Traditional institutions in Nigeria are just as important as law enforcement for communities
In many communities in West Africa, traditional religion is seen as a means of maintaining sanity and security.
The central belief of voodoo is that everything is spirit, including humans. The celebrations of voodoo are often characterised by animal sacrifices, dances and initiation.
In Benin Republic and Togo, the practise of voodoo and its rituals is still present till today. The very revered Temple of the Pythons alone organises an annual Voodoo festival that draws over 10,000 people from all over the world — especially Haiti and Brazil — to come pay homage to the fetish.
The Ouidah Voodoo festival is celebrated every year on January 10, and operates almost like other religions — with a "pope", priests and devotees.
In Nigeria, the Zangbeto Voodoo festival was celebrated on September 22, drawing about 2,000 people in the coastal Ajido Kingdom in Lagos State. The festival is held every three years and its rituals strike fear into the hearts of the communities.
Similiarities and significance
Egun and Zangbeto are the most revered beings in Yoruba culture. Though most of Yoruba speakers are found in South-Western part of Nigeria, they can also be found in large numbers in Benin and Togo. This also accounts for the similarities in cultures and deities. The Ogu people inhabit coastal areas of Nigeria, Benin and Togo.
The Zangbeto mask, dating as far back as the 17th century, is a tall masquerade covered with coloured straw. It represents wild non human spirits, the forces of nature and of the night that inhabited the Earth before human beings. The performance of the Zangbeto guarantees protection against bad spirits and malicious people. The spinning movement of the mask symbolizes the spiritual cleaning of the village.
In Ajido Kingdom, the Zangbeto is seen as a symbol of authority and a means of security of entire communities.
Sam Olukoya, a reporter for Associated Press attended the Zangbeto festival and recorded some responses from the villagers in an article for The Washington Post.
Seton Idowu, a strong believer told the AP, “As the traditional police and court of the people the Zangbeto handles such cases as theft. Everyone fears the Zangbeto and you can get into trouble if you go against the rules.”
Though many believe that the traditional worship is evil many still hold the belief that Zangbeto could act as a strong dispenser of justice as crime rate keeps rising in the area. These gods are seen as capable of judging cases fairly and dispensing instant justice by striking offenders with thunder and lightning.
Idowu also says, "Modern institutions like the police have failed to perform as effectively as the traditional ones they replace. Many people would rather take their case to the Zangbeto than to the police post."
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