Friday, July 19, 2019
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Inside Aimuolimhindede cult in Edo

By Odeon Odalo
Former “Aimuolinmhindede” member Edafe Uhunamure said members of “the society” couldn’t have crucifixes, religious paintings or trinkets in their homes unless it contained a skull or the letter, ‘V’ reversed on
it. 

Aimuolinmhindede or Ajoor as many prefer to call them, is a secret
society that is popular in parts of Edo and Delta states that claims
its followers descended from a, “hermaphrodite’ who once lived in the
local river.
It is said that as members, all can engage in Homosexuality, but
lesbianism is forbidden. Worship of objects like stones, dedicated
plants and animals like geckos, metals and even devotion to the dead
are some of the practices.
Some male and female devotees have undergone starvation and
deprivation for 5-days prior to initiation to prepare for them for
membership. Once a member no one can renounce and stay alive. It is a
lifelong membership.
Punishment is by deprivation of water and sex for 4-weeks in addition
to walking about the streets like a lunatic naked, for a week.
At death, old members are obliged to donate some of their vital organs
to the group to be cooked and “eaten’ by new inductees.
Aimuolinmhindede is said to be the “owners’, of the many cult groups
that are outlawed on university campuses across Nigeria like the
Neo-black Movement or “Black Axe”, The Jezebels of female
undergraduates, who engage in orgies with men for rituals and many
others.
Through these practices members, men and women hope to end up famous
and rich but could have their lives cut short mysteriously. Young
people, who cannot get jobs and do not want to learn skills, are often
married off to older but rich spouses who are widows or widowers in
the group, former members say.
But this cult isn’t hidden away in some rural bunker – it operates
openly among the young and old out of an old dilapidated hut along a
popular street in the ancient city of Benin.
Dozens of congregants line up at dusk, on the street beside the nut to
be ushered in for the group’s fortnightly meeting. The leader of the
flock, Oguda Imazagbon, 73, teaches from a pulpit in the center of the
dark room, reading from a wooden slate that is said to be several
centuries old.
Members don’t have any scriptures texts to follow along and aren’t
allowed to take notes. They leave their phones at the entrance and do
not wear shoes and once inside the call answer the call of nature.
The group is not registered by any known local, state and Federal
government agency and has no official documents and to outsiders, the
group is called Aimuolinmhindede. To members, it’s just, “the Road.”
The group is said to have about 300 members in Benin City alone, and
there are congregations in Warri, Asaba, and Ughelli.
“It’s the cult next door to every Bendel person, and no one even knows
that it’s there,” said an exiled member.
The former worshiper, a musician, who spoke on the condition of
anonymity because she fears retribution, joined the group in 2010
while dating a younger man who was raised in it.
“I was curious and just wanted to know what was going on,” she said,
adding that her boyfriend assured her it was “nothing special. . .
just the simple tenets of all traditional religious beliefs.”
The more she got deeper, the more confused she became. She spoke of
fighting bad people in weird dreams and was told that AIDS, cancer,
Hepatis and other illnesses were caused not by health habits, genetics
or environment but by one’s actions, in the past.
She noted Imazagbon’s obsession was breasts. He adored young women
with nipples pointing out of their dresses. He was said to have a
harem of over 20 wives.
Aimuolinmhindede sources say, dates back to at least the 1940s and
have met in the same location from time, though members are taught
that the group dates to the 14th century. Much of what the group
believes is shrouded in secrecy, though former members say it has a
lot to do with sexual rituals, heredity and wealth.
The former worshiper was shocked that attendance at fortnightly
meetings was compulsory; absences for illness were not excused. When
she asked a fellow member if her boyfriend would attend a church
service, the woman responded: “What do you mean? He’ll go to the
church. He has to attend all meetings.”
She was warned not to share the news with others, and she kept her
membership secret from her family and closest friends.
“Everything is complex,” she said. “And if you ask, you’re told, ‘You
just don’t remember. You’ll remember when you’re supposed to. . . Try
to control your thoughts and dreams, and tonight you’ll remember a
something unusual.’ ”
But she wouldn’t stop asking questions. During a midyear meeting,
everyone was handed a black envelope – except for her. The next day,
she joined man friend, who had since become her fiancé, and his
parents for dinner.
The food wasn’t even served before her fiancé’s mother stood at the
table and announced: “If you think you’re marrying him, you must be
mad. I remember you from 5,000 years ago, and you tried to kill my
husband “.
“We are launching a spiritual campaign to save him” the would-be
mother-in-law said.
Disgusted, the young woman was driven home and told never to speak to
her fiancé again. Six months later, he was married off to a fellow
Aimuolinmhindede member.
The black envelopes had been invitations to a special meeting to
sabotage her engagement to her old lover who brought her into the
group in the first place.
“I felt like I was in a home video,” she recalled. “I didn’t realize
the kind of power that the Aimuolinmhindede had.”
Juta Ikebo was 28 when he found himself among a dozen young men in a
secluded nook of the Ikpoba Hills. He had received instructions on
what to pack for the three-day trip reserved only for special members
of the “Road Patrol.”
The troop was led by two believers, ex-police officers who taught the
youngsters how to track route, the basics of camping and other
endurance skills.
He didn’t realize the training would include firing catapults into an
abandoned junk heap.
“The belief is that there were always enemies out there and we would
have to defend our people and safeguard our food and supplies always,”
recalled Ikebo, now a 68-year-old zoo keeper.
“We shot the catapults at least twice,” he said. “We were told enemies
were imminent, seconds minutes away. People in the cult wouldn’t have
drink water because they thought, ‘Why bother?’ ”
Ikebo was born into the group and worked 3 years for Oguda Imazagbon’s
transport company in Benin City, which employed many members. “I felt
like a prisoner,” he said. “I felt like a bonded slave.”
He stayed through the tenures of two Aimuolinmhindede leaders across
several years — each with his own agendas and “personal beliefs.”
Chief Ojo Imade, chairman during the 1980s and ’90s, taught Ikebo that
once the enemy attacked and world ended, people would not but die but
be transported’ ‘live’ to another planet. There, they would be one
sexual category.
Ikebo said leaders had one thing in common — they tried to encourage
lesbianism, which they considered “good for women”.
The meetings would begin, when the leader announced, “Greetings, friends.”
He said,”They’re brainwashed. They’re obsessed…you were always told if
you leave the Aimuolinmhindede, you will cease to breathe.
“They don’t give you any sources. There’s no dogma you can reference.
It’s just word of mouth,” an ex-member said. “You just believe what
you’re told.” Aimuolinmhindede chairman instructs followers to
obsessively look for the reverse ‘V’ symbols in dreams and their
everyday lives”.
Ex-members said they couldn’t even have artwork in their homes unless
it contained this letter; the group’s greeting sign. Friends and
families were not to know about the group except they want to and must
join once they show interest.
Ikebo finally worked up the guts to leave the group in the 2015. The
last straw was a member spying on him as he dined with a male friend
who was not a member.
“How dare you bring a blind man here?” the member seethed. Non-members
were said to be blind. Road members were the road to life.
Ikebo left a letter in the leader’s home notifying him he was done.
“I didn’t start living until I left” he said. “I want people to know
it’s OK to leave, to reclaim their freedom of contemplation and pursue
their own life ideas.”
Another ex-follower, who requested anonymity, said he was booted from
his home at age 17 because he questioned the teachings and refused to
throw away his Bible.
“Their beliefs are weird” he said, adding that fathers were to
initiate their sons at birth and ensure they inherited all their
memorabilia at death and follow the Road rules for their funerals.
“Once you get to a certain level, they start to tell you these
things”.
“They think they are saints,” he added. “They carry themselves like
they’re spirits. . . they’re not Human, everybody else is filth and
[they] don’t want to relate.”
He endured brutal beatings by his parents, who he believes were
instructed by the Aimuolinmhindede leader on how to deal with him. “I
had this reputation of being a bad kid when I wasn’t,” said the
ex-member. “I was an abused kid.”
“Everybody is brainwashed in this thing,” he said. “They’re
conditioned to think and behave in a certain way, and it starts in
childhood. Children are taught to dread life” The Road also teaches
that children aren’t human until they reach the age of 16, he said.
Aimuolinmhindede’s solution to his sister’s defiance was to marry her
off to a homosexual in his 50s. “She was a gorgeous 19-year-old, and
they married her off to this lunatic,” the ex-member said.
He said, “If they want to clear their name of suspicion, they need to
start answering questions,” he said. “They should maybe have a sign
out in front of their building if they want to be listed as a church.”
Another ex-member said he and his grandmother were forced to have sex
with all members watching for missing a meeting before they jumped
ship in the late ’80s.
He remembers the leader announcing Aimuolinmhindede would convert into
a church to be taking offerings. Shortly after, the member was kicked
out for marrying a woman who refused to join.
“There was always so much turmoil when someone chose a partner from
the outside world,” he said, adding that parents often married their
children off to other members in the group.
“It was not uncommon for girls as young as 15 marrying . . . men who
were quite a bit older,” he said.
The exiled follower said it took many years for him to get over the
occurrence and that he has never shared more than phony details with
his adult children.
“It still stands out as the worst time of my whole life,” he said.
“But I was … lucky enough to have people still in my life that loved
me and helped me throughout.”
In a previous interview Imazagbon, a charming and sharply dressed man
who carried a pipe he hardly smokes and believes he was a King in a
past life, was quoted through an interpreter, as denying the group is
a “cult.”
“We’re not a cult. We’re what a church should be,” he said. “The
principles are to have a upright, normal and hale and hearty life and
to be responsible for our own actions.
“You can’t do that in one life,” he added. “It’s impossible.”
He denied that Aimuolinmhindede supports punishment by deprivation of
water for weeks and walking about the streets like a lunatic naked,
with homosexuality, but said, “If I want to discipline my children,
it’s no one else’s business.”
He said children aren’t indoctrinated until they ar eighteen and that
if a child dies before age 13, it’s because they committed suicide in
a previous life.
Aimuolinmhindede he says is not a secret cult but registered as a
business with the Federal government as a nonprofit. The foundation’s
address he said is public knowledge along Ikpoba slope in Benin City
and many other locations as members are well-known.
Aimuolinmhindede’s revenues he said are in billions with investments
in assorted stocks.
“It’s not a cult. It’s not a scam,” he said. “You can come 1,000 times
and you’re not going to have to pay one Naira to join.”
(Odalo is a ex-member of Ajoor, who lives in Benin, Nigeria)

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