I was picking up a few books at the library a number of weeks of ago, and I happened to walk past Ben Okri’s book “The famished road”. The book is rather old (published in 1991), and I had heard so much about it (the book won the Booker prize for 1991) but never read it. So I added it to my stack, and I finally finished reading it today. My thoughts? Strange book! On the one hand, the book is focused on deep poverty and the exploitation associated with it. On the other hand, it explores these themes through the eyes of Azaro, a spirit child (aka Abiku in yoruba) who lives in the physical world, but has spiritual eyes, and whose brethren in the great beyond are always trying to get him to cross over to the other side. Thus, there were a lot of really strange apparitions and creatures described in the book, as Azaro got into one hyperspiritual situation after the other. Very well written, if rather bizarre book. Some of the oyinbo reviewers seemed to think of it as some sort of whimsical village fairy tale. I kinda found it disturbing actually. I am not begrudging the author’s right to use his imagination anyhow he chooses, but I was disturbed by the fact that there are actually people (too many people) on our great African continent, who still view the world through a very spiritual, though perverted and darkened lens, as vividly described in this piece of literature.
A couple of months ago, the news broke about the horrible treatment meted out to so called “witch children” of Akwa Ibom. The BBC (or some other British channel) did a documentary on the phenomenon. Its all on youtube, but unfortunately, if you live in the US, you cannot watch some parts of it because of copyright issues. You can watch parts 3 and 6 though, and though incomplete, its pretty powerful, heartwrenching stuff!.
And here is another piece of it-I found it floating around on youtube:
If you just want a quick recap,you can read all about it here
A couple of months later, ABC did some investigative reporting on Witch Children in Congo. Its pretty similar to the Nigerian case, and just as disheartening:
Alright, its unfortunate that the segment of the Nigerian documentary on Helen Ukpabio is not available due to copyright issues as she is the individual I really want to focus on in this post. For those not in the know, Mrs Ukpabio is an evangelist and filmmaker whose main ministry emphasis is exposing witchcraft and eradicating it from our society. A cursory perusal of her website will soon show you her witchcraft obsession. I am sure you know where I am going with this. This “lovely christian lady” is at the vanguard of the campaign against witches in general and child witches in particular in the state of Akwa Ibom in Nigeria.
I have mentioned that she is a filmmaker. I am an avid watcher of Nigerian movies, and I had heard a lot about one of her movies “The maid” which was actress Mercy Johnson’s first vehicle in Nollywood. Mercy was supposed to be spectacular in the role, and so I tripped over myself to get a copy. GOOD HEAVENS!! You can clearly see Mrs Ukpabio’s worldview in this movie. The househelp got infested with a spirit of witchcraft, recruited the kids, who recruited their classmates, who started killing members of their families. Very, very, very disturbing philosophy! Bothered the heck out of me.
You can watch the trailer here or if you have time on your hands, watch the entire movie :
Note: I don’t usually encourage people to watch movies online, but I will make an exception in this case. I would NEVER EVER encourage anyone to buy this disturbing movie. EVER!!
Anyways, I put up the movie to show you Mrs Akpabio’s worldview, and just how deranged it is. There have been several organizations (non christian by the way!) who have fought back, provided homes for these kids, and seeking ways to enlighten people as to the error of their ways. Some of these organizations organized a conference to discuss the issue in Calabar about a month ago. Here is what happened:
IN THE NAME OF JESUS OOOOOOO!! AMEN!!
So, how do we even begin to solve this kind of problem ehn? How do you convince people that what a child needs is love, care, protection, mercy, food, shelter and education, and not the stigma of witchcraft? That children who cry are perhaps sick or hungry, and are not witches? That troublesome children are perhaps hyperactive and are not witches?
And here is what bothers me the most: I have not seen the churches in Nigeria get involved in this matter. There is a Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). I have not heard an official statement o. When they wanted to criminalize homosexuality, we heard from them, but far as I know, they have been silent on this matter. A lot of NGOs are doing stuff, but not the churches. Hmmm! What manner of Christianity do we practice?
GOD help us o.
Final note: Just wanted to clarify that I am not hating on Ben Okri’s book. Its very well written with vivid imagery. It just reminded me of Mrs Ukpabio and her worldview is all.