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Remembering Akinwumi and the medicine man


People close to us never die from us. We look for them and we don’t see them immediately, now to talk to, to bounce an idea off and to ask a question. There are not near us, yes, but they never go away from us. This is how I feel about people close to me who had gone away and when they will return I don’t know.

But they do return from time to time.
Let’s look forward to chance meetings
And those get together that only dreams conjure
Such will be our togetherness
Thus will be our meetings.

This is how Akinwumi Isola hits me these days that he has gone away. I had picked up his play “Ayeyẹwọntan” and I wanted to direct it with the University acting company. I got my six year old son to do a drawing of a big bully man who having made it big, begin to misbehave. It is an exploration of the sources of evil among the well off. Why do they do it?
We dey waka bare foot Car rider they vex with we.
We dey chop vegetable and mushrooms Rich person dey vex how come we get chop at all?
This is an eternal teaser of a question.


Something else I remember Akin talked about once on an idle Saturday morning on Road 8 at Obafemi Awolowo University. It had to do with whether or not native medicine works or not. There is the speech in “Death and the King’s Horseman” of Sergeant Amusa to the effect that black man medicine cannot harm white man, that is the D.O. Pilkings. Akin said someone came to tell him of a Blackman medicine that could turn bullets into water. Akin said he would like to test the medicine, if it works or does not work. How did he expect to test this medicine?

He asked the medicine man to go and bring the medicine. The medicine man needed money to buy the ingredients to prepare the medicine. Akin Isola gave him money and he went away to work on the medicine that would turn bullets to ordinary water.

Over the years we argue up and down. It exists, it does not exist. Now you see it, now you don’t. And educated black people do not believe because they have read too much book. People who make this accusation do not remember that Christians do not believe in the efficacy of these medicines. Like “maagun” “don’t do it with her” because the husband has placed a medicine on her and anybody who as much as touch her would bounce off her and die!

What about throwing pepper at someone? Whatever is thrown changes into some worm, which then eats into the target person until the person dries up slowly and dies, all the time showing no sign of any pathology known to western medication.

Two more examples before going back to Akin Isola’s medicine man. A sick wife is carried from hospital to a prophetic church and from there to the shrine of a medicine man. None of these can say specifically what is wrong with the woman. But all can see that she is sick and that her life is slowly slipping away. The husband is frustrated and so listens to everybody and anybody who would advise him. A friend tells him that only the person who is hurting her can provide the antidote to her illness. It is not a disease and so it has no cure. The husband thinks and remembers a woman from their church who did not like his wife. He goes to report to the chief of the village that so and so lady in their church was hurting his wife unto death. The chief asked the accused women to go and bring a broad backed goat and some money. On this the lady swore if she was hurting the man’s wife. After that they go away. The wife dies and nothing happens to the accused woman.


The other story happens when two young ones meet and begin to see each other with the prospect of being husband and wife one day. In the meantime the girl friend goes to consult a medicine man who looks at her future. What the medicine man sees in the girl friend’s future is that if she marries the boy friend, the boy friend will die. Naturally, girl friend tells boy friend and asks what to do. The boyfriend asks if she believes the prediction and she says she does. The boyfriend then breaks up the relationship. Not twenty-four months later, girlfriend gets married to someone else. This new person then goes and dies.

Whose future did the medicine man see? His or hers? When Akin Isola’s medicine man comes back with the medicine, he procures a .22 riffle and a goat. The goat is specially prepared with the medicine. After that the goat was tied to a post. There was some argument as to how close or how far the gun should be from the target. The medicine man was certain that it did not matter, near or far. The bullets turn to water on contact with the wearer of the medicine. Also of importance is the incantation that must be said just before the bullet touches the target and turns to water. Everything is now ready and the gun is cocked. The trigger is pulled and the goat instantly bleeds, not water, but blood and dies.

So, concludes Akin Isola, the medicine does not work for the goat. The medicine man wonders if there wasn’t something missing. Really, what would that be? There should be an incantation to go with the gunshot. Maybe the goat should have lifted its left hind leg and said the incantation to make the medicine work. Maybe we should get another goat and teach it the incantation and also the lifting of the hind leg. But how to teach the goat to say an incantation? To lift the left hind leg?It was the end of the experimentation. Maybe it works. Maybe it does not work. Only God knows. See you Akin Isola is our dreams.

In this article:
Akinwumi Isola
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