Witch, sexism and christianity

Those who can make you believe absurdity can make you commit atrocities – Voltaire

With technology we get regular updates of this ancient display of cruelty melted on innocent people in our communities.

Around Christmas last year there was a photo of an elderly lady circulated around, she was thin and frail. She was found climbing an electricity pole and in no time people gathered and made up their stories about her – the easily believed one was that she got tangled up in electric cables as she was returning from a witch meeting, so turned back to human as the cables were too strong for her feather. Thankfully, there were enough sensible people in the crowd as the woman was helped down the electric pole.

Dementia is not widely understood/talked about in Nigeria. I have heard people saying it is àrùn àwon alákọ̀wé (disease of the educated onesas if something in our DNA is changed just by being educated.

There are always hints to many madness in our society – publicly humiliated ones are often elderly, poor and more often than not, are women.

I knew just one man ever that was accused of being a wizard, he was feared, no one ever thought of hurting him, people can only gossip and never to his face. A  few years ago when I asked my dad why that chief was accused of being a wizard despite no evidence of him doing bad thing to anyone. My dad’s explanation shed more lights to the dark side of how women are perceived in our society. He told me that this man who inherited substantial farmland was a bully and selfish. He had four wives and more than a dozen children, he used his children to work the farm from very early age. OK. His sin? People could not understand how someone who had so much wealth refused to support a few children in school, who does that if not a wicked person? The most educated ones amongst the children only had primary school certificate at the time when others with less wealth are doing more for their children.

I grew up to know this man in his 70s and of course the rumour of being a wizard so I learned to look at him with side eye and never think anything bad because he was so powerful and capable of reading thoughts.

But why didn’t people stone this man because of unfounded rumours and yet the same group of people are eager to humiliate, shame and ready to kill a woman for similar wild imaginary tale?

Nigeria christianity and witch hunt:

Today I came across another incidence of an old lady, this one, according to Olofofo adugbo ‘neighbourhood gossip’ it happened at The apostolic Gospel Church somewhere in Lagos. The woman looks old and thin. She was on the floor rolling around to hide her face from the stones being thrown at her. Video clip too upsetting to post here.

The crowd were yelling:

Ki lo wa se nibi? Ta lo ran e wa? – What have you come to do here? Who sent you?

Here people calm one another down:

E duro na, e ni suuru – Wait, be patient.

E je ka gboro l’enu re – Let us hear words from her mouth.

This last line is telling. Because these church goers are somehow convinced that lack of electricity, jobs, fair distribution of wealth, security can now be blamed on this helpless old woman – they now talk to her as one would a child or worse, inferior. What a people.

Church accused witches get the worse treatment because ministers spend time reciting bible passages as if it was written yesterday. I like to remind myself that the Oyinbos that introduced christianity to us stopped the killing of women on the basis of rumours long time ago – ‘1716 was the last time a woman was hanged publicly in England and 1747 was the last time a woman was burned for being a witch anywhere in Europe’ (Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature).

This was possible for the Europeans due to substantial research that proves that anyone would say anything under pressure and when facing death. So why do we still allow our people to be brainwashed into humiliating innocent old people like this? I will never understand.

One way of ‘connecting the dots’ is to understand that we are not all perfect, and that old age has its many surprising sides – it is a whole new challenges for many of our elderly regardless of gender. Disease such as Dementia, a gradual deterioration in ability to think and reason like younger years is very common.

As Steven Pinker pointed out in his book that witch hunts is vulnerable to common sense – I totally agree with this sentiment, especially in a country like Nigeria with so many social and economic challenges, it is pointless trying to cite obvious objective examples.

All I can say is that since we will all grow old one day, a little act of kindness will go a long way to treating old women who come our ways, men too of course but I know we seldom torment old men.

We are no longer in isolated world, symptoms can be researched to educate one another rather than leaving all our fate on faith leaders.

We should care enough

Sometimes in 2000, miles away from Nigeria, a friend and I, during our many stories from home said to me ‘our children will have to fight that out, our generation didn’t benefit much from that country, no point even talking about likely solutions to its never ending drama.’ She pointed to her then seven year old daughter saying it is her generation that will go back to Nigeria to fix all the wahala. 

I did not have any child at the time so really can’t stretch my imagination to seeing my children dealing with issues that I can’t be bothered with.

The video clip below shows protesting students of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomosho (LAUTECH) after 8 months straight of strike by the university’s staff – same story of non payment of salaries by the government.

The video of Oyo governor addressing protesting students is too upsetting, but not at all unexpected. Here is the link for that one. Sometimes, it works when a public official shows a little bit of concern, this guy, Governor Ajimobi doesn’t give a damn as he displays in the video.

According to a family who lives in Ibadan,  Ajimobi is known for speaking like eni ti ori re ti gable (simply put: a jerk), sadly calling him names don’t help, what will help is for these students to continue protesting peacefully until their school is opened for studies.

LAUTECH is a university caught up in the middle of two states – Osun and Oyo so it is easy for both governors to play ping pong with funding. I am still not sure why Osun can not wash off its hand in this school leaving all for Oyo to deal with.

Anyway, what I have learnt from Nigeria government from the 80s is that there is no real care for public education. Ajimobi’s key point was that there is no money to pay salaries that he has accumulated for 8 whole months. My question is, why not work with the school management 8 months ago to find working solutions so students can stay in school, even if it has to be increase in tuition?

I know why – for someone who started his political career as a senator and now a two term governor. I doubt any of his children has ever walked into any public school system in Nigeria. The state is ‘cool’ enough to govern but he is too much of ‘Constituted Authority’ to relate to the challenges of what people have to contend with.

I read somewhere that one of Ajimobi’s daughter is presently in the UK studying – next time another Oyinbo says Nigeria leaders are Fantastically Corrupt, rest assured they knew exactly what they are talking about. Who else would hate his/her own people so much and refused to invest in public education?

Now I have a better answer for my Seattle based Ibadan friend who thinks kids born in diaspora are the ones to change Nigeria. My own kids will have to read and do thorough research in order to sift through layers of lies and unfulfilled promises. It is not their job, it is all of ours especially those who have lived though the system.

Even for today’s adults, we still give benefit of the doubt to many who didn’t deserve it  – hence we have President Buhari (GEJ isn’t an option nonetheless) However, those that have lived through decades of deterioration of public education in the country are the ones to revolt against unfair system – hence I really feel for LAUTECH students, no one but themselves can figure out better ways to revolt against unfair system. Others will follow when they lead.

I know politicians would say just about anything to get into the office but I think the blatant neglect of public school system in Nigeria is very bad – they just don’t see the effect as their own family aren’t affected.

More power to LAUTECH students. I don’t think Ajimobi will change overnight, but I sure hope these students continue to disrupt their endless meetings.


Royal stool

Nationally, Nigeria is one big house of drama. One thing that I have realised lately is that while there is no shortage of outbursts from citizens on issues that we are not happy with, a lot is going on regionally that are being swept under the carpet. When regional leaders are left to their devices, they later become our national representatives by which time they are completely deaf to citizens outcry – maybe it is to our advantage to pay a bit of attention locally.

Take for example the case of Oluwo of Iwo – the drama going on with Oluwo of Iwo and his neighbour, Iwo Oke. Theirs is not the first time royal families would throw words to one another due to power tussle. However, this particular case is different, I believe it is one that new king of Iwo owes us explanation.

The gist of the story – allegedly, Oba Abdurasheed Akanbi of Iwo, prior to being crowned as the new king in 2015 has served time in prison in both USA and Canada for advance fee fraud. Oba Iwo Oke accused Oba Akanbi on the ground that people with such questionable character should not be allowed for such a prestigious position in Yorubaland.

One wonders why simple background checks was not done on Oba Akanbi before he was selected to be the king.

Osun state magistrate in turn ordered that Oba Abdurasheed Akanbi to appear in court to clear his name. Long story short, he did not honour the court order.

So a few days ago I read that former president Obasanjo and governor Aregbesola worked together to ensure the case against Oba Abdurasheed Akanbi is withdrawn from court – no explanation given.

I don’t have anything to say about Baba Obasanjo – he is one of those elders who continue to meddle with issues just to stay relevant, he is most of the time on the other side of anything that benefits the public. When, they think children of nowadays have no respect for elders – why would we respect an elder who assume their opinion is better than millions of us?

Now why did Aregbesola join OBJ on this? I don’t know Oba Akanbi, but the allegation against him is quite serious, wouldn’t it be good if the state supports the effort of the court to get Oba to clear his name?

Not clearing his name with substantial evidence simply means forever, Oba Akanbi’s name will be ‘Yahoo, yahoo Oba’ and Aregbesola being the sitting governor who authorised the coronation will be forever remembered for the cover up.

I had actually thought Oba Abdurasheed Akanbi would do us all the favour of appearing in court to tell us his own version of the story.

Oba Akanbi being a returnee from Canada should know better, if there’s one thing that Nigerians are labelled for around the world is the advance fee fraud, many people only get to know the country due to numerous emails of a supposed wealthy politician who was killed in a plane crash and his only son Prince and of course the offer of a cut of the wealth if their victim allows the prince to launder money through their account – I can’t even believe any serious person would not dash to the court to clear their name being associated  with such offence.

As Nigeria stands today, traditional Obas are still influential locally, they are often quite heavily involved with politics, people tend to trust the Obas as there are assumptions that they have their best interest at heart.

Being a king is honourable, however one of the reasons respect for royal families dwindles by the day is the assumption that we are still back in dark ages, today a lot more is expected. Respect should be reciprocal, a leader who desires royal lifestyle should at least earn the trust of the people.

If we think our judicial system must be better nationally, locally we need to allow them to do their job too. Osun magistrate had threatened strike if they were prevented to get Oba Akanbi to stand in court to clear his name, fingers crossed for them.