There are various names for it; witchcraft, juju, oturumokpo, jazz, medii, ogwu, etc. They all represent the practice of resorting to esoteric, often times vile methods of harnessing seemingly supernatural forces to achieve one's aim. This "aim" could range from seeking to ÔÇśdefend' oneself from perceived (potential and real) enemies, to ensuring a life of wealth, abundance and power. In this context, ritual-murder is a breed apart, however, because it involves the taking of an innocent soul. I wish to examine how this cultural phenomenon has impacted upon us and shaped our world view as Nigerians.

Humankind has always believed and will continue to believe in the existence of supernatural forces. Over eons of time, we have fashioned out ways of seeking to ÔÇśengage' these forces to our ÔÇśbenefit', for good or ill of society. However, with the advent of the "Renaissance" in Europe, ideas assumed primacy over this often terrible, debilitating practice. It is still practiced in most parts of the world, but nowhere else does it quite assume the horrendous specter that it has become in Africa. And it has its roots in earlier times when lives (lots and lots) were slaughtered, on a regular basis, to appease some gods, or to accompany deceased rulers to the great beyond.

In Africa (I shall limit myself to Nigeria, thence) the jazz phenomenon has remained on the ascendant. Despite our colonial heritage. Despite the pervading influence of Islam Christianity, formal education and our westernized life-styles. Jazz has refused to let go of its strangle-hold on us. It is part and parcel of our collective consciousness. Some of us deny its existence, yet have a morbid fear of it. Is it possible to fear something we have declared to be non-existent? At the other end of the spectrum, you come across folks, usually functional illiterates, who are ready to swear to the efficacy of jazz. And they readily resort to it, without qualms. And then you have the elites, the power-mongers and ÔÇśmovers and shakers', in-between. My question is: if indeed these powers exist and can be harnessed by us, how come we've refused to use it for positive outcomes? 

Nigeria is indeed a land of paradoxes in this regard. In this country, you will come across a well-educated, enlightened person, or self-professed ÔÇśstaunch Muslim/Christian' who assumes an enlightened, cultivated mien by day, and consults with the jazzman, by night. I've even read and heard of cases where a ÔÇśpastor' secretly buries a whole, live being, at the entrance to his ÔÇśchurch'. This is done allegedly to ensure a sizable congregation!

What could be responsible for this state of affairs? Why the surreptitiousness? Why the reluctance to admit openly that one indulges in this practice? Why are the elite, who are supposed to be in a position to foster enlightenment, why are they the ones who seem to be falling over themselves in their quest for the acquisition of occult powers?

There can be only one answer to the questions above; evil. It is evil, when in your quest for money, you murder, or cause to be murdered, a fellow human-being who has done nothing to you. It is evil when you rip out someone's eyes, tongues, genitals, or other assorted body-parts, to use in your quest for political power, by any means necessary. It is evil when you engage in human sacrifice in order to further your personal goals. Evil of this sort is usually indulged in or carried out stealthily, for fear of societal backlash. Every other day, we are inundated with reports in the dailies, about people caught with fresh human heads, or other body-parts!

I'm not sure if I'm the only one who's noticed this: it seems the reported incidents of ritual murders increase with the approach of election periods. Power corrupts and the quest for power in Nigeria corrupts absolutely, it seems. What we do not seem to realize is that one of Newton's Laws, which posits that "for every force, there is an equal and opposite force" applies not just in the realms of science, but also in life generally. I sometimes wonder if folks who engage in ritual-murder realize that there are consequences for their actions. All the almajiris, dibias, and evil babalawos of this world cannot alter this basic natural law.

The consequences already abound; we have refused to take responsibility for our actions. We have remained at the nadir of the development-ladder. We go round in circles of evil, confusion and ignorance, blindly stumbling from one cesspool into the next. We believe our personal, private salvation lies in the accumulation of wealth and power, to the total exclusion and/or elimination of the next person. We do not believe in the Greater Good. We do not venerate ideas. I would argue that our spiritual and moral bankruptcy, directed at ourselves, is greatly responsible for our perpetual quagmire. When we indulge in these negative, occult acts, it becomes exceedingly difficult to reason in logical, scientific sequences. Science/Technology and juju do not mix. They are like oil and water. Let's look around and note that in the most powerful countries of the world, there is a sharp alignment of scientific-mindedness with overall peace and prosperity. Therein lies our predicament as a people.

The only way we can progress as a people is when we have the gumption to completely exterminate this evil practice and enthrone the supremacy of the rule of law. There are parallels in history that support my stance; the hunting down and burning of witches and sorcerers, both in Europe and the United States of America. There is no evil power that can be greater than the concerted, positive effort of civil society, acting with a common purpose and desirous of a common goal. I recognize that we are still ways from building up the critical mass needed for this endeavor, mainly because Nigeria is still a ÔÇśnation of nations', but that is another story entirely. SighÔÇŽ

Dumeme Obi Udezue

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