Chief David Edebiri, the Esogban of Benin Kingdom in Edo State, is Chairman of Benin Forum, the umbrella body of all Binis in the country and Diaspora. He oversees operations of witches and wizards among other traditional functions. A septugenarian, he spoke to Vanguard’s Niger-Delta Life on his role as the “departmental head” of witches and wizards in the monarchy. He however made it clear that he is not a witch.
Power of witches
Chief Edebiri disclosed that unknown to many, witches run government and once they make decision, it is binding all over without the people knowing how. The Bini chief, who recalled that witches were very vicious before now in the kingdom, said a traditional parliamentary action was endorsed by “our great, great grandfathers” to put together a group, which he (Edebiri) is presently the leader, to tame their excesses.
Deactivation of witches
He said: “What I am doing as the Esogban is a social service to the community. It was enacted by our great, great grandfathers. When you hear of witch-hunt in England, France, if anybody is suspected to be a witch, the person will be burnt alive and destroyed, similar things were happening here, but the elders now said no, instead of killing these people or sending them to the evil forest, why not look for a way to reform them and bring them back to the society.”
“I think that was why this structure was put up. It was a legislative action for social development of the people. When these people come here, because of predominant superior power, they confess that they are witches or wizards and confess all the destructions that they have been involved in,” Edebiri asserted. His words, “Then we look for a way to discipline them. You cannot remove them from being a witch or wizard, but after coming here they can be disabled from committing havoc or using the power for any dangerous thing.So when these people were brought like that and they were disabled, they will be taken back to the society and no one will call them wizards again. First, their coven will not admit them anymore, secondly that power has been completely taken away from them.”
How I acquired my power
Asked where he acquired the authority he uses to tame suspected witches and wizards, Chief Edebiri, “Ah, it is the power of God Almighty and that of the Oba of Benin (laughter). We have averted much havoc that these people would have caused in Benin Kingdom.”
“They died because they denied, if they did not deny we know what to do and they will remain alive. Some will come here and agree that they belong but that they will change; we know how to take them through the process. It is a social work that we are doing. But I am just a departmental head. You should know that the head of the Federal Ministry of Health is not necessarily a doctor. I do not need to be a member, if I was a member, I will not be able to do what I am doing now. Secondly, their grade is too junior, if I were to be a member I cannot be in their grade. This thing has grade.
Most dangerous witches
“The dangerous ones are the lowest, they never think of anything good. All they do is evil. But there is the upper class; those are the people running the government. They run the government all of us are. And once they make decision in that area, it is binding all over. They think of how the society will grow,” he said.
Witches fear Jesus Christ
Chief Edebiri added: “I tell you that most of them do not succeed anywhere Jesus is mentioned. And I asked them, do you mean that you people fear the awesome power of Jesus Christ, they said yes. And these people (witches) are either church singers or something in the church, I asked them further, if you say that you fear the power of Jesus, how do you feel when the pastor is condemning you people in the name of Jesus, they said they will be condemning the pastor too. But I can tell that so many of them have been converted to Christianity after passing through this place. The elders, who made this possible were very wise people, otherwise, what we should have been seeing today is burning and killing people, who are witches and that would have brought the society to another catastrophe.”