It wasn’t an April fool report in the second week of March, 2023, that Ogun State police command arrested five suspected “ritualists who had been exhuming corpses from their graves and removing parts of their bodies for ritual purposes”. Be it as rituals or rites, the religious undertone of these barbaric and bizarre beliefs of spewing money from mysterious doings justifies turning the heat on religion in Nigeria, during these dark days, in an urgent effort of “recovering our social architecture”. We need to analyze the theory of long spoons constantly dining with the devil for metaphysical liberation from poverty.
Has it ever occurred to Nigerians that there’s no nation of the world without some degree of economic downturn at least at one period of their national lives? Afterall, many African countries have, and continue to experience famine, wars, political instability and so forth with socioeconomic backlash. Yet, how many of their citizens have embraced ritual killings as a way out of their economic challenges? May I not be misunderstood; vices such as petty stealing, armed robberies, illegal arms proliferation, banditry, kidnapping, terrorism etc. of unimaginable proportions have resulted from the life-threatening conditions facingmost of these troubled countries too. But in ‘choosing’ our resultant immoralities in response to our tough times, why add the infamous ritual killings of fellow Nigerians to Nigeria’s cart of vices, unlike other troubled nations? Something is fundamentally fishy and extreme about our supernatural beliefs and it fuels this written inquisition.
Hence, before we hurriedly and frivolously blame Nigeria’s multi-factorial economic woes for the alarming trend of prowlers seeking whom to devour for supernatural survival and breakthrough, let’s ponder on one of the greatest influencers of our thoughts and actions in Nigeria. Let’s assess the prevalent doctrines in a country whose people are quicker to flaunt their religious profiles – a private affair, than their civic commitments – a public matter. Let’s x-ray the apparent brainwash of Nigerians about supernatural short-cuts to fortunes, feigned by the three dominant religions in the country. Given that poverty, unemployment, population explosion, political misadventures and poor education have prevented majority of Nigerians from critical thinking, can some of us yet intelligently query how religion has fed fat on our mental foibles over centuries and sunk many Nigerians into the lowest abyss of high expectations of mysterious wealth?
Permit I ask; Do people really get rich through these evil means? Since I haven’t patronized that malevolent route in my lifetime, I may not be able to categorically and impartially state that ritual killings for money scam their clients. However, I can draw knowledge from exploratory minds. Abimbola Adelakun, an awfully frank columnist & research-drawn writer for Punch Newspaper, stated in her column on 2nd December, 2021 that “if it were possible to conjure money as our people believe, Africans would be the wealthiest people in the world. We are the poorest and the perennially backward continent partly because we seek supernatural solutions to issues that can be resolved through logic.” Imagine the exasperating list of deceased individuals whose lives were allegedly cut short for wealth-seeking ritual purposes; my colleague’s brother killed in Kogi State, a daughter of my father’s associatesmurdered in Ondo State, the late Bamise who died mysteriously after boarding a Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) vehicle in Lagos State, a female job-seeker in Akwa Ibom State, and so forth. How many of the human parts dealers involved in the wicked chain of mindless killings have become multimillionaires? If some have, like I asked rhetorically in Chapter two of Wealth without Work(titled Work: Can you tell yours on CNN?), how many have been bold to go on CNN to tell their maim-to-fame stories as celebration-worthy rags-to-riches narratives? Will the regulatory bodies ever recognize ritual killers and human parts sellers as ‘innovative’ professions within Nigeria’sinformal sector? How is the mystical brainwash of callousness then worth it?
God – the immortal being – doesn’t’ deceive and is unfailing. Religion, on the other hand, championed by mere mortals, daily deceives and fails. Without ambiguity, religion “is the belief in and worship of a supernatural being” and one profound area of its shortcoming, particularly in Nigeria, is that its champions create a distressing belief in the minds of worshippers that God is a shortcut to success. They also create a misconception that God would readily bypass the indispensable conduit of ‘work’to make them rich and add no sorrow. Without equivocation, fear or favour, I disagree with those indoctrinations in their entirety!
In one of my yet-to-be-released books, Religion without Sacrifice (in continuation of my series called “7 Demoters of Nigeria’s Destiny” which is an adaptation of Mahatma Gandhi’s Seven Deadly Public Sins), I shall be spilling more “hard truths”. The book will try to disabuse Nigerans’ minds from these notions and support my opinion that religion has destroyed our mentalities than it has developed it and then, “ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”. I’ll save that for the anticipated book. The relevance of my 301-page book released in 2015 and titled Wealthwithout Work (Series 3 of the 7 Demoters of Nigeria’s Destiny”) is for sure brought to bear in these bloodthirsty times confronting the citizens of a failing Nigeria. The book boldly encapsulates the world-acknowledged order of “hard work and smart work” for survival and wealth while brazenly engorging the condemnations for mysterious fortune.
When citizens are left with the shorter end of the stick under an ensuing social contract in otherclimes, ritual killings for money are not their go-to. However, in similar situations, Nigerians have been taught to invoke miracles, from different supernatural kingdoms. For instance, digging into the Yoruba ancestry, it is instructive that oogun owo (money-seeking traditional rites) sagas were not far-fetched in the olden days. I recollect with nostalgia, the ease with which some older neighbours accused certain famous and well-off people within the community of concealing the fetish sources of their ‘mysterious’ wealth.
Similarly, the tales of awure (metaphysical means of enhancing huge returns/profits on sales of goods & services) among business proprietors date back to the days of my Yoruba forefathers,irrespective of their religious type. Again, yesteryear accounts described aajo (a closely related variant of awure) as a highly patronized product in the ‘spiritual’ market. Traders who were Christians, Muslims and Traditional worshippers were reported as regular customers of these latter two supernatural fortune-enhancers for their individual trades. Future-seers and destiny-manipulators also formed part of the recognized vendors in our antique history. Whether the outcomes of these practices truly yielded strange monies or not, such beliefs of supernatural incomes aren’t the exclusive preserve of today’s believers. Although those were days when Nigeria’s economic outlook had an exchange rate of one naira to one United States dollar, yesterday’s religious congregations in Nigeria yet invented and transmitted the work-shunting mindset of wealth-creation to this generation. We are however more worried in present-day Nigeria because of the rampancy of ritual killings for ‘alleged’ financial breakthroughs.
Truth be told! A few deaths in the mid-20th century were subjectively classified as mysterious and consequently catalogued as ritual killings for monetary purposes on the suspicion of manslaughter. Unverified accounts existed in those old times of supposed victims coughing out blood and getting lean while their assumed culprits mysteriously picked huge sums of money from a secret wardrobe (as depicted by several Nollywood scripts on our television screens) in the perpetrator’s bedroom. If the Nigerian Police Force ever had a viable Planning, Research & Statistics (PRS) department that collated and analyzed some of those homicidal happenings, its published findings would have helped. We would have known both the dark killers and the veracity of theirclaims of riches from those killings. Till convincing evidence is provided, the mindset of money-seeking ritual killings from yesteryears would remain mind-sagging religious failings for donkey’s years.
Of course, ritual killings (oogun owo) were culturally considered unacceptable extremes of awure and aajo in the pre-colonial and immediate post-colonial eras. My argument is however that they’ve existed as a religion-spurred belief among Nigerians. From Western Nigeria to the East and North, varieties of these mystical practices abound in our history, thereby lending credence to the unfortunate acceptance of such spiritual money-spinners from yesteryears, contrary to what was obtained in other cultures abroad. As the Nigerian socioeconomic indices collapsed, so did the latent belief in, love for, and practice of “religious fertilizers” as individual solutions to the existing challenges irresponsibly and gradually gain prominence among the common man. Consequently, and down the line, religion became the major culprit of not only the docility of most Nigerians (the common man; the victims) towards the largely irresponsible ruling elite (the hostage-takers), but also some of the reigning illicit strategies to handle the mired situation. This prevalent national behaviour, tantamount to that seen in Stockholm syndrome, finds a paradox in Nigerians because the victims of oppression are not merely being enticed with peanuts by their oppressors during elections but have now found solace in killing fellow victims in the hope of survival and wealth.
How did we eventually arrive at the gory gutters here and now? It was a gradual descent as our national wellness steadily plunged. In worship places, offerings’ orations became heightened; sacrificial sermons were amplified; and tithing talks suddenly increased. Furthermore, the sale of mysterious prosperity-enhancing objects (water, oil, handkerchiefs, clothes etc.) and compulsive clergy-care took center stage, with little or no accentuation of the compelling need to match these spiritual ordinances with the ethos of work. As our developmental indices nosedived, more forms of the aforementioned spiritual coping mechanisms skyrocketed and drew closer to the insane end of the spectrum till we berthed at the dockyard of ritual killings.
Finally, I know that Nigerians hate their religious (not necessarily godly) ways to be subjected to public scrutiny. Not minding whose ox is gored, this article advocates that the doctrines of “little seeds, large harvests” begin to take back seats in the corridors of worship. Let clergymen obey the second stanza of our national anthem to “guide our leaders right; help our youths the truth to know”. This can be achieved by fervently preaching about the works of our hands and brains that are in conformity with the values of godliness, morality and humanity. That I, like many believers, understand and accept the inalienable place of grace and favour neither makes my (or our) God a magician or money-multiplier. For those who may not like the assertions therein, beware, lest you get caught conforming with George Orwell’s long-stated fact that “the further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.”
Dr. Adetolu Ademujimi is a Medical Doctor, Author, Reformer, Coach, Public Policy expert and social entrepreneur who can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter:@toluademujimi; Instagram:@adetoluademujimi; Linkedin: @adetolu ademujimi