A scheduled academic conference tagged International Interdisciplinary Conference on Witchcraft; Meaning Factors and Practices organized by the B.I.C Ijomah Centre for Policy and Research at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) has became a subject of disagreement, debate and controversy even before the sessions are opened as students, staff and alumni disagree on the need for the conference.
As the November 26 and November 27 dates for the conference draw nearer, members of the university community, including students and staff, who are opposed to the programme, have already started staging protests.
The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria has even declared a two-day “prayer of warfare” against the conference.
In a statement on Sunday, Godwin Madu, chairman of PFN in Enugu, also called for the cancellation of the conference which he described as “sponsoring evil”.
While online campaigns against the conference continue, leaflets and posters are also in circulation calling for its cancellation. Madu said it does not “give God glory,” asking Christians to pray against it.
“We cannot fold our arms and watch our future dragged into what will not give God glory,” he said in the statement. “To this end, the Church in Enugu has declared a two-day prayer of warfare. We must not allow this at a time like this, as we have had enough of ungodly activities in the country already. The Church should pray against those sponsoring evil in the state.”
He said Enugu state is “in the hands of God,” adding: “We will not hand it over to witches.”
“So, all Christians should, without further delay, call on the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the awesome God of David to fight for his name,” he said.
Other groups are also planning or currently holding special prayers within and outside the campus against what has been described in some quarters as “the work of the agents of darkness.”
Some of the posters littering the University community have inscriptions such as: “UNN belongs to Jesus”; “Witches and Wizard, No vacancy!” “Say no to the meeting of Witches and Wizard’, “We are a Christian community”; “Don’t pollute our environment”; “We plead the blood of Jesus over UNN, hence we reject all forms of witchcraft overtly or covertly”.
Professor Damian Opata who is to present the lead paper alongside Prof P.J. Ezeh explained that the conference is purely academic.
“There are always lots of views on social media. I saw the postings in Facebook, some people welcomed it, some people think it’s anathema, some think it’s even a meeting of witches themselves. It’s a diverse word; they are all different opinions. But I like the idea that they are having such a thing and I am part of it’’.
Also Chidi Ugwu, a lecturer and one of the organisers of the conference said, “contrary to insinuations, the event has nothing to do with actual “witches and wizards.
“If you have heard that we are calling for a meeting of witches and wizards in UNN, that is not true.
“We want to interrogate the various things people think is witchcraft, the things people think are caused by witchcraft, the blames people give to witchcraft and the different practices in different parts of the world that are related to witchcraft.
“We will also look at the implications; the social implications of some of these beliefs that people have and the social manifestations of what people think when they say this is a witch or wizard.
“We are not calling a conference for people to die and go to the spirit world to know whether there are witches or not.”
Reacting to this news an alumni of the institution and Lagos based media consultant Chido Nwakamma wrote:
“Deeply embarrassed at the news of alleged protest by students and staff of UNN against a conference on witchcraft. Shameful. These are not students. These are people against the idea of inquiry and diligent search embedded in the philosophy of UNN. The philosophy of the institution is to “seek truth, to teach truth and to preserve truth”.
Diligent examination of the 5Ws and H (Who, Where, What, When and How) of any and every matter is the business of a university.
Another UNN alumni,George Emenalo disagreed stating that “Spiritual things are not easily comprehensible, what’s happening in UNN is not academic.
“The witches they want to expose will surely put up a fight and that’s what is happening right now, but they have a chance of dealing with it effectively if they take cognizance of the reason behind the protests. It takes deeper understanding to know why the protests are taking place, so the organizers are certainly out to contend with the supernatural, that’s all I am saying. Supernatural things are not academic!”