Attacks and killings linked to witchcraft beliefs persist in Africa. In Nigeria, Liberia, Ghana, South Africa, Kenya, Malawi, alleged witches are subjected to horrific abuses. Unfortunately very little is being done to stop this violent campaign. In fact the world seems not to care about it. This tragic situation is due to a fundamental misrepresentation of African witch hunts by western anthropologists and their African counterparts. Since Evans-Pritchard (1902-1973), African witch hunts have been mischaracterized. Western anthropologists have presented African witch hunts as other than witch hunts in Europe. They have made conscious efforts to otherize African witchcraft, belittle it and use African witchcraft tales as forms of entertainment for western audiences.
As a German friend noted some years ago, for Europeans, witchcraft is superstition but for Africans, it is not. This assumption is a categorical mistake, a misconception that persists. Western scholars arbitrarily made witchcraft a gatekeeping concept, that is, a frame to study and understand African societies. And no scholar dares deviate from this line of scholarship, explanation, and academic legitimation. There is a conflation of African traditional religion, African traditional medicine with witchcraft. Meanwhile, there isn’t such conflation in Christian and Islamic traditions that also contain teachings on witchcraft and treatment of alleged witches. And this conflation has served the interest of these cultural outsiders for too long. It has become standard practice. The time has come for this conflation, which constitutes the basis of authority and scholarship in witchcraft and African studies, to be discarded.
Based on this mistaken and racist representation, western institutions have been reluctant to come out firmly against witch-hunting in Africa. Many in western societies think that witchcraft means something different for Africans. But it does not. Witchcraft is a form of superstition for both Europeans and Africans.
In response, some African scholars romanticize the phenomenon of witchcraft, designating witchcraft as an encapsulation of African philosophy, ethics, and logic. They have forgotten that witchcraft beliefs and witch-hunting exist in other cultures and societies. And if witchcraft is not identified as part of European or Indian philosophies because witchcraft narratives exist in these societies, why should it be different in the case of Africa?
Thus witch hunt, which westerners identify with a darker and less civilized stage in their history is used to make sense of African modernity, rationality, post-coloniality, and contemporarity. This misrepresentation has yielded a situation whereby witch hunts continue to ravage the region. Now some people have wondered if there is an end in sight for witch-hunting in Africa. Yes, there is an end in sight but the world must abandon the misrepresentation, exoticization, and romanticization of African witchcraft. Global and regional institutions need to treat African witch hunts as a wild and dark phenomenon, not as a domesticated, socially useful, and stabilizing mechanism. There will be an end in sight if local and global actors begin to see the African witch hunt from the perspective of the accused and victims, not of the accuser and believer. Simply put, witch hunts will end in Africa when western and Africans place, or learn to place African witch hunts on the same footing as European witch hunts. Witchcraft is an imaginary, irrational belief. Like Godcraft, devilcraft, and spiritcraft, witchcraft is rooted in ignorance and lack of understanding of nature and how nature works!
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Witch hunts persist due to limited state presence and weak institutions in the region. Witch persecution is rooted in a lack of social welfare, poor health infrastructure, lack of effective education and policing. Witch-hunting persists due to intense religious and traditional belief in magic, prohibition of criticism of religious doctrines, westernization of science, and Africanization of magic and occult. To end witch hunts in Africa, mechanisms that are used to tackle global problems, epidemics and pandemics, should be adopted including rallying the world against witch persecution anywhere and everywhere. Witch hunts should be treated as a social disease, as a destructive phenomenon that should be tackled head-on without any reservations. Witch hunts are witch hunts, whether they happen in Africa or America, Asia or Australia. Witch hunts are witch hunts whether they happened 300 years ago, 30 years ago or they are taking place right now somewhere in the world. There should be consequences for countries and regions, governments and institutions that fail to address abuses linked to witchcraft beliefs.
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President Buhari And His Successor
By Promise Adiele
It is gradually becoming impossible to cope with life in Nigeria. Sometimes, one must invoke all the elementals of fortitude in the sanctum of the inward being to put up a pretentious smile. It is that kind of smile which deceives observers, creating the impression of wellness when all is far from being well. Hope keeps Nigerians moving, a far-fetched hope that someday all will be well – the days of political rascality and arbitrary socio-economic terrorizing of the populace will be over. Then normalcy will return to these shores. That is the prayer of every reasonable Nigerian. Unfortunately, not all Nigerians are reasonable. Not all Nigerians pray that prayer. Indeed the realization that not all Nigerians wish the country well desecrates one’s moral canvass and sense of acuity. It amounts to a wanton violation of Nigeria’s collective dignity. Why would some people wish this country evil, just why? In less than three months, a successor to Nigeria’s imperial majesty Muhammadu Buhari will emerge. Out of the three front runners – Peter Obi, Atiku Abubakar, and Bola Ahmed Tinubu, one of them will ascend the throne of authority inside the sanctuary of Aso Rock barring any eventualities.
Mr. President has admitted that he is in a hurry to quit Aso Rock. That declaration raises a fundamental question that requires clarification – is Buhari in a hurry to quit power as an individual or together with his political party APC? Certainly, many Nigerians are in a hurry to see Buhari and APC quit power for obvious reasons. Yet some Nigerians are desperately wishing for a continuation of the current macabre dance of death under APC. If indeed Nigerians agree that the conditions in the country are soul-wrenching, if, in all sincerity, there is a consensus arising from demonstrable tragic conditions in the country that the APC government is a composite failure, then, it naturally calls to question the cognitive stability of those who wish the current power machinery to continue.
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Everyone has the right to make a political choice but choices must be gauged by reason especially when they are bound to flounder on the heels of infantile convictions. A drunk can make a choice. A mentally deranged person can make a choice too. Children, in all their delinquent assuredness also make choices. Of course, the larger society will suffer if the choices made by the foregoing people are allowed to subsist because society recognizes the limitations of their discernment. If indeed society allows the choices made by these people to stand, it affirms a collective degeneration of virtue in the land. For example, should Nigerians make a choice that would ultimately snuff the remaining air out of their lives, that is, assuming all Nigerians are drunk and mentally handicapped? If indeed, like babies that are yet to develop any sense of danger, Nigerians file out to put forth their hands into fire, should elders in the land watch and applaud them? It is a simple question.
Muhammadu Buhari is, by every definition of the word, an elder in Nigeria both in age and career. From available records, he has always been involved in most events that shaped the history of Nigeria. But he is one of those that have benefitted immensely from Nigeria and therefore should never look away when the country approaches a precipice. He should react and save Nigeria in his capacity as the president and commander-in-chief. If anyone understands Nigeria more than the rest of us, it should be Muhammadu Buhari. If anyone should love Nigeria than the rest of us, that person should be Muhammadu Buhari. He should want Nigeria to succeed. He should wish Nigeria well. In that understanding, Muhammadu Buhari must ensure that no criminal whose candidacy and aspirations to Aso Rock will, besides embarrassing the country internationally, plunge over 200 million people into the depths of an economic abyss. I do not for one moment suggest that the president should interfere with the elections but he must ensure that only credible people aspire to the highest office in the land.
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Muhammadu Buhari has come face to face with destiny. He has always paraded himself as a man of impeccable morality, pristine integrity, and unblemished character. As a military head of state, he brooked no nonsense even though it extended to dictatorial levels. Those who peddled hard drugs or had any connection with hard drugs were summarily executed. Those who indulged in corruption by embezzling public funds were put behind bars for many years. Although Nigerians groaned, his no-nonsense,, zero tolerance for crooked characters was commended within and outside the country. If the young Buhari could strive to establish a legacy of forthrightness in governance and public service, one would expect, as wine becomes better with age, that Buhari would become better with age in which case, he would never touch a corrupt person with a long pole. Another question – what has changed in the present time which makes it possible for our integrity poster boy to look away while sullied characters dominate our leadership platforms and aspire to even become leaders?
Muhammadu Buhari must save Nigerians from local and international ridicule. He shouldn’t choose who will succeed him but he should stop someone from succeeding him. In the words of a Nigerian gap-toothed military ruler, “we don’t know those that will succeed us but we know those that will not succeed us”. The rest, they say, is history. As a matter of urgency, Buhari should call for the files of all the three leading aspirants and quickly begin to examine them one after another. He cannot pretend to be unaware of all the stench swelling around some of the presidential aspirants. The stench is choking, it can kill. If Buhari rules Nigeria for eight years, rehabilitates his family, revives his health, enjoys himself, and hands over the country to a misfit, he would have rubbished whatever legacy he built in the past and it would prove naysayers right that he never meant well for Nigeria.
Buhari should call for the personal files of all three presidential candidates, investigate them through legitimate agencies and examine all the issues around their personalities. When were they born? What schools did they attend? Who were their parents? What documents did they submit to INEC? Are they authentic or forged? When was the first time they traveled abroad? Under what circumstances did they travel and with what identity? What were their dealings and employment history abroad? These relevant but fundamental questions should be asked. All information regarding their employment records, business dealings, friends and associates must be investigated and laid bare. The office of the president cannot be so shamelessly lowered to accommodate a fraudulent character for political reasons. There must be a limit to the Nigerian hypnosis which, as it stands, confounds even the dead.
No presidential aspirant found wanting in terms of morals and character should be allowed to participate in the election. At this time in Nigeria’s history, the country cannot afford to gamble with its future by enthroning a shady character to the highest office in the land. Finally, Buhari should demand that the three presidential aspirants should submit medical certificate which proves that they are healthy and suitable for the office they desperately seek. The comprehensive medical examination should be carried out by a foreign independent medical firm. This is to forestall any case of forgery and manipulation because it is clear that some of the presidential aspirants are steeped in forgery and double standards. Buhari has a rare opportunity to immortalize himself as a true patriot, democrat, and Nigeria’s all-time Mr. Integrity. If he fails to do the needful history will not be kind to him.
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More Conversations Nigeriana
By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
Professor: We lost a colleague yesterday!
Amina: My condolences! Was he ill?
Bankole: Is there anyone who is not ill in Nigeria?
Professor: He dropped dead at home after teaching for two hours earlier in the day. Gone!! Just like that. No warning. No preparation. No serious illness. Alive this minute, dead the next! He went behind his flat to pump water and collapsed. Died before help could reach him!
Amina: Definitely his death was caused by stress, stress caused by the prolonged strike and the government’s harsh response! Eight months without a salary after most of them had taken loans from friends and banks in the hope that they would repay the loans when salaries were paid. All that was shattered by a harsh no from the President!
Obukohwo: May his soul rest in peace!!
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Professor: His soul will not rest in peace until Nigerian rulers are punished!
Egbule: Who will punish Nigerian rulers? Who? Even God seems to have given up on them!
Amina: God has not given up on them. He is preparing them for something drastic that could change the political landscape forever. What exactly it is I do not know! But this cannot go on forever.
Professor: The young man was a very passionate and committed teacher. There is a video in circulation in which he strapped the baby of a female student who was writing an examination to his back. What else do you need to demonstrate compassion? Now, he’s gone unfulfilled to the great beyond.
Bankole: There are too many sudden illnesses, deaths, and suicides these days. People can hardly feed. There is tension. School fees of children. Skyrocketing inflation and rents! As the bible says, ‘men’s hearts failing them for fear!
Professor: The public university system is in its last stages of credibility. Very soon, serious academics will take their exit because of the humiliation they suffered under Buhari, Adamu Adamu, and Ngige! I’m also thinking of an early exit, after all, I will continue to enjoy my pension. This is the time to look for something else to do.
Amina: If you quit because of three persons what will become of the system? We have to fight them.
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Professor: Fight them you say? Fight who? Fight Nigeria? Fight the federal civil servants, or the cabal in government, the judiciary that was used to attack ASUU? I’m not in a fighting mood anymore. This morning, I chatted with a senior colleague who said that as committed as he was to education, he was ready to retire at 65 rather than wait till 70. There are quite a number of academics who are thinking like this now. I mean, here is a guy who has spent his entire life in the system, sworn to making an impact and suddenly he feels that he has wasted his time in a system that never appreciated him. Not a good feeling.
Bankole: Who feels good about Nigeria right now? Is it the farmer or the banker or the student? May be politicians are happy with the mess we have found ourselves in because they thrive on confusion.
Egbule: We have a chance to create the Nigeria which we want in 2023. God has arranged it. Massive votes for the acceptable candidate and rejecting the others. That’s the way to go. Whether Nigerians will accept the offer is another matter entirely.
Amina: I’m not so optimistic. The old forces are ready for war!
Obukohwo: The situation is fluid. We are not sure about the plans of Bubu. Does he support any of the candidates? Does he want his party to continue at national level even though his performance has been abysmal? Does he want power to remain in the north?
Professor: It will be wishful thinking to believe that he does not want his ruling APC to continue to rule. The only point to counter that is if he remains clannish and directs state machinery into retaining power in the north. This second point will simply strengthen our fault lines- two countries living in one geographical space. And now that oil has been found in commercial quantities in the north, the two countries may now emerge.
Bankole: Not so neat and proper. There are other variables to consider.
Professor: Such as…?
Bankole: Religion. The international community! Economic interests!!
Professor: The major determinant to current mutual existence is the oil. Once everyone is sure of their share, the tension will be reduced.
Amina: There are minorities in the north. In fact, once we break up, there will be no end to it. We could end up as six or more different nations.
Professor: What is wrong with that? I’d stay in a small country and have my peace and security guaranteed than stay in a big nation that cannot guarantee my life and prosperity because the state has failed in its duties.
Obukohwo: I agree with you. We in the Niger Delta can now control our resources. We have lived too long in poverty.
Egbule: We have also created problems for ourselves. What have leaders of the Niger Delta done with the resources allocated to them? See what Wike has done with infrastructure. Can we say the same for the other governors?
Professor: Let us not regionalize corruption and inefficiency. Corruption is well seated in all the states in the country. Resources are not being properly channeled into development. As it is in Kaduna, so it is in Rivers or Delta or Lagos. It is a class thing. It cuts across party or ethnic lines.
Amina: Who will save Nigeria?
Bankole: It is only God that can save us.
Professor: God will not come down to save us. We must save ourselves. We must put aside petty grievances and squabbles to bury the hatchet in the head of a common enemy!
Amina: And who is that common enemy?
Bankole: the devil!
Professor: The devil in our political class!
Professor Eghagha can be reached on 08023220393 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Man Who Saw Today From Yesterday
By Sam Akpe
It started as a mere fantasy. Today, it’s mission accomplished. Let’s go back to 1976; in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. He was in the primary school. Occasionally, he sneaked out into the city during break time; on a walk through the streets, with a classmate.
On this day, something unusual happened. They were chatting, laughing and stopping at every shop to admire the goods, hoping that someday, in future, they would walk inside and come out with baskets of goodies. At every boutique, they naughtily waved at the mannequins. It was fun.
Just as they were about returning to the class, they noticed a big, fenced premises, with people, dressed in white shirts and black suits, emerging from big cars. Each held a black gown—the type worn by church choir members. “What’s happening here?” The two boys asked no one in particular.
Quietly, they tip-toed into the premises, and looked through the big windows. It was a court session. The Judge was seated. Lawyers were arguing. No one else spoke. No laughter. No movement. Extreme decorum. After a few minutes, they quietly walked away, afraid and confused.
With that unplanned visit, a career was born. From that point, they were no longer interested in supermarkets and mannequins. Almost daily, they went straight to the same State High Court to watch proceedings, peeping through the windows.
Although they hardly understood what was going on, they thoroughly enjoyed the courtroom drama comprising the bombastic legal jargons, the gesticulations, and the way lawyers interjected each other while rising to their feet.
Today, as you read this piece, Inam Akpadiaha Wilson, one of the boys in this story, is being inducted as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
After watching those court sessions several times, he made up his mind to become one of them. From primary to secondary schools, he kept dreaming, Today, he is living the dream.
From Onna Peoples High School, Inam had moved over to Government Secondary School, in Eket, where we met. With an unmistakable mischievous smile; plus, a sarcastic sense of humour, he was already behaving like a lawyer—walking with dignified mien. Believe me, he has hasn’t changed one bit.
Twice he took JAMB, and twice he was refused admission to study law. At the third try, he got it, though his score was below the cut-off point. By his confession, it still remains a mystery how he got the admission. But he did. One hurdle jumped.
The next of the hurdles was money. As the fourth child in a large family, with a-civil-servant father, it took the intervention of his uncle for him to pull through. It was not a smooth ride.
Then he became playful and lost focus. Friends started calling him NFA—no future ambition. This happened at what is now the University of Uyo (formerly, University of Cross River State).
One day, a Ghanaian lecturer—now a serving judge in Accra—called him to order: “I’ve been watching you. You’re not focused. You no longer attend classes. You’re all over the place, wasting away. If you continue this way, you will never graduate.”
Inam listened attentively. The man continued: “With your own hand, you are trying to undermine your future. You look like a promising young man, but for some reasons, you’re misdirected. I am telling you now, turn around while it is still possible. Change your ways. Else, you are doomed.” Tough words. Bitter truth.
Inam confessed to me, “That was my turning point. I left him with an undertaking to heed his advice. I assured him that the final list of graduands will have my name on it. Truly, if I had continued along that path, all these would have been but a mere dream. I repented.”
Called to the bar 32 years ago, Inam, as we still call him, started his law practice in Aba as an intern. His desire was to be in Port Harcourt, where he dreamt of walking boldly into the same court that he used to watch proceedings, peeping through the window—the very place where the dream started.
One day, he encountered a SAN, and got awestruck by his demeanor. From the manner the man addressed the court, Inam noticed a touch of extraordinariness.
He confessed: “I saw something different about him; and I said, ‘yeah, I like that. I didn’t know what it would take, but that encounter planted a desire in me. I started dreaming of being like him.” Another dream!
Inam’s journey to the top was soaked in sweat. He described his first initial years in legal practice as hell; “I almost died in the process. There were days I stayed at the bus stop without a dime for transportation. Yet, I was a lawyer, practicing in Lagos. It was that bad.”
In February 1998, he suffered acute typhoid. Admitted in a hospital, he lost blood, grew lean, “in fact, I saw heaven and I thought I had passed on. But I survived it. I had no money to pay the hospital bill. Friends came to my help.”
At a time, some of his friends urged him to leave Lagos. But he stayed on. He chose to die, trying. He saw today from yesterday. His tenacity paid off. Then things started changing as he got hired in big chambers owned by Senior Advocates of Nigeria.
Gradually, he started making court appearances on big cases. With a master degree in the kitty, his approach to legal practice took a new turn. Judges started noticing his intellectual depth, fluency of arguments and incontestable submissions. They were impressed.
From one big chamber to the other, he created undeniable impacts. Perceptually, Inam moved legal practice from a mere profession to the realm of passion. He hit the limelight, arguing and making submissions in the Supreme Court. His qualifications for induction as SAN started accumulating. But he wasn’t in a hurry.
Just before he clocked 32 years in practice, he finally applied. The process, as usual was tedious, unpredictable. He knew he was qualified, but so were others. The applicants were in hundreds until the final interview when they were counted in dozens. It was tension unlimited.
At this stage, the statutory qualifications gave way to other considerations. His interview was on September 27. He later received unofficial confirmation of impressive performance. But then, a decision would still have to be taken on how many persons would be given the rank in 2022.
Fortunately, he was the only surviving candidate from Akwa Ibom; but not the only one from the South South. After the geo-political consideration, the panel set a cut-off mark at 85%. It was time for final elimination. On September 29, the waiting game reached a nerve-cracking point. It was the final day.
Noon passed, no news. Inam was in Abuja, alone in a hotel room. At 6pm, there was still no information. Applicants kept calling each other for updates. Tension rose to boiling point. At about 7:30p.m., he got a call from a SAN, who simply said, “Congratulations, my brother, you made it.”
Confused. Alarmed. Inam replied, “How? Is the list out? I haven’t seen the list. Have you seen it?” Many questions in one breathe.
The senior lawyer replied, “Come on, do you think I’ll just call you to say congratulations when you haven’t made it? You must see the list before you believe me? Okay, I’ll send you the list. You are number 18”
As the first call ended, another SAN called to congratulate him. Inam knew that these two people would not call him if they were not sure, because they were not regular callers.
Finally, the list came out. His name was number 18. Alone in the hotel room, he screamed and jumped. It was a mixture of joy, relief, tears, everything. “Me, a senior advocate?” Yes, mission accomplished.
Before he could wipe the tears off his eyes, the phone started screaming with calls. Things changed so fast.
A few days after the list of new SANs was published, Inam went to Port Harcourt where he had a case at the National Industrial Court. Since he was not yet inducted, he was careful not to announce his presence as SAN.
But a senior lawyer on the other side could not hold back. Just before the first matter was called, he stood up and said to the judge, “My lord, with your kind permission, I wish to inform the court that my learned friend, Inam Wilson, is now a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.”
The judge responded: “Are you serious? Congratulations Mr. Wilson, oh that is well deserved. But why didn’t you announce yourself as a SAN?” Inam replied, “My lord, I have not yet been inducted. I have to wait until that day.” The judge agreed but added, “All the same, you are a senior advocate.”
Inam enjoyed the atmosphere with the same school-boy mischievous smile. Of course, his matter was called immediately, in accordance with the privileges reserved for SANs. He was even accorded the advantage of an early date for the next hearing.
Trust Inam for a little more drama. He went to another court where he had no case at all. Straight to the front, he sat. The presiding judge personally announced, “Mr Inam Wilson, SAN. I notice you. Welcome to my court. I hope you are not here to disrupt my proceedings.” Inam responded: “No my lord, I just came to greet my lord.”
Certainly, this additional credential comes with a burden of its own. In addition to his previous efforts, he must still groom, train, and mentor junior lawyers in the best standards of practice and etiquettes of the profession.
Inam told me as though in confidence: “Now, you can no longer just go to court without enormous preparation because your opinion is supposed to be weighted and well considered.
“When you speak, there’s a presumption in your favor that you are speaking authoritatively—you must speak good law. The audience, the judge and other lawyers are supposed to listen and learn. You must advance the law.”
Curiously, none of Inam’s children is interested in the legal profession. Inam believes the reason is deeply rooted in the nature of the job. He revealed: “Yesterday I was with a few of my colleagues and we were brainstorming over this issue; because it doesn’t seem to be peculiar to me.
“One of the things we found out is that the children have seen us burn the midnight candle; working late nights over the years. They go to bed, daddy is working. They wake up, daddy is working. So, they ask themselves, is this what they must go through as lawyers? For most of them, it’s scary.
“Law consumes you; especially when you aspire to the highest level. It takes over your being. In fact, everything you do is law. Since the children belong to a new generation, they like things easy and breezy. But I’m still praying for them.”
In every journey to the top, the road may not be straight. It comes with detours, contours and breakdowns. But you must not lose your direction. Even when you have veered off, try and bring yourself back on track. Look up. Look ahead.
Inam told me, “You must be disciplined. There is no amount of vision or aspiration you can accomplish without discipline. Discipline is what makes you stay awake all night reading, while others sleep.
“Discipline wakes you up in the morning to prepare because you have a case. Discipline is what tells you watch your mouth, watch your desires. Self-discipline makes you delay gratification and measure your enjoyment. You can’t have it all at the same time.”
Congratulations, my friend.
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