Yet another email about jungle justice, this time of a woman being a witch. What am I to do? Feel sorry for the state of my people’s acts of total disrespect for humanity? This happens a lot, if it wasn’t an elderly woman being accused of flying in Lagos, it will be a 29 years old unemployed Anambra man killed his mother and stood by it to tell the tale of how he was so sure the mother was responsible for his hopelessness life.
I ignored the message not because I am in denial that witch hunting does not exist but for the memory it triggered.
Khadijat was 10 years old, her mother died during labour so was raised by her maternal Auntie. By the time Khadijat was three years old she was the only one living with Mama (her Auntie) Mama’s husband passed away years ago, her three children all grown up so not at home.
Mama relocated to town from the village because she had a bad case of cataracts. Mama’s two daughters came regularly on weekends to visit, they’d clean and spend the day with her. During the week, it was only Khadijat with Mama. She’d cook, fetch water (about 200 metres) away from home, laundered and all that’s in-between. Never attended school in town.
With no medical care, Mama’s eye infection got really bad. One day I got home from work to see giant cotton wool taped to the eyes. “God, help me, I thought.” Upon enquiring, a carpenter turned ‘Ophthalmologist’ operated on Mama’s eyes inside the house – result of the surgery? The bit that Mama could see was taken away, never saw the lights of the day from then on.
Mama accepted her fate, the children left leaving Khadijat to cater for Mama. I was not much help, only home to sleep, David next door neighbour was a builder and not home during the day neither.
Plot thickens: Got home one day at around 8pm, Mama was sitting outside as was her custom, hearing footsteps, she yelled ‘omoge, se wo nun?’ ‘ Yes, mama it’s me’ I replied. ‘Oko mi, Khadijat ti salo’ ‘What? why would she run away?’ I asked Mama. Mama begged that I look around the neighbourhood to search for Khadijat which I did, thankfully Khadijat came out of her hiding after high-pitched yelling of her name.
Mama’s two daughters lived about two miles away, they visit weekends. Mama’s son lived in Osogbo – never been to check on his Mama’s health. Khadijat’s father was an Ile-Ife man – didn’t know nor cared to see if Khadijat survived after his wife death – the crisis in town made a perfect excuse.
This was a situation a 10-year-old girl was supposed to be content with.
A week later, Khafayat left home again, this time came home after a whole day, looking haggard. More abuses was thrown at her. All of the times that she ran away from home, she stayed in an uncompleted building next door. At a corner was a mat, a jug of water and clothes. No fear of snake or scorpion bites – there she found solace, all was perfect.
Khadijat later started making up elaborate stories, mostly dark with imaginary friends. Her favourite one was that of Iya Ibeji and her twins. She tells this story to Mama everyday, really get into characters, each time a new twist is added. She was Khadijat, Iya Ibeji and the twins and would set perfect scenes for all of them very believable – Mama bought it, literally.
The result: Khadijat was accused of being a witch – based on Mama re-telling of Khadijat’s story of imaginary friends. Poor girl was cut in her face and her torture was endless.
JK Rowlings got worldwide recognition for using her imagination – Khadijat got cuts to the face for finding peace using her imagination when real life was hell.