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The witch who ran an orphanage

Posted by By Kingsley Osadolor on 2005/03/06 | Views: 891 |

The witch who ran an orphanage


MRS. Gift John is a fair-skinned, rotund 46-year-old woman. Her triceps are flabby and her solar plexus is a mass of undulating flesh: what Nigerians call "spare tyre".

MRS. Gift John is a fair-skinned, rotund 46-year-old woman. Her triceps are flabby and her solar plexus is a mass of undulating flesh: what Nigerians call "spare tyre".

Mrs. John claims to be a woman of God and prefixes her name with the title, Pastor. "I want to go to heaven," she says. She admits she has five biological children of her own.

But Mrs. John has landed in trouble for running the Good Shepherd Orphanage in Okota suburb of Lagos. When the cookie crumbled in dramatic fashion last Wednesday, the orphanage that Gift ran was exposed as a den for child trafficking, an illegal surgery, a detention centre for pregnant teenage girls, an illegal maternity home and more frightening: an alleged venue of ritual killing as well as crematorium.

Last Sunday, The Punch published a chilling interview by Opeyemi Bamidele, the Lagos State Commissioner for Youths, Sports and Social Welfare, on how the orphanage fraud was unravelled. In his measured lawyerly cadence, the Commissioner could not have been flippant when he recounted one of the most mysterious encounters that was a fitting denouement to the state government's quest to ascertain whether the Good Shepherd Orphanage truly lived to its name. The Commissioner had led an investigation team to the Okota orphanage, where they were shabbily treated but the team shrugged it off and persisted in making its inquiry. A nanny at the orphanage said there were 16 babies/children under care, but only 11 were seen. The nanny also claimed the operator of the orphanage, who had the keys to some of the locked rooms, was out of the premises. It was in the course of breaking the locks and making searches that the startling discoveries began to emerge. At least four of the children, sequestered in a dimly-lit room, were in a terrible condition. In another grubby room, there was an operating theatre with a drip dangling from a miserable piece of wood. Elsewhere in the house, a number of teenage girls in varying degrees of pregnancy were found in a room.

Yet, after ferreting out all there was in all the opened rooms, one door remained locked. The suspicion was that, perhaps, the 16th child might be in there. The government team broke into the room, but they found nothing. According to Bamidele, "I asked all the policemen who broke in, they told me they did not see anything. But suddenly, the OPC guy who just entered the room then screamed, 'put down your leg', and threw something that I did not know in that direction he was facing and we suddenly found a human being." That human being was Mrs. Gift John. "When she turned," says the Commissioner who said they were all astonished and dumbfounded, "she was half naked. And when she turned again, her eyes were really glittering as if she had fire in (them)." The OPC man reportedly taunted her, saying, "The evil you are committing against these kids has caught up with you." Then, half-bragging but speaking matter-of-factly in the circumstance, the OPC man told the government team "You people thought you could just pick this woman so easily, this is not an ordinary human being that you could pick up easily." On February 20, when the Sunday Punch earlier interviewed Mrs. John and asked her pointedly to respond to her alleged membership of secret societies, the "pastor" woman responded: "I am a member of the body of Christ. I do not know anything about any secret society. All I know is the name of Jesus that is above every other names (sic)."
This is the latest of so many examples of charlatans, shamans, witches and occultists whose hearts are a dark hole but who drop the name of Christ flippantly because it is fashionable to do so. After Gift John was busted last week, the evidence was writ large that no true believer could have carried on a humanitarian concern the way and manner she did. Neighbours, who had felt intimidated in the past and could therefore not poke their noses into the unsavoury goings-on in the orphanage, found the courage last Wednesday to direct the government's probe team to a refuse dump behind the orphanage where the operators regularly incinerated rubbish and babies! Human bones were picked up from the site, a piece of evidence that will be crucial in the coming weeks and months. Indeed, according to the neighbours, persons from the orphanage used tyres to stoke the fires in the refuse dump, apparently with the hope that the intensity of the heat would cremate the babies whose remains were often concealed in dark polythene bags.

There are obvious morals from that sham orphanage. One is that evil will always be exposed, most especially where the victims are innocent, voiceless and helpless. The exposure might take a while. The ways of evil are such that it possesses an intoxicating quality, with the result that its perpetrators get a high whenever they unleash a round of evil and get away with it. Evil deludes its perpetrators to assume their invincibility, because they are operating on a trajectory higher than their victims'. But as the saying goes, it is not every head that you take that you can get away with. Some heads are so stubborn, their blood will continue to cry for vengeance until the evil-doer is apprehended and exposed for the world to see. That is certainly the case with the Good Shepherd Orphanage. The woman who blew the whistle was a former female employee who became a victim in the hands of Mrs. Gift John.

Mrs. Bose Ejikunle, the erstwhile staff, was three months pregnant when she joined the orphanage. The proprietress sent her for a scan but withheld the result from her. She put to bed the day the child's father died. While preparing to attend the latter's funeral, Mrs. John persuaded Bose to leave the newborn son behind to save him the stress of funeral rites. By the time she returned, her son was missing. The proprietress claimed that some adopters had taken the baby, a development the mother never bargained for. When Mrs. Ejikunle persisted to have her son back, Mrs. John threatened to deal with her, whereupon she was relieved of her duties but without a trace of her son, a situation that had not changed by last week when the rug was pulled off from under Mrs. John's feet.

The ordeal of the victims of the orphanage could have been short-circuited if the neighbours had immediately broken into a protest song upon the first signs of havoc flashing from the tragic home. But until seven days ago, the neighbours seemed not to have realised that they needed to move pretty fast to exorcise the evil in their midst. Some of them were dissuaded because burly bouncers often were sighted around the orphanage and the rough-necks could have very easily been deployed to shake down any nosy neighbour. Others feared for their lives because Mrs. John was reputed to be a "very powerful" woman who could harm them irreparably by remote control activated in the astral plane of elementals. Yet others didn't pay enough attention to what was going on, which they felt was no business of theirs, in much the same way, seven years ago, Lagosians ignored Clifford Orji as he kidnapped and practised cannibalism with his female victims at the usually crowded Toyota Bus stop in Lagos. It is also not unlikely that some of the orphanage neighbours didn't want "police trouble", a euphemism for police lethargy or collusion.

Much as the Commissioner for Youths, Sports and Social Development is deserving of praise along with others who spearheaded the sacking of the bogus orphanage, the suspicion is strong that were the Ministry not tardy, the nuisance of the Good Shepherd Orphanage would have been abated much earlier. The orphanage was opened in 2002 and rigorous, routine spot checks could have blown the lid off the unacceptable practices at the home. The government team last Wednesday spent some six hours, late into the night, to scour the orphanage and turn up the horrific finds that recommended the prompt closure of the orphanage. It will be interesting for the Commissioner to find out just how much time the Ministry's field officers spend and what they look out for when they visit an orphanage for inspection.

All too often field officers in various Ministries have an unwholesome attitude towards inspection duties. Some embark on such tasks when they are broke or, at any rate, with an expectation of gratification. The result is shoddy, if any, inspection at all. Which is why unlawful practices can go undetected for quite a while, because those charged with supervision and enforcement of the appropriate regulation/law are distracted by other pursuits. The Good Shepherd Orphanage provides an opportunity for introspection and re-ordering of priorities in the various ministries. Above all, Lagosians are watching to see just how the law takes its course against the operators of the orphanage who were spared an ordeal in the hands of a lynch mob because of heavy police presence last Wednesday.

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