The HAWK Project

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

NIGERIA: HAPSTA Advocates Proactive Action as Witch Stigmatisation is on the Rise

The obnoxiousness of the irrational belief in witchcraft and other supernatural forces is a very troubling concern for those who attend their mind to the evils of such beliefs. Very often, one wonders what makes such beliefs intractable that their adherents could not just jettison their beliefs at the pool of scientific evidence that proves the beliefs unwise and that it has no place in the modern parlance because it leads nowhere. The troubling concern which we think should receive immediate attention is the devastating effect of such beliefs and their adherents’ wicked, inhuman treatment of the vulnerable and defenseless members of our society, especially the children and aged women. It had reached a point where none of us especially the enlightened ones can no longer fold our arms, hold our peace, and keep our cool while watching these evils play on in our nation in the 21st century. We invite you to just objectively follow our story.

Barely eight (8) months after a septuagenarian, Mrs. Rebecca Adewumi was unjustly murdered in Omuo Ekiti by the community on the allegation of being a witch; a 10 year old JSS 1 pupil of Federal Government Girls College, Ipetumodu, Osun State was expelled from school on the flimsy, unfounded allegation of witchcraft. The Principal of the school, Dr. (Mrs.) O. S. Sallam singe handedly expelled the girl (name withheld) from the school after a colleague of the girl in the same school alleged that she dreamt that the girl is a witch who had killed two (2) pupils in her former school and planned to kill another five (5) in the school through her witchcraft.

After the dreamer had reported the alleged dream, the poor girl was inhumanly treated. She was beaten, tortured and they pour oil on her to force confession and neutralise her power (witchcraft). Expectedly, the report got to the Principal and all that the Principal who holds a Ph. D degree could do was to invite the parents of the alleged witch for brief, pep talk and then summarily expelled the girl. In a sane world, the school is supposed to be a comfortable place for kids where the teachers and principals act as in loco parentis and ensure justice, fairness and equal treatment for their pupils. Very unfortunate, our world is not like that and FGGC, Ipetumodu’s principal does not operate on the principle of justice, fairness and equality, as she is a staunch believer in witchcraft. The principal did not give the victim fair hearing neither did she seek justice for her inhuman treatment; instead she was expelled to forestall the alleged planned killing.

Concerned about the damage the allegation had done to the reputation and dignity of the girl; and the psychological ruin that had been ignited in her life by the treatment meted out to the girl, her parents contacted a lawyer, Mr. Bola Adebowale of Debolex Chambers who approached the Federal High Court, Osogbo. The court ordered the school to immediately admit the girl back to school but the principal refused that order and eventually when the lawyer obtained another order stating the consequences of disobedience of order of court, the principal reluctantly admitted the poor girl back and made it a duty to assure the lawyer that the girl as from thence forth is on her own because she would not be attended to academically and otherwise. Not surprisingly and in keeping with the threat, the girl had been left without a guardian in the school. Since then, she had truly been on her own with the students and staff alike discriminating against her (as if there is a standing order from the principal that no one should associate with the poor alleged witch).

At this juncture, it is important to note that although, the case is still in court awaiting ruling, but life has since not been the same for the poor girl. She is traumatised and isolated. She is in miserable solitude as a result of the discrimination against her. The little girl had been damaged both socially and psychologically because of a dream which the dreamer herself cannot be sure she did dreamt. The annoying fact of the case is that the principal or any other staff of that school did not for once think that the dreamer could had concocted the dream to deal with the girl for any offence at all or as a result of jealousy because the poor girl is a brilliant pupil whose previous performance attest to that fact and the fact of her good nature.

For us in Humanist Association for Peace and Social Tolerance Advancement (HAPSTA), who had been involved in the case as an interested party, we sincerely think it is time for Nigerians to wake up and take action against the pervading evils been perpetuated in the name of belief in witchcraft and other spiritual forces. We feel so concerned and think it is immediate and urgent because a class not previously associated with the belief is unexpectedly exhibiting symptoms of the conviction in the beliefs and hence, subjecting vulnerable humans to disgrace and indignity by violating their rights. We think it is time for action and advocate such proactive actions to forestall future occurrence of stigmatisation of Nigerians as witches. We also think that our educators are increasingly becoming autocratic and derailing from their duties as in loco parentis. We may recall that the Principal of Ajuwon Senior High School, Ogun State, Rev. Mrs. Olufunke Aladeojobi in December 2012 had conducted an illegal virginity test on ten (10) SSS 1 students and in the process defiling some innocent students. In HAPSTA, we believe and are committed to the course. We are hoping that other rational Nigerians will join our effort to rid Nigeria of inhuman and irrational beliefs and practices that denigrate human intelligence and ability.
Onward to reason, peace and attainment of fundamental human rights!

- 'Yemi J Ademowo and 'Tunde Elegbede, for HAPSTA

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