What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander goes a popular idiom. But this saying does not apply to every situation. Places of worship for Nigerian Christians and Muslims in Europe, Latin America, Canada, Australia and the United States are ubiquitous. But where do Nigerian traditional worshippers worship when abroad? Where do they perform rituals and ‘sacrifices’, which are components of their religion, when abroad? What is the efficacy of the rituals and ‘sacrifices’ performed in foreign lands? Does ‘juju’ work abroad?
The advent of colonialism and western civilisation had whittled down the acceptability of traditional religions in Nigeria through concomitant negative effects on culture and language. The continuous exodus of Nigerians from the misrule by subsequent governments back at home – in the early 1980s till date – gave vent to the disdain with which many Nigerians hold traditional religions.
Commenting on the efficacy of ‘sacrifices’ offered to gods abroad, the ‘Awise Awo Agbaye’ (Spokesperson of Ifa and Yoruba religion Worldwide) and former Vice-Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Prof. Wande Abimbola, said: “I have performed countless ‘sacrifices’ all over the world. Which country have I not gone to perform ‘sacrifice’? People invite me all over the world to come and do ‘sacrifice’ for them.”
He explained that ‘sacrifices’ done abroad are not less efficacious when compared to those done in Nigeria. “The materials used for ‘sacrifice’ differ from clime to clime. Ti a ba ri adan, ao fi odide se’bo, meaning “you improvise when you cannot readily find some materials for ‘sacrifice’ in a foreign land.” But such a ‘sacrifice’ will still be acceptable to the gods. My job is to make ‘sacrifice’ and I have made ‘sacrifices’ all over the world which had been accepted by gods.”
Abimbola, who faulted the non-declaration of a national day as holiday for traditional religion believers in the country, said it is wrong of government to sponsor only Christians and Muslims on pilgrimages – leaving out traditional religious believers. He said that he had honoured the invitation of Pope Benedict XVI on three occasions to visit Rome for holiday. “The Pope is my friend. I spent three weeks with him. I was with him in Assisi, where 300 religious leaders gathered. Yoruba culture and religion is widely accepted worldwide but it are unfortunate that the Yoruba back home are the ones condemning the culture and tradition. Brazil makes N18b annually from tourists who visit the country to see Yoruba gods and cultural artifacts,” the Ifa scholar said.
Insisting that Yoruba traditional religion is efficacious, Abimbola said, “Why do you think Muslims and Christians go to traditional priests in the middle of the night? If you gather 100 Christians or Muslims in a place, you will scarcely get a few, who don’t patronise traditional healers and diviners. Have you ever seen an Ifa priest, who sought protection from a Christian or Muslim cleric? But they (pastors and imams) come secretly to Ifa priests. When there is a theft, suspects are afraid to swear by Ogun, Sango or any of the Yoruba gods. Religion in Nigeria has become a huge money-making venture with foreign countries donating billions of naira to religious organisations in the country. If the Yoruba didn’t abandon their religion and culture, we would by now be the richest and strongest nation on earth.”
Commenting on the challenges faced by Ifa worshippers in the UK and USA, renowned Ifa scholar and Araba of Osogbo, Ifayemi Elebuibon recalled: “Ifa worship is efficacious. Ifa is a body of knowledge of Yoruba worldview. We have millions of Ifa believers across the globe. But we encounter some difficulties in the course of worship abroad.” Elebuibon explained that animal ‘sacrifice’ is performed in the UK and US by Ifa priests, who are also known as Babalawo, adding that the choice of the place of ‘sacrifice’ is determined by Ifa. He said, “We perform ‘sacrifice’ anywhere the gods direct us. The gods could choose a park, a road path or an intersection.”
Recalling an episode where a ‘sacrifice’ was billed to be performed in the US, Elebuibon said, “In 2008, an Ifa worshipper in the US brought a ram in a cab to Harlem, Manhattan, New York. He was coming to use the ram for ‘sacrifice’. Unknown to him, as he alighted from the cab with the ram, somebody, probably an animal rights activist, telephoned the police and also called the animal rights community, newspaper, radio and television reporters.
“We were on the third floor of a five-storey building and the ram was in the basement. The police soon swooped on the building. They combed everywhere and rescued the ram. If we had killed the ram before their arrival, there would have been trouble. But Ifa traditional worshippers have got injunctions from courts, allowing us to slaughter rams for ‘sacrifice’ because we ‘sacrifice’ to redeem lives. Other religions are allowed to kill rams, so the same measure should apply to us.”
Recalling another episode, Elebuibon said on his first trip to Miami Beach, Florida, in 1978, an American adherent had a ‘sacrifice’ of eggs, banana and some other ingredients. “The beach is always under security surveillance 24 hours daily because the ocean is used by Cubans who want to cross into America. The policemen accosted us as we were moving away from the beach. They asked us what we were doing; we told them that the adherent was having a ‘sacrifice’. Instead of going to see the spot where we had the ‘sacrifice’, they just departed. It was curious because you will expect that they would want to check what a ‘sacrifice’ looked like. They just departed. Ifa worship is efficacious.”
Unlike the challenges of poverty, violence and illnesses afflicting Nigerians back at home, Elebuibon said a cross-section of Nigerians living in the UK and USA consult Ifa for husbands, victory in court cases and in search of jobs, pointing out that “they don’t request to be rich or request Ifa to give them children; some of them don’t even want to have children.”
According to the Ifa priest, chicken, kola, pigeon and snail importation are forbidden by the US immigration laws. “We go to Chinatowns in the USA. You know the Chinese live together and they are permitted by law to have these items. So we buy from China town. In the absence of kola, which we use for divination, we use coconut which we break into four small pieces,” he said.
A Nigerian, who lived in Britain for six years, Bola Alawode, said he saw ‘sacrifices’ on many occasions while studying in London. He said, “I remember the first was in 1989 when I went to visit a friend in North Peckham Estate. The ‘sacrifice’ had some food like rice, beans with palm oil toppings. When I informed my host, he laughed and said it was not new there. My host went ahead to tell me that sometimes, the ‘sacrifices’ could be in form of raw rice, beans etc spread on the floor. When I was living in Daubeney Tower, Bowditch Road, Deptford. London SE 8, I came across ‘sacrifice’ on two occasions. One of snail, local sponge and palm-oil at the car park and another that consisted of boiled egg, moinmoin and other stuffs. My wife once called my attention to a ‘sacrifice’ placed close to the children playing ground behind the Estate when we were living at Cranbrook Point, North Woolwich Road, London E16.
Alawode, who was a part-time mini cab driver in the city of London continued, “I have spotted ‘sacrifices’ on many roads, so did my colleagues. We used to joke about them. I remember Charles, a Calabar friend, will always jokingly call our attention to it when he sees one while on duty saying ‘one of your lazy ngbati-ngbati (meaning Yoruba) brothers has been duped again. This will generate exciting discussion among us.
“Many people don’t normally get to see these things because of the efficient road cleaning system which ensures that the roads are swept clean before dawn. I don’t even think the gods that the ‘sacrifices’ are meant for get to see them, let alone eat them before they are trashed by night sweepers. I saw ‘sacrifices’ in London while my colleagues mentioned seeing ‘sacrifices’ in Liverpool and Manchester City.”
A Nigerian-born Briton, Yewande (not real name), who is resident in London said she had seen ‘sacrifices’ in parks.
She said, “I have seen ‘sacrifices’ in parks and areas not covered by CCTV cameras. I’ve seen ‘sacrifices’ on Old Kent Road, South-East London. One of the ‘sacrifices’ I saw contained kola and palm oil. I’ve also seen a ‘sacrifice’ I suspect was done by white garment church member(s) because it contained coconut, palm fronds and olive oil.”
A Brazilian indigene of Salvador, Bahia, Ifawumi Sangoponnle Fawehinmi, who spoke with our correspondent online, described himself as a child of Ifa. He said, “I want to raise the name of Ifa orisa and Yoruba culture here in Brazil and also in other countries in the Diaspora. Ifa, Ori, Esu, Ogun, Sango, and Egbe are the gods I believe in.”
When asked who performs ‘sacrifices’ for him, Fawehinmi said, “My Oluwo, Nathan Aikulola Fawehinmi, who currently resides in Miami, USA, is the one that prepares the ‘sacrifices’ for me. He (Oluwo) travels to Osogbo every year. We find all materials for practice of worship and this name that I bear was received during the initiation ceremony. I know its meaning.”
A Chief Lecturer in Arts and Social Sciences Faculty, Federal College of Education, Osiele, Ogun State, Dr. Sunday Makinde, buttressed the efficacy of ‘sacrifice’ and divination outside the shores of Nigeria. Makinde is the Baba Egbe, Egba Hunters Association, Odeda, and the President, Onisegun Association, Osiele.“‘Sacrifice’ and divination are done abroad and the gods accept them. I have done these for people abroad. Transporting juju across oceans doesn’t reduce its efficacy. People abroad consult me to prepare materials for their wellbeing and I do. They give reports that the materials worked for them,” Makinde said.