I was going to just let this pass, but the frequency with which news related to FETISHISM in Nigeria continued to hit the airwaves, left me no choice but to qwerty my two-pennies about it.
A few days ago, a woman who deals in human parts and her accomplice were caught by the police in Lagos, and on interrogation divulged the price list of various parts of the human body.
This is coming on the heels of the discovery of a kidnapper’s and ritualist’s camp in the Soka area of Ibadan, southwest Nigeria followed by another in a neighbouring southwestern state, a few months back. Before now, there’s been the Otokoto case in the East where a gang of headhunters and their sponsors were arrested following the beheading of a young boy. Then it came to our knowledge that not all mad men roaming the streets were truly mentally unstable as some were kidnappers used by a cartel to pick kids on the streets to be used for ritual purposes. Some of these mad men (and women, as with the recent case in Lagos) had on their person GSM phones back in the day when it was still a luxury amongst Nigerians, which tipped off many of the people around before they were apprehended and handed over to the police, and in the ugly cases lynched (just this past week two suspected kidnappers thought to want children for ritual purposes were lynched in Abule Egba and Iyana Ipaja areas of Lagos).
Despite the number of churches and mosques that dot the landscape of Nigeria’s major cities, you’ll still find relics that point to the fact that fetishism is still very much present and in high regard by a section of the society, if not even majority. It is not unusual to see sacrifices (êbô in the local parlance) reminiscent of biblical “meal offerings” placed at strategic positions on roads in Lagos, and other areas of southwest Nigeria, especially where roads, even bridges fork, known in local parlance as “ôrítâ métâ”. I was meant to understand that these furcations are frequented by spirits, malevolent and benevolent, mainly at night, to which those who have presented these offerings expect one favour or the other.
You just need to take sometime seeing Nigerian home movies, the popular Nollywood to see how pervasive the belief in the fetish has gained ground amongst Nigerians, even amongst the so called “believers” of the Christian and Muslim faiths. Doctors are even portrayed in those movies telling patients that the illness they suffer from has defied orthodox medicine and it will be in their best interest to “ti ésè îlé bô” (consider traditional remedies).
Some churches, especially of the “white garment” variety also indulge in practices not far from what you’d find at shrines of traditional herbalists, diviners and mediums. Most of the members of these churches are usually in transit, mostly attending orthodox Christian churches where they think they couldn’t find answers to their sundry challenges, but found refuge at the white garments’ till such a time as they can be rid of them before returning to their former fold.
You may also find same with white garment Judaism sects in Nigeria in acts which the term “Olu Mmuo” in the local parlance literally meaning “Spiritual Work”.
Some Muslim sects also aren’t left out in turning to fetishism, indeed some Imams and Alfas have gained quite a following and popularity for supposedly possessing supernatural powers, some even dabbling into the art of PALM READING.
Nigerians love miracles, and they are going the length and breadth of the country and outside of it to seek it, even at one lake somewhere in the southeast where it was rumoured to have healing powers, yet under the full glare of the press none of those immersed in the pool of water (before it vanished) were healed of their ailment, yet thousands with different communicable and non-communicable diseases continued to take a plunge, while others bought Jerry-cans from nearby vendors (who were making a killing from sales) in order to scoop some “miracle-water” for their non-ambulatory siblings, wards or even parents back home.
The harsh economic realities under which the majority of Nigerians live, and the sense of helplessness that pervades most of the people contribute in no small measure to the desire for quick fixes to the myriad of challenges they face, and it is this situation coupled with a health care system that’s distressed that charlatans have taken advantage of to ripoff the gullible who are always there for the taking.
The requirements for most of the jobs range from simple but difficult to find like cowries, barks of trees and other flora, cockroaches, Nigerian Naira or kobo coins, rats (of which the main ingredient maybe its buttocks), to the rather outrageous including food items for making soup, textile materials and the likes, to the very serious, including human parts, a full live human or a corpse or corpses; all depending on the gravity of what the client wants done.
One of those clients from lore wanted to live forever, and after the necessary rites were performed, he was told that only by flying or in a flying object would he die. The millionaire henceforth put an end to flying till he died a year later when the Mercedes Benz car he was been chauffeured in lost control swerving off a bridge into the lagoon below.
I stand to be corrected, but most of the so called solution providers as with miracle pastors and imams are frequented by women mostly who appear to be roaming from one place to the other in search of solutions. The seekers may be required to go in the night to deposit mealy sacrifices at positions where the roads fork, dressed in particular attire and speaking to no one, to and from their destination.
Some are required to bath in rivers naked either in the day and night, while throwing their bath soap and sponge in the river or stream, signifying their problems or challenges being carried away with the current. Rituals may also include the strangling of fowls or pigeons and the client bathed in the blood of the bird, or a goat killed and incantations made to transfer the death that should’ve come to the man to the unfortunate animal. I have even heard that some men are cooked in some big pot to make their bodies impenetrable to bullets and sharp metal objects, this is found mainly with criminally minded fellows like armed robbers, while politicians and those seeking bountiful wealth may be required to sacrifice humans especially those whom they love dearly, the plot of many a Nollywood movies.
Now, this isn’t to disparage the work of what you might term genuine diviners and mediums who you’d find across most parts of Nigeria, but the truth is that the majority of those plying the trade today are charlatans and scammers taking advantage of the desperation in the land. I have often wondered how it is that someone with powers to make others rich live in subhuman conditions in some forest or bush with the barest facilities.
The implication of the proliferation of fetishism in our society is the lack of belief in ones’ self to be able to surmount challenges. It brings about a laziness akin to a poverty of the mind, to want to ascribe the conditions of life to some lord, spiritual or temporal, or as it were to people known or unknown to the one seeking entanglement from some phantom chain.
The solution, in the eternal lyrics of the late Robert Nester Marley is to “emancipate yourself from MENTAL SLAVERY, none but ourselves can FREE our MINDS”.