Edidiong Ben - From Stigmatization to Mental Challenges
Edidiong, 16 years old, is from Akpa-Utong in Esit Eket Local Government Area – Nigeria. His father Ben Bassey is a pastor of Christ Evangelical Apostolic Church in Uquo Esit Eket. He had a little brother who was a cripple and epileptic. After his father divorced his mother and got a new wife, he and his crippled brother were labelled wizards by his father. Edidiong said his father accused them of masterminding the poor turnout of his church and being responsible for the poor sales of his locally brewed gin.
My name is Mfon and my brother is Hezekiah by name. We are from Esit Eket. Everyone calls my father “Man of God” because he is a prophet.
In one rainy day, his crippled brother crept into the house with soaked clothed having been beaten by the rain, his father ordered him out. As he struggled to step out through the backyard door that he came in from, his father held him by the arm and flung him out in fury. The crippled youngster sat under the rain crying for several minutes. His father came and kicked into a water-filled ditch that was dug to excavate mud to build their kitchen. His brother was left to drown in the ditch and died.
When Edidiong told his father that his brother was dead, his father responded thus: The small demon is gone, and there would be a day for the bigger wizard.
One morning, his stepmother complained to his father how she was pressed while asleep in the night and how she had a dream where Edidiong used spears and matches to chase her. The nightmare was immediately interpreted to mean Edidiong’s witchcraft warfare against his stepmother. His father swung into action, tied the young lad’s two hands and legs, then suspended him from the roof of the house with his head dangling down, he then used horsewhips and rods to torture him for more than two hours until the rope miraculously cut off. He managed to open the door, crept out of the torture chamber and was assisted by a neighbor who heard his loud cries and ululation.
The lad joined other stigmatized children, including Kinsley and Ekemini Usa in Uquo junction where they built a tent and lived under rain and shine. Ekemini was picked up one day and put in a trailer by some yam traders. He has never been seen since then. But the rest of the children in the tent where rescued to the CRARN Children Centre in 2006.
In 2009, Edidiong’s father, Pastor Ben Bassey was arrested by the police alongside other five parents who labeled their children as witches and tortured them, following a petition by CRARN. They were later released without charge given the pressure by members of the community and their church members’ pressure. In 2011, he was taken to a government-owned centre in Uyo and in 2012, he was taken back to his father. But this time round, his father merely pushed him out of the house a few days after.
Edidiong was later picked up by an unknown person who took him to Kaduna State, Nigeria where he served as a houseboy. He came to the CRARN Children Centre a few days ago and tried to narrate his ordeals, albeit incoherently. He added that he was taken to a psychiatric hospital but when he returned from the hospital, he was put into a vehicle that was Akwa Ibom State-bound with an escort who later disappeared. Today, he is not normal. He needs a psychiatric attention.