In a recent interview with the CNN, the governor of Akwa-Ibom State in southeastern Nigeria was asked about the well-documented inhuman abuse of children accused of witchcraft by their impoverished families who themselves are, I might add, victims of a very twisted form of Christian faith. The governor, to my consternation, charged that the problem is "very, very minimal" and that reports of this ongoing tragedy are only a "part of the media propaganda against the state, and [that] it was done for pecuniary reasons." He specifically took issues with a report sent to the United Nations by Stepping Stones Nigeria, the charity organization that has (with Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network, CRARN) been the foremost advocate of these unfortunate children. Moreover, Akpabio argued that his state does not have an anti-witchcraft problem, but one of poverty.
But guess what, Mr. governor? Are you so blind to see that this witchcraft phenomenon is a result of the material impoverishment of peoples in your state combined with predatory practices of certain Christian pastors? Or have you ever seen any maimed "child witch" from a well-to-do family? It is either naivety of the troubling kind or outright dis-ingenuity for you to think that the simultaneous rise in mass poverty and countless forms of "Christian" faiths, is not responsible for the unprecedented cases of child abandonment, as well as physical and psychological abuse of babies by parents, families and communities struggling to make sense of their own sorry existence in today's Nigeria. And by the way have you not heard that similar witchcraft phenomena have been reported in other parts of Africa and Asia blighted by social, political and economic hardship and forms of holy sadism?
If the matter stopped at the stupid, insensitive response of governor Akpabio to this soul-wrenching abuse of the human rights of innocent children in his state, I would not be this much angry. As I write, Mr. Sam Ikpe-Itauma, the indefatigable founder of CRARN and Mr. Foxcroft of Stepping Stone Nigeria are in hiding, deeply concerned about their personal safety since the CNN broadcast. In the past it was Helen Ukpabio whose church, according to Wikipedia, "claim[s] that Satan has the ability to manifest himself in the bodies of children by demonic possession and make them become his servants in the form of 'witches' or 'wizards'" that hounded these men, with the help of a compromised legal system, for suggesting that her brand of Christianity and childxploitation films are stoking the fires of the murderous anti-witchcraft movement. Now, I understand that the chief executive of Akwa-Ibom State himself, is out to "deal" with Mr. Ikpe-Itauma and Mr. Foxcroft. Given the incessant political murders and kidnappings taking place in the State and elsewhere in southern Nigeria, I am very concerned about the safety of these two men. And according to a reliable news report the governor has ordered the arrest of the two men by the police (he forgets that he is not a military dictator).
While I hope that having gone underground the two men (and their families) remain safe, has it not occurred to governor Akpabio that the 200 or so children who depend on these two men are the ultimate victims of his terrible politics? The governor must realize that Stepping Stones and CRARN are not the problem; rather he must thank them for assisting his government in the work it ought to have been doing right from the start. If he is interested in the welfare of these children, in whose scorched hands lie the future of his state, he must then tackle in earnest the problem of poverty in his state, some of which is the product of the rapacious acts of oil companies that have wasted vast waterways and farmlands on which many Akwa-Ibom citizens depend for their livelihood. He must condemn the work of these so-called Christian pastors who exploit the gullibility and existential insecurity of an impoverished people, and he ought to make sure that the police and the courts are not hampered in the job of bringing to justice the perpetrators of this violence against children. That is what he should be doing, not harassing people who have, against the odds, devoted their lives to providing succor to these unfortunate little ones.
The world must keep watch on what happens to the terrorized and abused children of Akwa-Ibom State; we should all be concerned about the safety of the founders of CRARN and Stepping Stones, Nigeria.