The problem some people say they have with Nollywood films are the supernatural and fetish practices which, they believe, portray Nigerians as people who believe in fetishism. The reading culture is lost in the land for if it still existed and people understood their past, they wouldn’t be uncomfortable with the Nollywood showing the true colour of our peoples. The African cannot be separated from his traditional religion. I don’t think so. Christianity and Islam are guest religions in Africa. Even practitioners of these guest religions go to the traditionalists under the cover of the night.
Africans are not the only ones to believe in the supernatural. In the Nicene Creed the Christian affirms his faith as follows ‘I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible’. The bishops and cardinals who in 325 gathered in Nicaea, present day Iznik, Turkey to write the creed knew and believed there were ‘things visible and invisible’.
In 1982, I rented a bedsit in North London. It was mid-winter. My first night there was miserable. Night came and I got under the duvet but I couldn’t sleep. The room was icy which was strange because it wasn’t long I turned off the heater. It was as if the heater had not even worked at all few hours before I got into bed. I brought out some blankets – I think two – and spread on the duvet. But sleep didn’t come still. I was too cold. I wouldn’t bore you with more details. I, who never liked to sleep with the heater on, had to do the unthinkable. I switched the heater back on. But the room was still cold till the morning. Of course I didn’t get a wink. I was wide awake.
In the morning after toiletry and breakfast, I went to buy some incense sticks. My favourite aroma has always been frankincense and myrrh. I burnt an incense stick on my return and I slept like a baby. Should I say that I didn’t even have the heater on that daytime? Amazing! But when I woke up I regretted sleeping that long. I felt I wouldn’t be able to sleep well at night which would have made it my second night of sleeplessness. Come nightfall I burnt some more incense. Surprise! Surprise!! I conked out. And that without either the pile of blankets or the blazing heater. The room was warm and cosy. I had been able to chase away the forces haunting the bedsit.
A year after this episode, I was living in the south of London. Some French-speaking friends and I decided to organise a birthday party for one of us. My flat was chosen for the party. Food was brought. Drinks were supplied. I only provided the venue and the crockery. I shouldn’t miss out the music to which we listened as we ate and drank.
The friends helped with clearing up and doing the dishes. Plates and cups were neatly arranged in the strainer. I was to put everything away the next day. The last friend departed and I had my evening bath and got into bed. The following morning I went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. When I opened the kitchen door I had to quickly cover my mouth with my hand to stifle the sound coming out. There on the kitchen floor all the plates and cups were arranged upside down. And I thought I was alone in the house! I knew I had to say something and I started begging whoever was responsible for the spectacle not to scare me. I spoke in Yoruba, English and French. I said I had come with good intentions and that my friends and I didn’t want to offend anyone. If we did we were sorry. Till I left the place I didn’t have any other party. I also had some peace ever after.
There’s more to that which only the eyes can see. ‘Mo renmo l’ Ereko. Aja we gele o roso’ – I witnessed strange things in Ereko, a dog wore gele and tied wrapper. There are people working for negative forces. How could a man infected with the HIV virus send his wife back to their country but start passing round this virus among Nigerian women just because he paid for their services? He didn’t consider them as human beings. Someone said the girls should look at it as work hazards. I was still thinking about this when another story on BBC online caught my attention. The headline read ‘My dad injected me with HIV-positive blood while I was a baby’. It’s the story of Brryan Jackson who survived to tell the world his story. Doctors believed he wouldn’t live past the age of five. He’s now in his 20s through amazing grace. Advocacy for Better Health says ‘no child deserves to be born with HIV…’ Brryan wasn’t born with it. The story tells of how his father, Bryan Stewart, returned from Operation Desert Storm a changed man. ‘War, what’s good about it? Absolutely nothing.’ One of the wives of a former Nigerian president wrote in her book that her husband became a changed man after the Civil War. People beating the war drums should understand that ‘there’s nothing good about it, absolutely nothing’. A loving father who cared for his wife and son came back from war a different person who stole infected blood from the laboratory where he worked. His son was on admission in a hospital for a baby’s ailment. He went to visit the child and when he was alone with him, he brought out the syringe and injected him. While a mother says, ‘the guilty conscience that I infected my daughter is difficult to live with’, Brryan’s father didn’t bat an eyelid as he injected his son with the contaminated blood. There’s evil in the world. But the child’s ‘Chi’ same as ‘eleda’ in Yoruba is strong.
Beware of distractions which can make one lose sight of the target. Be aware of the presence of evil and vile forces in the world. Mis-information is a distraction for you to let down your guard when you’re meant to ‘shine your eyes’. Someone spoke about negative forces in Aso Rock and others are taking jibes at him. People are being economical with the truth. Everyone is now spirit-filled, speaking in tongues. I don’t believe them. Pastors who curse the Ifa priest during the day are known to have tip-toed to the priest’s abode when dusk falls to atone and plead for power anointing. Be vigilant.