By AFAM Echi
In continuing this essay let me further highlight the benefits of Juju as glimpsed from other cultures in the North and the West of Nigeria. I had in the first part focused on the experiences here in the East. There is no part of Nigeria that our cultural practices cannot add value to its development. I recall during the era of Gov. Rotimi Amaechi, before he assumed office, Rivers State and especially Port Harcourt was terribly crime infested. At that time, in broad day light after making a call a small boy would point gun at you to collect your phone.
There was these set of soldiers that were imported from the North. Some say that they are Fulanis or so. They had keys that padlocked their mouth and they mounted roadblocks. People have had to raise hands to cross the checking points and all the bad boys who venture to cross their paths with guns hidden, the key would unlock and they would catch the person. There are numerous other things juju from the north can do.
Some years ago, I travelled through the night from Ibadan journeying to the East and around somewhere close to Ife or so I saw baskets of tomatoes, firewood, heaps of yams, baskets of other food items, in a market in the open and nobody was in the market. Time was about 9pm. When I inquired about the safety of the items in the absence of anybody someone in the vehicle dared me to go and steal any, stating, ‘the gods are on guard.’
It has also been learnt that in some areas of this country you dare not go to steal anybody’s item because you must be caught. A practitioner of trado medicine who runs a bakery told me how robbers who came to rob him kept moving fire woods and fetching water from one point to another till morning. By morning everybody watched them sweating profusely and acting uncontrollably before he released them. Other residents made joke of the whole thing in confirmation.
Our society is bursting to the seams with crime even when we have these remedies. Fact is we have been badly disoriented by religion to believe that all of that is witchcraft practice and demonic, unscientific, satanic and issuing from the occult world. I have kept wondering if God created the black man an ‘evil’ before the invaders misled them to accept their own views. Could we have been evil as painted by religionists and yet we are awesomely blessed with natural endowments by the same God?
Things began to fall apart just like Chinua Achebe remarked when we departed from these realities of our core existence. I have kept wondering that in spite of how bad our traducers have demonised us yet they carted away all the artefacts and effigies they labelled as idol worship. Could it have been evil in our lands and godly in their own lands? Shouldn’t we be asking questions like this?
Today our common patrimony is misappropriated by only a few who hold the levers of government because they swear them to offices with books (Bible and Koran) which have no potency and cannot talk. The useless probe panels and inquiries have not stopped it yet we keep doing same error and expecting different result.
The culture of the black man enjoins us not to sin but their teachings enjoin us to sin and repent and confess our sins because a merciful father who died for our sins will forgive us. This also contradicts the reality we all know that everybody reaps what he sows. Why don’t we try our deities because God is not in the books?
Truth is that culture they say die hard because it is the foundation of a people. Whatever we may have been told, consciously or unconsciously we are glued to our culture because it has meaning to us. There is only confusion that it has created. When the received culture is not working people fall back to what they are conscious of. This is the reason many of us are not able to take a firm position between culture and church even if secretly. Let me explain better.
From a public stance all of us hypocritically take a saintly position as Christians who hate juju but inwardly we patronize it secretly including those who are leading the crusade. The politicians will speak against it but they patronize it during elections to perform rituals to ensure victory. God fathers among them will secure the loyalty of their surrogates by taking them to swear to an oath before the shrine.
The police, soldiers, judges and other individuals patronize it for protection and other purposes. Women and business people approach the deities for good luck. Almost all of our young boys patronize juju in their yahoo yahoo runs. In fact, my discovery in my research about the usefulness of our cultural practices indicate that hypocritically a large percentage of the society still patronize juju especially for the wrong purposes.
Speaking with a female trado practitioner, the ones usually called Ezenwayi, her revelations of how the younger ones, small boys patronize her trade for fraudulent purposes will shock you to the marrow. You will wonder the level materialism and the level the get rich syndrome have consumed us. That does not in any way subtract from the positive values of juju practice which can be tapped to improve our society.
Those who blackmail traditional worship as portending evil are not realistic. They only chose to see what they want to see. People are so consumed in ignorance and sold to falsehood because ordinary herbs which provide reliefs to so many ailments are also demonized. They forget that pharmacy is the child of herbal practice. All the medicines they consume come from the roots. They reject herbs but they consume drugs.
When people abandoned African spirituality which offers a lot to its people in terms of resolving issues smart ones in the church invaded it and have since been using it to con people. At the beginning what we saw in the churches, Anglican and Catholic were not there. Some desperate ones now import African juju to mesmerize the members in the name of miracle, signs and wonders and the gullible ones are falling cheap, If all the healing and deliverance miracles are real why are people still lying in the hospitals. Don’t tell me it is faith because I am sure nobody wants to be lying in a hospital bed.
The truth remains that juju is like any other object which can serve good or bad purpose depending on the use to which it is put. Cutlass and fire can be used to clear a bush path or light a darkened environment respectively. The same objects can be used to mow down somebody or burn down a building respectively too. Our actions rightly or wrongly have consequences which follows the doer in any case. Should we focus only on the negatives? Then we should have nothing to do with a car because the occupants do perish in a crash.
Our professors in the academic have not done well in whatever they are professing. Strictly speaking how have they been able to impact our environment with their research to create an improved life style? If they were not all consumed by the Oyibo water (beliefs) which they drank, because some are Knights and big shots in some of these churches, they would have made something out of our culture.
Sadly, we all bow to the superiority of the white man as if God left us empty handed. I remember in 1978, one Damian Anyanwu of the Radio Mbaise Fame, then a Class four student of Government Technical College Owerri, came up with 32 inventions he was inspired to produce. His radio station was made out of local herbs (leaves) and local materials he weaved together which confounded physics professors back then. His cordless microphones were made of local contents. Today, whoever hears of that guy again?
It is the same consciousness of God in man that that throws up these inventions if you know how to commune with it. Inventions are not derived from reading books otherwise our professors and the learned ones would have given us everything. They come from the spirit world and this is not received by reading Bible or Koran. Stupidly some of us argue that they gave us education but they didn’t teach us how to produce motor, aircraft, etc.
If you go to China, Japan, India etc they draw strength from their gods for their technological breakthroughs which temples and shrines are dotted all over their street. They resisted British invasion but here they told us that it is idol worship and yet carted away the idols. They only succeeded in disconnecting us from the source of supply because we have been so overwhelmed and lost in religion.
Back in the days two prominent highlife maestros Oliver De Coque and Osita Osadebe have never hidden that their music came from the water. Today the mermaid is strongly demonized even when we were told in the scriptures that the spirit of God moved upon the waters. When the oyibo engineers come to our land to construct bridges on some waters they cannot do so unless they make sacrifices to the water spirits. I have seen this, I was not told. What does that say to us?
It is difficult to convince most folks that religion is an instrument of slavery. Before it came our people knew God and served him well. The religion is a distraction. Observing closely most of us are still drawn to it while many are confused straddling between the two especially our natural rulers. What will a traditional ruler be doing in the church and kneeling down to receive prayers and goes back to commune with his ancestors.
Conclusively, we can get our society to work again by leveraging on the strength of our culture. We cannot all sacrifice our values on the altar of religious beliefs. Before religion (a set of creeds and dogmas) came we had a way we communed with God. At best we can purify some and leave out whatever may be offensive. Without returning to African spirituality, we are deceiving ourselves. Where has the imported religion led us to? Our professors in social sciences, African studies and related areas should do to work. Following the law of duality if we dread the perceived negativity in juju we should harness the positives otherwise the smart ones will continue to optimize the negatives to hunt the society. Everything is good and bad, you only need to make your choice. You make your choice and your choice makes you.