The alleged killing of a python named “Eke Nworie” by students of the Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri, Imo State, has stirred controversy between the institution and its host community, Owerri Nchise.
Siggy.ng learnt that it’s a taboo to kill a python in Owerri and also culturally forbidden for an Owerri indigene to either kill or eat a python. Thus, it was shocking to indigenes and elders when news broke that a python which slept at Nworie River was killed by students of the institution.
An Indigene of the area, Okere Ndu, described the purported killing of the python by the undergraduates as sacrilegious, noting that if not properly handled, it would have dire consequences on the school and the management.
A student of the institution who gave his name only as Kingsley told our correspondent that the python was killed on the campus after it killed two goats.
The students said, “The python was scary. We were afraid and thought it would attack us after it killed two goats. Those students who killed it acted in self-defence and we didn’t know that it was culturally forbidden to kill a python in Owerri.”
Another indigene of Owerri, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that a similar Eke Ala Owerri python, which was the forebear of the present one, was allegedly killed by some white contractors working on the Wethedral-Christ Church road in Owerri between 1979 and 1980 during the administration of Chief Sam Mbakwe.
The indigene said, “The contractors killed the Eke Ala Owerri python during the construction of Wethedral/Christ Church road. After the incident, there were problems among the contractors. Their equipment began to break down. They were losing both manpower and equipment. When the contractors were notified of the dangers of killing the python, they were told to consult the then Chief Priest of Owerri (Onye Ishi Ala), the late Eke Igwe Nwoduo Ejiogu, for cleansing and they complied. After the cleansing, the contractors returned to site and the Wethedral/Christ Church road project went on smoothly.“
He added that lack of knowledge of the culture of the Owerri people was not an excuse to kill the pythons.
Siggy.ng further gathered that the python was symbolic and central to the culture of the Owerri people.
Investigation by our correspondent showed that the relationship between the python and the Owerri people dated back many years. As an example, Nworie python shared a close relationship with the chief priest of the Owerri Nchise community.
Siggy.ng gathered that the chief priest was the intermediary between the python and the community.
It was further learnt that before the death of any chief priest in Owerri Nchise, Nworie river python would visit him.
According to findings, the visit of the Nworie river python to the chief priest is an indication that the chief priest’s time on earth was up.
It was further gathered that after the Nworie river python visited the chief priest, it would not take more than two weeks before transmitting to the great beyond.
Reacting to the development, the Chief Priest of Owerri Nchise, Reginald Ejiogu, told Siggy.ng that the students and their management must cleanse the land or face the – consequences arising from the killing of the ancestral python.
The chief priest who spoke at his residence before taking our correspondent to his shrine for further explanation said he had issued a seven-day ultimatum to the school management for them to initiate the cleansing process. He added that failure to do that would cause strange happenings in the university community. The seven-day ultimatum started from Monday, July 26, 2021.
The chief priest said that in line with Igbo culture, he went to the school upon with a palm frond upon hearing the news that the students killed the python and delivered a message from the “gods to the school management.’’
On the significance of a palm frond, the chief priest said, “In our culture, it traditionally means danger”, adding that ” swift steps are needed to avert the danger.’’ He stated that the gods would be angry with him if he didn’t deliver the message of the gods to the school.
Ejiogu said, “Delivering the palm frond is part of the cleansing process. And the issuance of the seven-day ultimatum to the school means that I’m free from wrath of the gods. It is now left for the school management to obey or not. As the eye of the gods, I have done my part by going to the school to convey the message of the gods to them as part of the cleaning process.”
The chief priest added that he also wrote a letter to the school management to tell them to appear before him for the cleansing process to begin.
He noted that the killing of the python during the Oru-Owerri festival complicated the issue.
He said: “The issue is more complicated because it happened during the festival. The students killed the python during the Oru-Owerri festival. In Owerri culture, this period is considered as the week of peace. In our culture, no Owerri man is permitted to fight not to talk of killing during the week of Oru-Owerri festival. This is the period the students killed Nworie python.’’
He warned the school management not to take his visit lightly, stating that strange things would continue to happen until the gods of Owerri were appeased.
The chief priest added, “If after seven days the authorities of Alvan Ikoku College refused to do the needful, there would be nothing left for us to do as a people and as the custodian of our culture, than to leave them to whatever fate that befalls them. And for us as Owerri people, if we see such sacrilege and remain quiet and do nothing, we also face the adverse risks. This is why we hastened to raise the alarm and absolve our people of any blame.
“The last time a similar thing happened during the construction of a road in Owerri, the construction company took it for granted despite warning them. Mysterious things began to happen. Their machines broke down and operations were grounded until they were brought to my father who was then the chief priest. The necessary things were done and the calamity was averted.
“At this point, it does not matter what the school management believes or doesn’t believe. What matters is that they have desecrated our land and the land will extract due recompense if they failed to do the needful. Actions carry consequences.
“This school has been in our land for many years. They should be conversant with the culture and taboos of Owerri people and respect them. It was expected that these would be part of knowledge and learning for their students from different parts of the country to at least learn while schooling here that Owerri people do not kill pythons. And all of them would testify that the said ancestral python, as big as it was, never attacked human beings.
“Eke (python) Nworie is not to be killed. It’s not aggressive. It has never harmed anybody in its years of existence, so why would anybody kill it? The consequences are enormous, and they will find out soon, if the necessary things are not done. “
“The fact is that nobody knows how Nworie may choose to come this time but most times, mysterious incidents will confuse autopsies. I have only delivered the message of the gods to the school. I have done my part and it is left for the school to do theirs.”
The president of the institution’s Students Union Government, Such Onuoha, told our correspondent that the union wouldn’t react until the school management summoned them.
He said, “We have not been informed that the chief priest of Owerri delivered a palm frond to the school management. Until we are told by the school management, we will not comment on the matter.”
The school’s Public Relations Officer, Tony Ololo, when contacted by Siggy.ng, declined to comment on the issue, saying he could not speak on the matter at the moment.