Oje, a community in Ibadan, Oyo State capital in southwestern Nigeria, has been well-known for its beautiful traditional textiles.
In recent times, it has gained more attention due to a septuagenarian crocodile that is reportedly being worshiped as a god by some people living in the area and adjoining communities in southwestern Nigeria.
The 79-year-old crocodile is believed to have spiritual powers that can heal a variety of ailments and help those finding it difficult to have a child.
For several generations, the crocodile has been owned as a pet by the Delesolu family in the community. Head of the household Raufu Yesufu told BBC that being a Muslim, he and his household do not believe the crocodile has any spiritual powers.
“Historically, our fathers did not have any thing of worship they were doing to the crocodile. It was not taken as a god. Only what they usually did was to go and inspect it in its abode to ensure that it had not died. In some distant past before its house was cemented as you saw it, the crocodile used to crawl out when there was heavy rain. We would start searching for it till we would see it in the muddy gutter nearby, and then bring it back into its house.
“Certain year, we found it in a gutter at Ojo Ibadan compound around here. The bottom line and fact about the crocodile is that it is not a god. We don’t worship it as being speculated by many people. It is just a pet cherished by our forefathers and which we are also preserving till today,” Yesufu said.
But residents of Oje and other nearby communities would have none of that. They even bring along chickens to the crocodile, with the faith that it would answer their prayers.
“They [also] come to ask for its feces or the water in the crocodile pond,” Yesufu said.
These are then used for treatments of different kinds of ailments.
Yesufu believes that God is only manifesting Himself through the crocodile. “Many people do come to Igbejo Delesolu where the crocodile lives to see God’s favor, propitiation, and solution to their problems. The barren who want childbearing, the sick, the pregnant ones who want safe delivery would bring chicken which is its favorite food and throw at it. Some of them would buy goat and throw it to the crocodile. It will devour it ravenously.”
“Miraculously however, some people do come back to give us testimonies that their prayers have been answered after appeasing the crocodile.”
“Some children playfully throw their money onto it, while others, however, do so with the mind of seeking spiritual favor through it. To them, it is gift to appease the spirit of the crocodile to grant them luck in various ways.”
The crocodile does not really get angry unless it is provoked. It has never been sick too.
“It has always been there quiet, hale and hearty in its habitat. We have never had any course to seek veterinary attention for it. Maybe that is one of the reasons people think that it is a mysterious animal”, Yesufu said.