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Published On: Wed, Jan 3rd, 2018

Re-visiting the Akwa Ibom State ‘Child Witches’ Killings

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By Albert Afeso Akanbi

In 2002, an Asian American boy by the name Sho Timothy Yono, with an estimated IQ of 200, graduated from Loyola University, Chicago, at the age of twelve. Six years later he received his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology, successfully becoming history’s youngest MD. In 2006, six years old Ainan Celeste Cawley, a Singaporean boy who spoke his first words at less than a month old, stunned the world when he delivered a remarkable lecture about acids and alkaloids to the utter amazement of the adults who were in attendance at this lecture. In June 2013, a boy named Adam Kirby became the youngest member of the British Mensa at age two years after scoring 141 in an IQ test, conveniently meaning that at that age, he was smarter than Barack Obama and David Cameron put together. Prior to this time, Adam had astonished the world when he began to read his first book at the age of 10 months. Sho, Ainan and Adam are like countless other kids like them around the world who possess abilities that can best be described as out of this world. Yet, they are very lucky because, even though they possessed traits that many would describe as strange, even though they started out as being very eccentric and bizarre kids because they knew more than their age and acted differently from what may have been the norm with kids of their times, they were cared for by their societies and today they are the better for it because they have become very successful and useful to our world.
Throughout history, in every continents of the world, there have been stories about children who are so advanced, so different from their peers that some people have even claimed that they may been gods who have practically come down to live among men. These sort of kids exist in all the regions of the earth and in every generation known to man. For example, the story is well documented of the case in the 6th Century BC, of Mnesarchus, the father of Mathematician and Philosopher Pythagoras, who while travelling home from work one day, came upon an abandoned child. The bizarre child it was said, had survived for as long as he had been there where he was found, solely on the dew from a nearby tree. Taking this chid in, Pythagoras’ father named this child Astraios, which is Greek for ‘Star Child’. It is said that this child was raised with Pythagoras and his siblings. This child was later given to Pythagoras as his servant. It is believed today by many that, this strange child who is believed to have come down from the stars because of some of his traits, may have been responsible for most of Pythagoras’ works in the field of Mathematics and Philosophy. Whether or not this is just another good fable, I cannot tell. But the point is, this story and many like it, serves to buttress two things; that there are children among us who display behaviours that is different from how we expect children to behave, and that such children deserve our care rather than cruelty.
Eccentric children, like I have already established are everywhere. In fact, to many, Jesus Christ of the Christian faith himself was an eccentric (remember the story of the temple discussion at age 12?). Even I myself at some point, I was an eccentric too. While some people like Pastor Hellen Ukpabio of the Liberty Ministries in Port Harcourt south/south Nigeria will be quick to denounce eccentric children as witches and wizards, others like Gorgio, a Greek American Ancient Alien Hunter would define such children as ‘Star Kids’. Now, let me make it clear here that I am not denying that there are some really weird kids who may act in ways that may even be harmful to adults around them, No. However, the question is, should every child who is different from his peers be denounced as evil? Should they be maimed, abandoned or killed by society, our society, the very same that should ordinarily protect and help them develop their gift? Shouldn’t we be making efforts to understanding and seeing how we can annex their potentials for the good of all? I believe there are myriad kids scattered across Nigeria today, especially those in the Child Right and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN) home in Eket, who possess potentials far ahead of our times, who can best be described as Star Kids? Aren’t this kids unnecessarily being wasted by ignorant parents at the prompting of greedy charlatans who go by the titles pastors, prophets and apostles? If these children like elsewhere in the world, abound in Nigeria, shouldn’t we be asking ourselves how we can identify them? Identify their potentials and harness such for the good of the country? To start with, who are Star Kids? Isn’t this term already been mistaken for witchcraft in this part of the world?
Star Kids. There are many experts today who define the term Star Kids or believe very strongly that Star Kids are children sent here to earth from all areas in the universe. They believe these kids are sent to earth to help the people of earth. That these children will bring peace, topple corrupt systems around the world, and shift dimensional consciousness from negative to positive in the years to come. Now, the point according to proponents of this school of thought is, Star Kids display certain traits that sets them apart from other kids. Some of such traits is that, they are reserved, eccentric, and vastly intelligent and seem to know more than their age. Over the years, in all the four corners of earth, kids like this have appeared. However, in Africa, and recently in Nigeria and especially in the south/south state of Akwa Ibom, kids with traits like some of the above mentioned have been associated with something else. As a matter of fact, the scope have even been broadened to include sickly, stubborn, orphaned etc. kids. So, a phenomenon that enlightened people around the world have referred to as ‘Star Kids’ and are trying hard to understand, is what we have successfully associated with a more negative term. Witchcraft.
He was a nine-year-old boy. He was lying on a bloodstained hospital sheet crawling with ants and was staring blindly at the wall. In his soulful eyes lingered questions. Questions that neither he nor society could answer. Only days before, his family pastor had accused him of being a witch. On the basis of this denunciation, his father had tried to force acid down his throat as an exorcism. The acid had spilled as he struggled, burning away his face and eyes. Days later, having gone through untold horror at the hands of his parent and the pastor, this one time well fed little boy who was bubbling with life had been reduced into a thoroughly emaciated boy due to his ordeal at the hands of his family; a shadow of himself. With barely any strength left in him, all he could do was to manage a whisper. With great difficulty he was able to belch the name of the church that had condemned him as a witch; ‘Mount Zion Lighthouse’. Exactly one month after his denunciation, this nine-year old who once had a life, died.
“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”
The lines above, since Christianity became a major world religion, has represented many things to many people throughout the history of our planet. For those who grossly misunderstand and misinterpreted these words, starting from the Roman Catholic Inquisitions of the past and the many Evangelical charlatans in Akwa Ibom State today, these words, taken from the Christian Holy Book, for them represented a licence and a divine order to go on a killing spree. For the countless ‘witches’ (it used to be more of cragy old ladies but now the attention is on children) who have been burned at the stakes in Medieval Europe throughout history, and for the many children in Africa and especially Akwa Ibom State in Nigeria today, these words represents horror and a death sentence. Kids who are a bit different from their peers. Kids who in saner climes would be considered an asset because of their eccentricity and gift. As a matter of fact, in 1982, the Chinese government launched a nationwide search for kids with extra ordinary abilities. Kids who are different from their peers. The purpose was to develop and harness their gifts. Today in Nigeria, some of the traits the Chinese government looked for in those kids then are the same traits that Hellen Ukpabio and her co-travellers are denouncing kids for. Now, if the lives of these kids are so easily disregarded, this begs the questions, what is witchcraft? Who is really a witch? What is wrong with us as a society that we have turned on our kids, the most vulnerable in society?
Albert Afeso Akanbi is a Public Affairs Analyst.

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