The curtains were about to be drawn on New Year’s Day celebrations in Ikere Ekiti as the evening wore on. Although it was a Sunday evening when residents usually have fun at different spots in the town, this was different because it was a special day when the world welcomed the new year 2023. Residents narrated how the mood was joyous with fireworks coursing through the sky and music blaring from speakers placed along the streets as the young and old, some clutching bottles of beer, danced to popular tunes.
It was 10.20 p.m. when Rita Ajagunigbala, well known in the town as Evangelist Ajagunigbala, and her lover, Fadayomi Kehinde, an Ifa priest and herbalist popularly known as Ejiogbe, stepped into a room at a guest house in the town.
But 30 minutes after they had shut the door behind them, the woman ran out to make an urgent call. Within minutes, some young men arrived and went straight to the room and found Ejiogbe lying down, gasping for breath. They quickly carried him into a vehicle and rushed him to a hospital, along with the woman. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
The news of his death quickly spread around the town, and then with the help of the new media, travelled fast and far beyond it. Ejiogbe’s death was even more shocking because he was greatly feared in the area for his assumed supernatural powers. His admirers believe his death was due to a fetish attack known in local parlance as “magun”, a deadly charm placed by suspicious men on their women. Magun is believed to instantly kill any man who has sexual intercourse with a woman carrying it.
But some in the town said Ejiogbe’s death was an act of God to expose a “pagan” religious leader who was living an immoral life
Hotel management speaks
Peter Adewole is the manager of the guest house. He said he had known the couple for a while as occasional visitors to the hotel.
“They came around 10.20 p.m. and they stayed in Room No7,” Mr Adewole said. “But 30 minutes later, the woman came out to make a call and the man who brought them in his vehicle returned with some boys who were obviously angry. That is when I suspected that something had gone wrong.”
Mr Adewole said Ejiogbe was still breathing when the young men arrived and they made efforts to revive him before rushing him to a hospital.
The Pastor and Her Church
As soon as the news of Ejiogbe’s death got around the town, his furious followers rushed to the woman’s church, African Apostolic Church, located at Ilemimo in the Oke-Osun area of Ikere Ekiti.
They attacked the church building made of wood and boards, destroying the furniture and other equipment.
Although peace returned to the area after the uproar, fear of further violence has made the residents and neighbours keep away from the church.
Pastors and Ejiogbe
PREMIUM TIMES investigations revealed that Mrs Ajagunigbala, a mother of four, was suspected to have been having an affair with Ejiogbe for about five years. The Ifa priest had many wives.
A former member of her church, who preferred to be identified as Tofunmi, told PREMIUM TIMES that the evangelist had a reputation for extra-marital affairs in the Ilemimo community. Tofunmi, who also lives in the community, said on several occasions the woman was accused by the wives of Ejiogbe of sleeping with their husband, even though she would deny it.
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“They have been very close and people know them together,” she said. Five years ago, one of his wives caught them together, and after then they swore they would have nothing to do with each other, but it was never so.”
Tofunmi also narrated how Mrs Ajagunigbala usually celebrated festivals with the Ifa priest in his shrine.
But an elderly member of the church, who would only be identified as Mama, painted a different picture of the evangelist. She said Mrs Ajagunigbala “is a very good person, who would not hurt anyone. She would rather help people.” Although Mama was willing to speak further about the woman, her children and tenants stopped the interview.
Another resident of the community, Funmi Ige, said although she is not a member of the church, she knew the woman closely and that what happened was a shock to her. “I don’t see her as a bad person, but what happened really shocked me. She prayed a lot and would wake as early as 4 a.m. to pray. Other people come to her for prayers. I am really sad about what happened, and we really don’t know the truth about it.”
The woman’s husband, said to be the founder of the church, had left for somewhere in Ado Ekiti due to 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 is also married to other women and that may be the reason why it is difficult to find him around here.”
Efforts to reach the man were unsuccessful as no one could offer any link to reach him. There were rumours that the man is a police officer, but when this reporter reached out to the police for confirmation, they denied the claim.
Trouble at Ejiogbe’s house
PREMIUM TIMES visited the house of the late Ejiogbe. When one of his wives realised the mission of the reporter, she angrily grabbed him by the neck. She was angry that the reporter had come to further publicise the incident.
One of the deceased’s daughters picked up a spade from under an overhead tank to smash the reporter’s head. But two elder women, one of whom is another of the wives, appealed to the angry woman to release her grasp on the reporter. But “mo’n binu, mo’n binu (I am angry, I am angry) was her continuous refrain. The furious woman also made phone calls to summon her male children to return home to join the fight. However, after frantic appeals, she let go of the reporter and his guide who quickly exited the premises before further harm.
The police in Ekiti said they were yet to ascertain what killed the herbalist. Sunday Abutu, who is the spokesperson for the police in Ekiti State, said the female evangelist was still in custody helping police investigation into the matter.
Mr Abutu said the police were yet to find anything concrete to present to the public. He also said no autopsy had been carried out on the remains of the deceased, as his family would need to initiate such procedures.
“That is why I said the investigation is still ongoing. If the autopsy had been concluded, then the investigation will come to a close,” Mr Abutu said.
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