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Afikpo

Around that same time, another miraculous event, which coincidentally occurred in that same Afikpo, also changed the course of Igbo history. In 1960, a devout Igbo Christian by the name of Nwagui was said to have had a series of strange dreams in which a bearded and turbaned African man—who resembled a Muslim—had called him to leave his religion and seek God elsewhere. After consulting a series of Islamic religious authorities, he was informed that the man in his dreams was none other than Shaik Ibrahim Naisse of Kolack, Senegal, a spiritual leader in the West African Tijaniyya Sufi order of Islam. Nwagui was said to have departed for Senegal, and upon meeting the Sheik, recognized him immediately. After converting to Islam and changing his name to Shaikh Ibrahim Naisse Nwagui in honor of his spiritual mentor, Nwagui soon after returned to Afikpo where he began fervently practicing his new faith. Both Okpani Egwani and Nwagui faced extreme difficulties as they not only practiced their faiths, but also attempted to draw converts from their home communities. Amongst the locals, Islam was seen as a foreign religion, belonging to only Hausa northerners, which lacked the ability to have universal adherence like that of Christianity. Upon his return to his homeland, Egwani, who now wore flowing robes, a kaftan, and a turban, began preaching with a few of his followers and successfully converted a small number of people (most of whom were his family members) with gifts. Like the Christian missionaries half a century earlie, Egwani tried to achieve his aims with the use of force, when he realized that the majority of villagers were weary and afraid of his new religion. According to an excerpt from the writings of Simon Ottenberg (a foreign sociologist who worked in Afikpo at that time): “Egwani’s return to Afikpo was a disaster for his people. He was unable to recruit most of Afikpo to the new religion. In fact the presence of Islam had negative effects on the society. First, it led to the destruction and subversion of indigenous life and culture. For example, on Sunday, October 28, 1958, in the presence of the assistant officer (continued in comments)

and a number of police, Northerners who were followers of Alhaji (Egwani) Ibrahim destroyed the shrines by taking to the secret society bush and burning it. The Anohia converts had not wished to do so themselves. The shrine pots and other items were taken from their rock resting places, their sheds, their ancestral houses, or wherever they were, and every shrine in the first ward of Anohia was burned.” The actions of Egwani and his followers created enormous tensions within their communities as traditional worshippers and Christians alike sought to get rid of them. Over the next few years, on numerous occasions, the Islamic community of Afikpo found itself in court against traditional and legal authorities, but it persevered amid its hardships and eventually singlehandedly funded and built the first mosque in Igboland.


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