A quiet combustion is consuming the fabrics of our tradition and nothing may ever be the same again. Can you believe it: that libation, the fetish arts of dining and wining with the dead is fast being consigned to the cemetery? You dare not try it here in the can-do city of Uyo or risk the wrath of an irate new generation, who think nothing could be more barbaric in these last days of the 20th century.
Now, to make things worse for those cranky old wizards who think they can manipulate us with their deadly rituals, quite a number of local government areas are putting official seal to the anti-libation crusade.
Stella Effiom, the iron lady who runs the municipal government in Uyo, says she will not brook any libation during her tenure. And that’s official. Instead of spending hard-earned government money to lavish some totemic ancestors with cows and gins, she will seek to feed the living, some of whom have not received legitimate entitlements such as pensions for years. And she said this in a rather Thatcherite fashion to the discomfiture of those traditional priests who were dressed up, towels and all, for a feast with the dead.
A week earlier, at neighboring Etinan, Ime Inyang, the popular youth leader, who won elections to govern the Oxford of Akwa Ibom State, had openly given thumps down to connoisseurs of libation, during the swearing-in of his councilors, his first official duty on the job. Apparently, the manifesto of the United Nigeria Congress Party, UNCP, on which platform Efiom and Inyang ascended to power, did not include buying cows and gins for evil spirits.
But the angst against this fetish practice has not just begun: the wind of change is merely sweeping deeper into the crevices of a State, where, since its creation nearly 10 years, ago, hundreds, maybe thousands of cows, along with drums of gin have been sacrificed, with an official nod, to evil spirits and deities, to the utter detriment of the spiritual and material wellbeing of the people.
In the newly created Ibesikpo-Asutan council, libation has never and may never be poured, the way things are going. Right from the very first meeting of the traditional rulers’ council, the crusade against libation erupted from the most unlikely trajectory. Chief Ita Etuk, lawyer, the village head, and perhaps, the best-known atheist in Akwa IbomState stood up, just as libation was about to be poured and moved a motion that libation should not be poured in the new local government area for seven years, in order to test the power of the Christian God vis-à-vis ancestral gods. The motion was unanimously adopted. To quote Ita Etuk: “I stopped that libation and everybody was happy.”
So what’s the big deal about libation that’s generating so much fuss among the younger general? Or what has made libation so leprous that nobody wants to touch it even with a long pole?
I have watched libations being poured at many levels, including the ridiculous level of enacting such brazen wizardry at public functions. From my observation, I can define libation with some authority, primarily as an act of communication and communion with the spirits of the dead for the purpose of invoking and deploying them to supervise, manipulate and control the living. You will not find that in any book.
To be sure, and just to satisfy my curiosity, I went for the dictionary meaning of libation and it said it all: viz: “the pouring forth of wine in honour of a god.” Note the small “gee.” I decided to check up on the meaning of “god” and found out it means “idol,” and I decided to find out the meaning of idol. Here is it: “a figure, an image, a semblance, a phantom; a counterfeit (of God), a false motion or erroneous way of looking at things to which the mind is prone.” That is Chambers English Dictionary.
Those who understand libation will readily agree that it is a practice of dealing with evil spirits. Jenning Dake, the American scholar who spent 100,000 hours in 43 years to write one of the best-known study bibles, define witchcraft precisely in the same words as the practice of dealing with an evil spirit.
Again, those who are familiar with libation will not hesitate to agree that libation is a means of communication with the dead. Dake also explains that communication with the dead is a kind of divination known as necromancy. You may reach any conclusion at your disposal but you won’t be too far from the truth if you say that libation is a level of witchcraft and necromancy.
Libation cannot be poured just by any face in the crowd. If you dare it, you can as well sing your Nunc Dimittis and suddenly join your ancestors to become an ancestor yourself. To be sure, libation can only be poured by ordained traditional priests of good standing. Those highly anointed traditional priests can hold an entire stadium spellbound once they step onto their invisible pulpits.
Be it in marriage ceremonies, the dedication of new-born babies or commissioning of factories, etc.; this practice is performed in the belief that we mortals cannot supervise, control, and guide our paths and affairs properly, but must submit to the supervision and guidance of the spirit of dead men. It is not on the same premise that believers in Almighty God predicate their prayers?
Often at public functions, both the priest of the Almighty God and the priest of the devilish god are invited to pray, one after the other. Usually, the priest of the Almighty would casually go to the microphone to read mere sanctimonious platitudes written on a piece of paper, without any thought to it or impact.
But the anointed ancestral priest would step out with enchanters, drink offering, and kola-nut. With studied artistry and display of oratorical prowess, he would invoke all known deities of the land, casting a spell on his audience, who soon respond with deafening applause. With vernacular, native wisdom and deeper insight into spiritual realms, this fetish priest easily outwits and overwhelms our American phonetic preacher. Not a surprise that so many factories, electricity, and water projects commissioned under the spell of fetish unction has quickly become a ghost of themselves, ready to join some destructive ancestors.
My surprise however is that many of us still drink with relish the left-over drinks served to the dead, unconscious of the fact that we are boozing with the dead in the same cup.
Scales are just beginning to fall from the eyes of the younger generation and it is becoming clear that drunken ancestors have caused more harm than good to our well-being and it is high time we starve them.