Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Oil of Controversy: Judge Accused of Fetish Practices


“Kuru kere, kuru kere
O di le alawo
Kuru kere, Kuru kere
O di le onisegun
Ogun o ran wa o
E ma wule sare ka.”

“there they go again
to the witchdoctor’s
they are there again
to the herbalist’s
but all your exertions
are in vain, for
we are immuned to juju.”
King Sunny Ade
Juju Music Mega Star

The above song is one of the most popular songs of Sunday Adeniyi Adegeye a.k.a. King Sunny Ade, the legendary juju music megastar in the 70s.

The song aside its mellifluous rendition, became popular because it reflected the prevalent belief among Africans of the existence and reality of malevolent metaphysics and their diabolic powers. As far as many people are concerned, not only are there a plenitude of enemies against every individual, but those enemies, especially the ‘strong ones,’ operate chiefly on metaphysical or spiritual planes, using certain ingredients like oils, kolanuts, salt, animals, birds, ash, charcoal etcetera in the practice of their occultic and esoteric sciences.

Practitioners of esoteric sciences are feared by many people as they are reputed to have a wide range of potent and destructive powers including bewitchment, hypnotism, affliction of physical and mental diseases, even distortion of natural forces. Thus, nobody jokes with shamans and voodooists of whatever hue or colouration, not to talk of daring them. The advent of both Christianity and Islam as well as exposure to Western and Arabic education have done nothing to significantly douse in people, the fear, nay dread of those believed to be “controllers of invisible forces.”

This fact most probably was why a group of eight men and women were seen by three different groups of geckos {general duty, statutory and self employed} running pell-mell from the frontage of the Resource Centre of the Lagos Judiciary at the Tafawa Balewa Square to the Lagos State High Court, Igbosere. The time of the “Great Dash” was 8.30 a.m.

The runners upon arriving their destination panting and looking quite scared, narrated their story to the first senior official they saw. From what geckos could piece together from their excited talk, the group had come to the work-place that morning only to find a strange sight - oil markings and drops on their tables and computer screens.

After their garbled narration, the group was directed to see the Deputy Chief Registrar. But, before they got to the DCR, the news of the incident which sent all of them packing, had spread far and wide. The most common of the speculations that time {about 8.30 a.m.} was that some unknown persons had put fetish or sacrificial items in the form or red palm oil and falafel {akara} balls on the seats and tables of all the workers there.

By 9.00 a.m., the story identified the perpetrator of the sacrifice/ritual at the Resource Centre as Honourable Justice Wasilat Abidoye Esther Ayo and further that the honourable judge had “owned up” to her act claiming the sacrifice was only for the protection of the workers.

This certainly fantastic story in no time spread like wild fire and only die hard skeptics did not buy into it. It was simply sweet, intriguing news to many ears that a high court judge could be involved in fetish practices.

“You need to see the Resource Centre now. Red oil and ‘akara’ is all over the place.”
“Ebo” {Rituals}. That’s the in thing now in the judiciary. Imagine a judge doing that.”
“Wonders shall never end!”
“ Red oil and ‘akara’ in court, only God will save us.”
were some of the many comments that flowed around on account of the incident. Some credence was lent to the story when it was learnt from those who went to see the DCR that the Judge, Ayo .J disclosed that she was the one responsible for making marks in the Resource Centre “with anointing oil and it’s for every body’s good.” What was important to speculators and rumour mongers was the fact that a form of ritual was performed. They pooh-poohed the claim that the prayers and rites performed were commonplace Pentecostal Christian practice and ostensibly benevolent.

“What manner of prayers are those? Done behind peoples’ back?
Let the judge tell that to the marines.” was the common conclusion.

At about 8.40 a.m., Squib correspondents who got to the Resource Centre for enquiries saw that virtually all the workers were agitated and scared. But one of them Adewale Akinola refused them access to see things for themselves. Rather gruff and hostile, Akinola insisted that nothing was amiss, inspite of the troubled looks worn by many of his colleagues.

Around 12.00 p.m., the First Gecko himself came to the scene. It was again the lot of Akinola to repeat that nothing was amiss and then suggested that Justice Ayo could be approached on the claims that fetish objects and rituals were performed by Her Ladyship at the Resource Centre.

The next day at about 2.00 p.m., the SQUIB called on the office of Honourable Justice Ayo but it was not until 2.35 p.m. that access to the judge was granted.

The encounter between the SQUIB and the judge lasted ninety minutes with the topics of discourse extending beyond the investigation of alleged involvement of the honourable judge in fetish invasion of the Resource Centre.

Some parts of the said discourse are here deliberately excluded, as a matter for another day.
The Squib team was well received by the judge and the following exchange took place.

SQUIB: Good afternoon milady. We are here to investigate certain claims that your Lordship performed some sacrifices in the Resource Centre using palm oil and “akara.”

AYO. J: You heard that? Where?

SQUIB: In the court. People sent calls to us, asserting that palm oil and “akara” balls were placed on the seats of the workers in the Resource Centre and also that your ladyship owned up to doing that.

AYO. J: There was nothing like that. Palm oil and “akara.” Jesus Christ. Well, I want to say that you should investigate stories before publishing. People gossip a lot in the judiciary, even judges too. A lot of rumours are peddled. People say all sorts about things they don’t know.

SQUIB: That’s what we do - investigate before publishing. The only problem is that not all persons are prepared to open up to us. Not every judge does as your ladyship has done opening your doors to us. We just left the courtroom of another judge who refused to see us. We were investigating the claims that the judge, {a lady} sat in court wearing trousers.

AYO. J: I don’t read the SQUIB often. But few that I have read contained only negative stories about the judiciary, whereas there are positive developments taking place.

SQUIB: It is the stories we have that we publish. Even the so called negative stories, it is not easy to get them, not to talk of getting the positive ones. The authority here, from the onset see us as their enemy and so they don’t like talking to us.

I will also like your ladyship to help represent us to the other side that we are not devils, people interested in pulling down the towers. The only thing is that unlike many lawyers, we don’t believe that the profession is higher than the society and have no special interest in covering misdeeds in the profession. If a Senior Advocate for example embezzles client’s money, we will publish the story. If a judge is corrupt, SQUIB will publish it.

AYO. J: {Addressing some of the workers in the Resource Centre whom her ladyship had summoned} There is Mr. Ogunsina, sorry Ogunlana. He said he heard that you people saw palm oil and “akara” on your seats in the centre this morning.

WORKERS: Nothing like that.

AYO. J: What did you see?

WORKERS: Olive oil.

AYO. J: Was any oil on your seats?


AYO. J: {dismissing the workers} You can go now. {Turning to the SQUIB} You’ve heard yourself from the staff. There was no sacrifice or rituals. I am a Christian and a member of the Redeemed Christian Church. I only prayed in the place and anointed the computer. Nothing like sacrifice.

At this stage, the Honourable Judge called in one Paul, the Project Manager who was the first of the workers to enter the Resource Centre on Monday. Paul corroborated all what his colleagues earlier said when questioned by Justice Ayo in the presence of the SQUIB.

AYO J: So you have heard yourself. It is the workers that caused all these wild rumours by their panicky behaviour in the morning. Without checking with me they went to see the DCR who now called me and I explained the situation to her.

SQUIB: With due respect your ladyship, may be the workers panicked because they were not involved in the prayers and the anointing and so did not know what it was all about. May be your ladyship should have involved them.

AYO. J: Why I didn’t involve them is that some of them may not agree with it. All this place, including the Resource Centre is under my control and I can do anything to ensure all is well. But after hearing the true facts, will you still publish? These are mere distractions. There is a lot of work to be done.

SQUIB: We’ll still publish. A magazine such as ours that is on ground cannot afford to keep quiet on this very widespread rumour that a judge, so to say, “carried sacrifice.”

AYO. J: So what is your story going to be? Because on Monday now it is another thing one will see.

SQUIB: It’ll be unprofessional, milady to disclose that to you. But you can be sure that if we cared to come to see your ladyship to hear your own side of the story, then our story will be faithful to the facts.

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