New Year’s Day celebrations were about to come down in Ikere Ekiti as the evening wore on. Although it was Sunday afternoon when residents usually enjoy themselves in different parts of the town, this was different because it was a special day when the world welcomed the new year 2023. Neighbors told how the atmosphere was joyful with fireworks in the sky and loudspeakers set up along the streets, while young and old, clutching bottles of beer, danced to popular tunes.
It was 10.20pm when Rita Ajagunigbala, popularly known as Evangelist Ajagunigbala, and her lover, Fadayomi Kehinde, an Ifa priest and herb seller popularly known as Ejiogbe in the village, entered a room at a village lodge.
But 30 minutes after closing the door behind her, the woman ran out to make an emergency call. Within minutes, some youths arrived and went straight to the room and found Ejiogbe lying there, not breathing. He was quickly taken to a vehicle and taken to the hospital, along with the woman. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
The news of his death spread quickly through the village, and then with the help of the new media, it traveled faster and further. Ejiogbe’s death was even more shocking as he was widely feared for his supernatural powers. Her admirers believe her death was the result of a fetish attack known locally as “magun”, a deadly charm placed on women by suspicious men. Magun is believed to instantly kill any man who has sex with a woman wearing it.
But some villagers said Ejiogbe’s death was an act of God to expose the “heathen” religious leader who was living an immoral life.
The hotel management speaks
Peter Adewole is the manager of the lodge. He said he had known the couple for some time as occasional visitors to the hotel.
“They came at about 10.20pm and stayed in room 7,” Mr Adewole said. “But 30 minutes later, the woman went out to make a call and the man who brought them in his vehicle came back with some angry boys. Then I suspected that something had gone wrong.’
Mr. Adewole said Ejiogbe was still breathing when the youths arrived and efforts were made to revive him before he was taken to hospital.
The Shepherd and his Church
As soon as news of Ejiogbe’s death reached the town, his ardent followers flocked to the woman’s church, the African Apostolic Church, in Oke-Osun area of Ilemimo. Ikere Ekiti.
They attacked the church building made of wood and planks, destroyed the furniture and other equipment.
Although peace returned after Isla, fear of further violence has caused residents and neighbors to stay away from the church.
Herdsmen and Ejiogbe
Investigations by PREMIUM TIMES revealed that Mrs. Ajagunigbala, a mother of four, was suspected of having an affair with Ejiogbe for about five years. Priest Ifa had many wives.
A former member of his church, who preferred to be identified as Tofunmi, told PREMIUM TIMES that the evangelist had a reputation for extramarital affairs in the Ilemimo community. Tofunmi, who also lives in the community, said on several occasions the woman was accused by Ejiogbe’s wife of sleeping with her husband, although she would deny it.
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“They’ve been very close and people know them together,” he said. Five years ago, one of his wives caught them together, and then they vowed not to have anything to do with each other, but it never happened.”
Tofunmi also narrated how Mrs. Ajagunigbala used to celebrate festivals with the Ifa priest at her shrine.
But an elderly member of the church, who would only be identified as Mother, painted a different picture of the evangelist. Mrs. Ajagunigbala “is a very good person who would not hurt anyone. She preferred to help people.” Although the mother was willing to talk more about the woman, her children and tenants stopped the conversation.
Another resident of the community, Funmi Ige, said that although she is not a member of the church, she knew the woman closely and the incident came as a shock to her. “I don’t see him as a bad person, but what happened really surprised me. He prayed a lot and woke up as early as 4 am to pray. Other people come to him to pray. I’m really sad about what happened, and we really don’t know the truth about it.”
The warrior saves himself
The woman’s husband, said to be the founder of the church, had gone somewhere to Ado Ekiti because of irreconcilable differences with his wife. “He still visits to see the woman and her children sometimes, but he doesn’t stay here,” Tofunmi said. “He’s also married to other women and that might be why he’s hard to find around here.”
Efforts to reach the man were unsuccessful as no one could offer a link to reach him. There were rumors that the man was a policeman, but when this reporter asked the police for confirmation, they denied the claim.
Trouble in Ejiogbe’s house
PREMIUM TIMES visited the late Ejiogbe’s home. When one of his wives realized the journalist’s role, she angrily grabbed him by the neck. He was angry that the reporter had come to find out more about the incident.
One of the deceased’s daughters took a spade from under an upper tank to smash the journalist’s head. But two elderly women, one of them is another of the wives, appealed to the angry woman to release the adult. But “mo’n binu, mo’n binu (I’m angry, I’m angry) was his constant refrain. The frantic woman even made phone calls to her children to join the fight to get them home. However, after frantic appeals, he released the reporter and his driver, who quickly left the premises before further damage could be done.
Police in Ekiti said they were yet to ascertain what killed the herbalist. Sunday Abutu, who is the police spokesman in Ekiti State, said the female evangelist was still in custody helping the police investigate the matter.
Mr. Abutu said the police had yet to find anything concrete to present to the public. He also said that no autopsy has been performed on the remains of the deceased, because his family will have to initiate those procedures.
“That’s why I said the investigation is still ongoing. Had the autopsy been completed, the investigation would have been completed,” Mr Abutu said.
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