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We need the devil

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Wilie Obiano. Photo: ETIMES

In case you missed the story, here it is. The secretary to the Anambra State government, Professor Solo Chukwubelu, publicly admitted late last week that there are evil spirits in the state government house. It is not necessary to wonder what one could make of this.

Coming from a professor, it must be true, if disappointing in the 21st century, easily the most advanced with a comfortable distance between it and reason beclouding superstition. Professors do not talk about what they cannot defend with empirical proof. I just hope the professor does not feel compelled to call a press conference to show the world some of the evil spirits caged in the government house. But it would have been nice to see what evil spirits actually look like – in chains.

People with valid claims on civilisation must have been put off by this whole primitive talk of evil spirits finding a home in the Anambra State seat of political and economic power because they believe, not without good reasons, that with the dark ages in human history behind us, superstition had had its dark days and yielded place to the age of knowledge and enlightenment. That in this enlightened age of science and technology in which man has conquered most of his fears of the unknown, we still speak of evil spirits tells you the human mind is still ruled by the consuming fears of the unknown.

Man is not that enlightened after all. But there are good reasons for recognising evil spirits. The same reasons, as I will explain in the course of this piece, throws light on why they still have Okija shrine in the same state to which Chris Ubah once dragged the then Governor Chris Ngige to pledge his loyalty to him before the gods.

Chukwubelu raised an important point about things that do not make rational sense to us in this country anymore. We cannot understand why we are determinedly losing our common humanity. We are not our neighbours’ defenders any more; they are our enemies. At no time in the history of this country have things been this confused and confusing. Blood flows daily in various parts of the country because killing has become a macho sport of the senseless.

There were crimes we could deal with – corruption and what former President Jonathan called stealing, for which EFCC exists to load dockets in the courts. We have lived with armed robberies since Shola Oyenusi and his men went to the stakes at the Bar Beach more than 40 years ago to pay for their crime. But I tell you, we are helplessly scratching our heads, trying to make some sense of what has befallen our dear, dear country. Kidnapping, cattle rustling and the killings without rhyme or reason. Our worst enemies could not have wished all of these on us.

When things are bad, you look for someone or a group of persons that must be blamed. The scapegoat has always served mankind in various ways. Once you pick out the scapegoat and hold him responsible for the evil that holds the society hostage, the solution to the problem becomes more manageable.

Man has always found it convenient to point a finger at one permanent culprit – the devil. Every evil thing either comes directly from him or it is instigated by him. His duty since he was expelled from heaven has been to run the ring around man, poor, puny man. I am assuming, I hope correctly, that evil spirits are devil pikins, doing his bidding by keeping human beings in a permanent state of fear.

In making the devil the scapegoat, we excuse our failures; we refuse to own up to our wrongdoing. In the last few months, we have seen a great deal of this in the news media. A man slept with his two daughters and when the law caught up with him and asked him why he did what was both unlawful and morally reprehensible, he said the devil pushed him to it. A man raped a baby but refused to accept that he did something so evil because he is depraved. Instead, he pointed his stubby fingers at the devil. A man converted public funds entrusted to his care to his own private wealth; when the law frowned at his action, he defended himself as a man who took the advice of the devil only to see that he had soiled his clean hands. The devil, always the devil.

This, of course, is pretty convenient because a) the world has been in the habit of blaming the devil for all the evil in the society and b) no police detective would ever arrest the devil and drag him before their lordships to respond to the allegations against him. Blaming him is safe.

We are dealing with a huge irony here. Next to India, Nigeria is statistically the most religious nation in the world. The evidence is everywhere with houses of worship competing with residential buildings in our villages, towns, and cities. We would rather have places of worship than factories to give jobs to young people. Some men and women wear their religiosity on their sleeves to loudly differentiate them from those who have not quite distanced themselves from the devil.

Given the daily railings at the devil and his pikins down the length and breadth of our land, you would expect the horned one to be wise enough to keep a safe distance from our land. It must be baffling to many people that the devil and his pikins are able to breach the ramparts erected everywhere to keep them out and make their homes where you least expect – a government house, for instance. Why?

I offer you one possible logical explanation. Our politicians are the great patrons of organised religions and the mode of worship rooted in their cultures and traditions. Always, pragmatic men and women, they like to play it both ways by engaging the services of the men and women of God and at the same time engage the services of juju men to pave the way for them to gain the kingdom of political power.

A wise man must have a fallback position. By patronising both sides, he ensures that if the holy books for whatever reason fail him, his ancestral spirits would kick in and snatch electoral victory from the jaws of defeat. Similarly, contractors who find it difficult to be paid, take their cases to the juju men and the prayer warriors. It helps to have someone you could run to when your fellow men and women try to make things difficult for you.

It is no secret that many, if not most of our politicians, do not enter the various political races without first consulting both sides to receive their blessings, encouragement and assurance of victory. Some of them are driven into that wilderness on the advice of marabous and prayer warriors who assure them they have seen their victory written in clear colours like the rainbow in the sky. Some politicians engage both sides on a virtually permanent basis. While one group harangues God with the stridency of prayer warriors, the other group quietly offers sacrifices of sheep and cows to persuade the gods. The way to the heart of the gods must be through the stomach too, I think. All these for generous fees, of course. The good book says that the labourer is worthy of his pay.

Think about this: politicians employ thugs during elections to do the dirty work of persuading or punishing their political opponents. If the thugs are not well-taken care of after the elections, they do become serious problems for their former employers and the rest of the society. I wonder if this too is the case with the devil and his pikins. Could this be the reason the evil spirits are in Anambra Government house?.


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