This is story back in time. It is a story of a man who lived like an emperor, who lived as if the world would never end but about whom very little is known. This piece attempts to amalgamate the most reliable information found on him. He proclaimed himself as Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Saviour and the Lord. While some viewed him as raving mad, his ‘madness’ attracted hordes of devoted wworshipersto his territory. Soon, news spread all over and beyond Eastern Nigeria, of a strange man named Etim Ededem Bassey, revered by his followers and branded the Jesus of Ikot-Ekpene. Today, the city of Ikot-Ekpene is located in Akwa Ibom State, a state that has the densest concentration of churches on earth. Ikot-Ekpene is regarded as the cultural and political centre of the Annangs and Ibibios and it is represented in the Nigerian Senate by a former governor of the state, Godswill Obot Akpabio.
Now, let’s roll back in time. When the Christian missionaries arrived Nigeria, Ikot-Ekpene was one of the first destinations. And they arrived with fire and brimstone, their goal was to convert everyone from what they regarded as African paganism to Christianity. The influence of Christianity is still very strong and visible in Ikot-Ekpene till date. However, since the native people already had their own set of traditional beliefs, what later emerged over time in some areas of Ikot-Ekpene was a blend of Christianity and African traditional religions, leading to a curious strand of syncretism that produced people like Etim Ededem Bassey.
Bassey’s case was not an isolated one. At about the same time, other men in various parts of Nigeria were claiming to be the Messiah, from Immanuel Odumosu aka Jesu Oyingbo in Lagos to Olumba Olumba Obu in Calabar, the business was booming for these self-appointed saviours of the planet. Back to Bassey’s story, he started out as a truck pusher but with time, he saw that the truckpushing business was not paying him well and that he needed a better calling. That was when he decided to give the people what they were yearning for spiritually – he declared himself to be Jesus Christ. Soon enough, this proved to be a masterstroke of financial success for him as he became the richest man in all of Ikot-Ekpene. He constructed the biggest and the most luxurious house in all of Ikot-Ekpene and his flamboyance knew no bounds. His clothes were made of the finest materials around and he had a specially-constructed throne for himself and every year, he would be carried by his devotees around the streets of Ikot-Ekpene on this special throne of his.
Bassey was not just about extravagance alone; he had absolute and unfettered power over his followers. They were so devoted and subservient to him that his male devotees were madly excited anytime Bassey decided to choose any of their wives to warm his massive bed. Bassey could sleep with any of the ladies in his congregation, including the married ones, and their husbands would be jubilating for being the ‘chosen one’ by Daddy Bassey. What was happening in Bassey’s enclave was the ultimate form of mind control and his followers, in all sincerity, did not see him as a human being. To them, Bassey was God Almighty and for God Himself to stoop down from his mighty throne and become a mere mortal who wants to copulate with their wives was the height of joy for them. They did not see anything wrong with it. And Bassey did sleep with as many of the women in his congregation. His empire stood on three pillars: sex, money and power. He enjoyed his life to the fullest, to the detriment of his gullible followers. The life of Etim Ededem-Bassey was appropriately captured in an article inDrum of July 1961. It went thus:
‘In the whole of Ikot-Ekpene, in Eastern Nigeria, Jesus Ededem Bassey, a former truck pusher, is today regarded as the richest man. Nor is his great wealth exaggerated. For one thing, he has the most expensive building in Ikot-Ekpene. For another thing, he leads a life of luxury beside which that of any Oriental potentate of legend would pale into insignificance.
He has a throne on which he is dragged through all the nooks and corners of Ikot-Ekpene once a year. He has male followers who obey his bidding without question. He is a god and can take any woman (provided she is one of his own flock) he fancies. It does not matter that the woman may be married to one of his male followers. That he, a god, condescends to fancy his wife at all is accepted by any of his male followers as the greatest honour that a god can do to a mere mortal.’
Story Credits: Abiyamo.com