I have been listening with keen interest to the national condemnation of the “Efo-Juju” and its probably related historic narratives in a book supposed to be approved by the National School Curriculum Agency or whatever it is called, for use in Ghana schools. It has come about that my fellow Ghanaians of the Ewe/Anlo, thus the “Ayibgwe” tribe of the Volta region, do feel offended by being identified as juju-lovers with ability to cause things to happen under mysterious circumstances normally incomprehensible to human understanding.
Is it because of the fact the juju often borders on doing evil?
To start with, history is defined as, “the record of past events and times, especially in connection with the human race”.
It hurts to tell the truth but in the end, it brings comfort. Historic narrative, whether briefly or exhaustively told, is all about telling the factual prevalence among some people at a point in time of their life. Why do we expect to distort history for the sake of tribal cohesion, national unity and whatnot? How is telling the history as it actually took place denigrating to the people about whom it concerns?
Have we come to prefer lies to the truth as a nation and a people? No wonder that Ghana is wobbling in stagnation of all the bad things that militate against her development as a people and a nation.
From empirical observations and experience, if many a Ghanaian will be honest to themselves, the Ewes/Anlos are noted for their prowess and pride in jujuism. More often than not, an Ayibgwe man in argument with another person over establishing the truth as regards an allegation of crime or whatever, as may be levelled against him, will say, “I will prove to you that I am an Ewe man. You, wait and see. If I go to my town, you will see what will happen to you”.
How do we understand such statements often or seldom made by them? Should we take them serious or as empty boastful threats?
Were, or are there not many such fetish centres or juju shrines in the Volta region? What are they meant for?
Similarly, there are many such fetish centres or shrines in the Ashanti region and throughout the country among all the various tribes. The Ashantis or the Akans were once predominantly idol/fetish worshippers before the advent of the White colonialists into Africa.
The Ashantis were noted for their panyarring. Panyarring was the practice of seizing and holding persons until the repayment of debt or resolution of a dispute which became a common activity along the Atlantic coast of Africa in the 18th and 19th centuries.
King Kwaku Dua Panyin I, Asantehene, banned the practice of panyarring around 1838.
Again, the Ashantis used to practice the beheading of people on the death of their kings. They believed that as a king is venerated, attended to by his subjects and carried in palanquin when alive, he needed same coterie in death. They even selected and killed some of the wives of the decedent king in the belief that the king must still be married to them in the underworld.
For this prevailing fact of beheading and its avoidance on the fate of Kumawuman subjects, their most revered powerful warrior king, Barima Tweneboa Kodua I, the originator of the Kumawu Kodua Stool, made a pre-condition to the Council of Chiefs of the Asante Confederacy, upon the acceptance of which he agreed to offer himself to be sacrificed to help the Ashantis win their war against their most powerful empire-enemy, the Denkyira, under the kingship of Nana Ntim Gyakari I.
Barima Tweneboa Kodua I, demanded among other things that “No cutlass (machete) should ever be used on any of his Kumawu royals”. By this, he was demanding that no Kumawu subject should ever suffer beheading upon the death of any Asante King, be they Asantehene or any of the paramount chiefs.
Do you know how they used the beheaded heads? They simply placed them in the dug grave and placed the king’s coffin on them. By this, they believed the king was still being carried by his subjects as he used to be carried by them in palanquins when he was alive.
This is a historic fact that no Asante person having cognizance of their rich history can deny, although as unreasonably murderous, shameful and nonsensical as the practice was.
Some of the Ashantis, although are Christians, still do visit their fetish shrines like “Antoa Nyamaa”, Kwaku Firiso and Kyinamanso”. These shrines in the olden days were meant to keep the Ashantis faithful and truthful to one another. There were no, or less, crimes, in those days that they had absolute trust in their fetish practices.
Additionally, you will hear people threatening others saying, “I will go up north (“Esiremu”) and you will see what will happen to you”. This statement is made by the northerners and other people seeking to avail themselves of juju to deal with those they feel have offended them or wronged them in a way or another.
Therefore, the northerners are also juju lovers. Do the fetishes like “Tigare” and “Muronkom” not from the northern regions of Ghana?
History should not be distorted for the sake of national unity. The truth must be told so that if we feel ashamed of our past and present, then we will cease engaging in such acts.
I remember when schooling in Accra as a sixth former in late 1970s, I would invite some of my Ga and Ewe friends to come with me to Kumasi for a midterm holiday. They never accepted the offer, especially the Gas (origins of Accra). They also expressed the fear of getting beheaded because they said, the Ashantis behead people on the death of their kings.
I was also often invited by some of my Ewe friends to accompany them to Togo, they never said Volta region, to spend a day or two, when on midterm holiday but I never honoured their invitation.
To conclude, almost across all the tribes in Ghana, we have the history of some juju or idol worshipping of some kind. Why should we feel shy of our past or present as long as we did certain acts or continue to do them? Why should we hide such factual truths?
In future, should we feel shy saying some Ghanaian pastors and prophets were crooks, fake and were sacrificing people for wealth and power? If we shall be shameful of the revelation of such stories, then we had better act to stop the criminal attitudes by many of the current crop of Ghanaian money-seeking pastors and prophets.
“Efo-juju” is a fact, if and only if, it is meant to highlight the love and practice of fetishism among the Ewes, same as the panyarring and beheadings were to the Ashantis. There is no escaping route from their veracity. They did, and do, happen.
A nation or tribe that forgets about its past (history), does not prosper. If your past is good, build upon it. If your past is bad, change from it. That is how best you can prosper. Narrative history is not meant to demean anyone but to make people aware of the past and, or current occurrences.