ANIMAL AFFINITY (NKŨ) IN ELEME
High Chief Ollorwi Osaro
Animal affinity (ware-beast) known in Eleme as Nkũ is the practice of establishing like-mindedness with a particular chosen animal through magical arts. The animals that were popularly attractive to the people for whom affinity is established include Mkpɛɛ (Leopard/Tiger), Lion (Nna'oro), Boar (Nji), Ɔjɔ (Python) rarely, etc.
The Nkũ Cult was typical of the Leopard (Ekpe) Society which originated among the Efik and spread throughout West Africa to as far as Brazil and so on. The different being that in Eleme Nkũ Cult was not limited to the Leopard as individual adopts wild and carnivorous animal of his own choice. Those who seek and enter into affinity with these wild beasts always act and behave like their ware-beasts.
Purpose of Ware-Beasts
The Nkũ cult in Eleme was used for the following purposes:
To protect oneself
To threaten an opponent to submission
To Destroy perceived or real enemies’ farms
To waylay and kill victims (especially travellers) at random.
Area of Nkũ Activities and Pattern of Operations
The Nkũ Cult was active in almost all the communities of Eleme but residual at Onne its stronghold. Those who belong to the Mkpɛɛ (Leopard) group prefer to dress in leopard skins during operations to waylay travelers with shark-claw like weapons in the form of leopards’ claws and teeth. Their victims flesh would be cut from their bodies and distributed to members of the society. They believed that the ritual cannibalism would strengthen members of the society.
These were the exclusive groups of people who were believed to possession by the spirits of carnivorous animals such as leopard/tiger, lion and boar, who carried out ritual killings while in a state of possession.
Unlike the Ekpe society of the Efik that was all men affairs the Mkpɛɛ society in Eleme has both male and female members. Women in Onne and across Eleme joined the ware-beasts cult to protect themselves and love ones, impact terror and fear in their enemies and destroy their crops. In other words, outside protection of oneself the Nkũ cult evolved a dangerous pattern such as targeting animals of enemies in broad daylight and their crops.
As the members of the Nkũ cult continue to abuse their powers by attacking innocent people unnecessarily, killing maiming and destroying properties and farms, the Paramount Ruler of Onne Chief Osarowate Olungwe Obibia (1873 – 1958) ordered that the practice be stopped by commissioning a very powerful deity known as Nsãe'o, whose priestess (Osilaechu Ngooma) was also a member of the Nna'oro (Lion) Society to deflate their powers. Not minding whether her priestess’s interest and that of the group she belong will be affected or not the deity has the final say. Killing and destruction of properties must stop and peace and tranquility must return to Onne in particular and Eleme in general.
Role of Osilaechu Ngooma in Abolishing Nkũ Cults in Eleme
Who was Osilaechu? Osilaechu Ngooma was the priestess of Nsãe'o deity. She was born in Ogoloma Onne to Chu Ngooma, a famous medicine man from the deformed Ajoor community of Eleme. When Ajoor was sacked by Akaraolu Siaro of Alode, Chu Ngooma escaped to Ogoloma Onne where he continued practicing the mystical art for which he is well known. He specialized in the cure of diseases like leprosy, epilepsy, madness, elephantiasis and so on. During war was known to have send thousands of bees on attack and was always victorious. He is known for the use of common materials like water (mmu), leaves (Nsãe'o), alligator pepper (okikɛɛ̃), etc. to effect great cures and performance of unimaginable things.
Birth and Marriage of Osilaechu
It was during his exile in Onne that Osilaechu was born and she got married to Chu Kolor also of Ogoloma, Onne. When her father died, she inherited her father’s arts and surpassed him. However, she divorced Chu Kolor and got married to Olaka Ollorma of Ejamah Ebubu as his third wives. But despite the fact that Olaka was wealthy, she brought him all the way to her father’s house at Onne and there they lived together, abandoning his wives and children at Ejamah.
Osilaechu marriage with Olaka Ollorma lasted for a while and Olaka realized that he was under a great spell and returned to join his family at Ejamah after a fruitless encounter with great mystic woman. Not quite long she remarried for the third time to Richard Ollor of Ogoloma, Onne and they moved their residence to the foreshore at Elee.
Osilaechu and Nkũ Cult
Osilaechu had for her ware-beast (Nkũ) the lion and it could be seen frequently around her house. She sends this beast on errand at will and can transform into the animal within the blink of the eyes.
Osilaechu did many astonishing things and she believed that merely punishing somebody through mystical powers was not an offence. What she was opposed to was killing a human being. In 1959 she inflicted her husband with hernia for denying her conjugal rights. It took the intervention of her husband’s relations and elders for her to withdraw the spell after performing the necessary sacrifice and within two days the mountain of hernia disappeared.
Osilaechu and Nsãe'o Shrin
So many people were deceived by the simplicity of her Nsãe'o shrine – a small pot that was always filled with water, one sugarcane, oyster, crab and periwinkle shells. With water from that pot she brought about instant cures, banished evil spirits, ends court cases and other disputes, won competitions in favour of persons who sought her help. With that same water she caused invisibility for as long as desirable for a particular engagement. She also provided security cover to those who sought her services. For many years she protected Chief Osarowate by ordering a lion to guard him wherever he went until his dead in 1958.
Unwholesome Practice of Nkũ Cult
During this time Onne people were maintaining several ware-beasts (Nkũ) that is, Leopards/Tigers, Lions, Boars, etc. A leopard can suddenly emerge even at daytime and carry away a goat belonging to any person they wanted to punish. This power was largely abused and many innocent people were being harassed, the peace of the communities threatened and living was becoming more violent and intolerable.
Abolition of Nkũ Cults in Eleme
This unwholesome practice forced Chief Osarowate to appeal to Osilaechu to come to the aid of Onne in particular and Eleme in general by abolishing the menace of leopard cult and other ware-beasts cults that have been terrorizing the people and scare the ware-beasts away from all the communities. The necessary materials were procured and sacrifice was made to Nsãe'o deity with an instruction that all ware-beasts be chased away from the communities. It took the Nsãe'o Deity only five local weekdays to accomplished the task.
That was the end of the Nkũ Cults in Onne and Eleme till today. Since then people can no more send wild beasts to destroy crops (or animals) in their enemies’ farms, waylay, attack and terrify travellers or kill people just for the fun of it. But, the nickname Mkpɛɛ, Nnaoro' etc. are still common place.
High Chief Ollorwi Osaro