Ibini Ukpabi- The Long Juju of Arochukwu And A Passage of No Return
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During the olden days in Igbo land, Ibini Ukpabi, a deity popularly called the ‘Long Juju‘, was used to settle disputes in the community and punish perpetrators of crimes. The Long Juju shrine served as a supreme court for the people of Arochukwu kingdom in modern day Abia State. The decision of the oracle was final and no one either through status or wealth could reverse its judgement.
Anyone accused of a crime crime walked into a tunnel (the tunnel of disappearance) at the shrine to receive his/her judgement, and if the accused person is found guilty, he/she would never be seen again. Offenders were killed beside a flowing river called the ‘Red river‘. When the river turns red, the families of the offenders believed they have been killed by the Long Juju deity.
However, during the 15th century when European rule and slave trade started in Africa, West African slave traders used the long juju shrine of Arochukwu to get slaves for themselves which they later sold off to Europe. The offenders, after walking into the tunnel, were stripped naked at a place known as the ‘Hill of Rags‘ and clandestinely sold into slavery instead of being killed.
It was said that Ibini Ukpabi got the name ‘Long Juju’ when a British explorer walked the long tunnel and got tired then exclaimed, “This juju is long; it is a long juju“. During the British military expedition to Arochukwu in 1901 and 1902, the Long Juju shrine was invaded and destroyed. But the shrine still has a faded picture of what it used to be like in the past. It was after this punitive expedition that historical and brave figures like Mary Slessor came to Arochukwu to spread Christianity and stop the killing of twins.
Today, the Long Juju shrine of Arochukwu served as a religious and tourism site. It has become an important tourist attraction in Abia State, Nigeria because of the role it played in the history of Nigeria and West Africa.