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Spiritual Stores and Spirit Beings

We asked acclaimed travel writer Pelu Awofeso to document a trip down the Lagos and Lekki Lagoon. In this second story we learn something more on spiritual stores! 

Pelu Awofeso is a travel writer, journalist and publishing entrepreneur based in Lagos, Nigeria. For over fifteen years Pelu has been travelling across Nigeria and publishing travel writing in newspapers in Nigeria and beyond, and in his own travel books. His most recent book is Route 234 (2016). When he’s not on the road, one of Pelu’s many other projects is publishing his print and online travel magazine Waka-About. In 2010 he won the tourism category of the CNN Multichoice African Journalist Award for his travel writing. He has also worked as a tourism development officer and a journalist. In 2013 Rebecca Jones interviewed him for Africa in Words

Pictures and text remain copyright of Pelu Awofeso and the Knowing Each Other Project.

 

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Within moments of getting to Ore (Ondo State, SW Nigeria), I walk into Tioluwanile Spiritual Store. “Please take off your shoes,” the salesperson I meet shouts, briefly taking her attention off the patron who’s come to buy some candles, soaps, incense and oils.

Healing balms

The man is barefoot and wears the familiar shiny white outfit of the Celestial Church of Christ in Nigeria (CCC). While they calculate how much the purchase costs, I look around the shop, stunned by the countless varieties of materials packed in plastics, bottles, cartons and more: Quick Money Soap and Water; King Solomon’s Wisdom; Healing Water; Prayer Soap; Do As I say; Back To Sender; Favour Soap.

Other products have been prepared to cure medical conditions like stroke, diabetes and low sperm count.

“Everyone comes here—Christians, Muslims, traditional religion practitioners,” the young lady says, now free to talk. “And they come from far and near; the man who just left lives outside Ore.”

IMG_20170321_170102She is a trainee, learning the essentials of running a spiritual store. In her late teens, she’s been here for a year and will stay for another year or two more, until she is able to raise enough money to own her own shop. “It is what I really want to do, not because there is no other job.”

There are several shops like this in Ore, she tells me after I pick and pay for a perfume in a small bottle. There is one on Ondo Road, not too far from here,” she says, giving me a rough idea of the exact location. And that’s where I go next.

“What we sell are items that people who make them have prayed on, and they are meant to serve as ready-made solutions to the problems our patrons have,” says the owner of Oluwaseyi Spiritual and Religion Material Store, who’s been in the business for at least a decade. “On the other hand, it is a quick fix for preachers who are lazy and find it difficult to fast and pray.”

Most of her supplies come from Ibadan and her stocks include: Honey to improve one’s memory; honey to command people to do one’s bidding; soaps for happy unions between couples; soaps to attract customers; ointment for painless delivery; perfume for goodwill; and an array of fragrance.

Mrs Oluwaseyi is Christian but selling these materials is purely a business decision. “People need them, I sell them,” she says, seated at the entrance to her shop. “And the ones who come here cut across religions.”IMG_20170321_170210

My gaze falls on a plastic high up on the shelf labeled “Ose Arigisegi,” which, when used, basically makes a curse meant for one to boomerang on the sender. But do all these prepared solutions really work? “Well, that depends on the buyers’ faith. If they believe it will work for them, then it certainly will.”

 

An Evening at a Crusade

Travelling back on Okitipupa Road, I chance on a crusade organized by the local branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). Visiting Evangelist Dickson Odion of the House of Prayer Fire Ministries International Incorporated is ministering. After introductory remarks, he has a disturbing revelation for the gathering of 300 spread out on an open, grassy field lit by halogen bulbs: the host town has fallen under the control of wicked forces determined to keep the people in bondage and their hold must be broken for good.

“Ore belongs to Jesus and it must be delivered this very night,” he barks into the microphone. “We will pray now and they will be banished from here. My brothers, my sisters, the kind of prayer I’m talking about is the stubborn kind of prayer, because these forces are not going to release their hold on this town easily.”

Dressed in a grey suit, pink shirt and black trousers, he adds that the general believe that Ore is a no-man’s land and so belongs to no one is untrue. The believers, all standing, listen intently but there is more bad news. “Before I came here, I had a vision: God showed me Arabic inscriptions written across the sky above Ore; the interpretation is this: everyone in this town, Christians especially, will be subjected to the authority of these demonic powers. The devil is a liar—that won’t happen.”

And some more dreadful disclosure: the Ominla River on the outskirts of town has been tainted by the blood of the innocent. “There is a big Python in that river that feeds on people and it has to die,” Odion says, stomping back and forth some feet from the altar and sweating. “Let us pray now to get rid of it. In the name of Jesus…”

So guided by the Auchi-based Evangelist the gathering goes into an hour long session of prayers. At different times, the congregants face the four corners of the world, raising their hands in unison and banishing the dark forces by the “Holy Ghost fire!”

Evangelist Odion’s preaching is part exposition and part imagery. In one instance he tells the crusade that enemies would usually mould statues in the image of whoever they wished to attack and destroy and subsequently place on it a volley of curses; to be free from it, the intended target must shove the load same way a returning farmer does what he brings from the farm.

There are “spirit beings” afflicting some of the Christians present at the crusade, he says. The unseen spirits are the cause of failure, bad luck, stagnancy and poverty most of those present are experiencing in their lives and these must be prayed away. Another round of prayers follows.

I couldn’t get the river and its resident python off my thoughts, so the next morning I went looking for it. It is Iocated some 10km away from ore town, after Irele Kingdom. Bordered on both sides by rich vegetation, the river is still and shallow and its bottom is visible in some parts. It doesn’t appear as the sort of habitat a blood-thirsty snake would live in.

Pelu Awofeso

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