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WITCHCRAFT, MOB RULE, AND LAWLESSNESS IN NIGERIA

Abdulkadir Salaudeen

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Who will salvage Nigeria before the anarchists finally hold a firm grip of it? I am writing from the perspective of one who thinks anarchists are, yet, not fully in charge. Many would disagree. The rate at which mob take law into their hands these days is alarming. We are in a reverse mode into anarchy, no doubt. But before we descend into the anarchic abyss completely, something has to be done.

For, if people are allowed to kill at will and compunctiously, everyone, with no exemption, becomes a qualified victim.
Mob in Adamawa State reportedly burnt a 57-year old man to death for allegedly practicing witchcraft. Is jungle justice not increasingly being mainstreamed into our DNA? What is wrong with us? Why do people think they can just take law into their hands? Is Nigeria becoming an anarchic republic? Within a span of three weeks, we witnessed series of mob actions. We witnessed the ugly saga of blasphemy in Sokoto; the okada riders’ killing of a sound engineer in Lagos over N100 transport fare; the senseless torching of Deidei market in Abuja by Okada riders which claimed lives and priceless properties; yet again Harira’s merciless killing and many others by ‘unknown gun men.’

This is not to mention incessant kidnappings by bandits who could be aptly described as ‘government’ in government. Where do we go from here!? How can a normal human being think of taking the soul of one like them? Benson Timothy—the 57 year old man in Adamawa—was clubbed and stoned to death and his remains callously burnt. He was accused of practicing witchcraft by causing the death of underage children in the community.
The alleged culprits—four middle aged men—were said to have been arrested by the police. The killing of Timothy does not garner much public opprobrium or gain serious media attention probably because the victim and the culprits are apparently of the same religion. This is the new politics of life taking in Nigeria. Supposing the culprit is a Muslim and the victim a Christian or vice versa, it will take a tragic dimension. Or let assume the killing occurs in the name of religion, all hell would have let loose. Until we understand that killing is killing, irrespective of who was killed, we are not likely to get it right.

We tolerate intra-ethnic and intra-religious killings and only make noise when the killings take the inter-ethnic and inter-religious dimension. What kind of people are Nigerians (myself inclusive)? The punishment for witchcraft is death in many (if not most) parts of the world including Europe. Its punishment is death also in major world religions. But in Nigeria? Hmm!
Do not be misled to think witchcraft is peculiar to Africans and the blacks. It has ancient roots everywhere. The difference is that in saner climes, it is not tolerated at all—reason why people wrongly think it does not exist. Did I just say punishment for witchcraft is death in major religions and many countries of the world? It is two years imprisonment in Nigeria.

There are offences in relation to witchcraft and juju in the Criminal Code Act under Section 210 (a) (b) (e). It reads: “Any person who‐ (a) by his statements or actions represents himself to be a witch or to have the power of witchcraft; or (b) accuses or threatens to accuse any person with being a witch or with having the power of witchcraft; or (e) is in possession of or has control over any human remains which are used or are intended to be used in connection with the worship or invocation of any juju; is guilty of misdemeanor and is liable to imprisonment for two years.

And do not be deceived to think that the punishment is meant to be carried out on any witches or wizards. Know that the actual number of witches and wizards that live in Aso Villa—the seat of power itself—can only be ascertained by those in that corridor. Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to President Buhari made reference to this sometime ago. Before him, Dr. Reuben Abati—who was to the former President Jonathan what Adesina is to the current one—did not mince his words on the existence of witches and wizards in the Aso Villa. Abati gave, rather, a dramatic details on how these witches operate in his column ‘The spiritual side of Aso Villa.’

If witches operate freely in Aso Villa, how do we justify the killing of this old man in Adamawa? Witches have been part and parcel of the government itself. Let’s be informed that there are two major associations of witches in Nigeria: ‘The Witches and Wizards Association of Nigeria’ and ‘The White Witches Association of Nigeria.’ That is to say the government tolerate them. I hope these associations will protest the killing of one of their own in Adamawa. Only that it is not clear if Timothy was a registered member or not.

Only in a lawless country can you find people calling themselves witches and forming an association while the law says it is a criminal offence. Aside their role(s) in Aso Villa, we should recall that Nigerian witches, from the onset of this government in 2015, expressed their support (publicly) for President Buhari on his anti-corruption campaign. Only the witches, I guess, will be able to write the ‘gains’ and ‘success stories’ of the anti-corruption campaign.

In a nutshell, mob rule remains condemnable. No one has the right to take the soul of any other person. Nigerian Government should come clean about the status of witchcraft and the role(s) of witches in its democracy. I am personally confused. Are witches evil as commonly believed? Is Aso Villa actually full of witches, wizards, and other evil spirits? Are they (witches) the ones actually steering the affairs of government as claimed? Apparently, we did not vote for witches and wizards. Enough of this lawlessness. May God help Nigeria.

Abdulkadir Salaudeen
salahuddeenabdulkadir@gmail.com
@salahuddeenAbd

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