By Bolanle Bolawole
I have lost count of how many houses of horror have been unearthed in various parts of the country in recent time, starting from the North before berthing, last week, in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital and famed largest city in West Africa. Apart from such houses being centres of cruelty and “man’s inhumanity to man” as the Oyo State police boss, Shina Olukolu, was quoted to have said, all manner of occultist and satanic practices take place there. Only God knows how many destinies have been truncated, careers ruined, lives lost and homes wrecked by the evil operators of such houses and their patrons.
To be sure, they have powerful backers. The high and mighty patronise them for their diabolical wares and such conscienceless but powerfully-connected people are always at hand to ensure that the law is thwarted and the cloak of immunity woven around the vile elements that, otherwise, should have been made to face the full wrath of the law. I understand the powerfully-connected are already on the move to arm-twist Gov. Seyi Makinde to let the perpetrators of the Ibadan crime against humanity off the hook. And this will not be the first time that will be happening.
While we must praise the media for its recent interest in investigative journalism, which is revealing the decrepit and sorry state of infrastructure all over the country, as well as yanking the veil off the crimes of the powerfully-connected, we must note that Nigerians have generally developed a thick skin to incidents, behaviours and news that would cause a revolution elsewhere. Some of the issues that gave birth to the “Arab spring” are child’s play compared to what we have taken in our strides here – without a shrug and without as much as a whimper!
We are not new either to horror houses or the diabolical propensities of those in the corridors of power. We all were living witnesses to the Okija shrine debacle. The principal actors not only escaped unscathed, they remain till today firmly ensconced in the corridors of power. A politician caught naked bathing with what was suspected to be human blood is today the speaker of a State House of Assembly.
Apart from the official oath of office taken publicly by public officers, Nigerians know that there is another more powerful, more efficacious, and more dreaded secret oath that is administered before anyone can be allowed into the inner caucus of power. This is where satanic mediums and their patrons derive their power, their relevance, their toga of the untouchable and their invincibility, so to say.
Their other source of power and influence is the gullibility and illiteracy of our people. We heard people say they were the ones who took their wards to the horror houses for “training”, “healing” or what-have-you. It was to such circumstances that we lost Super Eagles superstar, Rashidi Yekini. Remember? Relations said Rashidi was mad. The guy said he was not. He might have been a recluse but he troubled no one. One day, his relatives swooped on him, tied him hands and legs and hauled him into a house of horror called “healing” home. Rashidi had died before even his “healers” knew the pedigree of who was in their hands. How many Rashidi Yekinis have we lost to horror houses nationwide?
Satanic and occultist practices are as old as humanity itself. Bible records that there is the power of God and there is also the power of the devil. As people worship God, so do people also worship Satan. Ezekiel 8: 6 – 18 reveals what God described as “the great abominations” and “greater abominations” of the people, which included human sacrifice and idol worship, and through which they filled the land with vicious violence, as had been reported at Ibadan and elsewhere.
Makinde’s response to the unearthing of the Ibadan house of horror was prompt and apt. He visited the scene – embarrassingly, it is purportedly a mosque, a so-called place of worship called Olore Central Mosque. That name is euphemism personified. Olore (Oloore) in Yoruba means the harbinger of goodness and dispenser of favour. To be sure, it is not only mosques that advertise God or Allah today but worship Satan. How else can we describe the case of five “pastors” using the same diabolical woman (a contortionist) to demonstrate their miracle-performing “prowess”? Are the so-called pastors in chains already or do they still walk free, holding court?
That is the problem with Nigeria! Nothing shocks us anymore! We have all developed a thick skin. We do not do diligent follow-up. We do not punish offenders. And where offenders go unpunished, impunity reigns. Very soon, it becomes, “if you can’t beat them, join them!” I must confess that I am not exempted from this obvious general malaise of “siddon look”. I was not minded to do anything on the Ibadan house of horror until an avid reader of this column prodded me.
His story: In 1984 I was returning home from (secondary) school and had to pass in front of the Olore Central Mosque. Suddenly, some men came from nowhere, hit me with something and dragged me inside the building. I was hauled before their boss. He asked me for my name. I gave him a fake name. He gazed straight ahead of him; looked at the ground and then ordered them to throw me out. Outside, I stood unconscious.
“Then I sauntered into Agbala Daniel next door and demanded to see the pastor. They said “Mama is sleeping” I waited, my head howling and my body shaking. When they saw my comportment – a child – and I wouldn’t go and come back as they had counselled, they went and woke Mama up. I told her “Please, pray for me” She did and then poured water on me. I regained my consciousness. That was 34/35 years ago. I couldn’t have been their first victim. Imagine how many must have fallen prey in that spate of time.
“Sometime in 2008 when the atrocities of this same people came into the open and government wanted to do something; it was reported that a prominent Islamic leader of Ibadan origin, now late, intervened. Now, that the same people have again been exposed, religious leaders are reportedly also coming together to sweep the case under the carpet. For how long will this continue?”
It will not continue! Gov. Makinde has ordered the demolition of the house of horror parading as a mosque, as it was rightly described by the governor. We must get that fact right from the onset. That Olore or whatever it is called is a house of horror only masquerading or camouflaging as a mosque to deceive and to befuddle the unwary. Conscionable Muslims must understand this and distance themselves from Olore and its atrocities. More than that, true Muslims must be really angry that their name, religion and faith have been wilfully abused and unabashedly desecrated and must see the need to come out clean.
They must, therefore, be in the forefront of those who will ask – and ensure – that these vile elements are brought to book. Otherwise, they suffer double jeopardy. They will be treated not just as accessory after the fact of all the hideous crimes committed at Olore and by Olore; they will also be treated as the proverbial abetter of crimes, who deserve a heftier punishment than the criminal himself. This is not a religion or religious affair; it is crime and criminality, again, as Makinde aptly stated.
A total of 259 inmates were rescued at Olore. Makinde has taken them into safe homes and ordered their treatment and rehabilitation. Great! But what is delaying the demolition of Olore? That is the first step; next is the prosecution of the vile offenders. And what is worth doing at all is worth doing well. Justice denied – both to the victims and their oppressors – is justice denied. CP Olukolu has given his word that justice would be served; Gov. Makinde similarly. If this proves not to be so in the end, citizens’ trust/confidence in government shakes while getting their support/cooperation becomes an uphill task.
I will, however, want Makinde to understand that it is not the case that people have not spoken out about Olore and such other houses of horror in Ibadan; it is the appropriate authorities that have failed to act again and again.
In The PUNCH of February 23, 2008, Akin Oyedele, the then Oyo State correspondent of the newspaper, wrote a story on Olore and other Ibadan houses of horror titled: POLICE UNCOVER ANOTHER IBADAN HOUSE OF HORROR WHERE INMATES EAT DEAD COLLEAGUES. Excerpts:
The Oyo State Police command on Friday (February 22, 2008) uncovered another illegal detention camp in Ojoo area of Ibadan where at least 60 inmates were said to have been tortured to death and buried secretly in the last two years. Against their wish, the victims claimed that they were turned to cannibals as they were forced to prepare and eat the remains of their dead colleagues with their captors. The police said 92 inmates were rescued from the centre after spending between three days and seven years while 11 suspects working with the prime suspect, Alfa Mohammed Olore, were arrested. For eight years running, the suspect said he had managed the Olore Arabic School and Rehabilitation Centre at Ojoo, where misdemeanour by the inmates attracts 200 lashes…
Exhibits recovered from the suspects were three cars, N32,000, three spades, concoctions, a jar of black soap, plastic container with reddish water allegedly drained from the corpses of the dead inmates. The victims were said to have been taken to the centre mostly by their parents for rehabilitation from mental illness, drug abuse and waywardness; while some were taken to the centre for spiritual cleansing and Quran education.
Parading the inmates and suspects at the Special Anti-Robbery Squad on Saturday, the Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of the command, Mr. Udom Ekpoudom, said the latest discovery was shocking. This is coming on the heels of the arrest, last Friday (February 15, 2008), of an Islamic teacher, AbdulGaniyu Imoniyi, who operated an illegal detention camp at Eleta, Ile-tuntun area of Sanyo where 23 victims were rescued. Another Muslim cleric, Alfa Ali Ademola, was arrested at Orogun area of Ibadan, last week for allegedly torturing a trainee to death.
On Saturday, an Islamic leader, Alhaji Azeez Arisekola-Alao, was one of the early callers at the SARS…The AIG said the lid was blown off the activities of the prime suspect when one of the inmates escaped from the centre and tipped off the police… Ekpoudom said Arisekola-Alao had chosen to house and feed the victims, as well as pay for their rehabilitation… Dismissing insinuations that the visit of the influential Muslim leader was to secure the release of the suspects, he said he only offered a helping hand…The Muslim leader declined press interview during the brief period he stayed at the SARS, while he assured the agitated victims, “don’t worry; they will give you food,” before departing the venue.
The AIG admitted that pressure was mounted on him by some clerics… He said, “We have been on this for two weeks, whereby so-called men of God have turned religion to what it should not be… We heard that some of the clerics are planning to demonstrate… I don’t know what Ibadan is turning to. We thought we have been able to clear the mess we met here about eight months ago, but we are wrong. When I was in Abeokuta, my two friends, an engineer and a doctor, came to Ibadan and disappeared. Who knows whether they ended up in one of these centres?”
There you are, Gov. Makinde! It is not that people have not spoken out. It is not that the authorities have not been aware all along. It is just that the needful has not been done. The mighty have always helped these miscreants to pervert the course of justice and escape the long arms of the law. Now, the ball is in your court! Will you be different? Who knows if, like Mordecai told Esther, you came to the governorship of Oyo State for a time such as this!
Mr Bolawole is a former Editor of Punch Newspaper. Turnpot@gmail.com. 0705 263 1058.
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