I have no pity for anybody connected with evil, however remotely. For that reason, I was giddy – and remain so -after reading that some spiritually conscious residents of the Lagos metropolis, precisely Oshodi, set upon a witch last week. They did what should be done to a witch or winch: lynch her. Lynch the winch is the credo. That they did not immediately succeed at killing her gave me some grief, which has been lifted by the news that she eventually passed on at a Lagos hospital where the police took her after being saved from the irate mob. A winch, which sounds like a more lethal variant, is not entitled to pity – for the simple reason that her activities are breathtakingly hideous. She is responsible for a vast range of afflictions: illnesses, downturn in businesses, deaths, climate change, Ebola, Lassa Fever, traffic snarls and most gravely, the abysmal form of Stephen Keshi’s Super Eagles.
“Thou shall not kill” comes with many waivers, none of which a witch should enjoy, particularly one that is making the Super Eagles flightless. We should not be seen granting waivers to a witch that lacked sophistication, had the cheek to fly at daytime, was lazy and attempted to vandalise public property. According to eyewitnesses, the Lagos winch was guilty of the four offences. She flew during the day while returning to Ibadan from where she had come to attend something like a National Working Committee meeting. In the mistaken belief that she was a drone, she kept flying – as a bird – until her Satnav device choked, forcing her to slam into one of those ubiquitous PHCN cables (an attempt to vandalise public property), falling to the ground without landing permission and turning into a woman in her 80s.
She, said eyewitnesses, admitted that she was a witch. Our winch was the typical African: unwilling to embrace modernity. Why would she fly as a bird -the way African witches have flown for centuries – when European witches flew on brooms centuries back? They are probably flying on vacuum cleaners now. A 21st century witch should fly on a vacuum cleaner (at the very least, a mop), thereby bringing witchcraft and technology together in a warm embrace. That she ignored a vacuum cleaner is an indication of laziness (vacuum cleaners are heavier) or unwillingness to take witchcraft to the next level. Neither is pardonable.
What is pardonable, even deserving of applause, was the treatment she got in the hands of the spiritual policemen, those fellows who are scrupulously indifferent to science and reason.
To hell with science and reason. Of what use are they when we have superstition to keep us happy? Ignorance is bliss, of the heavenly variety. It did not matter – it needed not – that belief is no evidence; that one Chike, the eyewitness copiously quoted by ThePUNCH, is not known to have expertise in identifying witches; and that a bird injured in a head-on collision with an electric cable is likely to have been frail enough to cause its human form, an 80-year-old woman, to break every bone in her body on crashing to the ground. The mob still needed to assault her and ensure that her skin was scalded. Even then, the winch still managed to sit.
It also seems not to matter to us that only the poor among us are witches. Witches don’t seem to fly over Victoria Island, Ikoyi, Asokoro or Maitama in Abuja. They also don’t crash to the ground in sumptuous places, preferring hovels in Agege, Ajegunle, Maraba, Nyayan, Kubwa et al. Perhaps, witches fear immodest opulence. We may need to ask those with the talent for identifying them about their preferences. Housemaids, we are regularly warned, have winch resident in them. Why always them? I do not know. The children of their employers, however dysfunctional or vile, are rarely accused of being in the grip of this peculiar spirit, which is our explanation for the unequal distribution of good and bad fortune and the occurrence of otherwise inexplicable misfortune.
In our world, coincidence does not exist: the hand of either God or Satan must be seen in every event. It must be true because, just because, our traditional belief system says so. It must be true also because the imported religions, notably Pentecostal Christianity, say so. We have a duty to go after witches and even kill them because we have the approval and support of some fellows persuaded that they are licensed to hunt Satan. Their flamboyant claims have promulgated a decree prescribing death for suspected witches. Where we cannot kill them, we must deal them savage slaps, like a preacher infamously did. When your life is dedicated to the pursuit of evil and you proclaim a “divine mission”, as our churches do, you have a divine mandate to lynch the winch wherever you find her.
It matters little – if at all – that the witch conquerors among us profit from the prevalent belief in the existence of witches. Pastors have built successful businesses as witch conquerors, making a mint from identifying witches, including children, and “curing” them (for a fee) by exorcising such evil spirits. Parents or caretaking adults rub their hands in glee when told of pastors with witch-conquering powers. Bedwetting, poor academic performance, sleep-talking and wet dreams are attributed to witches. We disapprove of the police torturing suspects to extract confessions, but we are happy to batter a winch into making a confession. Denial of accusation ensures further efforts are made. The process of exorcism is often violent, with much of the violence aimed at forcing “confessions” that are patently unreliable. How many adults, let alone children, would not agree they are witches when dealt savage blows? We have developed peerless expertise at using violence to induce the evil spirit to leave the body of anybody suspected of being possessed.
We require no evidence. Ours is a society that abhors the rigour of logic and burden of proof. Belief – however baseless – is the guiding principle. That, by me, is fine as long as I am allowed to believe that those who claim to have the mandate to lynch witches – without watertight evidence – are as hideous as targets and are witches in their own right. It’s time to lynch the winch among us. Let’s start now.