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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Agaba-Odili: A Socio-Anthropological Study of an Oracular Arbiter
Author:Chiegwe, Onwuka
Periodical:St. Petersburg Journal of African Studies
Geographic terms:Nigeria
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Abstract:In the late 1940s a smallpox epidemic swept through the Lower Niger region of Nigeria, causing great loss of life. Certain classes of persons, notably elderly women, sisters and sisters-in-law, aunts and co-wives, became the targets of accusations of witchcraft. The ravages of the epidemic, and the mounting cases of accusations and denials of witchcraft and sorcery it generated, produced the need for a powerful oracle, an arbiter that could deliver instant judgement. Such an arbiter emerged when a certain Mr Odili Abandi returned to Udaba-ukwu from a stay of several months in Ibaji, the home of an oracle known as Agaba, installed what was believed to be the spiritual force and the physical presence of the Agaba oracle and went into 'operation' as the high priest and diviner of Agaba. Agaba-Odili and Odili-Agaba (the oracle and its priest/diviner) were regarded by the local population as a God-sent redeemer of the sufferers and vindicator of the accused. However, examination of the actions that took place at the various stages in the entire process of an arbitration session, especially the secret hearings at the beginning of a day's session, and the administering of the 'wine of Agaba' to the accused persons, suggest that Agaba-Odili was a fake oracle and Odili-Agaba an impostor and charlatan, who cashed in on the ignorance and superstition of people caught in the throes of an unknown killer disease. Bibliogr.