The Yoruba have so many names for them. Too many names to fill two pages of this paper. The breed of people to whom these names and appellations are given is believed to be very special in Yoruba mythology. The names are given at birth on the 8th day of christening or the naming ceremony. And the children so deserving of these names are called ABIKU; children born to die and be born again in a seemingly endless, tortuous and unpredictable cycle. Other cultures in Africa have different brand/generic names for such children.
Ewetan is one of the commonest names given to Abikus in Ijebuland and the name literally, means there are no more herbal leaves in the forest to cure whatever ailments that terminate your life in infancy. By naming the new baby Ewetan the parents are putting the child on red alert that if he or she decides to fall ill again preparatory to his/her recurring return to heaven, there are no leaves left to prepare whatever herbal concoction needed to ward off his/her predicament.
Other common names given to Abikus include KUYE meaning this one has escaped death; KOSOKO meaning should you decide to die again there are no more holes to dig your grave with! KOKUMO implies that this child will not die again while MALOMO and SIWONIKU plead with the child not to return to the land of the dead and OLETUBO means the thief has returned! KETIKU, BIOBAKU and BEYIOKU carry a promise that if you do not die this time around, there is better life waiting for you. MAKU or DUROJAYE is a plea to the child not to die while IKUKOYI says this child is rejected by death.
Some people tend to dismiss the notion of ABIKU and claim instead that arrant infant mortality is due majorly to poor health care delivery facilities. Looking at the concept of ABIKU with scientific lenses, those who do not subscribe to the idea of Abiku tend to dismiss in its totality the concept that a child who dies at infancy is the same child that returns to its mother’s womb at conception to be re-born again!
The truth, of course, is that there are many things in this world that science or philosophy cannot explain. Most issues that bother on faith are beyond scientific explanation or philosophical rationalisation. Nobody has ever seen the awesome phenomenon called God, Supreme Intelligence, the Creator, or by hundreds of thousands of other names, yet most cultures in the world believe in His/Her/Its existence. Science may talk of the so-called BIG BANG till the end of time but has failed woefully to answer the question ‘What created or caused the forces that exploded with a bang?’
The ABIKU exists.
Sometime in 1938, my late uncle Pa Yusuff Ogunjobi committed a male toddler by the name Mushafau to mother earth. It was, according to the story, Mushafau’s third return to mother earth in rapid succession having come to torture his mother Fatimah’s womb thrice within five years.
On this gloomy morning occasion, a neighbour of my uncle’s named Alelo came to pay condolences. His wife was about six months pregnant. He was very concerned that this ABIKU disturbing the peace and happiness of the Ogunjobi’s compound had become such a big nuisance and decided that the rascal should be taught a lesson. He requested that the body of the boy should be exhumed. He seized the body and twisted one of the legs and also touched the spot with a burning object to leave a permanent scar. Thereafter, the twisted corpse was returned to the belly of the earth.
Three months later, Alelo’s wife gave birth to a bouncing baby boy with the badly twisted leg with scars of burns! The baby bore an incredible resemblance to the Mushafau whose leg was mangled. And Pa Alelo named him Mushafau.
About a year later, Madam Fatimah also gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. The child was a Xerox copy of Pa Alelo! Pa Ogunjobi named his new baby Mushafau.
The two Mushafau’s one carrying a wooden stick in his coiled leg, and the other became a well-known pair as a physical specimen of the ABIKU in Ago-Iwoye. They both lived beyond age 60.
There have been other life stories of Abiku children who would threaten their doting parents that if certain conditions were not met they would return to where they came from, and surprisingly would die at the appointed hour!
It must be borne in mind that man is essentially a spirit clothed in the human frame. The body frame is like the shell of a tortoise. It barely has a life of its own. The moment the Spirit journeys out, the so-called life of a man is terminated. And the spirit as we know does not die and is not bound by space or time.
On and at creation the Spirit, the Breath of Life is put in the body frame and that is when the life of the human body begins. How the tortured body of the dead tot, the buried child of Pa Ogunjobi could chase out the baby in the womb of Pa Alelo’s wife and put itself there, and that baby chased out of Pa Alelo’s wife’s womb could find itself in Madam Fatimah’s womb remains a mystery till this day. But it happened.
Whether modern science or fanatical religiosity would admit of the presence of unexplainable Nature’s wonders or not, the evidence on the ground confirms that the human knowledge concerning the workings and ways of the Inscrutable Owner of this Universe is grossly limited.
Next time you meet a Kuye, Malomo, Kosoko, Kokumo, Oletubo, Kalejaye, Ewetan, Kukoyi and Maku, know that you are meeting someone who has had a life of repeated coming and going and going and coming like the Igbo Ogbanje.
And for those who stubbornly believe that it is only medical facilities that keep people alive, they should ask themselves why children born into the wealthiest families with the best care in the world still die at infancy.
In spite of the mass protest against Grazing Reserves, Government is still going ahead to pump Nigerian money into PRIVATE animal farming businesses.
In spite of the mass protest against AUCTIONING our commonwealth, Government is still hell bent on selling our national assets to the same MONIED CLASS whose sources of wealth are in serious doubt.
We have Nigeria of the past; where the present is in a tumultuous confusion of heightened elite suspicion, heightened insecurity, and dangling on the precipice and a future precariously unpredictable. [Apologies to Professor George Obiozor]