Grace Ego Omoni
A popular axiom in Ukwuaniland says: “What destroys the kolanut is right inside it.’ This means that what destroys a system is right inside the system. So many people have written and talked about the dwindling state of our educational system.
It is also a well known fact that the level of the educational development of a country determines the level of its economy and development. In other words, education has a great role in nation building. It is the hallmark of national development This is the reason why the government has special concern and interest in what happens in the educational sector globally.
Nigeria will clock sixty-one by October this 2021 since independence in 1960. However, it is most unfortunate that nothing spectacular has happened in the educational sector that will deserve any laudable applause. It has all been myriads of complaints and dissatisfactions concerning the standard of education and its unproductivity in the development of the nation.
The causes of poor productivity are multifarious ranging from poor parenting, indiscipline among learners, the nonchalant attitude of teachers towards teaching and learning, the influence of the community and the failure of government towards funding to name a few. Despite solutions proffered by many writers, there seems to be no improvement in sight!
The monsters keep on ravaging, causing more disasters to the nation unabated! are these monsters so strong or so hidden that they cannot be destroyed to give room to a better educational system? As a teacher of almost five decades, one would categorically assert that the problem of education emanates from the outrageous politicisation by the powers that be. A lot of politicking is going on in the government sector as well as in the Ministry of Education to the detriment of her citizens and the development of the nation generally.
People are aware that each new government, in a bid to show their relevance most often than not introduce new policies whether they are useful or not. They import educational systems from foreign lands whether they are relevant to us or not. Take for instance the various changes that have been made over the years.
The late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was the first to introduce free education in the Western Region of Nigeria as part of his agenda for the Action Group political party. It took the other parties like the NCNC headed by Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and NPC headed by Sir Ahmadu Bello time before they keyed into it. Children of that dispensation enjoyed free school materials, conducive classrooms and healthy environment.
The people who did the job were committed and cared less about kickbacks or 10% for those who gave them the contract. Today the government makes the masses believe that there is still free education but it is a known fact that parents pay through their noses to give their children quality education. The poor state of public schools has driven parents and guardians into seeking better education for their children in the private schools. Of course those private schools are no better because most of them do not have qualified teachers. The children of these politicians are sent abroad to receive qualitative education. My trips outside the shores of this country give me the boldness to make the above assertion. What a shame!
Since 1976, there have been changes in the educational system. Nigeria had the 6-5- 4 system which was later changed to 6-3-3-4 and then to 9-3-4 system without really seeing reasons for these changes from Universal Primary Education to Universal Basic Education(UBE) then to Universal Basic Education Commission(UBEC), yet no change in the quality of education the learners are receiving.
Get to the primary schools and you will see the disparity in the staff. So so laughable! Some are called UBEC teachers while others are core or original teachers and some others are now called N-power teachers. Ridiculous, is it not? Be that as it may, it has serious implications for the development of education.
What system of education is the government of the day running now? There is no proper coordination at all among the teachers in the way they are being paid because of the different ways they are being employed. A university graduate who is an N-power stuff receives far less than an NCE graduate who is a core teacher employed from the Education Board. How do you expect these teachers to be dedicated in the job?
The curriculum is another area of concern for well meaning Nigerians. Misinformed politicians, religious and ethnic fanatics and their allies who profess that they too are experts in education matters try to display their power to the detriment of the hewers of wood and fetchers of water in this country.
To drive this point home, several years back educational policy makers removed religion from the curriculum and replaced it with subjects like citizenship education and family living. Before we knew it, Arabic Language was introduced and paired with French Language.
We all know that Arabic Language goes with Islamic doctrine. Being wise in their own eyes they flooded schools with Arabic teachers with no French teachers to compete leaving the students with no other alternative than to study Arabic Language. You will agree with me that this is serious politicisation in our educational system. Since the two languages are paired as compulsory, the behoves government to see to it that there is an adequate number of teachers in both subjects.
A few years back this matter came up at a conference but those in the ministry of education told us that it was no longer so. However, I was privileged to learn from someone that CRK and IRK are back in the secondary schools with a “but “! It is observed that IRK teachers are many in the schools whereas many do not have CRK and French teachers. Why the lopsidedness in the posting? Can such disparity influence educational development?
Still on the issue of politicisation of education in Nigeria, is the observation that some state governments and senators in the national Assembly who are supposed to be representatives of those who voted them into power are making policies and sponsoring bills that are provocative to a section of the polity. One of such bills is the issue of “Hijab” in schools undermining the religious background of which such schools were established.
Permit me to ask these rhetorical questions: What has Hijab got to do with knowledge being taught? What has it got to do with quality education? Is it not obvious that these politicians are trying to make one religion superior to other ones in the country? Are they aware that the constitution of this country categorically states that our government is secular in nature? Will these politicians politicking not bring lawlessness and anarchy into the school system by disrupting the curriculum?
Furthermore, there is a popular saying among concerned educationists today that Nigeria is good at making policies but totally poor in implementing them. This is true. The government should look at the 6-3-3-4 and the 9-3-4 systems of education in this country and tell the people the one in operation.
These monsters look like an octopus. It is seriously ravaging in the area of the posting and promotion of teachers in both primary and secondary schools. A lot of discrepancies is going on. First and foremost, many schools in the urban areas are flooded with teachers whereas in the villages, the schools lack teachers.
Again, there is a dearth of teachers of English Language and Mathematics in the schools, yet we complain that there is a falling standard of education. Will the learners give what they do not have? Many Local Government Areas lack teachers and school facilities probably because the people did not give their votes to the ruling party in the state. This sounds absurd but it is happening. This is what is happening in a country recognised as the giant of Africa globally. It is a shame that when teachers are being posted, politicians are busy ensuring that those in their good books are given priority undermining the consequences of such actions to the development of the nation.
An associated matter is that of “godfatherism”, a phenomenon that has taken deep root in Nigeria. It is a very dangerous monster plaguing the educational system. The posting and promotion of teachers have been shamelessly politicised. The same goes for the selection of textbooks. Each year, some teachers complain that due process is never followed. Take an example of a state in the South-South Zone which cancelled the posting and transfers of teachers recently done because of discrepancies.
The teachers complained bitterly. It was outrageously politicised. Such a practice can only breed dissatisfaction in the school system and would only result in low productivity and poor standard.
On promotion, there have been cases where seniority is not observed and you see junior ones promoted to the position of headteachers over and above their senior colleagues.
There was a case where a junior colleague was made a principal over his senior. In the first instance the said senior had no case of professional misconduct. So he protested subtly by not attending classes for a long period of time and the said principal could not discipline him until the man was put in his rightful position. Such evil being perpetrated by godfathers who are mostly politicians has wrecked the sanctity in the educational sector. Most of the time the recipients of such abnormality are the learners!
Another case was that of a junior teacher who lobbied out her principal from the school to a remote smaller school and became the principal. People felt bad and encouraged that Senior principal to protest. Thank God, she was restored to her school where she stayed till retirement. Locate these monsters, eliminating them; lies solely in promoting; in rural areas be given, please delete should; who are good and vast in different subject areas; teachers are selected not elected; and publishers to read after which each teacher summaries… and makes; for the Unit in charge in the Ministry; and textbooks should be enforced.
There is also politicisation in the area of selection of textbooks. The Publishers and the ministry of education are guilty of this, the recommended books usually fall on the strongest lobbyists who happen to find their ways in through these politicians. Teachers have little or no input in the selection. The Ministry of Education may assert that they have a committee consisting of subject teachers but it is an open secret that only those publishers with political godfathers get their books recommended. Teachers are aware that the content of these books recommended falls short of the expectation of the curriculum content.
The Federal, State and Local governments and the Ministry of Education should as a matter of urgency rise up and locate this monster with a view to slaughtering or totally eliminating it from our education system. Politicising or politicking with matters concerning education is like administering a dangerous drug to a sick patient without diagnosis. It is high time politicians with no idea about the nitty gritty of education took off their hands from matters relating to this sector. Professionals in the education industry should be given the upper hand to revitalise it. Politicians should steer clear from issues relating to curriculum planning and implementation if their interest lies in promoting their religious beliefs forgetting that Nigeria is a secular state according to the Constitution.
Secondly, godfatherism ( Imamadu) in the area of the posting and promotion of teachers should be discontinued. Equity should be maintained. Lopsided distribution of teachers in urban and rural areas should be discouraged. Teachers in core subject areas should also be evenly posted to schools. It is recommended that teachers in the rural areas should be given incentives to encourage them. Promotion of teachers should not be politicised but due process should be maintained.
Seniority list should be the criterion for promotion and must strictly be adhered to. This will only be effective if only educationists are given the prerogative of being directors and chairmen of education boards. Politicians who do not have professional qualifications as teachers should be relieved of such posts.
Thirdly, teachers must be involved in the selection of textbooks to be recommended. Teachers are much more conversant with the curriculum content for each subject area. They implement the curriculum in the classroom. The idea of publishers and authors lobbying for their books to be selected even when such are not ideal should be discouraged.
The committee responsible for this exercise must be competent individuals who good in the different subject areas. Other States should take a clue from Lagos State. Here, teachers are elected from different schools for the purpose of textbook selection. For instance for Literature in English, the teachers are given text books from authors and publisher to read and assess alongside with the requirements of the curriculum after which each summaries the books given and make a detailed report of each for Unit in the Ministry of education to peruse and collate. It is with these reports that decisions are taken before textbooks are finally recommended for schools. This is commendable!
Fourthly. Inspection and supervision are two concepts that are indispensable in the educational system but not properly utilised in the education industry; although some States are doing their best. The Ministry of Education at both State and Local Government levels should lay emphasis on inspection and supervision for proper monitoring of the learning and teaching process in schools.
Supervision and inspection of the teachers while teaching, detailed scrutiny of school diaries, lesson notes, teaching aids and materials as well as learners’ exercise books and textbooks. Doing this will go a long way in making the teachers to sit up to their responsibilities. Inspectors of education and other personnel in the Ministry of Education and Schools’ Boards should be impartial in carrying out their duties instead of choosing to receive “envelopes” from headteachers.
The MONSTER ravaging the educational system must be killed!
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How To Enter Sapele And Warri From Benin Now (1)
By Tony Afejuku
Sapele and Warri are two significantly important Nigerian cities that need no introduction, special or un-special, from the historic, realistic and imaginative imagination of this creative creator whose impression of things is often – if not always – determined by features which fit the descriptions that convey meaningfully what must be conveyed – meaningfully. Sapele and Warri, as very many people know, are two unique cities, two uniquely nifty cities, from whichever dominant or un-dominant impressions or perspectives open to us to define the cities. Of course, the cities’ dense and denizenly denizens and brought-ups where-ever they are always have something, something beautifully beautiful, to say about them in the same way that those of Benin, the antique city, allow their imaginations and conceptions to beautify it. Indeed, I have since accepted these three cities for different reasons as my rococo cities: Warri, the rock-oil city of a kingdom that produced the first university graduate in sub-Saharan Africa, Sapele the rock-and-roll city housing the Athletic Club, the first European recreation club in West Africa, at least, Benin, the un-lucidly lucid city of unforgettably rich antiquity. In the beautifully good old days we could comb the three great cities in one day. As a matter of fact, we combed them in one day as we hopped into different cars and jalopies and traversed different latitudes and longitudes in Benin, Sapele and Warri at the same time. Going to Safi and Wafi and Bafi and vice versa to do what we must do show-business-wise, play-hunting-wise, dame-hunting-wise, solid business-wise, education-wise, research-wise and otherwise was a peruked experience, so to say, of a classical theme in our years and years of how we enjoyed and took ourselves seriously. Everything we tried to see, everything we tried to feel, everything we tried to touch, everything we tried to bite and eat, everything we tried to experience proved beautifully un-disappointing – because the centuries we knew and did not know tried to maintain themselves in our imaginations and memories.
But as at today, as at now, time has since travelled by and has assumed a dimension of space that has jeopardized and shattered our compassion for the dead and gone centuries. Why couldn’t they stand still and maintain themselves in the present?
Let’s terminate the sweet rigmarole that remains ever sweet in our recollections of the then and then decades that rolled into centuries.
Four years ago, I did a piece, an engaging piece, on the lamentable condition of the Benin-Sapele Road. Then – if my recollection is not losing its plume – I put the federal government and the governors of Edo State and Delta State respectively on the radar of the deplorable deplorableness. I did that in the hope that the federal government and the respective governments of the two Niger Delta States would do something memorably drastic to return the Benin-Sapele-Warri Highway to its time of artful and civil engineering agreeableness. The deplorability of the road then was such that induced from the eyes of all those living in Benin, Sapele and Warri and inter-city and inter-state travellers tears of unhappiness. The tears compassionated the ever-busy highway/road which I then christened Ouagadougou which I deliberately employed to alter the original meaning of the capital of Burkina Faso (“Land of Upright Men” or “Land of Incorruptible people”). I altered the original name that depicts its beauty to mean Benin-Sapele-Warri hole and hell of a road on account of the useless and hopeless hours of delays of travellers and commuters on that road whose rottenly rotten portions have become far more rottenly rotten than they were then. The jaw-breaking or mouth-twisting pronunciation of “Owa-ga-do-gu” or “Wa-ga-do-gu” compellingly makes ugly the essentially original name of merriness in a land of people of revolutionary colour, fervor and flavour.
On Friday, September 15, 2023 I had to make a trip I could not avoid to Warri the once merry rock oil city of ogbologbos and cherishers of decent decency. My plan was to make a brief stop-over in Sapele, Papa’s land of rock-and-roll ogbologbos of ogbologbos who nor dey fear kain. But how would I navigate my way through Benin our Benin where the once popular Benin-Sapele Road has turned itself into a baser and baser road day by day by government’s neglect of it? The terrifyingly and horrifyingly base road has been emboldened by our respective calamitous rulers over the years of calamitous nastiness.
Two days before my expected trip I contracted a driver who I was going to hire to take me to Warri aforesaid. I was away in one of the Western States. I got to Benin at an ample time a day before my trip to firm up my agreement with the chap who was to take me to my destination(s). For the one-way trip he was going to squeeze from me sixty-five thousand naira. I pinched myself. The guy-man don catch mugu wey nor be mugu. I tried to bargain with him as best as I could. He was not ready to come down. He mentioned what the trip would cost him petrol-wise and dwelt agonizingly on the condition of the road – especially the condition of the Benin by-pass and the Ologbo stretch before the cross-over to Delta State. I gaped with amazement. The journey via any transport company would not cost me as a single passenger more than three thousand five hundred naira. In my determination, I suggested that we should go to Warri via Agbor. He said that the Agbor route was even worse than the Ologbo one. In any case, if I was seriously serious about embarking on the trip via the Benin Agbor route he would accept from me nothing short of eighty-five thousand naira. In my desperation I suggested the Benin-Jesse route. He smilingly kept quiet. But when he eventually spoke to open his thought he said he would not dare to take that route even if I or anybody offered him the world. Herdsmen had kidnapped, captured, maimed and killed a number of persons on that axis. I could feel myself swept back through time as when an ancient memory of the Warri wars or the Benin massacre comes back to mind. I jettisoned the chap and reduced my reality to making my trip very early not later than six o’clock in the morning of my trip by a commercial vehicle.
By 5:45 AM on the dot I was at “Warri-by-air” motor-park on the day of my trip. Only one Sienna car was available. On enquiry, I was told that other vehicles and their drivers that were not at the park would likely not go to Warri on account of the road-less road at the Ologbo stretch which no road-rollers could immediately redeem. Before long the vehicle was ready to take us to Warri. In fact, by 7:30AM that morning we were already at Ologbo. O my dear readers, we were held and holed up there even though our road-hog on the steering performed all the magic he could possibly perform. There was no movement to and from the opposite direction. Almost everyone on the steering of each vehicle was a road-hog after all! I lost my sense of arithmetic, algebra and geometry as our dare-devil driver tried to meander his way without gaining any advantage. By four o’clock in the afternoon we were still glued to the muddy mud of a wet road of gullies upon gullies. All the vehicles were plugged into a single outlet-less outlet and charmed, compelled to remain there. And the trucks (trailers) that conservatively numbered well above three thousand appeared to me to have caused a magnetic storm. It was a cloudy day when the rains did not pour down, yet muddy and ugly Ologbo remained muddily muddy and watery Ologbo of wetness. A Benin-Warri journey that ordinarily should not exceed one hour even on a bad traffic day was already taking me ten hours plus! I must do something. My slight luggage and I embarked on a fresh journey on a motor-bike trip of not up to two kilometres from Ologbo to Koko junction in Delta State and which ordinarily should not fetch the Hausa Okada rider two hundred naira squeezed from me one thousand naira. But I was happy to hop on the Okada pontoon taking us – my luggage and I – to the other side – Koko junction aforesaid – where there were several waiting vehicles taking passengers to Warri and Sapele respectively. On the Okada leaping and snaking through the devilish waters of the unfathomable gutters of a wicked road, I made sure that the Okada rider did not mock the storm and spirit of gravity. I compelled him to make his motor-bike to maintain its/his road-holding. No limb must I lose! Others who did what I did boarded the same vehicle that flew us to Warri where a stormy rain welcomed us. The rain beat me and hammered away the sticky potopoto all over me as I boarded a keke that took me to my Warri special haven. When did I arrive? Your guess is as good as a guess that is both right and wrong. My return journey was smoother and better, I now being a thorough expert on how to enter and get out of Warri without the fear of darkness unleashed on us by wickedly wicked or demonically demonic leader-less leaders: the Nigerian man’s burden.
To be continued.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
The Witch, The Pentecostal, And Jungle Justice
By Claire P. Ayelotan
In July 2023, Martina Okey Itagbor was brutally murdered in a gruesome lynching incident. She was dragged out of her home and set on fire in the streets opposite the Catholic Church she attended regularly. Witnesses reported that her perpetrators stood by and watched as she writhed in agony until her body was reduced to ashes.
Afterwards, her remains were swept into a nearby gutter with a broom. The victim’s daughter, attending the church then, attempted to intervene, but was restrained by other congregation members. Among these members, some were Martina’s accusers.
Prior to this incident, other women had experienced a similar fate. For instance, on 27th August 2022, two widows in the Ebbaken community in Cross River State were killed by local youths for alleged witchcraft. No arrests were made. In 2022, Amarachi Okechi, a widow, was accused of witchcraft and publicly beaten by 30 youths in her village after claims from her brother-in-law’s wife. The incident was filmed as Amarachi was tied up overnight and abused for days. The wife of Abia State’s Governor eventually intervened. Four men in Adamawa State killed Martha Mamman on 4th December 2022, accusing her of witchcraft and causing three deaths. After a forced confession, they burned her. Love Nwanyanwu barely avoided a similar fate for alleged witchcraft on 8th November 2020. Prompted by her husband’s nephew, she was attacked by her in-laws. In 2017, in Adamawa State, pregnant Ayina Afraimu was bound and beaten with sticks to death after accusing her of causing some deaths and sickness in the village.
(c) Claire Princess Ayelotan
The month following Itagbor’s demise, two Nigerian police officers in Adamawa State were dismissed for their role in lynching two women accused of witchcraft. Neither faced legal repercussions, highlighting societal tolerance for such actions and underscoring the persistence of patriarchy.
As mentioned earlier, the individuals who were victims of such heinous acts were not merely strangers, but they were someone’s grandmothers, mothers, sisters, aunties, friends, and neighbours. Tragically, some of these individuals had their lives cruelly taken away, leaving behind their heartbroken beloved families. For those who survived, the trauma and stigma associated with the accusations of witchcraft will forever alter their lives. The label assigned to them is permanent and carries a heavy weight of discrimination and social exclusion.
Despite their differences, these women share a common experience as individuals who have been labelled as witches. They were often viewed with suspicion and fear, and their reputation as evil bearers was a source of constant stress and hardship. The accusations of witchcraft have put their familial loyalties to the test, causing irreparable damage to familial relationships. In some cases, family members may openly support their accusation and lynching, while others strongly oppose it. The emotional toll of such conflicts is immeasurable and serves as a painful reminder of the deep-rooted social problems plaguing our society.
Is witchcraft a curse in Africa?
In an article published a decade and a half ago by Professor La Fontaine in The Guardian with the headline “Witchcraft Belief is a Curse on Africa” effectively conveyed the detrimental effects such beliefs can have on societies. It is a fact that witchcraft belief is a bane to Africa and its people.
However, it should be noted that this issue is not confined to the African continent, but is a global problem, with historical evidence demonstrating that beliefs in witchcraft have never contributed to the advancement of human personal or societal development on any continent.
While it is one thing to acknowledge the existence of such beliefs, it is quite another to employ them during times of stress, which often leads to accusations. Accusations of witchcraft are a social mechanism utilised to both control and evade personal responsibilities. It thrives in a tension-filled environment and may be used to explain any situation, regardless of its relationship with existing tensions. Individuals with any gender orientation, age, or background are not exempt from such accusations. While women are mostly victims of accusations, children are increasingly being labelled as witches or wizards in various parts of Nigeria, leading to an upsurge in the number of private NGOs that provide shelter to victims in cities and States such as Akwa Ibom. Given its endemic nature, many accusations remain concealed, and cases similar to those of Martina Itagbor only come to light when someone publicly discloses them.
Any accusation of witchcraft that results in the death of a woman is considered a form of femicide, also known as feminicide, and is gender-based violence. Femicide is what Diana Russell coined as “the killing of females by males because they are females”. Although men (and children) were not immune from falling victim to an accusation, as detailed in my research, what set apart femicide because of the charge of the crime of witchcraft is the typology of the targeted women. These are primarily women with aggressive characteristics, widows, single mothers, women with disabilities, older women, and other vulnerable female groups.
Understanding the mind of the perpetrator
Public lynching linked to witchcraft accusations is gradually becoming part of Nigerian extrajudicial attacks, popularly known as ‘jungle justice’. This is self-effect justice perverted to those suspected of wrongdoing by the group of people or the community without involving law enforcement agents. A lack of trust in the judiciary system often compels many people to take the law into their own hands. Plus, to the perpetrators, the police are irrelevant and might release the victims. In addition, where such beliefs are upheld by members of the police officers themselves, the chances of the victims being released or vindicated may be minor.
Most jungle justice in Nigeria is often executed by youth; however, it shows no regard as the universality of jungle justice linked to witchcraft accusations has shown disparities in the age and gender of the perpetrators. As explained in the media journals, some perpetrators were in their 60s. Moreover, the perpetrators were mainly men, suggesting a disguised aspect of misogynism. However, this does not exclude the involvement of women. The mothers of the boys who died and other women validated Martina’s lynching, as some of them came out of the church and stood watching the attack with no remorse or action to prevent her death.
Jungle justice imposes accountability on all parties involved in extrajudicial punishment, which constitutes a form of collective violence that undermines the rule of law. However, the concept of “equal responsibility” can become complicated, particularly when seeking to understand the motivations and cognitive processes of those who participate in such actions. First, moral disengagement is a crucial factor in these situations, as ethical principles are disregarded and acts such as lynching Martina and other women are deemed morally justified. In this instance, jungle justice, as a form of communal purging, is an ideal means of eliminating elements that are considered evil within the community. Second, it is of utmost importance to comprehend Philip Zimbardo’s contribution to the theory of deindividuation, which posits that individuals may lose their sense of self-awareness and accountability in group settings and engage in behaviours that deviate from social norms. In situations where religious fervour is present, it may exacerbate the effects of deindividuation, leading individuals in group settings to be more inclined to engage in extrajudicial actions, such as jungle justice. Combining firm religious beliefs and group dynamics can diminish individual accountability and increase the likelihood of such acts being perpetrated.
Jungle justice, often associated with poverty, may have less to do with economic conditions and more with religious or spiritual beliefs. This is evidenced by the fact that many individuals participating in these acts of violence are not necessarily impoverished. In fact, within a religious context, such as the biblical account of the stoning of Stephen, it can be seen that economic status may not be the primary motivator for these acts of violence. Instead, religious beliefs and doctrinal issues may be more significant in motivating such action. For instance, Martina’s lynching in front of a Catholic Church adds a layer of symbolic spiritual meaning to the church’s setting of the act of jungle justice. Often considered a place of sanctuary and moral guidance, the church becomes a backdrop for an action that contradicts legal and, arguably, ethical norms. This juxtaposition can create powerful emotional and cognitive dissonance for observers and participants, affecting how the act is interpreted and remembered. Similarly, in cases of jungle justice related to accusations, my analysis in the following section suggests that religion may be a more significant factor than economic disadvantage in motivating these acts of violence.
What factors contribute to the escalating incidence of witchcraft allegations against vulnerable populations in Nigeria?
To assert that witchcraft beliefs are not prevalent and flourishing in Nigeria is to disregard the tragic fate of those accused and ostracised, including women, children, and men. This belief system has infiltrated various segments of society, ranging from ordinary folk to educated, religious institutions to the political sphere, university communities to local markets in bustling urban areas.
Two intertwined elements, among others, played a significant role in this phenomenon: Beliefs and Christianity. It is noteworthy that Christianity, as a religion, cannot subsist without the endorsement of beliefs. It is important to note that labelling occurs in other religions; however, Christian missionaries and the Saros aided the promulgation of witchcraft beliefs and eventual accusations during colonialism. For clarity and to inform those unfamiliar with the term, the Saros comprised Western-educated Nigerian Creoles, who, in collaboration with Western missionaries, introduced Western cultural and religious practices to Nigeria and Yorubaland. This led to the dehumanisation of local religions and reinforced beliefs such as evil, evil spirits, demons, and witchcraft. The Saros, along with their counterparts in other regions of Africa, were successful in anglicising several traditional socio-religious rites, artworks, gods, and personalities as witchcraft or witchcraft practices, making witchcraft a generic term throughout the continent.
By the post-imperialist era, Christianity had gained considerable traction in Africa. However, in the 1970s, the emergence of Pentecostalism gave rise to a syncretistic fundamentalist movement. It is indisputable that the foundation of Nigerian Pentecostalism is grounded in concepts from various sources, including traditional religions, Nigerian-initiated local churches, and Western, Asian, and Judeo-Christian beliefs. It is a matter of great concern that some Pentecostal churches today openly promote teachings on witchcraft and its connection with malevolent forces. Furthermore, such ideologies have infiltrated the doctrinal principles and convictions of several traditional churches. Any attempts to discuss witchcraft-related topics are often met with hostility from Christian organisations, primarily due to a fear of the perceived phenomenon.
Consequently, this fear is an exploitative tool by these churches, especially the Pentecostals, in accumulating members, as witchcraft beliefs have become ubiquitous in Nigerian households, states, regions, ethnic groups, academic settings, and the political sphere. The practice of witchcraft is believed to be a manifestation of demonic influence, and those who engage in such practices are considered the emissaries of the devil. Since the spiritual controls the physical, nothing happens by chance. Thus, every misfortune, comprising accidents, job losses, barrenness, illnesses, marital issues, exam failures, disabilities, poverty, and other socioeconomic incapacities, is blamed on witchcraft.
Labelling an individual as a witch systematically means projecting blame onto an external source, rather than engaging in introspection or examining one’s contributions as the root cause of any misfortune. Regular attendance at places of worship in an excessive and compulsive manner can often function as a means of avoiding personal responsibility for one’s decision-making. Individuals who are overweight and spend a considerable amount of time participating in church activities may regrettably attribute their subsequent health issues to the intervention of a witch, despite their own lifestyle choices, such as excessive eating, being a contributing factor. Although they may not all be Pentecostals, those who set Martina alight and the mothers of the boys who died in the accidents were convinced Martina was responsible for their sons’ demises. It is unlikely that they would believe that overspeeding or dangerous driving was the cause of the accident, as someone must have told them that the witch was responsible. Another consideration is that many individuals within the legal justice system may also be members of religious organisations that emphasise witchcraft. This adds a layer of complexity to why the act of jungle justice, which involves sidestepping legal norms, may not be viewed as problematic by some members of these churches.
Moreover, congregants often seek counsel from religious leaders who are aware of the demands for such services. However, this guidance comes at a cost, notably financial contributions through various offerings, tithes, and church-building projects. The relationship between religious leaders and their followers involves a transactional business arrangement. It is important to note that special prayer and deliverance sessions cannot be conducted without the eventual purchase of anointing oils, handkerchiefs, sermon materials, or a monetary contribution to the pastors through cash or bank transfers, if necessary.
When the notorious Dick The Butcher suggests to his boss, Jack Cade, in William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”, it is considered a dark joke that killing all the lawyers for their absence @highlighted the importance of authority figure in maintaining or disrupting social order. Given the potential connections between Dick’s response to Pentecostal leaders, it is crucial to acknowledge their role in perpetuating witchcraft-related beliefs. While they may not directly participate in acts of jungle justice, they cannot be absolved of their complicity. Their teachings and beliefs about witchcraft unleashed Pandora’s box of events and attitudes that were challenging to reverse. The question remains: How many families and households have been torn apart due to their ideologies? Prayer points such as “all witches in my family must die, die, die” indicate their contribution to enabling jungle justice. How many witches are members advised to be caught? Their mothers, aunties, sisters, or grandmothers?
Were these pastors in question aware and willing to acknowledge their role in perpetuating the witchcraft accusation phenomenon, and did they exhibit a genuine understanding of the harm caused by their actions? By preaching on these topics, they create a narrative framework in which others may be interpreted as tacit endorsements of extrajudicial measures against alleged witches. Their pastoral authority gives credence to these beliefs, and their influence can extend far beyond the church walls, affecting community attitudes and actions and lending weight to the ideology that motivates collective violence. This can lead to unintended but severe consequences, such as acts of jungle justice, which are challenging to contain once unleashed. In this way, they bear indirect responsibility for the results, much like Shakespeare’s lawyers, whose absence upends the social order.
Unlike Shakespearean Dick, we cannot kill these pastors because we do not want to end our lives in jails. However, we can curb them. How, then, do we curb them all? Regulating the teachings and contents disseminated by churches could serve as a remedy to curb the prevalence of witchcraft accusations and associated acts of jungle justice. Such regulations can offer a framework for promoting socially and ethically responsible teachings and influencing community attitudes and actions. However, this remedy might be complex to implement, given the issues of religious freedom and autonomy, as it poses ethical, legal, and societal challenges that require careful consideration.
The question is, who has the guts to do that without ‘dying by fire’?
Poisoning And Witchcraft Accusations In Africa
By Leo Igwe
Witchcraft accusation is a form of death sentence. The accused are often attacked and killed. As this case has illustrated, the accused poison themselves or are poisoned. Alleged witches are forced to drink poisonous concoctions, which lead to their death or health damage. The belief is that this concoction removes, or disables witchcraft powers. The concoction supposedly cleanses suspected witchcraft. The taking of this substance is an exoneration process to establish the guilt and innocence of the accused. Some local medicine men or women administer the concoctions. The recipe for preparing these concoctions is known in many communities. As in this case, alleged witches do not wait to be given the concoctions, they prepare and take the substance themselves.
In many cases, family members pressure the accused to take these substances, to cleanse themselves, to free and exonerate themselves. The belief is that if they took the concoction and died, then they were witches. The concoction could make them vomit, and the belief is that the vomiting helps expunge witchcraft particles and powers. Sometimes, the concoction makes suspected witches hallucinate and begin to make utterances often mistaken as confessions. Most often those forced to take this concoction are elderly women and men who can barely resist the process. Poor people in rural communities, widows, and aging persons living alone with limited social support are usually the target.
This form of witch-hunting is pervasive in the villages. It is difficult to know the number of alleged witches who poison themselves, or are poisoned each year. They would be in their tens of thousands because these poisonous concoctions form part of the witch-hunting accessories. In witch hunting, the motivation is to eliminate the suspected witches, to murder and get rid of them. Cases of alleged witches who were poisoned have been reported not only in Malawi but also in Nigeria, Liberia, and Gambia.
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