I read a recent post by one Ata Ikiddeh of Akwa Ibom ‘Diaspora’ on the age-old controversy regarding secret societies. Once upon a time it went like wildfire throughout Nigeria from the Federal Civil Service to churches to peer groups. There was a frenzy as people searched for members of the ‘fraternities’ for the purpose of removing them from the ‘clean’ groups. It stopped as all such waves stop. Burning of witches in Europe and in particular Scotland raged between 1450 and 1750 as reported by the Smithsonian Magazine of 6th January 2022. Thousands, mostly single women and widows were accused of witchcraft which followed mass hysteria, fear of the devil, and hard times. Most were burned at the stake and now a campaign goes on to use legislation to pardon them because most were innocent. Salem in Massachusetts, USA experienced it too and twenty-five fatalities were recorded.  The hysteria continues in churches and prayer houses in Nigeria where every ill is blamed on witches and wizards (‘attack’ as it is dubbed). Akpan Ekwong revved sentiments against witches and wizards in Akwa Ibom in the 1970s or1980s and few persons were forced to make confessions and I guess they were murdered, reason government intervened because it amounted to extra-judicial killings. But the issue continues to pop up like a wart. The extra-long letter with little or no new knowledge from Ata Ikiddeh is one of those drives to rid a “deeply religious state” (Akwa Ibom) of members of the “Synagogue of Satan” identified by him specifically as Freemasonry.

Personal opinion: that the letter has not gone viral can be interpreted to mean it has not gained traction. Few questions:

1. The writer says membership of Freemasonry by Governor Udom Emmanuel has been common knowledge and predates ‘revelation’ by a Father Edet. Why did those who knew not bring up the issue in 2015 to warn voters? Why not 2019 when Deacon Udom Emmanuel sought a second term? Why should it come up barely one year to the end of Udom’s two terms in office?

2. What has Udom’s membership of a group to do with his performance as Governor? About one year to go yet dozens of uncompleted projects litter the Akwa Ibom landscape.  Ata  has mentioned that Freemasons built the great cathedrals of Europe which means the members went for excellence. Why would one of them not adopt that orientation to avoid being called to order?

3. Does Freemasonry involve human sacrifice? He skirted the issue because if it does, he should have mentioned it.

4. He gave a background of Freemasonry and the way it operates. Where did he source the information? Was he a member? Certainly, he need not be because Freemasonry is widely published. If it is widely published, why would it be considered a secret society more, so the members proudly identify themselves, wear the regalia, and their meeting venues are boldly marked and based on what I know, the worship spaces called temples are open to public view once a while. One stands at 11-11, Calabar. Anyone is free to browse and find out the meaning of Ladies Night in Freemasonry. On such occasions women enter the lodges.

5. Mr. Ata laments the spate of initiations in Government House, Uyo. I have not been initiated because I don’t need uncommon favours from the Master if Governor Udom is one. Whoever wants extra favour and is told to join a group against his/her wish should use own conscience to decide and such personal decision should not be of concern to the next person to warrant the Governor inviting the Press to make a confession. Until our children are not allowed in schools because their parents have not been initiated, what individuals do should not be a matter for general concern. And if Udom Emmanuel has not denied 99% of Akwa Ibom residents of basic goodies in seven years, which group he fraternizes with should not be a fixation for the generality. Maybe Ata wanted something, but he was denied because he does not belong? Maybe, for he wetted our appetite by saying if he were to reveal things, he knows Udom Emmanuel does via Freemasonry, the ground would shake. My brother, if you keep back anything, it is either you have nothing to say or as you keep quoting physicist Albert Einstein, you are an accomplice.

More on the issue of secrets. I have asked people whether I, of one church can join a church council meeting of another church unless invited for a specific purpose. Would such make the church councils secret groups? All social groups and all organizations restrict access to non- members.

Mr. Ata put all of his energies in one group – Freemasonry. Let me attempt something. The Rosicrucian Order (Amorc) has lodges in almost every major city. Anyone of sound mind is allowed to join regular discussion sessions, watch proceedings, and decide to join or not to join. Amorc admits entire families and growth on the ladder depends on the individual not on age or socioeconomic status. Who then will use the soul of the other for sacrifice – father, mother, child – when they all learn together?

One of the most dreaded groups is Ogboni Fraternity but I hear husband and wife can join. Freemasonry does not accept women by tradition although one woman was a member once upon a time. Interestingly Rotary International which does so much good in the world accepted women as full members in 1987 only after a court judgement forced one of the clubs in USA to do so. It took 84 years before the Council on Legislation voted to admit women in Rotary Clubs worldwide! Is Rotary a secret society? Maybe if a woman takes Freemasonry to court, women will have access to the fraternity and find out there is nothing sinister about it.

Meanwhile those who do not belong to any fraternity sit on their subordinates in the office, oppress widows and orphans, steal public funds with no compunction and, like the Pharisees and Sadducees, beat their chests, look into the sky and announce how pious they are. Mr. Ata and Nigerians who think like him should declare for Governor so we can beam searchlight on them and determine whether they are Mr. Clean or not.

In our villages did Iban Isong accept even the male village heads into their membership? The women were known and met in open spaces.

Through the ages those who by self-righteous fervour campaign against fraternities avoid the actual cult groups which cause havoc in various spheres. Who, for instance, has ever stood in public to declare self a witch or wizard or cultist? Where do they meet? Do they have agenda for their meetings (Freemasons have published bulletins and meeting proceedings), and what contributions do witches, wizards, and cultists make towards the development of societies?

I would want to conclude this way:

i) Let Mr. Ata tell us the secret of his mission. Is he trying to link Umo Eno with the Governor and say he is guilty by association? (Show me your friends and I will tell you who you are).

ii) Let him try harder to establish the link between membership of a fraternity and administrative capacity particularly the fraternities which do not associate with violence. I am told the Buccaneers run subsidy and family support schemes for their members which majority of churches do not. If a Buccaneer indicates interest to run for office, I will support him faster than a Pastor who makes money for his family only.

iii). If Ata aims at 2023 let him so, declare or indicate his preferred candidate. He or such candidate should tell us what he or she has done in his or her village of origin first. The name Ikiddeh sounds Afaha Offiong. Let Ata point to one thing he has done in Afaha Offiong. I raised this issue in a paper I presented at Nsit Ibom Local Government Headquarters on 25th March 2022 on selection of leaders. The seminar was organized by Asang Nsit Area Development Association (ANADA). Those who have nothing to show after so many years of adulthood should stay in their houses and continue to make money for their families.

iv). I am NOT a member of any of the fraternities. I don’t need the press to so declare.  I have no interest in political office. But I speak with vigour against sustenance of emphasis on religious and related issues in contemporary African society. It is worse than corruption. Bishop Kukah lamented that while other countries went to work to build factories and develop infrastructure, Nigerians went for fasting and prayers after independence. We can however strike a balance because in Czechoslovakia ceremonial burning of witches continue to this day between April 30 and May 1, but effigies are burnt not human beings. When those two days end, the people face politics, government, economics, education and so on using the methods if science.

v) If someone requires surgery, a better approach is to involve a surgeon while the person’s church goes for fasting and prayer. The two work well together and are not on parallel lines. To fast and pray for a woman with a narrow cervix in many cases lead to loss of both mother and child who would have been saved if dilation and curettage (D&C) had taken place. Doctors know God has it all reason their motto is “We treat, God heals.” Till date some churches pray against “delivery by knife” and so stop women from the God-directed science of D&C.

vi). It is pertinent to highlight a fact: literature abound on the negative aspects – all nonreligious – of Freemasonry as managed in some countries. In new Liberia membership was so important getting a job was an uphill task for non-members. In UK, we heard of favouritism in Scotland Yard (Police Headquarters) to the extent that infractions of the law by Masons were often ignored by officers in the same fraternity. Nigeria is too diversified for something close to that. How many Nigerians are Freemasons anyway? How many are in the Rosicrucian Order or Ogboni Fraternity? People dread them out of ignorance or as the Smithsonian quoted above stated, out of fear of the devil which make the groups unattractive.

I am passionate about this issue reason I feel distressed that a ‘Diaspora’ person should attempt to mislead his people with his political dreams cloaked in religious fervour. In 2012 I presented a public lecture at Omoku, Rivers State during the Sir Francis Ellah Memorial Lecture to canvass movement of African societies away from sociologist Auguste Comte’s first stage of societal development where everything is seen from the religious angle. Do citizens still turn back if a snake crosses their paths from the left side of the road as they leave for a business trip? Do we fail to separate personal funds from business funds such that when working capital finishes and the business stalls we blame witches and wizards instead of a wrong business practice? How will witch hunting or rejection of members of a nonviolent fraternity make us attempt to land on the moon like India which we can regard as our contemporary? Can we even rub shoulders with India which has flooded our transport system with Keke when over two decades ago we assembled cars with high local content? Educated people should help the less educated to change their mindset and orientation from the religious to the scientific. If as we have heard, the incumbent Governor bowed to pronouncement from the pulpit on an ‘anointed’ one, then we have a long way to go. Spiritual support and guidance help but simple scientific approach via democratic procedures should be applied to select candidates not clerical choices. A high-ranking religious leader recently said he anointed the Governorship candidate of a state, but he now confesses the man has been the worst Chief Executive Officer of that state since its creation. So?

I wish to submit that citizens should “shine their eyes” for and in 2023. We don’t need pronouncements from the chancel or accusations associated with secret societies. We don’t need one cup of salt or rice or few Naira to sell our souls. We don’t even need to stay home because voting does not matter. Let INEC declare the persons they want but let us exercise our right to vote as free citizens of legal age and of right mental capacity. We must not be swayed by empty tales from those who claim to know more than we know but who have nothing to show for monies the public spent on their education (I once analysed education expenditure and concluded that no Nigerian can claim to have been 100% privately sponsored). Make choices in line with your conscience. If you need more information, search. God help you in your decision making.

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