By Promise Adiele
Teaching Oral African Literature affords me the opportunity to critically engage magic, sorcery, animism, and voodoo as ritual practices. No doubt, these practices are global but there is an unspoken conspiratorial conviction about their primordial origin in Africa where they are domiciled and perpetually revalorised. Therefore many people view them as African phenomena. In truth, Africans cannot deny their collective predilections towards these practices because they formed part of their indigenous religion, tradition, and culture before the advent of Western ideologies which, according to Chinua Achebe, led to things falling apart. Beyond the spiritual, symbolic roles of these ritual practices, they provide a framework for traditional societies to formulate codes of moralities and existential ethos. These practices have continued over time but continuity should provide a balance where hierarchies of different tensions are resolved which in turn form a historical logic. The re-enactment of rituals for money and sundry purposes lacks any historical logic.
In the days of yore, magic, sorcery, animism, and voodoo as ritual practices served various purposes for Africans. When there was drought and famine, Africans offered sacrifices to their gods. When sickness ravaged the land, sacrifices were offered. When circumstances confounded the living, they consulted the dead to ask questions. Generally, through constant propitiations via ritual processes, Africans lubricated the spiritual thoroughfare between them and their ancestors. In contemporary times, these practices currently represent significations of spiritual vulgarity in many parts of Africa including Nigeria. The most offensive is the morbid recourse to these practices by Nigerians for diverse purposes including wealth creation. Today, magic, animism, and voodoo as ritual practices have become, unfortunately, avenues to advance material progress, victory in elections, success in businesses and many other indulgences which represent the idolization of mammon, the irreverent, vindictive god of wealth. Every day our newsreel is inundated with various accounts of how young men of different ages engage in rituals to make money. These accounts summarily violate the inner sanctum and sensibilities of a normal, well-disposed person. They grate at our humanness and question the future of our society.
Currently, the African practice of spiritual regeneration through diverse ritual processes has become a source of diabolic fetishism to create wealth. I watched in utter horror a video where young men were defecating in public and eating their human waste for money rituals. No arrest was made, no voice of admonition, and no one bothered to show concern. Rather, people were busy video-recording the scene to circulate on various social media platforms. Indeed, our generation is collapsing fast. I read the story of a 28-year-old young man who, after graduation, could not secure a job. According to the account, the young man used one of his testicles to undertake a ritual and enter into a convenient with the devil, the suzerain ruler of the kingdom of perdition. Afterwards, the young man became a billionaire. Promptly, a chieftaincy title was conferred on him by the elders in his village. He built a hospital, constructed roads, reconstructed the market square, demolished the local church, and built a cathedral. Three years later, thunder strike mangled his body beyond recognition. He writhed in pain and confessed his dealings with the devil before he died. According to another account, a 24-year-old young man performed a money ritual. After the ritual, he was given a dog to take home and instructed to allow the dog to bite his mother. After biting his mother, the woman died within two weeks and was put in a mortuary. Then he slaughtered the dog and ate the meat alone. Thereafter, his Building Material business blossomed and he became a billionaire. The inherent catch-22 is that he must not bury his mother. To this day, the woman is still in the mortuary one year after she died. The boy gave the church and the village elders stupendous money to look away and not talk about the burial. Any day the woman is buried, the boy’s wealth will vanish.
In the days of yore, magic, sorcery, animism, and voodoo as ritual practices served various purposes for Africans. When there was drought and famine, Africans offered sacrifices to their gods. When sickness ravaged the land, sacrifices were offered. When circumstances confounded the living, they consulted the dead to ask questions. Generally, through constant propitiations via ritual processes, Africans lubricated the spiritual thoroughfare between them and their ancestors. In contemporary times, these practices currently represent significations of spiritual vulgarity in many parts of Africa including Nigeria. The most offensive is the morbid recourse to these practices by Nigerians for diverse purposes including wealth creation.
The two scenarios above represent millions of other cases where our young men, in their pursuit of self-glorification and inordinate craving for materialism, indulge in despicable, horrendous practices, subverting African spiritual heritages to perpetrate evil. Apparently, the youths are not the only ones involved in these kinds of heinous practices. Politicians are involved too. There are politicians in our country who indulge in human sacrifices and ritual practices to win elections. Contractors are involved too. Different people are also involved for different reasons ranging from promotions, luck to travel abroad, success in sports betting, and many more. Many women in their husband’s houses today performed one ritual or another to get married and remain in the marriage. The husband victims of such marriages behave like a zombie, one whose senses have been taken away. This is true. Today, ladies are on the prowl looking for men to harvest. Young girls wear Kayamata beads on their waists to talk to men who, in their hypnotized conditions, do the biddings of these girls. Some women offer sacrifices and rituals with animals, sometimes with human beings. I remember as an undergraduate, I went to one of the beaches in Lagos with my friends to play over the night. While touring the beach, I saw pure horror – a big woman, completely naked, and on her knees. Two men slaughtered a goat over her head and the blood sprinkled all over her body. Then, the men chanted ‘obey-billions, obey-billions, and more billions’. The mental image of that scene stayed with me for many days.
Given the geography of those who indulge in these practices, it is therefore morally wrong to call these people Yahoo yahoo boys. No, yahoo yahoo is not the entire problem. It is a pure money ritual, simple. Of course, one can argue that many young people who engage in internet fraud also engage in rituals to hypnotize their victims and command them to part with money. I agree. But if we continue to call money ritual Yahoo Yahoo, we inadvertently exonerate those who do not engage in internet fraud but also engage in money rituals. Many people in the music industry, Nollywood, doctors, lawyers, prostitutes, big market women, and different people all engage in rituals for diverse reasons. Therefore, we must quickly change the nomenclature to Money Ritual instead of Yahoo Yahoo. We all use Yahoo, the famous web link, don’t we? In English, yahoo means ‘a stupid person’. If therefore we wish to call ritualists stupid people, then it is euphemistic and does not adequately capture their deranged mentality. So let us stick with calling them Money Ritualists, simple.
Gradually, our society is gravitating towards a dangerous new normal. Money ritual, a ritual for wealth or for whatever purpose is steadily but surely assuming a part of our social narrative and progress. I do not know if there is any law against money ritual or its prohibition in our constitution. Human life has lost its sanctity among people. Young girls are easily beheaded these days, mothers are killed or buried alive, human parts have become sought-after commodities because they are used for money rituals. Everywhere you turn, the story is the same, people of different ages and vocations engage in money rituals. It is indeed a shame of a country the despicable things our people embrace in their pursuit of the cosmetic illusions of materialism. We have degenerated to these regrettable levels because our social structures are too weak to checkmate these developments. Many parents have abandoned their responsibilities of raising their children properly. In fact, some parents put their children under undue pressure to bring money home like their peers. Shamelessly, these parents accept gifts, cars, and houses from their jobless children without asking or requesting to know the source of the sudden wealth.
The family institution is gradually collapsing before us, that is where it all starts. Can the okro stalk be taller than the owner? Definitely no, but for some inexplicable reasons, some parents are no longer able to talk or control their children, therefore the children are left to their countervailing, rebellious devices. Our churches too are not doing enough. They preach posterity without paying attention to the process of that prosperity. These churches celebrate the money and offer front seats to those who donate more to the church. ‘Pay your tithe’ is the new mantra, the source of the money from which tithe is paid does not matter to our churches. These pressures lead the weak to make money by all means. Our societies too and those who control them share part of the blame. We celebrate money and wealth to honorific levels and make hard work pale into insignificance. Once a person has money, all other considerations are reconciled and rationalized, and the next thing we hear is “he/she is doing well”. I take the federal government, state governments, religious bodies, all parents, our traditional institutions, schools, and many other branches of our society to task in the money ritual matter.
The National Orientation Agency (NOA) has work to do. Our secondary schools and universities should dedicate special days to educating the students about the dangers of money rituals. Religious bodies should preach against this practice. Together, we are all involved in it. The boundaries of victims can extend to anybody at any time. The argument that hardship drives people to indulge in money rituals is inane and jejune. This is because money rituals come with severe consequences. Some people have accused Nollywood producers of advertising and promoting money rituals, but I disagree. In Nollywood movies, those who indulge in money rituals receive their comeuppance which ranges from madness, death, and grisly disgraceful ends. The end of such movies should act as a deterrent to those who are inclined to wealth by rituals. The African practices of magic, animism, sorcery, and voodoo through rituals have been compromised by the custodians of chthonic essences and that is why they do not perform any positive functions again. They don’t heal, they don’t correct, and they do not serve prognostic purposes anymore because their altars have been desecrated for destructive, tragic ends. We must collectively stand up against money ritual before it destroys our psycho-social currency.
Promise Adiele PhD
Mountain Top University