Posted by Aloysius Attah, Onitsha | 15 July 2018 | 21,261 times
“Yeah, yeah, I am the Ezenwanyi (the queen),” she yelled. “After me, nobody will commit adultery again in this town. I have been sent on a mission,” she turned hysterical and continued yelling as she scattered her well-fitted hair weave-on.
The crowd surged forward until she wanted to do the unimaginable. One of her wrappers fell off her waist and she went further to remove the other one to reveal her underwear. The crowd roared, some out of excitement while others cringed at what was unfolding.
It was like a Nollywood film location where the cast and crew were recording a scene to depict a young woman that suddenly ran mad at the market square. The only difference this time is that no camera was rolling, and it was not make-believe. It was happening live and the location was Nkwo Aji village junction in Enugu-Ezike, Igbo-Eze North local government area of Enugu State.
On enquiry, this reporter was told that the woman at the centre of the drama, who is in her late twenties, was married to a businessman based in Nnewi, Anambra State. They were blessed with three children and things went on smoothly in the family until tongues started wagging that she was allegedly seen in compromising positions with some young men. It got to a climax one day after serving her husband dinner and she started behaving funny. Before one could say Enugu-Ezike, she started destroying valuable properties inside their apartment.
Eyewitness account said that the house became too “hot” for her, to the extent that the clothes she wore were like coals of fire on her body. The husband summoned courage and with the help of other brothers in Nnewi brought her home. Immediately she stepped her foot on their compound, she went wild.
As if possessed by an invisible force, she overran everybody and went to the local village deity known as Enokpa and began to roll on the ground confessing all she “did” with other men. The family members, including her husband, searched for her throughout the day until the next morning when she was spotted at the village market junction acting like a mentally deranged person. From there, she was taken to the house of the eldest man in the village where all the necessary rituals were done and she regained sanity.
This is a true-life encounter among hundreds of cases of other married women in Enugu-Ezike that suffered momentary “madness” after engaging in extra-marital affair. The reporter gathered that it is considered a taboo in this part of Enugu State for a married woman to “know” another man other than the husband. This is an age-long tradition with terrible consequences for those who go against the unwritten rule. Any attempt to kiss or touch a married woman’s waist attracts the same consequences, and both Christians and non-Christians are bound by the rules.
A town and its unique culture
Enugu-Ezike comprises of 36 communities, though there exists other newly created autonomous communities presently in Igbo-Eze North local government area in the Nsukka senatorial zone of Enugu State.
The town has common boundaries with Benue and Kogi states. On the north is Etteh, a non-Igbo-speaking community in Enugu State. On the north-east side is Ofante while on the north-west flank are Amaka and Akpanya communities in Benue State. On its boundary to the south is Ibagwa-Aka, the headquarters of Igbo-Eze South local government while on the south-west is Alor Agu, Unadu and Itchi. On the south-east lies Iheaka, Ovoko and Obollo Afor, the headquarters of Udenu local government area.
Oral traditional legends as documented by the late John Arji in the book “Enugu-Ezike in world history” revealed that the name Enugu-Ezike originated from Idah in Kogi State. Ezike, according to the story, was the eldest of the three children of the then Attah of Igalla, who migrated from his home in Idah to Elugwu (Hill top) where he settled.
His two other relations were Eekpa (also a man) and Omoka, the only woman among them. According to the story, these three persons were born of the same mother as their father married many wives. The Attah of Igalla was highly influential and respected then. One day, Eekpa, Ezike’s younger brother committed adultery with one of his father’s wives. As was the custom of the entire Igalla kingdom, such a heinous crime was punishable by outright sell-out, banishment or in most cases, death. The Attah represented the custodian of the people’s culture and must set example, especially in the handling of the matter.
Ezike was said to have had compassion on his blood relation, Eekpa, whom he believed would receive instant punishment. He, being a hunter, was advised by his fellow hunters to device a means of saving the life of his brother, who was practically in danger of death. Ezike, bent on saving Eekpa, took his brother and sister, Omoku, secretly to a far place called Ogugu, which is today the name of a village with common boundaries with Etteh and Umuopu villages in Enugu-Ezike.
During the reign of the Attah of Igala, adultery, which caused Ezike and his relations to flee, normally attracted serious penalty and it was said that Ezike, the progenitor, before joining his ancestors, instituted the same traditional law in Enugu-Ezike and made it binding on all indigenes of the town. Till date, if one commits adultery, he or she must confess same publicly and only the eldest man (Onyeishi) in such village has the right to handle the matter. A spirit of adultery called Ndishi was usually appeased by the eldest man otherwise Ndishi would cause either death or madness to the violator.
Origin of the tradition
The stool for the eldest man in Enugu-Ezike known as Onyeishi is non-contestable. It is widely believed that old men in each village already know who is older than the other even though they may not have the exact recorded dates of births. They were expected to have interacted with each other during their youthful days.
This reporter gathered that another reason the position was never contestable was the general belief that anyone who ascended the throne as a result of greed or sharp practices normally died before or within months after installation. Ali Nwa Adonu from Mkpamute Ulo village is the reigning Onyeishi Enugu Ezike. Several times the reporter visited his compound but could not secure appointment for an interview owing to various village matters pending on his table.
However, the momentary madness encounter at Aji village witnessed by this reporter provided an opportunity that eventually led to an appointment with Elder Mamaja Agada, the Onyeishi of Aji village. Onyeishi Mamaja not only gave a historical account of the Ndishi phenomenon in Enugu-Ezike but also graphic details of how those affected by the spirit can be set free.
“Ndishi is a spiritual being in Enugu-Ezike land, which can be seen only by those that violate the laws of the land as regards fidelity. It has been in existence even before I was born. My own father told me it has been there even before the 17th century and it was instituted by our great father, Ezike Oba, the progenitor of Enugu-Ezike people for many reasons even as you can see that it is for the benefit of all of us.
“We have lots of cultural heritage, which will remain forever binding on any child of Ezike-Oba. But the most serious of them all that can even lead to death is this Ndishi issue, which involves extra-marital affair with another man’s wife or even an obvious attempt or intention to do that by kissing or having your hand across her waist, which attracts the same penalty as sex.
“This is binding on all Ezike-Oba descendants even outside the shores of this town, including overseas and on any woman married to an Enugu-Ezike indigene from any part of the world. Once a lady’s bride price has been paid, she is no more available for any other man apart from the husband. But if another man rapes her, it will turn around and deal with the rapist. This one is called Adaka onyeorukpo in our local dialect.
“Also a widow in Enugu-Ezike cannot be in his husband’s house and befriend another man unless she lives in a separate house away from the man’s compound. Any overt or covert attempt to do this results in the death of the woman’s first son.”
How the gods are appeased
Apart from extra-marital affairs, the reporter learnt that married women are forbidden to give men money either as a gift or borrowing without the knowledge of the husband. Buying of property by a married woman in the name of her brothers without informing the husband also leads to the “arrest by Ndishi.”
Onyeishi Agada gave further insight into how the gods are appeased to avert death and cure the momentary madness of the affected person. He said: “There are processes of reconciliation and restitution but it affects the personality of the people involved. The first step is for the woman/man to confess openly that she engaged in such and must pronounce the name(s) of the person(s) involved in such act.
“After this, certain rituals are done with palm wine, yams, kola nut and goat as stipulated by the people. The woman will also submit the clothes she wore on the day she committed the act to the Onyeishi. If these measures are not taken urgently, the person will be killed by something only he or she can see and cannot be seen by other free people around. The Ndishi spirit normally manifests by forcefully pulling out the person’s tongue, stiffening of neck like somebody suffering from cerebral spinal meningitis, madness and in extreme cases death.
“It should be stressed too that the Ndishi will catch the man (husband) and kill him leaving the woman (wife) if she told the husband what happened or the man had the slightest idea that the wife was unfaithful but didn’t act immediately by saying “Ndishi nso” or the woman tried to reveal it to the man but the man out of carelessness failed to understand the signs and proceeded to sleep with her or eat her food. For instance, sometimes when your wife keeps telling you that a particular man is being unusually kind to her, don’t take it for granted. Rather investigate whether such kindness is without any strings attached.
This is because sometimes if it didn’t result immediately, it can suddenly happen and cause incurable madness to the person that may see to the end of his/her life.
“The man whose wife was caught by Ndishi spirit stays away from the scene during the confession. He is also not allowed to taste or eat the items used to appease the gods. Some have tried it and died instantly and such incident happened recently in Umuogbo Ulo village. It is the husband‘s sister that conveys/relays one by one to him, names those mentioned by the unfaithful wife who slept with her. Any single omission of names willfully or unintentionally renders the whole restitution exercise null and void. The sand is normally raised from the ground and thrown into the air by the confessor to signify that it is finished and to include both remembered and omitted names if not the madness may remain incurable.”
Men are allowed to keep mistresses
Another subject of discussion that has trailed the issue of “Ndishi” in Enugu Ezike land is the argument by some elite that the progenitor of the tradition made it keep Ezike women in perpetual subjugation while the men are allowed to “sample” ladies other than their wives. This investigation, which was confirmed by Onyeishi Mamaja Agada, revealed that Enugu-Ezike men are only forbidden from sleeping with married woman but are free to have a harem of girlfriends/concubines or mistresses.
Some clever women from Enugu-Ezike challenged this ‘anomaly’ and experimented only to see instant consequences. Those in this category were alleged to have prepared charms to “blind” the spirit of Ndishi so that they can also experiment.
However, recent happenings in the town revealed that this set of people only postponed the doomsday as they only succeeded in making their own public confession and “madness” so weighty and topic of discussion on every lips.
Unlike others, the Ndishi spirit caught in one encounter, those in the latter category reportedly ran mad across the market square during confession and also had to contend with the shame of mentioning the names of 10 to 17 men they had illicit affairs with.
Recently, a female spiritualist based in Onitsha, a native of Aji village and married to a man from Umuopu village, was “arrested” by the Ndishi spirit. It was alleged that she initiated other women of her ilk into a club where they engage in extra-marital affairs and come out unscathed. However, the day of reckoning suddenly came and she started acting funny.
Before her case degenerated to full-scale madness, she reportedly called her husband aside and began to confess to him to save face. Ndishi suddenly “arrested” the husband and afflicted him with a mysterious sickness. Other family members got wind of the ugly development and took both of them to the village for the necessary rituals. The woman went wild on getting home as she reeled out about 18 names. The necessary rituals were done and she regained sanity while the husband is still in coma at the time of filing this report.
The Enokpa deity connection
The reporter also gathered that several villages in Enugu-Ezike have different deities that serve as points of contact for the gods and the spirit of Ndishi to arrest any transgressor of the laws of the land. Apparently disturbed that some women have devised the means of “blinding” the Ndishi spirit from arresting them when they indulge in extra-marital affairs, some custodians of these deities took a decision and made sacrifices to fortify the power of Ndishi.
Among the 36 villages in Enugu-Ezike, Ozzi community comprising of 17 villages, and Essodo made up of six communities are areas the efficacy of the Ndishi is felt instantly. At Aji village, a herbalist Nkpozi Simon Odo (the man with 48 wives and 168 children) reportedly visited the village deity known as Enokpa with cows for sacrifice and told the deity to “wake” up and do the job. As if to add fillip to the story, suddenly many married women residing in various parts of the country began to fall as cases of returning home to confess became so rampant.
Speaking on this development, an elder in Ogrute village, Ovute Omeh told our reporter that the Ndishi phenomenon is a good omen for the society that has degenerated in morality. He regretted that the loss of moral values and recourse to loose lifestyles have assumed a dangerous trend in the society that if not for the known implications associated with such acts, some Enugu-Ezike women would have gone to the extent of employing their husband’s younger brothers to “service” them without batting an eyelid on what the society may say.
“For the fact that once you do such public confession, your dignity is gone forever has made many people zip up,” he said.
This reporter also visited the Enokpa deity. Located at the hilly part of the village known as Ugwu Aji, it is a shrine with a wooden effigy domiciled in a one-room zink-roofed building with the frontage open for public gaze. Assorted pieces of cloth in different colours dot the inside. On the building was inscribed: “This is Enokpa (Inikpa), Aji’s mother.”
Something bizarre happened on the said day as all efforts by this reporter to get a pictorial view of the deity proved abortive. A digital camera that was used to take pictures nearby suddenly turned blank on focusing on the shrine but returned to normal when other objects were focused on.
Ezike women turn beautiful brides
The story of the spirit of Ndishi and Enugu-Ezike women as regards marital fidelity has been subject of discussion among people from different states in the South East geopolitical zone of Nigeria. This has led to an unprecedented rush by eligible bachelors outside Enugu State to seek for prospective brides from the community. Some people who spoke with the reporter described marrying an Enugu-Ezike woman as a natural antidote against marital infidelity while others countered such belief, saying that faithfulness in marriage is a matter of personal decision and orientation irrespective of where one comes from.
Ejike Okeke, an indigene of Oraukwu in Anambra State and a businessman at the Onitsha main market said that initially, it was the curiosity to know more about the culture of Enugu-Ezike people based on stories he had heard that made him fall in love with a lady from Umuiyida village in Enugu-Ezike. Today they are happily married with four children and, according to him, “my wife has not only proved to be a faithful wife but also such a humble woman.”
Though people of Enugu-Ezike are usually conservative in matters of marriage as they generally intermarry within the communities, investigation revealed that in recent times that reservation has given way to cross-cultural and trans-national marriages as many of their women now marry outside the town. Recently, a Togolese citizen conveyed his people all the way from Lome to marry a wife at Umuodeje area of Aji village.
The people react/position of the church
Some educated indigenes of Enugu-Ezike who spoke in Onitsha and Enugu still lamented that the Ndishi tradition was skewed from the outset to keep their women under perpetual domination while their men are allowed to philander. Nkechi Itodo, a lawyer, reasoned that although adultery or extra-marital affair is morally wrong, it is unjustifiable that married men in Enugu-Ezike date unmarried ladies and flaunt it while their female counterparts dare not try it.
Perpmario Ebere, a teacher and Marian devotee, went a notch higher as she told this reporter that she has taken it as a challenge to involve her fellow prayer warriors so that irrespective of the Ndishi spirit, all those who desecrate their marital vows shall be exposed whether male or female.
Also speaking, a Catholic priest that craved anonymity condemned the practice of subjecting people to ritual cleansing to be free from the consequences of adultery.
“It is established that all religious creeds forbid adultery. The Bible, which is the holy book of Christians, also made it clear in Exodus 20:14, Deuteronomy 5:18 and other relevant verses. However, should one fall into occasions of sin, there are ways of reconciliation and penance instead of relying on public confession and fetish practices,” he said.
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