Some are perpetual doubters of its existence, others swear by its efficacy; juju (or voodoo as some know it) has been a non-said feature of daily Sub-Saharan African life for ages. The musical maestro Fela Anikulapo Kuti in an ode to black magic and its utilitarian existence, in “Water no Get Enemy”, summed it up all: “If you fight am, unless you want die”! While some survivors will dispute this claim , what is indisputable however to an inquiring mind is the role black magic has played in the underdevelopment of Africa; a continent so devoid of development its darkness literarily blankets the surface of its vast outreaches even in space!
A former Nigerian post-independence ruler pushing for an end to apartheid in South Africa supposedly pushed to introduce black magic into the equation of disrupting the external oppressor. But even if that prescription never saw the light of the day, we see the superstitious underpinning of black magic evident in the rape and spread of HIV among young girls and babies in South Africa all in the name of curing this deadly disease by having sex with virgins. We see it daily as so called child witches are molested in Cross River states, and human rituals are performed all in the name of gaining the supernatural edge. What evil haven’t been perpetuated in the name of black magic?
Black magic is partly responsible for the near emptiness of our rural areas especially in West and Central Africa as modern day economic refugees and cultural migrants flee the stranglehold of black magical powers in their villages for the urban comfort of anonymity (all things being unequal). The strong currents of rural-urban drift have been vastly responsible for the deterioration in urban living standards across Africa, and the savages of war, poverty and diseases that it engenders. The seeming impoverishment of Africa began when the rural food baskets are fled by citizens who directly link their continual association with these rural areas with real or imagined danger to life and property from witch doctors, ancestral spirits and other forces of darkness that dominate our rural areas.
If you think the urban areas are any freer from the influences of black magic, then think again. Human sacrifice, and ritual practices are a regular sight to behold at our city junctions (orita-meta), beaches and vast urban squalors. Educated men seeking the good life of the city and engaged in often contentious attempts to acquire money, power and women reach out to their various gods and goddesses in their native lands to remove the competition, and edge out their challengers. Young women hustling and struggling in the face of poverty and near hopelessness in big cities, resort to powerful black magical powers and its negativities like human sacrifice, poisoning etc. to hold men of wanton sexual pleasures at their beck and call for cold cash.
It is not uncommon in our drive to urban success to see an ably educated professor or banker dressed in suits, knelling down beneath a stark illiterate local high priest (stink and dirty in all his paraphernalia) and having a mouthful of liquor in otherwise unsanitary oracular cavity spat into our professor/banker’s mouth just so that he can get the next promotion or achieve the next big step in the continuous game of power grab. In fact, during my brief sojourn at the prestigious University of Lagos (Greatest!), a Vice Chancellorship vacancy led to an all out ritual contention of unusual bravado that only abated when the university authorities decided to seek out leadership outside the ranks of the top professors contending for the position. Can you imagine a doctorate degree holding professor, stripped down to his birthday suit carrying animal sacrifice and following a stark illiterate herbalist in the ungodly hours of the late night? Such is the lot of black magical believing African intellectuals in our Ivory Towers that should otherwise be shining the light of literacy on a very dark and unsightly past.
I lived a better part of my life in the great oil city of Warri, and it was not an uncommon sight to behold big oil wigs with their recognizable official “status” cars, parked in front of Igbe shrines in the shadiest part of township; seeking greater powers at the wee hours of the day when other business executives around the world are enhancing their power and influence by strategizing and implementing growth instead of seeking it from an high priest that don’t know the four walls of a B-School. We seek money and wealth, and perform human sacrifice to achieve instant wealth at places that you cannot place close to the kiosk of a modern day investment bank where such services should be offered.
The sad part is that even after achieving this urban success, we are held hostage to the cities by the same black magical powers that we reached out to when we wanted to climb up the social ladder. I know not a few people that will never take their children to visit the ancestral lands of their fathers due to one or more fear of the unknown. Even when they manage to make it back to their ancestral homes, the houses where they should not eat, play or allow anyone touch their head is quickly pointed out to them in a classic African gesture to the essence of evil men dwelling amongst mere mortals.
The man that sacrificed his clansmen to achieve wealth, will not go back home because the child of his clansman is girded up ready for battle to dispatch him to the land of the dead if he dares such move. Hence, our urban centers remain sanctuaries of elites that will gorge up on imported clothing, and imported goods while our country sides with rich, arable land are deserted for the comfort of imported food that constantly bankrupt our national treasury!
In our political sphere, politicians and unionists in order to protect themselves from arsonists and perceived enemies gird up in charms and native medicines to outwit their opponents. Even governorship and senatorial elections are not free from the clutches of black magic. Recently, our courts had to admit the existence of this malady of oath swearing at Okija Shrine! A governor-to-be, stripped to pants and all for power. Haba! Our campuses are overtaken with cults, that reach out to the evil tendencies inherent in this supernatural power that have bled us blood and brooded untold casualties in our midst.
Even the wife of a renowned newspaper publisher was caught red handed doing human sacrifice! And what did the police do? Cover up! Children and wards disappear in their thousands every year from our cities and villages in the name of traditional rituals or annual festivals, even as deaths of otherwise of discredited royalties provide another opportunity for blood suckers to kidnap and maim our children. At the height of the Liberian civil war, cannibalism in the name of black magic even prevailed as edifices to war crime that monster called Charles Taylor now stand accused of.
The saddest manifestation of black magic in my opinion is how it continually wrecks the life of our young. Commonplace junior school certificate exams can no longer be written without seeking some charms from “baba” round the corner. Children from homes where regular exposure to ritual and protection sacrifices, will rather immerse themselves in South East Asian black power correspondence for success at examinations than read late and hard into the night to achieve success. Cultism and witchcraft is wrecking havoc on our young minds,
while their mates at Harvard and Princeton are conjuring up the next financial product that will send us into another tailspin of global recession while their countries smile to the bank and ours reap the sorrows.
The ultimate remnants of black magic are in our minds. Long overtaken by real and imagined stories of its efficacies, our society has since been disabled from reaching out to fact based solutions from the logjam of underdevelopment. Our superstitious beliefs, always nearly makes our default mentality not to be reasoned and quantifiable self-help, but a resort to higher powers be it God (whom I know is dead sick of the supplications of Nigerians), devil, black magic or even our dead grandparents. When will Africa learn to discombobulate herself from black magic? Even as common place disease, bad luck or lack of attention to health and safety kills us off in our millions, we still attribute these sometimes otherwise preventable incidents to black magic and remain forever immobilized by our own minds from acting to prevent a recurrence. What is wrong with the black mind?
While Eastern thoughts have yielded the discipline of Japanese and Chinese industriousness, and seeds of business empires that now rival Western multinationals, and Semitic traditions gave us Algebra, Chemistry and their near impossible sciences of navigation and charting, aside from deaths and untold wickedness, what has black magic yielded us lately? Western science produced airplanes and space travel- seemingly unlikely inventions that defy gravity, while our witches and wizards are said to fly at night to astral levels and leave no recompense of development on our shores! Where is that black magic that will put the next I-Phone, Xbox or Intel microchip in our black box of computational power that will heal the seek, save the poor, feed the hungry and free us from the menace of underdevelopment?