From Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
It started like a child’s play when some students of Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri, Imo State, on July, 12, 2021, reportedly killed a sacred python known as Eke Nworie; a revered deity of Owerri people.
The snake large snake was said to have been spotted by the students around the school compound swallowing a goat before they attempted to rescue the goat, killing the snake in the process. The killing sparked series of reactions from residents, the school authorities and Reginald Ejiogu, the custodian of Owerri customs and tradition who is the chief priest of the town.
To the management of the college, the reptile was an ordinary animal so its death should not have unnecessary strings attached to it. But Ejiogu saw the killing as a taboo and one that should be appeased to avert calamity that may befall the institution and even Owerri.
He said: “The ‘sacred’ python was highly revered and one of the ancestors of the land. It was not harmful in anyway and seldom came out when it had an important message to pass across.
“Often when the snake appeared, it was pampered and treated as a visitor. It allowed it to move freely. Anywhere it settled for a while, it was because it had important information it wanted to give out.
“The college has been in Owerri for over 50 years. By now it should have known our culture, they don’t know our culture, whereby such sacrilege is committed, and the school is still feigning ignorance, it is bad.”
What seemed to have angered the chief priest and the gods of the land was that the snake was killed at the peak of the prestigious and ancestral ceremony of Owerri, “Oru Owerre.” As if to add salt to injury, the chief priest lamented that the students’ guts to eat the python was the height of it.
Ejiogu warned the school of the consequences of such action by its students. To prove the seriousness of the sacrilege, the chief priest, summoned them to come and appease the gods of “Eke Nworie.”
Daily Sun gathered that a palm frond signifying a dangerous omen was carried along with the chief priest during the visit: “The consequence of their action is mysterious deaths, so many things will befall Alvan. That was the essence of the palm frond we took to the place. We had given them a week ultimatum, which expired we are yet to hear from them.
“Alvan is under the norms of our culture. Anywhere you find yourselves, you should respect their culture and tradition and now they are disobeying ours, we wish them good luck.”
The management of the school appeared not moved by the threats. It stood its ground and refused to make any comment on the incident. In fact, it recently held a successful matriculation ceremony.
However, the students expressed mixed reactions over the incident. Many of them who spoke to our correspondent pleaded that their identities should not to be mentioned. They were afraid the threats by the chief priest might be potent.
In their search for protection, many of the students resulted to divine intervention; as they sought the face of God for exclusion in the punishment the gods may choose to mete out to the school.
A student union leader told Daily Sun: “If you ask me, I think, they should give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and God what belongs to God. Tradition is tradition, since the people have insisted, I think they should listen to them, we all have traditions where we come from.”
Another student declared: “Old things have passed away and behold new things are here with us. I don’t think the management should listen to them. We can take it to God in prayer, besides, God said we should trample over serpents.”
Public Relations Officer of the institution, Tony Ololo, declined comment on the incident but confirmed they received invitation from the chief priest.
A similar incident occurred in Owerri, between 1979 and 1980 when a construction company working on the Wethdral/Christ Church Road killed the Eke Ala (Owerri python). When they were told to consult the then chief priest, Eke Igwe Nwoduo Ejiogu, for cleansing and atonement, they refused.
Story had it that some of the workers on the site died mysteriously and their equipment packed up before the god of the river was consulted and everything was normalised again.