Felix Ikem, Nsukka
The University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) first international conference on witchcraft organised by Prof. B.I.C Ijomah Centre for Policy Studies and Research kicked off in Nsukka, yesterday, after the theme was dropped to “Dimensions of Human Behaviour”
The management of the institution had last weekend directed the organisers to drop the initial topic after protests by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), students and some individual over the choice of the topic.
However, the conference started smoothly as scheduled with Princess Alexandra Auditorium venue of the conference filled up to capacity.
In a welcome address, Director of the Centre, 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 21st Century because of witchraft-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 platform, engineered by person 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.”
In a Lead Paper, entitled: “The wealthy are no witches: Towards an Epistemology and Ideology of Witchcraft among the Igbo of Nigeria,” Prof Damian Opata, said 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 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, seers 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 congregations,” he claimed.