Witch Killing in Nigeria: Why We Must Stop the Ukpabios and Liberty Gospel Church
By Leo Igwe
I want to tell you why you should oppose the recent move by the Ukpabios to bring their witch-hunting mission to Lagos, Nigeria. Before doing that, please take a look at a recent report in one of the Nigerian dallies, the Punch. This newspaper reported the murder of a 70-year-old woman, Mrs Lyiatu Michael, in Doka community in Bauchi state. Mrs Michael met her untimely death after being accused of witchcraft. She was one of the two women who were seized by a local mob following suspicion of occult harm. Angry youths accused the women of causing premature deaths and lack of progress in their community. They took the two women to a house where they beat and tortured them to confess details of their occult activities. Mrs Michael died in the course of the beating but the other woman survived and is receiving treatment at a local hospital. Cases of torture and killing of persons who are accused of witchcraft are widespread in Nigeria. Many of these cases take place in remote communities and are largely unreported.
Witchcraft accusations in Nigeria have been linked to the activities of churches and pastors. Unfortunately these churches have continued to promote their witch finding activities despite the negative impact on the local population. One of such churches is the notorious Liberty Gospel Church. Helen Ukpabio, a self-acclaimed ex-witch, owns the church. Ukpabio just posted this message on her face book page :
“I will be in Lagos on a five day crusade: Deliverance From Difficult Witchcraft Attacks. Witchcraft remains one of the major avenues through which the devil attacks and oppresses unbelievers and believers in the world today. This has led to oppression, joblessness, hardship, untimely death, failed marriages in families, unfruitfulness etc.
God wants to deliver a lot of people from the yoke of bondage and I will teach expository teachings that will lead to deliverance. Ministering also would be Pastor Mfonido Ukpabio”.
Clearly Helen Ukpabio has recruited the son into the business of witchcraft exorcism. She is passing on the baton of witch finding. Well, it is difficult to comprehend that the Ukpabios are going ahead with this vicious program despite the obvious damaging effects.
According to the post, this program is taking place in Lagos in South West Nigeria where the Liberty Gospel Church has established a new branch at 22a Adewumin Abudu Avenue Off Osolo Way Isolo Ajao Estate, Lagos. Apparently, the Liberty Gospel Church is extending its witch-hunting mission to Lagos. We must not allow that! Actually, the headquarters of the Liberty Gospel Church is in Calabar in Cross River State. The activities of this church have been linked to rampant child witchcraft accusations in the region. Are we going to allow these tragic incidents to happen in Lagos?
As the case Mrs Michael has revealed, Nigerians attack and kill witches because they believe witchcraft is real. So they attribute causal agency and responsibility for their misfortunes to occult forces. Nigerians blame the witches for death, illness, accidents, poverty, infertility and lack of progress. Meanwhile these associations and attributions are unfounded. Witchcraft is imaginary and has no basis in reason, science or in reality.
However, messages such as the one that Ukpabio posted make many Nigerians to believe that witchcraft is a valid explanation for their misfortunes. It is not. The poster for events further spells out what constitutes witchcraft attacks. It states: Are you suffering from witchcraft attacks, obstacles and difficulties, failures or frustrations, joblessness with disappointment, confused life and unproductivity, untimely death miscarriages and bareness”.
As you can see, Ukpabio and her Liberty Gospel Church continue to recharge and reinforce witchcraft narratives in furtherance of their evangelical business. They emphasize the link between “joblessness, hardship, untimely death, failed marriages in families” and impotency and witchcraft. Meanwhile such causal links and connections do not exist. They are imaginary!
All critically minded people should try and resist the Ukpabios before it is too late. All people of conscience should mobilize and ensure that they do not extend their witch-hunting mission to Lagos.
We should not wait until lynch mobs start burning alleged witches on the streets of Lagos before confronting the Ukpabios. We should not wait until old women in Lagos start suffering the same fate as Mrs Michael or children who are accused of being witches are beaten, tortured and killed, as has been the case in places such as Cross River and Akwa Ibom states before taking actions. Witch persecution, killing and beating will not stop in Nigeria until evangelical throwbacks such the Ukpabios and their team of witch identifiers, exorcists and ‘doctors’ are stopped.