The phenomenon of witchcraft belongs to the realm of the supernatural and is not an issue that can easily or adequately be dealt with. This difficulty arises from the lack of an acceptable measure or empirical evidence to analyse it. This write-up is therefore not concerned with probing the issue of its existence or lack of it, owing to the aforementioned difficulty. The major focus of this writer is to try to situate the phenomenon in the scheme of things in our current socio-economic reality.
Witchcraft is defined by the Webster’s dictionary as the art of sorcery. This definition though nebulous gives the idea of black magic and dark arts. It is a universal phenomenon, with virtually all of human society at one time or another, actively believing in its practice and claims of supernatural manipulations.
In today’s Nigeria, the phenomenon still plays a very important role in our everyday lives, asit is seen as being responsible for most of our present calamities. Whenever things go wrong, we ascribe it to evil doers or agents of supernatural damnation. Such supernatural manifestations are said to be reason for the woeful failures of the Nigerian nation. The situation of things is not helped by the debilitating poverty and allied with religious indoctrination, has turned many Nigerians superstitious and fatalistic.
The drawback of this kind of mind-set is that we refuse to accept blame for our own actions, seeking instead the supernatural explanation and connections forall happenings. It thus affects honest inquiry and also discourages an inquisitive attitude into the nature and causes of events. It also tends to exacerbate the age long dichotomy between religion and science, as the former professes knowledge through revelation and scripture, while the latter does same through observation and experiment.
It is this kind of fatalistic beliefs and attitudes that has kept us chained to all manners of spurious religious teachings, which does nothing to promote the welfare, dignity and progress of man. It also tends to promote debasing and dehumanizing practices against fellow men, who are accused of witchcraft.
As a belief system, it militates against progress and development. For example, a federal minister was reportedly claimed to have said that the intractable problem of electricity generation and distribution could be attributed to it and we therefore need prayers. Nothing whatsoever was mentioned of the pervasive corruption and thievery in the power sector.
Families have also set upon one another and consequently been torn apart from accusations and counter accusations of witchcraft. In such cases, everyone else except the accuser(s) is adjudged guilty. With unity destroyed, it becomes a situation of every man for himself and God for all us all.
Education is the only solution to eradicating this anomaly. The rabid and rabble rousing kind of religion practiced in this country will continue to forcibly propagate the notion of malignant witchcraft, until and unless educational authorities consciously make an effort to educate the mind, stimulate the intellect, broaden the vision and universalize the outlook of the Nigerian child.
Like my introduction, I am not bothered about the arguments for or against its existence. That is completely immaterial to this write-up. What I am concerned with is ensuring that we face squarely the challenges confronting us, rather than hiding behind impossible to verify postulations.
Piece written by Oke Okpomo
Okpomoy2k@yahoo.com Follow him on twitter@kpomskerio