The University of Nigeria, Nsukka, has tickled public curiosity with the announcement that it will hold an international conference on witchcraft.
The 2-day conference in Enugu State is tagged “First International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Witchcraft: Meaning, Factors and Practices,” and will hold at the Energy Centre of the University from Tuesday 26 November 2019.
The Conference is hosted by Prof. Egodi Uchendu who is the director of the Prof. BIC Ijomah Centre of Policy and Research in the University.
Prof. Uchendu is a scholar with interests in diverse fields such as Islam in Igboland, gender and masculinity, and survival in conflict situations.
This could be her first foray into magical arts and sciences.
Expectedly, the conference has been received with mixed feelings.
Christian zealots are fearful of the gathering and have promised to launch a series of prayer offensives to ward off what they see as its evil potent.
On the other hand, social activists have largely welcomed the Conference as an opportunity to educate the populace on a phenomenon that many in the society hold in dread.
An editor writing in Sahara Reporters, for instance, warned the participants not to complicate “an already complex issue of witchcraft in the Nigerian society,” but to “thoroughly deconstruct the myths around the practice of black magic because this is what we need in this country now…”
According to her, “it will be counterproductive for a prominent institution like the UNN to do anything that will further deepen Nigerians’ beliefs in witchcraft or abstract powers.
“Already, different societal ills resulting from government’s failures at various levels are being attributed to the activities of witches and wizards by some folks in this country. There is the need to change this narrative.”
There are speculations that the Conference will witness a traditionalist versed in the subject, going by the invitation card for the summit which lists a certain Agidigbo of Abor in Delta State as a special guest, sharing the spot with Prof. BIC Ijomah.
Other than this teaser, it promises to be a full course intellectual excursion as the organizers plan to fly above the concerns expressed and instead interrogate issues around witchcraft, its philosophy, how it began, what literature and folklore explains, whether it is a science or an art, its gender and politics, and how it meets with religion.
Contemporary issues around witchcraft will also be examined, such as its implication for security, social work, and aspects of development.
The social media lit up with discussion on the unique conference, holding for the first time in Nigeria, particularly because the subject of witchcraft has not been elevated to sit as respectable discussions in the public sphere.
Nigerians only get treated to intermittent allegations of harm to victims of so-called practitioners and to speculations and old wife’s tales on how witches fly about their nocturnal businesses and the inevitable broom they use to pilot themselves while airborne.