Sunday, December 09, 2007

Hosea 4:6

Today's Observer has a harrowing piece on child witches in parts of Nigeria. The children are beaten and bound - treated like animals. It always infuriates me to read or hear about stuff like this. Not because it's about Africa, and it reflects badly on me (my ego isn't so easily bruised), but it taps into my righteous indignance as a human being. There are some things which should be seen as universally evil, about which there cannot be any debate, and this is one of them.

I see no religious or cultural justification for treating children - who cannot defend themselves - in such a manner. It displays some of the basest and most abhorrent (an overused word) behaviour of humankind.

Stories like this are reported often enough, taking place in Britain, and in Africa. But I know how easy it is to brush it aside as some kind of filicidal fringe. It isn't. I remember my days at a boarding school in Nigeria, one of the Federal Government Colleges. One of the boys in my dorm was cursed enough to be branded a witch, along with his siblings. Nobody would eat with him. If you've been to boarding school, you'll know how important sharing food is to the collective experience and the strong bonding that goes with it. For nobody to touch your food, is for you not to exist. Nobody would be seen hanging around him, or any of his family. The kid was probably only about 11 years-old, and he already knew what it meant to be ostracised. I've written about this before.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller is one of my favourite plays of all time. Like I've said before, when Arthur Miller wrote it, he used the Salem witch trials as an allegory for Senator Joseph McCarthy's hounding of suspected communists. He probably didn't write it with Nigerian snake oil salesmen and helpless African children in mind.

Hosea 4:6 says, "my people perish for lack of knowledge." Have I taken it out of context, and twisted it for the purposes of this post. Maybe. But people are perishing because of their ignorance, and I think it's apt to use a Bible passage to illustrate this point.

Watch the video. Read the piece. Get angry.


Chxta said...

I'm speechless.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm only commenting because '1 Retorts' is grammatically incorrect and is driving me a bit mad. I have already told you what I think.


Nkem said...

MC, hope my little tweak has restored your sanity for all time!

mochafella said...


I wonder if the causative influence of missionaries isn't being exaggerated. It sounds to me like a lot of already extreme native superstition is simply exploited by the churches and their pastors.

Chxta said...

...and later a lot of 'Christians' in Naija would claim that the fanatics we have in the country are all north of the Niger.

I'm still seething about this.

Nneka's World said...

Sometimes i hate the context in which "religion" is taken to be.

This is why its written in the commandments "thou shall not take the lord's name in vain"

Ignorance, greed and just plain stupidity!!!
I am just really sad and pissed off

UndaCovaSista said...

I share your indignance, knowing without a doubt, that the motivation behind pain and suffering that these children are subjected to is not even from a desire to 'free' them from the ties of so-called witchcraft. What does that leave us with? Sadism. Pure and simple...

The Law said...

I could kill someone right now!

Barney Cullum said...


First off- Great to have African shirts back!

Now, I'm mainly writing to ask you to expand on your views on superstition driven child abuse in Nigeria. Is it really more than something on the fringes of West African culture, as you seem to be saying it is? How common do you think it is?

I also read that article in the Observor and I found both that piece and your blog v interesting. I have to admit that I thought that sort of thing, while very real and horrific, WAS on the fringe of (West) African culture. It's interesting to hear you say that it's a lot more commonplace than I had previously thought.

I'm writing an article for Uefa at the moment on African football achievment. My editors have asked my to provide more colour in the precise form of war, witchcraft and superstition. I am loathe to do this as my article is supposed to be about African success on the football field and I don't want to use my pages to reinforce negative "stereotypes".

I have thought for a long time that Africa is painted with yesterday's paintbrushes. As a British Nigerian, do you feel the same? Or do you think that Africa is defined fairly in the media?

I hope these are the sort of questions your blogs are supposed to provoke! Keep up the good work mate.


Barney Cullum said...

Having just read your Dec 3rd blog I think I have my answer..!

Enjoy your trip

Anengiyefa said...

We have all been screaming our outrage at this horrendous story coming out of Akwa Ibom. But everywhere I've looked in the blogosphere, I am yet to find one single suggestion as to what needs to be done to rescue these poor kids from their tormentors..nor has anyone suggested any serious deterrent action to be taken against those pastors. Is this not what we should be seriously considering? Are we not by our collective inaction failing those children?

Anonymous said...

About a month late but whatever, my parents lived in Eket and I just want to say that not everyone in that community supported what was done to those kids, there were quite a few people that left them food and brought them clothes otherwise those kids would have starved, some of them were eventually taken to the motherless babies home, soooo the point I am trying to make is do not damn the whole community

Kelli said...

There is a way you can help. I have been researching this for a while and have created three petitions that let our voices be
heard. Please sign them for the children.

Thank you for posting this, the more the word about this gets out the better.

Thank you,