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My People Perish

September 11, 2015

By Crouching Tiger

I recently had a lengthy discussion with a friend who resides in the UK. We talked about different things, ranging from what is happening in each other’s lives to general issues facing the country like insecurity, fuel subsidy crisis, etc. We continued until we touched on some of our beliefs in Nigeria which today I find ludicrous or plain stupid. We talked about the ease with which people blame their woes on witches, most times their jealous relatives in the village. We talked about beliefs in the supernatural, the occult, influence of the spirit world on the physical plane and she found that my thoughts were corroborated by one of her childhood experiences which she then shared with me.

When my friend was a kid, her mum used to give her a glass of milk every evening, before bedtime – na ajebo o. As a child, she was always sick and was always taken from one hospital to the other, without any being able to propose any treatment that could give her some respite. Believing it was something spiritual, she was finally taken to the village in the south. Some things were done which she can’t remember completely. However, she remembers that food was cooked and offered to a group of kids that were about her age. They ate the food with their bare hands and were asked to wipe their hands on her body after eating. She was not allowed to eat with them.

Apparently, this was part of some sacrifice, amongst other things , aimed at setting her free from the children of the spirit realm that were trying to get her back to their world. She returned to Lagos after the experience but continued to be sick. Some months or so later, her family relocated to the UK. Not long after, she was taken to the hospital as she continued to be sick. She was diagnosed to be lactose intolerant, milk drinks were stopped and she became well. It was that simple!

As kids growing up in Nigeria, we were told stories and read books about children that came from the spirit realm just to torture their parents for some crime the parents or ancestors committed. They were usually very beautiful/handsome, very delicate, and lovable, yet, always very sick. So sick, that their parents spent all their resources trying to cater for their medical needs. They still ended up dying, only to come back again and continue the torture. Part of the solution we learnt was that, sometimes, the bodies of the dead kids are marked/ mutilated badly to prevent their return or to provide a means of identification when/if they return.

Different cultures in Nigeria have names for them like Abiku, Ogbanje etc. In my mind, I just see a description of children with sickle cell. If a man and woman whose genotypes fall into the AS category have kids, there is a 25% chance of having a child with sickle cell. I remember that in junior secondary school, it was presented as if out of every four kids, one will have an SS genotype and it is usually presented pictorially as the fourth. In reality, it can be the first, second and can even be all four.

Now, there used to be a man in my Grandma’s village who really loved me. I only have pleasant memories of him from our meetings as a kid as he always gave me goodies. However, I remember that there was this year we went home for Christmas and I went to visit my old friend and he gave me sugarcane. I did not eat it until I got to a few steps from the house, then I bit into it with the aim of peeling the hard bamboo-like skin. The next thing was “gboa” on my head as Grandma’s slap made contact and the thunder-like clap reverberated in my ear drum. “Have I not warned you never to take or eat what strangers give to you without my permission?” she screamed. She seized the sugarcane and hid it away. We both forgot about it until about a week later. She asked me to go fetch her something from her store; there I found the sugarcane – rotten!

Years later in the city, we heard that my old friend had passed on. Strange was the fact that news came that before died, he was getting rotten in the leg and this was seen as a sign that he was evil. He killed people with juju, wizardry and all. One can argue that he may have been truly evil and could have initiated or harmed me with the sugarcane if I had eaten it. However, I see parallels between his getting rotten in the leg and a diabetic with a sore and no medical attention.

Also, I remember an old woman we knew as kids, from our Christmas visits to the village, who was said to have been pregnant forever, without delivering the baby. She was quite old and had a big stomach. It was said that she was under some curse or spell by witches. Is it possible that she was suffering from fibroid?

Finally, less than a year ago, the nation was gripped with fear of the Ebola virus which had come into the country through the recklessness and irresponsibility of Patrick Sawyer. A lot of preventive measures were proposed by the health authorities amongst which were regular hand washing, avoiding contact with the infected and avoiding bush meat.

Again, with our gullibility put to the test, we heard about salt baths/drinks, eating of large quantities of bitter kola and other ludicrous tips. The fact that people believed, tried and propagated the broadcast of such spurious cures/preventive measures suggest that even with the level of education of the average Nigerian today and the preponderance of information on the net and otherwise, our society is still steeped in superstition, which can be as a result of intellectual laziness. People will prefer to believe any story that has a touch of mystery or the supernatural to explain problems, irrespective of how illogical it is.

During this period of Ebola crises, I imagined what would have happened if this had started in a remote village or if it had struck in the 1800s. The villagers would have died in their numbers and believing it was a curse from angry gods, would have consulted the oracle or witch doctor. The high priest who usually claims descent from ancient apothecaries or to have been chosen by the gods, if already not consumed by the disease, would have claimed some abomination had been committed and would have used a series of tools of divination to find out the abomination and how to cleanse the land – possibly human sacrifice.

If it is in modern times, people will now run from the cities to get there folks out of the villages and that would have increased contact ratio and caused the disease to spread like wild fire across many cities at the same time. The story wouldn’t have been different from that of the great plague or great influenza in history. In reality, it was easily nipped in the bud because it entered through Lagos and through a standard Hospital with an excellent doctor in the person of late Dr. Stella Adadevoh who raised a red flag immediately Sawyer was suspected to have the virus. Unfortunately, she lost her life in her fight to keep us safe from Ebola. God bless her soul!

As a country, we were able to beat Ebola because fear forced us as a people to learn about how to protect ourselves. There was abundance of information everywhere and people devoured it with insatiable appetite, not just because Ebola was a killer, but because it killed very swiftly and there is no known cure.

The questions then are, must we wait as a people until we are faced with a disease as ruthless as Ebola before we wake up, be informed about everyday matters? How can we still have supposedly educated women who do not understand something as simple as how to count a menstrual cycle in this age? How can we still have guys who believe that by practicing coitus interruptus, there is no chance that a woman can get pregnant? Knowledge, they say is power and our success over Ebola, gives an indication of what we can achieve individually and as a people if we get a bit more aggressive with our quest for knowledge, or, we will continue to die in accordance with the bible verse in Hosea 4:6.

From → Faith

  1. Anonymous permalink

    Yes there are powers and there are things that are beyond us medically etc but why not find the cure first before assuming? Imagine ur friend was intolerant to lactose the fact she took milk every night aggravated the intolerance, i bet you one granny would suggest they take her to the village for cleansing. It high time our thought pattern changed. We need to stop this mentality ao we can move forward.

  2. Nimi Koru permalink

    Thanks for this wonderful write up

  3. Ebikeme Adowei permalink

    This is yet another classic from the stables of the Crouching Tiger.
    Ignorance or the inability of a people to embrace scientific knowledge has largely been the bane of underdevelopment and backwardness especially in Africa.
    The earlier our government realizes this and embarks on mass sensitization of the populace at the grassroots through the relevant agencies, the more we will record cases of needless suffering and deaths.
    This is the era of change! Let us all change to the “light”!

  4. doohwz permalink

    Very nice! It truly helped me see that there is a link between lack of knowledge, laziness and gullibility.
    Reminds me of some one who graduated with a 2.1, has sat @ home waiting for a job to meet her and blames it on her parents who brought ill-luck upon her by taking her for traditional medicine wen she was a child.(what happened to applying for jobs like every oda person.pple d believe some tins sha.

  5. Ignorance is our greatest flaw and it is especially sad because information is at our fingertips yet we refuse to improve ourselves. Take for example, in America as well as in other developed countries, women are fed a liquid meal a couple of hours after undergoing a C Section and a proper meal the following day. My sister’s friend who had same operation in Nigeria some months ago was finally allowed a glass of water two days after and a meal three days after.

    Nice write up! I especially like the part about safe sex.

  6. semmyat permalink

    Hmm the ‘Abiku’ part is just making sense to me now. Not like I ever believed those stories but I never gave it a thought that it could be as a result of sickle cell. Nice write up CT. Thanks for the ‘informate’ 😀

  7. Ashley permalink

    Yes Mister! Lovely piece.
    I pray to give myself to the knowledge of very important issues in this life. Not just because I do not want to perish but also with the knowledge I get, I am empowered to do more, better myself & people around me.
    God bless U Crouching Tiger. I wish this will be publish to the wider public.

  8. Ime permalink

    Excellent piece!
    I can relate to that story of kids eating and rubbing their hands… hmm.
    Ignorance is really expensive. We should open our minds to the information that abounds in our time and with wisdom, sift the wheat from the chaff.

  9. benny permalink

    Lmaooo….interesting piece,knowledge is power indeed!

  10. Well said Tiger,.Knowledge is not just about knowing things,.but in the application of what we know in our everyday lives,.its still so shocking to see two young adults who are Both AS gene carriers deciding to get married and hoping they wont have a kid with SS genes..

  11. Jenny permalink

    If jazz or juju or whatever it is works, why haven’t we been able to bewitch or enslave the white men!! This only opens the mind to the fact that there’s a basic explanation to most things, search till u find it.. Assumptions nd ignorance kills..

  12. Statistics is a wonderful science. It helps keep things in perspectives. Lack of proper historical records has been one of the biggest problems confronting Africa. If there were records, we likely would have noticed a pattern of people who had rotten legs before they died. We probably would have correlated it with their lifestyles. Cancer has been around for long in Our clime, yet we ascribed it to punishment from the gods while the west classified and named it.
    Today, we fight corruption by policing instead of using data, which we don’t have anyway! The day we begin to look at things we don’t understand dispassionately, we will begin to see accelerated progress as individuals and as a people.
    Sheikh CT these write ups not coming as often as they should! Is there a need for a protest?

  13. Anonymous permalink

    A top notch diagnosis of some of our archaic beliefs and intellectual laziness which has cost us torture n loss of lives.Even the avalanche of information on the internet is not enough.We need expositions like this to help drag our minds away from some of our superstitions n shambolic cultural beliefs.

  14. Uyi permalink

    Another nice piece. Everyone can relate with the stories. Especially the Ogbanje/sickle cell history.

    Seriously I can pardon our forefathers for lack of knowledge but I can’t do same for generations that where educated and choose to be ignorant.
    To your question, you need a rational mind to want to look beyond self and want to improve the system with acquired knowledge if not in a country like ours where you need to get everything done yourself, it is only crises like “Ebola” that clearly threatens our existence that can bring the best out of us. Though I wish we could be more proactive

  15. Anonymous permalink

    Excellent piece….this reminds me of a story my mum once told me,how a woman was left with her rotting breasts to die,simply because the villagers thought she was been punished by d gods for adultery…keep up d good work.kudos!!!

  16. Anonymous permalink

    My cousins boss who is white one told the staffs he’ll give who ever showed him our almighty juju 200k. Sadly the ebola crisis also showed how as much as we are educated, deep down lots of us are still illiterates. But thank God we were able to contain it.

  17. Mavis permalink

    Beautiful write up. Its sad to say our.society is still backward in their thinking

  18. adeola damilola permalink

    Thanks 4 d enlightenment…but hardly can d Africa factor(ideology) b erased,guess that’s wat makes us Africa

  19. Now this is it.. .thumbs up CT…this is so true… Everything is spiritual in Nigeria, pregnancy delay after marriage = Witches, because it can never be medical issues.
    A lady in her thirties nd is still single = it must be spirit husband… It’s funny, really. Lol.

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