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Woman As A Powerful Force For National Development



BOOK REVIEW: Ayo Joan Olatoyosi's Thesis, Antithesis And Synthesis Of Life


Grace Ego Omoni

It is no longer news that women are seen as the weaker sex, beasts of no gender and rehabilitation centres whose place is in the kitchen and the other room according to the assertion of a serving African president. To consolidate this belief is the conversation a journalist had with a black man in an excerpt from the Sub-Saharan African Regional Guidance and Counselling Manual on the place of women in the home. Below is the excerpt:

Journalist: Sir, what does your wife do for a living?
Man: She is not working. I am the breadwinner.
Journalist: So what does she do when you are away for work from morning till dusk?
Man: When she wakes up, she cooks breakfast and prepares the children for school.
Journalist: Is that all?
Man: She goes to the farm to do some clearing till about 12:00 p.m., gets some firewood and comes home to prepare lunch for the children.
Journalist: And?
Man: She serves the children their food and washes the children’s school’s uniforms and my clothes. She also ensures the children do their homework.
Journalist: And then she goes to sleep…?
Man: Not yet, she prepares the supper and cleans up the kitchen and ensures that the kids wash up the dirty dishes; does some ironing before retiring for the night. (to serve in the other room: my own words.)
Journalist: Really, she does all these and you say that she does nothing?
Man: ( Silence)

Dear reader, consider the above dialogue and you will come to understand why women are regarded as beasts of no gender and rehabilitation centres, hewers of wood and fetchers of water but not breadwinners. Women are the fundamental human reservoir of every society as they control most of the non- monetary economy such as subsistence agriculture, domestic labour and bearing children. They are also involved in the monetary economy such as wage labour, employment and training.

Can you qualify the woman as the weaker sex by your analysis from the excerpt above? Get me right, this article is not about Women’s Liberation or male chauvinism but about making people understand that the woman is an agent of transformation in contemporary Nigeria, and can participate fully as a nation- builder and not just the weaker sex as has been so labelled. Women as asserted by a writer are key agents of transformation and therefore crucial to the goal of sustainable development.

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They are operators of the economy and their contributions are beyond subsistence farming and household chores. Unfortunately, most of our women have resigned themselves to the so-called terminology that they are being labelled with as the weaker sex, hence, you see them engaging in activities which make them vulnerable to males’ intimidation, violence, battery in the home, unbridled rape and other forms of societal aberrations.

However, there is a great number of women in the history of the world who have been and are still actively involved in nation-building and development; I mean women with great potential who have impacted the world positively and are still doing so. Such include Mrs Indira Gandhi, one-time India’s Prime Minister, Margaret Hilda Thatcher of Great Britain popularly known as the Iron Lady, the late Prof Dorothy Akunyili, Chairman NAFDAC, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Secretary-General of the World Trade Organization and Prof. Grace Alele Williams a one-time Vice-Chancellor, UNIBEN. The late Mrs Margaret Ekpo, and Mrs Funmilayo Ransome Kuti were women activists during the early days of British administration in Nigeria who kicked against the taxation of women. And most recently, a young woman of Deltan origin, Hetty Ofughara, who became the First Black female Commander of the US Navy Ship.

There is a host of others in leadership positions creating impacts in the development of Nigeria and many more are yet to manifest. Where men have failed, women have excelled in their different leadership positions and creditably well in their administrative functions. Therefore, it is high time men disabused themselves of the notion that women are beasts of no gender or the weaker sex or those whose place is in the kitchen and the other room.

Actually, you notice this assumption in different situations or scenarios. For instance, recently, I read a book titled: “The World’s Great Speeches: Reference Book for Writers, Authors, Journalists…” and was shocked and flabbergasted to note that out of the 40 speeches recorded, only three were from women! This goes to show the kind of mentality men have about women. I want to reiterate that the intention of this piece is not to preach about women’s Lib but to encourage men to partner with women in nation-building and for the women to rise up and assert themselves as potential nation builders.

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They are capable of being involved in the development of the nation. Women must change their mentality and assume responsibilities of transforming the society positively. Mentality determines reality. The belief that you are able to make things happen affects possibilities. In other words, whatever you are going to achieve as a woman is determined by your mindset. A positive mindset helps one to overcome the limitations of being seen as the weaker sex.

Nigeria is beckoning on women to rise up and salvage her. The future of this country beckons on women with these tasking questions: whither do we go and what shall be our major endeavour?; to bring freedom and opportunities for an enabling environment to the common man or to join the bandwagon in perpetrating corruption, poverty, criminality, socio-economic disadvantages such as unemployment, drug and human trafficking, internet fraud, yahoo syndrome, election fraud, armed robbery, kidnapping, prostitution, banditry, thuggery, ethnic conflicts, religious violence and terrorism?

The youths want to rebel and cause a fight; the old want to pursue and exercise power as well as amass wealth and pleasure instead of growing a personality for national development where peace, progress and justice reign. No nation can grow without challenges physically, intellectually, economically or educationally. However, the question is: what can the women do to make a difference in the society today? Are they disciplined enough to salvage this under development ravaging Nigeria? Do they have the courage to lead or are they complacent in face of the predicaments of this nation?

J. F Kennedy once said that courage and not complacency is what we need and leadership and not salesmanship. He further claims that the only test of leadership is the ability to lead and to lead vigorously. This I find in women who have succeeded in national development. We need women to be a powerful force and new frontier pioneers in moving the nation forward.

Permit me to say that categories of women exist in our society but we are in search of those who are ready to partner with citizens who desire growth and development.
I categorize them as follows:
1) The gullible and vulnerable;
2) The wealth and pleasure-seekers;
3) The New Frontier women of vision.

The Gullible and Vulnerable:
These women can be easily deceived, duped, convinced and cheated by people. They are victims of fraudulent and shady elements in the society such as free advanced defrauders, 419 guys, money doublers, fake business partners and clerics. They are preys because they seek miracles and easy ways of getting rich or solutions to their problems. There was this story of a girl who was camped, gang-raped, defrauded of her money, clothes and jewelry by these 419 guys. In another story, a university female teacher but gullible was duped for she had to borrow millions of naira for a business that never existed in the first place.

She was swindled by illiterate men who go about deceiving the vulnerable and gullible. Politicians find it easy to recruit these kinds of women as supporters during elections. Promises that never come to the limelight are made to these women and they go ahead following these politicians sheepishly. At the end, they are given one or two cups of rice or at most a piece of inferior textile ( abanenya). This category cannot give anything useful in terms of positive national transformation.

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Wealth and Pleasure Seekers:

This category is a new trend in Nigeria. People have different ways of identifying them- Slay Queens, Men Slayers, Sugar Mommies, Big Girls, ( Bisgals according to a comedian) Night Crawlers and Ojuelegba Girls and “Runs Girls” to name a few. They jump from one rich man to another, one bed to another. Politicians are their attachés as well as Yahoo boys. They do anything to get money. They engage in shady and dangerous businesses to acquire wealth. Many are executive prostitutes and are in the business of organising young girls for men on university campuses.

They sponsor and export girls to foreign countries for advanced prostitution but tell these gullible girls that they want to help them. There was this girl who was sponsored to Dubai for this purpose. Even after counselling the parents not to allow this kind of magnanimity from the big Mama, the girl still “travelled’. The money she earned was collected by the woman for several months. The girl was arrested by the police for prostituting and thrown into prison for months before deportation to Nigeria.

These women are found in nightclubs stripping for men. Some are informants to armed robbers, kidnappers, bandits and terrorists. Among them are highly literate young ladies and Mamas. You can recognize them by their dressing and makeup with bizarre hairdos, thick eyelashes and heavy lipsticks and they do adorn themselves with jewelry worth fortunes. Inappropriate dressing is their trade in stock. They enjoy breaking homes for they easily seduce men both married and unmarried. Some of them are single mothers who have little or no time for their children.

They are morally bankrupt. The fake clerics are their counsellors and partners. They are boastful, live in mansions, drive fast and expensive sport utility vehicles and cars. Often, they fly to and fro foreign countries in first-class compartments exposing their bodies without respect for womanhood. This group of women to me too cannot qualify to be people who can build the nation. They are destroyers and not part of positive societal transformers.

The New Frontier Visionary Women:
These women are self-disciplined, self-reliant, radiant, determined, focused and purpose- driven. They are women of impeccable character, intellectuals, vision promoters, motivators and fighters of justice for the less privileged. Many are mainly literates; some are not but they command authority and respect in the society because of their unchallenged well-groomed personality. They are morally upright and are women of integrity who engage in very profitable ventures. These are women who know what hard work is and the dignity of labour.

At home, they are dependable housewives and mothers. Their children are well disciplined within and outside the home and noted for good moral home training. Integrity is their priority.

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In their places of work, they put in their best to see to it that the objectives of the organisation are achieved to the maximum. In other words, they perform tasks assigned to them for the optimal benefits of all. Punctuality, regularity and consistency are some of their job qualities. Those of them holding managerial positions efficiently and effectively carry out their job specifications and leadership roles with utmost care for success. They are trainers of trainers, supporters, movers, helpers of the weak and carry others along in the course of their duties wherever they find themselves. They have zero tolerance for failure but promote success. These new frontier women are very good at making and implementing policies. They sacrifice their talents, time and treasures to the benefit of the organization they belong.

The growth, progress, peace and rapid development of the nation economically, educationally, socially, physically, health-wise and the empowerment of the less privileged or the disadvantaged are crucial to them. They are interested in ending injustice in their communities, hence, you see them establishing non-governmental organisations such as gender-based violence and youth centres, welfare for widows and orphanages to put smiles on the weak by sensitizing and empowering them. Many of them voluntarily sponsor seminars and workshops to engage the people on issues that will improve their lot.

They come out boldly to discuss issues in the media concerning governance and provide advocacy for capacity building for the nation. They are also engaged in research and attend conferences within and outside the countries on issues relating to development and national transformation. Rarely do they engage in these programmes for material gain but for the improvement of man and society.

A careful review of these categories will point to the conclusion that the new frontier women are those who the caps fit for development and transformation and not the first two. Society itself knows the first two sets as misfits to national development and condemns their activities.

It is therefore expedient for this country as a matter of urgency to give women the chance to use their God-given talents and skills to promote development in different areas of life. How then do we assist the women in doing this?

Implications for Counselling:

  1. Education is a priority for the girl-child. Education in the widest sense is how to produce balanced personalities capable of meeting, without undue stress, contingencies and vicissitudes of life. The idea of parents preferring the male for education over the female is no longer obtainable and should be discarded. Refusing to send the girl-child to school is a major cause of early marriage, teenage pregnancy leading to health complications, divorce, prostitution, single parenthood, child labour, vulnerability and gullibility.
  2. Sensitization programmes should be organised for girls, young and adult women to build up their courage and be able to recognise their worth as partners in national development. They are trained to identify their potential and talents, to live disciplined and dignified self-reliant lives. In such sensitization programmes, activities that will make them abhor immorality and criminality should be emphasized and put in place through films, role plays, lectures, dramas and symposium.
  3. .Skills acquisition and empowerment programmes should be taken to every nook and cranny of urban and rural locations for maximum outreach. This in a way will help the women to be self-reliant, self-confident and economically independent. Partisan selection of a few to benefit from such programmes should be discouraged.
  4. Women should be exposed to the rights and responsibilities of the individual in the society. For instance, they should know that they have the right to vote and to be voted for and that it is criminal for one to sell her vote.
  5. Dignity of labour, regard for hard work and the value of self-integrity should be the focus of the contemporary woman. The craze for wealth and pleasure should be discouraged. Money may answer all things but the love of it is the root of all evil. Women should shun the tendency for habits that tend towards shame, disgrace and mockery from the society. Moderation should be the watchword for women who want to excel in nation-building.
  6. Leadership training, work effectiveness and efficient way of getting things done must be put in place for new frontier women. So the government, non-governmental organisations and religious bodies must endeavour to engage women in managerial seminars, conferences and workshops at the local, national and international levels.
  7. Assertive training exercises must be made available for women. This will help them to effectively carry out work assigned to them optimally for the benefit of organizations and the nation at large.
  8. History must return to the schools. Women who have impacted others locally, nationally and globally should be part of the curriculum content. Mary Slessor, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Margaret Ekpo, Mrs Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, Prof. Dora Akunyili, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Prof Grace Alele Williams and a host of other notable women who have excelled in administration, academics, politics, economics and have positively changed their environment as well as national development should be introduced to the girls, young and adult women as role models.
  9. Molding of character starts from the home. Proper parenting should be given to our children. Here they learn about the core values cherished by the society. The best parenting style is the authoritative type sometimes called the democratic child rearing practice. In Christendom, it is called godly parenting

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The men are encouraged to desist from seeing women as the weaker sex. It is subjective and a strategy for women’s exploitation creating the avenue of making the woman gullible, vulnerable or rebellious. Know that when women are trampled upon, they agitate for what they are being deprived of. Women should be given opportunities in the nation’s governance. For instance, no woman in this present government is a state governor, just one or two are deputies, very few are ministers and commissioners; yet the males are total failures as senators, governors and ministers hence the country is in a state of catastrophe and moral decadence.

Men should provide an enabling environment for women to use their potential to transform the world. It is recommended that there should be changes in all sectors to promote gender equality by the inclusion of women in leadership activities, economic opportunities, political appointments and policy-making exercises.

Conclusively, there is no gainsaying the fact that many women like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Margaret Ekpo, Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi have impacted the development and transformation of the world and their nations academically, managerially economically and in governance. Contemporary Nigeria women also stand the chance of contributing their quota too by identifying their talents and potential to bring about national development and have their names in the annals of the history of this great nation. Women are not the weaker sex, nor beasts of no gender neither are they rehabilitation centres in the other room or baby machines, Slay Queens or societal nonentities. Women have great potential, intellect, wisdom, patience, moral, communication skills for harnessing cordial relationships among people and purpose-driven visions for transforming the nation.


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How To Enter Sapele And Warri From Benin Now (1)



Readers’ Showers Of Encouragement
Prof. Tony Afejuku

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.

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The Witch, The Pentecostal, And Jungle Justice



Dr. Claire Princess Ayelotan

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.

Any Remedy?

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’?

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Poisoning And Witchcraft Accusations In Africa



Witch Burning, Impunity And Abuses Linked to Witchcraft Beliefs In Benue State
Dr. Leo Igwe

By Leo Igwe

A recent incident in Malawi illustrates the link between witchcraft accusations and poisoning. A lot has been said about how allegations of witchcraft manifest in various African communities, but enough attention has not been paid to how these accusations lead to the poisoning of the accused. It has been reported that two women, Tilise Kapaya, 55, and Stelia Kapaya, 64, have died after being accused of witchcraft in Malawi. The two women were not beaten to death or lynched. They took some poisonous concoctions following the allegations. The two sisters took the harmful substance because they could not bear the shame and stigma of being accused. The Police Spokesperson, Jacob Khembo, said the women went to a funeral in a nearby village, and while at the event people accused them of witchcraft. Some attendees started calling them witches. In response to this disturbing and embarrassing development, Tilise and Steila went home and took some local concoctions believed could cleanse them of witchcraft. They started vomiting and died before they could get some medical help.

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.

The Advocacy for Alleged Witches condemns the poisoning of these two women in Malawi and calls for an end to the process of administering concoctions to alleged witches anywhere in the region. There is no link between witchcraft imaginaries and these concoctions. The administration of these concoctions is rooted in superstition-based socializations. As is usually the case, these women could not have taken these health-damaging concoctions without the involvement of family members. The police should investigate and ensure that those implicated in the murder of these women are brought to justice. The government should sanction the community head in the Ntcheu district where this incident occurred. The authorities should punish any person, traditional healer, or witch hunter who recommends or administers any harmful substance to suspected witches.
Dr. Igwe directs the Advocacy for Alleged Witches.

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