When you are in Awka, avoid the monkeys.
To the people of Awka, in Anambra state, Nigeria ,Monkey is symbolic. Awka people’s reverence for monkeys is as old as the history of the city. They revere the animal, and as such, the animal enjoys immunity status from harm or even consumption.
Oral history recorded it that there was a time that Awka people had a dispute with a neighboring town over a piece of land. The neighbors had planned to attack Awka without prior information. Unfortunately, the forest the enemy encamped was that which was dedicated to Awka deity, So the deity sent his missionaries. These monkeys live in the forest to alert the people. The monkeys roamed in the village square was strange that a diviner was consulted and exposed the invasion plan of Awka’s enemy.
Another version of the story had it that a planned invasion of Awka by some forces was thwarted by the monkeys making loud noises that alerted the people. They took up arms and defeated the enemies ever since it became taboo to either kill or eat the monkey’s meat in Awka.
Awka na aso enwe, a popular phrase, meaning, Awka forbids any harm, killing or eating of monkey. Other versions of Awka history with monkeys are being told, but one conclusion runs in all; monkeys saved Awka people from their enemies.
By tradition, When a non-indigene kills a monkey unintentionally, the person, according to tradition, is expected to present himself or herself to the deity with a token, which could be in any amount cleansed from any consequence that might arise from the monkey’s death.. Supposing an Awka indigene saw a non-indigene kill a monkey and didn’t report it, it’s believed that Awka’s deity will visit its consequences on the indigene. When an Awka person intentionally kills a monkey, the person should be ready to face the wrath of the community’s deity.
An Awka person who kills a monkey unintentionally is required to do the same to be absolved of any wrath of the gods. But when done intentionally, the person is expected to accord the animal a burial deemed fit for a human being.
Recently, people have started questioning and dissociating from the tradition.
A customs official and indigene of Awka, Charles Offodile argues that ‘Awka na-aso enwe‘ is because the monkeys are not mere monkeys but human spirits in the animals which control it. He stated that Christians have no business with monkeys. Because today, Awka people profess Christianity as its main religion, although some retain beliefs in their traditional religion. This gives the city shade of Christianity. Given the religious configuration of the city, the monkeys’ sacredness has provoked questions as monkeys destroy crops and constitute an environmental challenge, among others.
The custom went on to say that.
“What people don’t understand is that the monkey is a cult in Awka. Imo Awka and monkey reverence share no common history. If you look at Imo Awka, it’s a deity borrowed from Igala land, where a young virgin was used as a sacrifice, a Christian has no business with that. People who are deep in traditional worship in Awka use the monkey to deal with others.”
“Except you profess to be nominal Christian what association have you got with monkeys? As a Christian, monkeys are not supposed to come near your compound. The monkeys you see in the neighborhood are those with the human spirit. That is why you see them in the neighborhood looking for something to feed on.
Don’t you know that those monkeys with the human spirit who have scores to settle with others destroy other people’s farms? Anyone that reverence monkeys means that the spirit of monkey still lives in such a person and he or she is a candidate of the monkey’s cult. Not everyone knows that this monkey is a cult. They ask you not to kill it because once the animal is killed, the person whose spirit is in the monkey dies.”
Another person, A trader, and Awka indigene, Mr. Anayo Nweke, said he feared no such since he did not believe in it.
“If I see someone killing a monkey, I would not report such, since I have no business with the animals. If I happen to kill one and don’t report it, I believe nothing will happen to me, because as a Christian, God’s power will subdue that of any animal or deity.
“Many people are confessing faith and are still running away from things that they feel will kill them, forgetting we will still die someday. The way we practice our faith here is not commendable. You see, monkeys destroying your crops or property, and because they said it mustn’t be killed, you leave it.
I will kill it. If that took my life, I would see it as a good death. The moment more people take such steps, those that claim to reverence the monkey would do something about it, even the monkeys would understand that they are targets and will disappear.
Just look at some communities where they reverence python, the animal lives like humans with the inhabitants of such place. Some even sleep with you. Let the same reptile, mistakenly stray into unfamiliar terrain; you will see it flee.”
Another person who threw his coin in the topic was a businessman and Awka indigene, Ikechukwu Chukwuemeka; he believes that the issue of monkey should not arise because he operates on a different platform, whatever business with monkey is for those that believe and has faith in the animal.
“I’m an Awka indigene and don’t profess the same religion with those that want the monkeys reverenced for whatever reason. If, as a human, you want to eat an animal, go ahead, as long it doesn’t belong to anyone and not poisonous.
If I intentionally kill an animal that belongs to no individual, why would I bother paying the penalty or facing any repercussions in this modern time? If monkeys constitute problems to you, device means to scare them away, if you can, and where it happens that any gets killed, there is nothing to fear.”
A clergy, Pastor Emeka Ezenwa, proclaims that the Awka community no longer lives in Stone Age. Therefore, no bees are reverencing an animal; according to him, No form of animal or beast should be allowed to roam around to destroy people’s crops or properties in whatever guise is revered for the animals. He said he wants the monkeys gathered into a zoo or reserved area since they are not supposed to be mingling with human beings. He continued to say that whatever the myth or history surrounding these animals were in the past when the community was full of idol worshippers.
“In some instances, you see monkeys go to people’s houses to eat their foods and mess up the place. In most of the farmlands around Agu-Awka, Ikenga, and other places, you can’t harvest what you planted because they will mess up.
“If they don’t want people to kill the animal, those that whose faith is tied to the monkey should gather the animals in one place. In modern times, have you seen where animals that destroy things are given such liberty in the name reverencing it? Is it improper? Those that believe it should be reverenced should gather them in their shrines or places they are comfortable for it not interfere with human activities,”
What do you think about it?