Letters to the Editor

Superstition — Africa's largest problem after poverty

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

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Dear Editor,

Every part of the world has had its fair share of ignorance, especially the naivety that accompanies the weird beliefs people grow into accepting. While other continents seem to be gradually moving away from superstition, Africa strives really hard on a daily basis to retain exclusive rights.

African culture is deeply rooted in different kinds of superstitious beliefs. But the great fear of wizardry is a particularly disturbing one. Nothing terrifies the mind of an average home-bred African more than the existence of witches and wizards, and all other varieties of “unclean spirits”, which are supposedly upset with human beings and pose a threat to activities of daily living.

Some people would hurriedly want to label illiteracy as the cause of superstition in Africa. No, it isn't. Not exactly. The uneducated people, of course, are usually more gullible, but the enlightened ones are not exempted, as some fall cheaply, and rather embarrassingly, to superstitious beliefs.

The minds of most Africans are so laden with fear that they believe they're in constant warfare with forces of the underworld. Hence, they have to liberate themselves from spiritual limitation which prevents them from either getting married on time, securing a job, amassing wealth, or fulfilling destiny. Poverty, infertility, financial recklessness, sudden death, and a lot more are all credited to the handiwork of some scavenging demon.

Some time ago I visited the local branch of a very popular Nigerian church which was located in a developing area and was still under construction. The intelligent preacher was rock solid in his performance until a very adventurous lizard interestingly crawled past the altar. Sermon for that Sunday was suspended for about 10 minutes in search of the “satanic lizard”, as the preacher hurriedly asked for a whip in order to trash the poor creature if they succeeded in finding it. Creepy!

“Spiritual attack” is often tagged as the cause of death for people who pass on as a result of health-related issues. Very few people care to determine whether the deceased took proper care of his or her body while alive, had poor eating habits, or damaged internal organs through smoking or excessive intake of alcohol.

A nave relative of mine suddenly becomes so cheerful whenever her palm itches. According to her, that's an urgent sign money is on the way. If only she knew her palm possibly itched as a result of bacterial infection.

The Zulu tribe in South Africa are known to believe that albinos are heavily fortified with magical powers. Sadly, innocent albinos have been murdered for their body parts, which are assumed to be very effective for rituals. In some areas of southern Nigeria, children suspected to be “possessed with witchcraft” (through questionable yardsticks) are abandoned by their families and left for dead. Some of these “evil” children who were lucky to be rescued are living normal lives, and are yet to engineer the tragic end of the world as accused.

The imaginary forces of the underworld do not influence anyone's decisions on Earth. Neither should such forces be blamed for the poor choices people make that affect their finances, health, eligibility for marriage, chances of securing a job, sexual fertility, ability to create wealth, and other key areas of life.

If Africans can simply follow the basic rules of success and healthy living, their prayers will be shorter, and some irrational beliefs and creepy rituals won't be necessary.

Nimi Princewill

Uyo, Nigeria






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