By Ebele Chizea
Dr. Uwa Onyioha Osimiri- Global Head of the Global Faith Ministries of Chiism African spirituality and religious practices have been experiencing a resurgence the past few decades partly as a reaction to post-colonial “indoctrination” and partly as a natural consequence of returning to one’s roots. However, few African spiritual movements have managed to gain international recognition like Chiism. The late Kama Onu Kama Onyioha, founder of Chiism(Godianism) and Spiritual Teacher, was a contemporary of Nigeria’s first Black Governor General and Commander in Chief, Nnamdi Azikiwe. He was also a rebel who fought against British imperialism while in the army and later as a journalist and would later go on to become an advocate of African spiritual systems, delivering his message to the UN, and major universities around the world on numerous occasions. Below is an interview with Kama Onyioha’s daughter, Dr. Uwa Osimiri, who is the current “Global Head” of Chiism International.
What is Chiism?
Thousands of years ago, an African prophet said, “There are guests on our shores and among us who do not respect our ways and who are reeking havoc upon our land. Lest they gain the acceptance of our people, we must teach our children to be strong and to honor the ways of the ancestors. Behold their truth endures in books.” This is the mission of Chiism. Chiists worship the Almighty in the traditional ways, honor their ancestral heritage, endeavor to rebuild African genius and seek a return to universal human understanding without sacrificing their ethnicity to the guests on our shores.
What is meant by worshiping Chineke in the ancient ways? It means understanding that the aboriginal religions, e.g., those existing from the beginning of recorded time, have a common denominator, the belief in one Chineke, but that this belief has been intermingled with various cultural practices overtime not in keeping with the African philosophical framework. In other words, many so-called “revealed” religions of current acceptance are, for example, Europeanized, and Arabicized. Are not most pictures and statues in the average church of European extraction when, in actuality, the people of the ancient east that the Bible discusses were dark-skinned African types? No one can long remain in the tropical regions of Africa and remain light-skinned and straight-haired. This is a mere minute example of the myriad of untruths that have been advanced. Chiism values truth, and because of this, historical accuracy is paramount in terms of events and people. Also Chiism believes that there is no specific name for Chineke because to name a thing is to make it a finite entity, and if Chineke is infinite how Chineke can be truly given a name as mere humans? Chineke is named in religions by attributes. So Chineke is Ptah (the Creator God), Khepera (the transformational and regenerative God), Ra (the most high and glorious God), Erusay (the hidden God), Chineke (The Creator) in Igbo, Abasi Ke Inyong (God Above or the Supreme Chineke) in Efik, Tamuna (The Creator) in Ijo, Osanobuwa (the Supreme Chineke) in Bini, Olodumare (the Supreme God) in Yoruba, Ubangiji (the Supreme Chineke) in Hausa, etc. With this thinking then there is no difference in the Hindu Rama or the Islamic Allah-all are names of the one Creator. In the Catholic Church that we so often refer to, people who perform good deeds in life and perform at least three witnessed miracles are canonized as saints.
African tradition with its martyrs, heroes, and sheroes has saints too: Pharaoh Akehenaten who restructured the religion of Kemet and illustrated to humanity how to live in peace without war; Imhotep who left us a legacy of cures for thousands of many diseases; Queen Hatshepsut who was the first female Pharoah of Kemet dearly loved by many; Patrice Lumumba who led his people to liberty in the Congo; Kwame Nkrumah who led his people to independence in Ghana; Martin Luther King Jr. who caused the United States to view the African American in a different light; Marcus Mosiah Garvey who spearheaded the United Negro Improvement Association, the forerunner of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and on and on and on, and His Holiness Prophet (Chief) K O. K Onyioha, Chair of the Organization of Traditional Religions of Africa and Spiritual Head of Chiism(Godianism) who has joined the ancestors. Chiism seeks to reclaim African essences, African viewpoints, African languages, and customs that are in keeping with the highest days of African civilization on the continent.
Being his daughter, can you tell us a bit more about your father in terms of his personality and some of his perhaps, unrealized goals?
My father Ahanyi K O K. Onyioha was a child of conflict and struggle. Born after the First World War, he passed through elementary and secondary school under the heat of Adolf Hitler’s murderous Second World War. He attained manhood in the war years, spent the energy of youth on service in the colonial army, and retired from it into the political atmosphere of the postwar years with gory tales of man’s inhumanity to man, and the fear of freedom. He was kind, a family man who taught his children that there were none greater than they but the Sun, the greatest manifestation of Chineke. His unique disciplinary style never included spankings or any hitting of his children. Instead once brought before him for discipline, he would sigh, shake his head and say”Agu a mula Okpu” that means that the “Lion has given birth to a lamb”, and we would spend the rest of the year working hard to prove to him that we were not lambs but lions and lionesses! He worked tirelessly, canvassing the world to remind humanity that Africans had the right to reclaim their contribution to world philosophical thought.
John Paden informed us that the lives of individuals, whether famous or obscure may help each of us to understand better our common humanity. However, before that of humanity, Nigerians must study the lives of fellow Nigerians to understand better how the common identity of constituent authorities, the institutions, epochal issues, and generative themes within the nation evolved. His Holiness was a part of the national and international story.
It is only in the context of history that any student of Nigerian politics and religion will come to terms with the social forces of the time that motivated the behavior of men as Ahanyi K.O.K Onyioha, their quest for radical change, their struggle for fair play and justice in aspects of national and international life as well as their expectations from radical political participation.
What are some of the challenges you face continuing in his footsteps as a Chiist representative?
I am the Global Oke Nchuaja (Head) of Chiism International. My father handed this responsibility to me. I have waded into different academic and philosophical fields (Clinical Psychology and Comparative Religious Studies at Ph.D levels, granting me impetus to execute in the comity of world religious and psychological discourse. Religion is both a cultural imperative and a psychological module for human psychological growth. I can honestly say that I am not experiencing any particular challenges beyond the demands that I place on myself. I believe that challenges are manifestations of opportunity of which a leader is prepared by virtue that it is an expected component of leadership.
I enjoy what I do, and find the process of moving the organization forward richly rewarding. Regardless of the inconsequential challenges that filter my way, such as ignorance, prejudice…I do well not to entertain! I realize that as a general rule, people are more apt to gravitate toward those who think as they do and sing their song even if they are off key and the musical genre is all wrong. My spiritual message challenges the core of individuals immersed in the philosophy that we as African people should be ashamed of our spiritual traditions…I get it. Consequently, I am focused on reaching those whose mindsets allow them to be more accepting, adventurous, and inquisitive. I have the support of my brother Udee Onyioha, global Nchuaja, my husband Ikenna Osimiri, US Nchuaja and many Chiists in Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, England and the US.
Does this practice conflict with Christianity and Islam? In other words, can one be a Chiist and still identify as Christian or Moslem?
There is no conflict in play when religious practices focus on the growth of human psyche and spirituality. According to the seventh and eighth Chiist Purgative lights (principles and commandments we practice and propagate), we believe that every person has their own way; organized or unorganized, systematized or un-systematized, of expressing the necessary gratitude to Chineke, and that in this fact satisfies the purpose of spiritual worship. We believe that there is no sense in quarreling with our fellow human over his or her religious doctrine, belief or method of spiritual worship that differ from our own manner of satisfying the common purpose of thanksgiving to Chineke. Upon this fact, we believe that all religions with Chineke at the center of their religious principles are different variations of Chiism. Even the Christian Jesus Christ spoke to Chineke directly as did Islamic Muhammad who spoke to Allah directly. We believe that they practiced the original spiritual tradition of direct communication with Chineke though; the name for Chineke differs according to language and boundaries.
Why do you think a return to African Spirituality is important?
Organized religious bodies as they are known in the world today though the fundamental principles underlying their purposes are good, have, by each in its way canvassing to have all humanity embrace its doctrines, aroused unhealthy competition and mutual jealousy among themselves and blown the world into a tumultuous asylum of warring religious factions. If the universal unity of humanity under the parenthood of Chineke shall be a reality, if the paradise of Chineke shall come, the traditional Okebulani (Africa) attitude of “biri ka m’biri” (live and let me live) is the indispensable catalyst (13 and 14 Purgative Lights, 1955).
There are numerous ethnic groups (which Europeans erroneously call “tribes”) in Africa and as many languages, names for God, and traditions of worshiping God. Chiism (Godianism) values these dynamics. Foreign invasions have replaced in many cases these aboriginal aspects with other nontraditional cultural ideas. Chiism then is an umbrella under which all traditional African worship practices fall, and it is universal in scope in that it realizes that all religions outside of Africa have received their branches and leaves from the African root. Africa is the primary point, the nuclear energy. Once the world accepts this truth, especially the sons and daughters of more recent African descent, spiritual renewal can become a reality, peace a constant, and love the way of life.
There is also the Chiist academy, the first of its kind. What does one study at the academy, and how can one get more information about it?
As stated on the Chiist website, “The Chiist (Godian) Academy is a center for learning, prayer, libation, research and dialogue with regards to the cultural traditions of Africa, past, present and future, in all its ramifications, for the purpose of determining, preserving and promoting Africa’s cultural contributions to world civilization; and for the showcasing of the totality and diversity of the spirituality of all people.” More information about the academy can be retrieved athttp://godianism.org/content/C-CA.htm. The main focus of the academy is on trado-medical research with the bulk of the work completed with the African holistic and natural medical practitioners. The main center is under construction as in the artistic rendering on the website. Individuals, who wish to travel to the site and learn from the African holistic and natural medical practitioners, contact Chiist University (chiistuniversity.com) that is the international parent umbrella for the Academy.
What are the future goals of the organization?
The purpose of Chiism is to Preach Love and Live Love, and promotes spiritual harmony. It is to renovate the person spiritually to enable him or her to co-relate in harmony with the rest of humanity. This organization is charged with the responsibility of operating the spiritual teachings of the organization through the establishment of institutions of higher learning globally. It operates under the auspices of the Chiist Higher Learning Corporation (CHLC). This organization is responsible for the following projects:
African International Events and Conference Center community engagement. This center is in Tucker Georgia.
Global Faith Ministries of Chiism
Our ministry is to uplift the African spiritual tradition of direct communication with Chineke (God) through meditation, prayer, tolerance, humility, personal development and spiritual growth. Our goal is to present a forum where African spiritual mandates and precepts can be shared so we can dispel the notion that Africans must embrace foreign religions at the expense of their own spiritual traditions. For although this is a global world of which Chiism celebrates the inherent positive messages within the bowels of other world religions, we wish to present the “other” perspectives which has been relegated to the backrooms of religious discussion as irrelevant and deserving of marginalization. Gratefully, many enlightened Africans are now asking for their place in the comity of world religions.
Chiist University (CU)
This institute is an African Centered institution in an on ground (Africa) and online modality dedicated to the promotion of an African mindset that promotes cultural appreciation, academic excellence, global participation, and African spiritual open-mindedness. CU is formed to promote, support, and enhance cooperation and collaboration among educational institutions that support the need to teach self respect, community engagement, and social responsibility.
Chiist University Preparatory School
Provides partnerships to enhance teaching, learning, and offer much expertise and numerous resources to improve the quality of life for our K-12 students in an African language immersion model.
AWEC Village of Hope
As part of its mission, Chiist Higher Learning Corporation seeks ways to promote the quality of life of African people by building sustainable housing projects and providing students the considerable educational opportunities, and economic development resources available in Africa
The most powerful tool in the hands of an oppressor is the mind of the oppressed. Chiism (Godianism) is geared up to untangle the minds of our African people so that it could be reprogrammed through positive processes in educational, spiritual, economic, and community engagement, so we shall reclaim our glorious past in the present and reclaim our position in the comity of world religious discourse.
Thank you for the opportunity to share Chiism with you…Yagazie