A proposed Conference on witchcraft by the B.I.C Ijomah Centre for Policy and Research at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) is threatening to tear the institution apart 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.
While online campaigns against the conference continue, leaflets and posters are also in circulation calling for its cancellation.
Special prayers are also being held 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.”
Diverse opinions on the conference
At the Alumni level there are also diverse views on the conference.
In a post on the UNN Alumni Whatsapp forum, 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.
But 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!”
On his part Chinedu Afigbo called for caution. He backed up his stand with a bible quotation; 1 Corinthians 10:26 “Everything is permissible,” but not everything is permissible….”