By Toyin Falola
Nobody go ask if you don chop
Nobody go send you free money
If you no get na you sabi
Adulthood na scam!
Nigerians have always been able to express their thoughts and views in the most straightforward and humorous ways. They accomplish this in terms of their actual conditions by using slangs, other gestures, or even dance moves. Slangs like “Adulthood na scam”, “Japa”, Sapa, Shege, and Las Las are sociolinguistic expressions that capture Nigerians’ thoughts and realities. When talented Lade created the “444” jingle for Airtel, perhaps only her close friends and family were aware that she was the composer of the catchy tune that had people bobbing their heads and lip-syncing whenever the commercial jingle played on the radio or television (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQHTY0FZins). I love the song so much that I went in search of her!
In Adulthood na Scam, Lade, in her melodic voice, sang about how things are for grownups in the country, and the song quickly gained popularity among Nigerian young people and even adults. Being an adult includes the hustle and bustle, the need to have good financial standing, getting less attention from others, and eventually yearning to revert to childhood. Many individuals identified with the song and concurred with the singer that life as an adult is not as idyllic as they had imagined or would experience it, and they wish they could go back to being kids. The phrase “Adulthood na scam” was largely agreed upon by the populace.
Mo gbe o!
My landlord wants my overdue rents
Baba Isola is dead!
I don’t have his number in heaven
I drank gari this morning
I smoked gari this afternoon
I don’t have gari left for the evening
Mama mi Isola is dead!
She gave me iresi for breakfast
Amala for lunch
Iyan for dinner
She does not pick my calls in heaven
My best friend at Unilag has sold his computer to buy rice.
He is a Lecturer 1
Better paid than Lecturer 2
Is 2 not greater than 1?
Mo gbe o!
I know Bose, a secondary school teacher at a high school that belongs to my friend. She only hopes for a meagre amount of thirty thousand naira at the end of each month. She is a graduate and a single mother, and also battered with enumerable responsibilities from her family, being the first child. From the N30,000 (taxable), she feeds herself and her innocent little boy. She pays her rent and struggles to do her duties as the eldest sibling of her low-income family. This is not only a sad story but one that tears the heart apart. Hurting, isn’t it? She begs friends and colleagues for money now and then. She is ashamed; her benefactors are tired.
Right on the Lagos highway in Ikorodu, Joseph lives in a one-bedroom apartment with three other roommates. I know him through a friend who hired his brother. He is well-paid. The joyful news is that Joseph is a very talented computer guru who works with a top tech company in Lagos. Recently, he was moved to one of their branches on the Island in Lekki. But the sad story is that the company has no plan to provide accommodation or transportation allowance. He earns N400,000 monthly but struggles to save N10,000 at the end of the month, so he goes from Ikorodu to Lekki every day, spending a lot of his salary on transport fares and nearly as much as the time he spends in the office to commute to work and back. He sleeps in his office from time to time. Luckily, or maybe not so luckily, for him, he impregnated his girlfriend, and now they have to live together. This means he will pay for the entire apartment if he asks the three other roommates to leave. He will also take care of his newly unwed wife and the baby. Sadly, the parents of this school-dropout girl have been demanding. Last week, he had to send N50,000 to his father-in-law, who is yet to make up his mind about the dowry list—all these responsibilities from a seemingly huge looking N400,000.
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You, reading this, know more people than I do. You know their incomes. You know their stories. These are the lucky ones with jobs!
The National Bureau of Statistics and the United Nations Office have been conducting the “Corruption in Nigeria Survey” since 2017, and they successfully did so in 2017 and 2019. This was done after receiving responses from 33,000 Nigerians at least 18 years old in the 36 states. In the study, they listed the main issues facing the country, which impact the realities of Nigerians. These include ethnic animosity, drug trafficking, corruption, high living expenses, unemployment, and issues with infrastructure, housing, health care, and education.
The slang Adulthood na scam! raises concern about how the low standard of living in the country affects citizens, as growing up means you will have to start taking responsibility amid a high unemployment rate and the low probability of getting a job that allows you to live comfortably. Unemployment is one of the most pressing problems in Nigeria. Thousands of youths with qualifications have to endure years at home doing nothing despite the responsibilities that come with age. According to Trade Economics, the youth unemployment rate in Nigeria increased to 53.4 per cent from 40.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2020. An increase like this impacts adulthood in the country; many youths are stranded or unable to shoulder the responsibilities and expectations of this stage of life.
There are three stages to life; first, you are a child, then you become an adolescent, and later an adult. According to an Encyclopaedia, childhood begins at age one and ends circa age 12-13, after which adolescence begins, where individual transitions from childhood to adulthood. This Encyclopaedia puts adolescents between 10 and 19 years; it is the shortest of the three stages of life. Adulthood takes a larger share of one’s life. In many countries, individuals are considered adults when they reach the age of 18. Wahala arrives!
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As a child, one lives a relatively easy life, and the major difference between most rich and poor children lies in the care they receive. At this stage, you can play as much as you want. Your parents would be happy to have you away so you can have fun, and as long as you do not suffer bodily harm, everything is fine, and you can always come home to ready-made meals. During this stage, you earn ridiculous amounts of money, material gifts, and love, especially if you are a cheerful, smart, and witty kid. Children are unconditionally loved, and their only nightmares would be the lack of freedom of speech, thought, and choice, as well as the numerous errands they are made to run.
During adolescence, youngsters try to prove to others around them that they are no longer children but are now grownup. This is where the suffering begins. You are put in many rough situations to demonstrate that you are no longer a child and can face life’s challenges. At this stage, your wants and needs increase geometrically, and the rate you get free money and other gift items decrease arithmetically, putting you in a tight angle. Also, the unconditional love you receive as a child reduces gradually, and the love you get will now be determined by your looks, behaviour, and efficiency. However, the joys of being an adolescent lie in the fact that you can now access more freedom of speech, choice, and thoughts, and most of the time, you are in charge of younger people and can lord over them like a real adult.
The adulthood stage is the last. It begins around 18 to 20 years of age and is maintained for the rest of one’s life, making it the longest stage. This time, you are as free as the birds in the sky; there is total freedom of speech, thought, and choice. At this age, you either receive love or hate, depending on what kind of grownup you are. This age can be tasking as adults like you, adolescents, and children expect you to make things happen. Your finances will largely depend on how you earn, how much, and how you spend. Your wants and needs, which now include that of the children, adolescents, and adults under your care, will never end. Do not expect material or monetary gifts at this period of your life because they will reduce geometrically.
An average child wants to leave the childhood stage and be an adult. They envy the adults’ freedom. One of the biggest pains for a child is waking up early when school is in session while the adults relax and do their things at their own pace and time. Children want to grow quickly to that level and be free of the school burden. They envy adults who are rich and long to get to this stage of life where they have their own money (not as gifts). However, these children fail to realise that adulthood comes at a steep price. Adults only give out money after taking care of a long list of bills and responsibilities, and being present when their children go to school is also part of their duties as parents. Since no one explained this to the young ones, adulthood looks like a paradise to them, so when they get to that stage and face the reality that adulthood is not what they thought it would be, frustration sets in.
This type of frustration inspired Lade’s “Adulthood na Scam,” which means being an adult is a fraud. Lade sings about how adults do not get free money, how no one cares about an adult’s well-being, how they have to hustle all day to make ends meet, and that they must manage their finances and pay bills. If we are being realistic, is adulthood a scam? Or is it that some adults do not know how to manage their affairs? Or is it the environment that has made life torrid for adults?
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Firstly, the hustling part of adulthood is non-negotiable. It is the backbone of adulthood. As an adult, you need a source of income, if not several, to sustain your life. This does not make adulthood a “scam,” as it is just normal. As an adult, you become the giver rather than the receiver; therefore, you should expect the rate at which you receive freebies to reduce significantly, and you should start giving more. This is another reason the hustling part of this stage of life cannot be negotiated.
Secondly, how adults manage their finances will determine whether they consider adulthood a scam. Many people cannot make a scale of preference or even differentiate between wants and needs; they just spend on anything and everything. Most times, people spend on things that do not add value. Expensive clothes, jewellery, alcohol, and so on, all on a relatively small budget that would cover their needs and take care of their younger ones. This means they must work extra hard to tick all their boxes, and surely, this set of people will believe that adulthood is a scam.
Lastly, society or the environment plays a major role in this matter. More developed societies like the United States of America and China have better economies, unlike Nigeria; therefore, it will be easier for adults to survive in these societies than in Nigeria. In America, for instance, one may get a job and a car at 18 (a fresh adult), even if it is on loan. Sadly, such is not the case in Nigeria, where adults in their late twenties struggle to secure a job that does not take care of their needs, let alone secure a loan for a car.
“Adulthood na scam” is largely based on the adult’s perspective and the realities of their localities. To some, adulthood is the survival of the fittest! They have chosen to kala and daju, ignoring every responsibility of being an adult. Instead, they adopt the stance that las las everybody go dey alright!
Adulthood is not a scam; scamming is for adults! I still have space for adoption if you want to end adulthood and become my baby. Not babe!
Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.
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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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