I spent my early years in a community where adults sometimes kept the kids quiet by warning them that noisy or badly behaved children would incur the wrath of evil spirits. Invoking God and Heaven was simply not enough motivation for kids to stay indoors when parents left for the Saturday morning market (not shopping).
First time my siblings and I saw the movie Living in Bondage (starring Kanayo O. Kanayo), we needed company to visit the bathroom. That shit instilled the fear of the devil in us. Many nights I woke up suddenly, drenched in my own sweat, screaming “blood of Jesus” like most Christians do. Those nightmares were too real. And certainly very disturbing.
But I was a curious one. I liked to find out stuff. I made up my mind to confirm if ghosts and spirits of the dead roamed the streets at midnight. I was perhaps ten years old when I slipped out of the sitting room in the middle of the night when mum and pop and everyone else were sound asleep.
Armed with a kerosene lantern, I took the bold steps down the front steps and into the pitch-black darkness. The famous Udara tree that was said to harbour demons and evil spirits was some five hundred metres from my home. I successfully made it to the foot of the ancient tree, all the while looking over my shoulders and fearing the worst.
All I could see and hear were insects and nocturnal birds. African star apple fruits, freshly fallen from the tree, littered the ground. I picked as many as I could, while the initial trepidation slowly disappeared, replaced by a new sense of freedom. It was all a hoax, utter rubbish.
I stopped having those damned dreams after that night. I was a free man. In fact, to dream at night became difficult. They have been few and far between and almost never lucid. From that time, all I felt for neighbours screaming “holy ghost fire” and holding vigils during the wee hours was pity. No thanks to Nollywood, people are more intoxicated than ever on these beliefs.
This is not an assault on religion, by the way. For those who have faith, there is no denying that belief in a benevolent God can bring comfort and succour. Prayers are therapeutic and cathartic – a safe haven to talk about the things in your heart that your mouth cannot utter to another living soul.
This is an assault on Willie Willie – the belief in evil spirits and malevolent forces who spend all day thinking about how to harm you. This is an assault on the people who propagate this belief for their own selfish, financial motives. This is an assault on living a life so constrained by fear that it is hardly worth living.
There is no devil out to get anyone. What the heck do people need deliverance for? A new life filled with joy and clarity of thought beckons if people are courageous enough to clear the cobwebs of superstition from their minds.
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