By Ajibola Abayomi,
January 10, 2018.
In Africa, traditional religion has several unique features which many worshipers have kept faith with from ages.
The traditionalists so cherish the norms and cultural heritage of the deities they adore as links to the almighty God before the advent of latter day religion introduced by colonialism.
One of such heritages is Olokun otherwise known as Ogievie in Edo parlance believed by its worshipers as the head of the gods and goddesses of riches that dwells in the river.
For 72 hours, TheLead Online observed and recorded proceedings at Evbutobu, the country home of the god at the suburb of Benin, capital of Edo State, Nigeria.
The location is about 15 minutes drive from the palace of Oba of Benin Kingdom.
Echoing melodious songs in their native tongues, worshippers have made it a tradition to host an annual Ogievie Festival to offer prayers to the almighty God for peace and progress of the nation.
Over the years, the worshipers and their spiritual leader, Prince Tony Eweka have carved a niche for themselves with the message of the Ogievie Pond and traditional performances at several important functions both within and outside Edo State.
Isolated in a hall painted in white tinted with red colour with other traditional artifacts, lies the pond where mysterious deeds take place after invoking the spirit of Ogievie to meet the spiritual needs of those seeking the help of the god of river.
According to the widely travelled Eweka, the custodian of Ogievie, before the discovery of the pond he had encountered a giant man dressed in white with angelic features and a mermaid at Evbutobu at different times urging him to carry on with his priesthood calling.
At different times, he said himself and neighbours had been kept awake at midnight on several occasions by echoes of drums and music of strange people who they searched in vain to locate but could feel their footprints and hear their voices at the location where his shrine is now located.
That continued unabated until he woke up on a day with members of his family in the early 2008 to sight water gushing out of his house.
The water was preceded by heaps of cotton wool he struggled to dispose for days. Just as he thought he was done with the strange occurrence, he found himself contending with water flowing from a pond within his compound.
The ravaging water was almost turning into a flood before he was instructed to quickly appease the gods with a cow and afterwards it receded into the pond.
It was later revealed to him that spirit of Ogievie who was said to have lived on the land over 2000 years ago with other great kings and warriors were returning to its abode and demanded that they should be housed.
Aside the pond, the deity has a separate shrine where images representing mermaid and thousands of kings that had reigned centuries ago across Africa and countries are kept.
After conducting spiritual procession with white native chalk, Eweka always deep his hand into the pond to receive spiritual message to bless those who visit the shrine for prayers.
Depending on the nature of challenges confronting individuals the massage to be delivered by the priest could come in any form ranging from letter, ring, anointing oil, rosary with inscription of Christ, traditional objects, clothes and other symbols as sent by the gods.
According to Eweka, “the elders and the ancestors send gift to solve problems be it bareness, spiritual attack, health challenges and other personal issue. I can’t recollect the number of things that had been handed over to different people who had testified to instant miracles and successes. Here is eye of the gods in the universe.
“From November 15, 2015 till date I have received over 50 letters containing different messages about the shrine, the future of this country and several personalities. I have a letter containing the name of the next Nigeria’s President after General Muhammadu Buhari ditto for the next Edo State Governor but now is not the time to reveal that.”
To some other persons, it may sound superstitious but the devotees of the deity have been testifying to the efficacy of their belief.
Mrs Irene Osawe, said the shrine had brought unprecedented luck to her businesses, children and family. “I am a traditionalist but since five years ago I had being with Ogievie, sickness had vanished from my home. My children both home and abroad have been doing well.”
Chief Bartholomew Okondi, the Idumeka of Igueben said within his two months experience at the place, he had seen” ancestral curses being reversed, people delivered from demonic afflictions and several others loosed from poverty bondage.”
Another six-year devotee, Mrs Helen Osawaru claimed that her fortune and that of her children had been revived for good since he became a convert.
Nonetheless, the priest was quick to point out that he and his devotees were not into cultism or secret society.
He had his shrine registered as PRINCE OGIEVIE 1 with serial number 25193092855 with the Corporate Affairs Commission and he is also a registered traditional medicine practitioner in Nigeria with registration number 00473 with Edo State Traditional Medicine Board.
For him, people seeking “demonic or cultic power doesn’t have a place in my abode. Don’t you see rosary and image of Christ as part gifts the gods send as healing objects? It is an indication Ogievie has a special relationship with almighty God.”
The shrine was surrounded with modern edifices and structures fully equipped to conveniently accommodate tourists from all walks of life.
In 2006, when late Oba Erediauwa of blessed memory gave the prince a piece of land and he later bought additional nine plots of land at the thick forest, he never knew what the gods had in stock for him.
He was abandoned by his first love in 2007 with two kids until he found true love in his wife, Gloria, who was directed by the gods to leave Russia and exchange marital vow with the Evbutobu forest man in 2012.
Before taking up his calling, Eweka was a talented footballer and was part of the Nigerian Golden Eaglets invitees in 1987 and was doing well as a player with the defunct Bendel Insurance Football Club in Benin.
In 2005, he had wanted to take his career overseas but was instructed to return home and followed his calling by a Lagos based pastor.
He said the then man of God simply told him: “Return home to serve the god in your domain and it shall be well with you. You are a king.”
That was how he began his destiny with the gods. His 69 year old mum, Madam Julie Eweka said when he was five months old in her womb when a seer predicted that his son would be a great traditional healer that would impact on many souls.”
His mother is one of living proofs of Ogievie’s prowess. The aged woman was said to have bedridden for six years having visited different hospitals seeking medical attention.
“I spent a lot on my mum inviting doctors to attend to her to satisfy my siblings who thought her situation was medical but recently I was instructed to apply water and olive oil I received from the pond on her legs by the gods and instantly my mum was able to walk again. People in my neighborhood can attest to this.
“Everything I am using was given to me by the gods through the pond both my clothes, beads, rings and several engraved letters. Whatever I am instructed to give people here solves their problems. I had been communicating with the gods for years. Nobody brings sickness here remains the same.