Egbesu Deity in Niger Delta Conflict: A Critical Review of Ekanpou Enewaridideke’s Spiked beyond Spikes


Egbedi, M. O.


The oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria has remained underdeveloped and pauperized in spite of the immense oil wealth derived from exploration of its natural resources. It is no wonder that Niger Delta youths form militant groups to protect their local environment. These militias resort to the supernatural to harmonize their limited military power to the superior arsenals of their adversaries who are the ruling powers of the Nigerian state. Ijaw militias in particular, invoke the mystic power of Egbesu deity of war and justice for protection, invisibility and immunity in confronting state machineries. This paper examines the portrayal of Egbesu in recent Niger Delta literature. Egbesu is employed as a mystical inspiration in Ekanpou Enewaridideke’s Spiked beyond Spikes in the struggle against the combine forces of the Nigerian government, oil companies and internal exploiters to combat environmental depletion, political discrimination and the Niger Delta politics. While employing the Eco-Marxist ideology which integrates the Marxian trust of opposition to capitalism in environmental issues, the paper situates the Egbesu deity as a supernatural force that empowers and fortifies the Ijaws in warfare. It concludes by noting that in oil conflict, Enewaridideke, projects a return to the gods as a spiritual instrument of resistance in order to tackle the seemly never-ending predicament of the Niger Delta people.


Niger Delta, Ijaw youth, Ekanpou Enewaridideke, Eco-Marxism, Egbesu,


The belief in supernatural forces is strong in Africa even though many profess to belong to the Christian or Muslim faith. Among the Ijaw people of the Niger Delta as in many African cultures, there is still a strong commitment to ancestor worship. The water spirit, Owuamapu and Egbesu for instance, are prominent in the Ijaw pantheon. Egbesu is recognized in Ijaw tradition as the god of war and justice. The deity is believed to offer divine defense from attacks of the enemy weapons. Omeje (2005), acknowledges this when he affirms that “Outmatched by the military power of their adversaries, these Ijaw groups re-invent and tap into the spiritual power of the ancient Egbesu deity in their homeland, a magical device that complements their limited firepower” (pp.81-82). The summons of Egbesu in contemporary Niger Delta literature indicates the peoples’ desire to go back to their cultural roots as a means of invoking a more superior power in the tussle between them and the Nigerian government because “it is widely held that Egbesu offers magical protection against gunfire to these young militias” (Omeje, 2005: p.82).


Background to Oil Conflict in the Niger Delta The Niger Delta region, located in the Southern part of Nigeria undeniably generates more income than any other region in the nation due to its huge reserve of crude oil. Oil extraction has impacted disastrously on the environment of Niger Delta communities, threatening the subsistent peasant economy, ecosystem, abode of their gods and by extension, their entire livelihood and economic survival. Enajite Ojaruega (2022) lists some of these existential threats to include: “depletion of biodiversity, coastal and riverbank erosion, oil spillage, soil fertility loss, deforestation, gas flares, and the improper disposal of industrial wastes from the oil industry, especially the local oil refineries are some of the fallouts” (p.15). The oil producing communities have basically remained underdeveloped, marginalized and psychologically alienated while the wealth derived from oil resources and exports revenue is largely used to develop other places as well as a benefit the operators of the oil industry and the bureaucrats in government (Ojaruega, 2022: p.16)...


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