Whiteman’s religions,” he told his guest, with a tone of satisfaction.
After due consultation with the gods and his ancestors, Ayekonilogbon, declared emphatically that anything could have caused the death of Oji. The young medical practitioner had brutally ended his sojourn on earth on Sunday in an unnerving manner when he plunged into the lagoon after he allegedly received a call that no one could ascertain where it came from. Many theories and suggestions have been advanced on what might have been the likely cause of his action, the most prominent being depression.
However, the Ifa priest said, such a theory could just be a smokescreen. To him, that a bird cried at night and a child died in the morning could not be wished away as a mere coincidence. Traditionally speaking, he said, only two theories could suffice in this case. “It is either he was controlled using an African traditional technique or the lagoon is hungry and angry.
“Considering that it was after Oji received the call that he took his life in such a cruel manner, speaks volume. If he was controlled through African traditional way, no matter how he tried to evade it, he could still have looked for or waited to get near water before taking his life. You also know that our religion believes in destiny, it could have been his destiny as well.
“Again, if you look at the rate of deaths in the lagoon in recent time, via suicide mostly, it is equally possible the water is hungry and angry. What His Royal Highness, Oba Rilwan Akiolu of Lagos, needs to do now and urgently too, is to assemble credible traditionalists, I mean Ifa priests, to find out why the lagoon has suddenly become angry. All what the Babalawos need do is get close to the water, take a little for consultation. Ifa is capable and would surely reveal why all these things are happening. Until that is done, we might be chasing shadows.”
Also, Chief Yemi Elebuibon, another well-known Ifa priest, spoke in a manner that suggests that Oji could have been ‘programmed’ (hypnotized) to do what he did. Eedi, he explained, is a bad omen in Yoruba land. “It is a great offence for a person to commit suicide; an abomination. Whoever does that is considered to have brought dishonor to his/her family.
“Yet, the traditional belief behind suicide is that some people do not just commit the act on their own, but for some mystical interventions. However, some people could find themselves in critical and unpleasant situations, and opt for suicide as the last resort instead of living to face the problem. Whenever it happens proper inquiry is set up by the king or head of the community where it occurred to find the cause of the problem and an Ifa priest is mostly called upon to prescribe atonement to cleanse the city.”
Elebuibon nevertheless agreed that it is possible for a person to harm himself or herself without any diabolical undertone. “We live in a world where we all have personal battles. We tend to overcome them each time they arise as a result of our mental strength but sometimes they conquer us. When this happens, a person may consider suicide as his/her last resort,” the priest told Saturday Telegraph.
He said it could be diagnosed through a session of Ifa consultation. When a person consults Ifa, according to him, the past, present and future will be revealed. “Ifa gives warning about incoming dangers and the priest analyses the root cause of a certain predicament. Signs of hypnotism can range from change in attitude, manner of speaking and so on and only people close to the person can discover this.
“However, a person suspected or confirmed to be under hypnotism should seek help immediately as failure will wreak havoc and may eventually lead to awful death of the particular person and many others. Without proper spiritual care, sometimes, the repercussions of some actions can influence a person’s life negatively. Such a person will begin to act under the control of mystical forces,” Elebuibon added.
The renowned traditionalist also said there is history of suicide in Ifa mythology and that hypnotism can only be prevented through constant consultation with Ifa for spiritual fortification.
To Ayekonilogbon, Ifa is a religion, widely worshiped mostly by the Yorubas in the South Western part of the country. The 49-year-old traditionalist hails from Ode-Erinje in Okutipupa, Ondo State. He believes that neither Christianity nor Islam – Nigeria’s two most professed religions is superior to Ifa. This may be the reason he wants Ifa to be embraced as a national religion. Ayekonilogbon said with the deity accepted by Nigerians, corruption and allied vices in the country will become history.