opinionBy Tony Adibe
Enugu — The celebration of this year's end-of-the-year West African Social Activities (WASA), held on Saturday, December 8, 2012 at the 82 Division Garrison Parade Ground, Enugu, witnessed exciting, incredible and very bizarre traditional performances that made some guests, particularly, the female ones, to hold their heads in awe as they stared with their mouths wide open.
Armed with a razor-sharp knife, the charcoal-black-skinned, muscular, tall 'magic' man violently grabbed the boy and turned his neck upward like a sacrificial lamb. He then stuck out the little boy's neck, the way you stick out that of a chicken before slaughtering it for Christmas dish. Then he began to "cut" the boy's neck with the razor-sharp knife but the harder he attempted to 'cut', the harder the boy's flesh became. It was quite incredible and breathtaking!
Now, he turned the boy the other way and started "lacerating" the entire body with the knife, and yet the boy's tender skin refused to tear or bleed; the knife could not penetrate his skin. He then began to 'stab' the boy with the knife but the flesh did not "cut open." As the man did all the 'magical' demonstrations with the little boy, some of the women in the audience screamed repeatedly. "Please, tell them to stop this horror show. I can't stand the sight," one woman said. "What if the boy is killed in the process? What are they going to tell his mother?" another women asked, now frightened by the terrible sight.
Before the 'magician' displayed his art with the lad, he alongside members of his magic team, had performed a ritual apparently to prepare what some people regarded as "the African bullet proof", a form of juju believed to prevent a metal from penetrating the flesh of the person bearing it. They had spread some tiny grains on the ground, poured water into a can, mixed it with gun powder, beat their traditional drums, made several incantations or invocations before striking a mach that produced a light used in igniting the gun powder inside the can. After the ritual, the magic man bearing a 'garland' of green leaf hanging loose on his neck, then pulled out the sharp knife with glittering blade. He then began to demonstrate his amazing and magical powers with the lad who was never hurt throughout the period of the eye-pooping "bizarre drama".
Having gained the attention and admiration of a large section of the crowd, the magic man dragged the little boy towards where the General Officer Commanding, GOC, 82 Division, Major-General O.O.Oshinowo and other dignitaries were sitting, apparently to "show off" his "juju power" before them. But the GOC signaled them not to bother, probably because he was not quite sure that the 'drama' would not end in a bloody way. The magician then decided to "cut' himself with the knife; 'stab' his stomach and when no drop of blood came out, the pleasantly surprised audience clapped and clapped and clapped until the MC begged them to stop.
The 'magical group', from Zuru Local Government Area of Kebbi state, was among the various cultural groups that thrilled the audience during the annual ceremony. There were other thrillers at the event such as Peter James, the man who did mind-boggling acrobatic displays with his motor-cycle; Ogoja cultural dancers from Cross River State; Enugu cultural troupe; the young Taekwondo led by Coach Tony; Yoruba cultural dancers that composed a song in praise of the GOC, the tug of war competition between the GOC'S team and that of the Enugu state Acting Governor, Sunday Onyebuchi. Acting Governor Onyebuchi's team defeated the GOC's.
The Assistant Director, Public Relations, 82 Division, Enugu, Lieutenant Colonel H. A. Gambo in a statement said WASA, as it is popularly known over time, is a standing social event of the Nigerian Army where officers, soldiers, their families, well wishers and friends of the army socially interact in a relaxed atmosphere to celebrate the cultural values of the Nigerian people and reward personnel that have excelled in their duties.
But apparently reinforcing what Lt. Col. Gambo wrote early in the statement, Maj-Gen Oshinowo , who addressed the gathering after inspecting the various formations and units' stands, recalled that WASA was the tradition of the Nigerian Army which started during the Second World War. He said the ceremony "aims to bring together, officers, soldiers, their families and the host communities in a social atmosphere to mark the end of the year, and to usher in the new coming year."
Major-General Oshinowo further said, "I therefore commend all personnel of the Division, and advise you all to improve further on the standard we have set so as to make 2013 a better one. I would also like to commend our host communities for all the efforts you have rendered to us in our march towards making the communities and the entire areas crime-free."
He said there could be no other better avenue to foster civil-military interaction than this event. "I enjoin you to relax and enjoy the cultural displays, dances, drama and the beating of the retreat which are the core social and traditional activities associated with WASA," he assured.
In his remark, the Acting Governor of Enugu State, Mr. Sunday Onyebuchi, who was represented by the Commissioner for Environment, Mr. John Egbo, said the social event was necessary for the promotion of the ideals of adherence to military values and excellent civilian-military relations, adding, "I must say that it is heart-warming to see this side of the Nigerian army."
According to the Acting Governor, occasions like this also helped to boost civil-military cooperation which, he said, was a panacea for peaceful co-existence between the military and host communities of most military formations across the nation. He explained that the importance of such cooperation needed not to be over emphasized.
While thanking the Chief of Army Staff for taking positive steps towards enhancing civil-military relations, particularly, in the area of setting up offices for civil-military relations at headquarters in various military formations across the country, he said, "Not only does it allow the host communities to better understand the military and its core activities and values but it encourages most host communities to support the military in the discharge of its duties; through provision of requisite information that could lead to strengthening of national security."
Pledging the continued support and commitment of the state government to the 82 Division of the army, the Acting Governor also enjoined the GOC not to relent in his effort to continue to re-engineer and retain his troops so as to ensure that Enugu State remained crime-free and peaceful. "It is indeed a success story for the 82 Division which is a highly rated military formation in the country, whose professional competence has never been in doubt," he remarked.
According to Onyebuchi, "82 Division is a ground that has a very long history of being one of the top rated ones across the country. The excellent manner with which the 82 Division conducts internal cooperation in Enugu and other states within their areas of responsibility is worthy of commendation. I am particularly pleased with the security support that the 82 Division has provided during the last general elections as well as beefing up security in this yuletide season, so that people travel freely across the state without fear of the men of the underworld."
Commending the families of the soldiers for their supports and encouragements to the soldiers, he said, "I will to use this opportunity to salute the families of our gallant officers and soldiers for your continued supports through prayers and patience during trial periods when your spouses and parents are away maintaining security within and outside the state." He added, "We are all well aware that a man who is not well settled finds it difficult to discharge his duties in a very professional manner. I pray the God will continue to give you the strength to maintain your homes. You have become a key part of the host communities and I implore you to make the best of it." And with the closing prayer by the Chief Imam of 82 Division, Col. Shehu Garba Mustapha, the event came to a conclusion.