By Godwin Oghre
SAPELE- AT numerous nations the world over, land-dwelling snail, a specie of terrestrial gastropod mollusks, is munched as food by humans, but at Ikeresan and many other communities in Okpe kingdom, Delta State, snail is rather bizarrely a deity and it is a taboo to eat it.
What happened day I mistakenly ate snail- Dr Ekariko, historian
A Sapele-Okpe historian, Dr. Vincent Ekariko, who confirmed the traditional belief to NDV, said that any male native, who dares to eat snail faces immediate punishment, ranging from continuous salivation, dumbness and death from the god, called Egban.
“This has been the tradition of the people from the beginning; there are people who constitute a cult that serve the deity till date. They assuage the wrath of the deity to any offender such that he does not suffer the maximum consequence of death if he mistakenly eats snail,” he explained.
Dr Ekariko, a Nigerian civil war veteran disclosed: “I was a victim; towards the end of the civil war in 1970, I went to visit a friend of mine in Benin. He cooked rice with it (snail). I did not know it was snail until I bit it in my mouth. I quickly vomited everything I ate; I was vomiting and could no longer talk.”
How I was healed
“So I washed my mouth with ash and immediately rode on my Vespa motor cycle back home to Sapele. I rode straight to the priest of the deity, who carried out the rites on me and also washed my mouth with ash and I was cured,” he said.
Bullets flew around me, none touched me
Asked if the deity provides protection for its adherents, he said, “Yes, once a son of the land (Okpe) is initiated, no bullet penetrates him. He becomes invulnerable to human physical or even spiritual attack. That was what helped me during the civil war on each occasion that I came face to face with death.”
His words: “On a particular occasion during one of my expedition to get food, I came face to face with a Biafra soldier, who aimed at me when my gun was casually on my shoulders. He already aimed at me. He was looking at me and I was just helplessly looking at him. It then occurred to me that I should run, so I started running and he started firing at me.”
“ I could see his bullets flying beside and above me, but none hit me. It was the deity that diverted the bullets. That was how I escaped and joined my Nigerian soldier-colleagues and we started firing back,” he revealed.
Crooks once abused powers but now checkmated
Dr. Ekariko maintained: ”Any son of the soil initiated into Egban is invincible to bullets. These days, however, when the cult found out that some of those initiated were using the power to commit crimes, they stopped it.”
“They now make a new member to swear at initiation that the power will not work if he uses it to commit crime and it is working that way today. Criminals do not go there because it will disappoint them. However, Christianity has now taken over our societies,” he said.
Asked if adherents of the snail deity wear anything on their bodies from the god for protection and if there were sacred rules by the cult, he said: “The rope called “egban” on which the charm is tied is what an adherent usually ties around his waist.”
“It (eghan) is never kept inside the house except the male adherent lives alone. It is never taken into a house where a woman that is still menstruating lives in. It is kept outside, in the backyard.
“Peradventure, if a woman that is menstruating enters a house where the egban is kept, her menstrual flow will not stop until the god is appeased and the rites performed on her by the priest. The potency of this deity does not, however, work for a criminal. That is the position currently,” he added.