I was born into a Yoruba, Western Nigeria, Moslem polygamous family of 16. My dad at the head of this number had four wives with 11 children. He was an average Moslem, having gone to Mecca before I was born in 1966. Given our cultural background, my mom regularly consults what you may call witchdoctors, for one reason or the other. My family has a long lineage of practicing witchdoctors. At the last count I remember numbering the gods in the family to be about 21. Among these are, esu, osun, obatala, sango, ogun, ifa, ailala, ancestral spirits, and communal gods among others.
Although I was not born in Nigeria, I grew up there, as my dad returned to the country in 1970 after over 20 years in different parts of West Africa. The first memory I have of rituals or traditional worship was when my dad died in 1972. I later learnt that he had been warned not to return home at the time he did. He spent 3 agonizing months on his sick bed without being able to move while his flesh disintegrate before his eyes. In fact, family members insisted he would have lived if he had not been stubborn. He was asked to relinquish ownership of some of his landed properties before his (spiritual) attackers could let go of him. He refused.
Many years later I was stunned when my mom was relating the story of how he died to me. What I learnt in my Islamic studies was that Jesus did not die on the cross. But she told me that, my dad asked her not to curse those who were apparently responsible for his death, saying: "after all, Jesus was killed in a similar fashion on the cross, despite the fact that he committed no wrong". I was shocked to hear that from my mum. For one she is not literate. And despite her visits to witchdoctors, she is a fervent Moslem who would not have any of her children enter Ja'anam by becoming Christians. More important too was the circumstance of my father saying what he said.
In my part of Yorubaland, if it is established that some people were responsible for a death, the dead person's spirit could be conjured to avenge his own death. To do this, a person close to him must be around at the time of death. You hold the lifeless head of the person in your hand and say what you have to say. My mom did this immediately after her husband died. To her astonishment, the man opened his eyes and asked her to forget about them and look after her children. He fell back dead in her lap again. Not content with his advise, she repeated the process of asking the dead to take revenge. He woke up again and admonished her to leave everything in the hands of God and fell back dead. She persisted a third time. It was on this third occasion that my dad mentioned the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.
We are from Ijebu, a part of Yorubaland respected for its witchcraft. It was here that I cut my teeth as a child. I was there from 1970 when we returned from Liberia till 1977 when I completed my primary education and was ready for high school in Lagos. All through my years at Ijebu, I remember that it was one ritual after the other, at least to counter the negative ones that were being directed at us from right left and center. There were relations, of course, who fell along the way, like my dad. And there are others who to this day have had their lives turned upside down that, they are not only useless to themselves but to the society as well. I was almost always in one battle or the other. My mom usually take me round witchdoctors, both in and outside our area.
It was in this state that I enrolled at an Islamic school to learn more about God, so he could defend me instead of all the money and items of sacrifice we have been taking to different places including "churches". There are marks of incision (from covenants) still on my body that some of my friends find scary each time I discuss my past. Our Imams, in their different modes, tried their best for me, but all to no avail. I was advised to intensify personal prayers which I had been doing all along. It did not work. Two more initiations into the occult in late 1993 through early 1994 also failed to solve my crisis. I decided it was time to leave everything that is not purely Islamic. I bought a new copy of 99 Names of Allah which I have been using since my high school days. I supplemented this with pamphlets of Suratul Yasin, its khutbah and 3 other ones I cannot remember now. Sometimes I could be on the praying mat from 11pm till it is time for Subhi [early morning] prayers.
But despite my renewed spiritual vigor, the problems I had been facing persisted. I contemplated suicide twice. You know, it was like, there was no hiding place. I remember one ritual of obatala (a Yoruba god) that I did. It was meant to appease those who were responsible for my problems. The witchdoctor called my mom and told her that I must have done something terribly wrong against some people. This was after 3 hours of fruitless efforts at appeasement! I also observed the same thing with one of my former Islamic Studies teachers at the height of my problems. He said I should on my own intensify efforts at prayers that there is nothing anyone could do for me. This is usually the situation with Yoruba witchdoctors. Whenever they encounter someone more powerful than them, they either hands off you or continue to milk you dry, even though they know there is nothing they can do about you case.
In April 1994, I read a book on how to counter the effects of curses and spells, written by Bill Subritzky. It belonged to a Christian friend of mine. I read it. But, it is the same thing I have been criticizing that was there, "confess Jesus as Lord" and the other usuals, I thought to myself then. Mind you, I have been reading Ahmed Deedat's books since my high school days. It formed one of the reasons why I always kept a Bible at the time - so I could have an easy reference when I engage Christians in argument.
My April 1994 encounter with Subritzky's book was the turning point in my life. I confessed Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. With the Name of Jesus Christ on my lips, things started happening which I never thought could happen. It was a complete surprise. (The Bible says, whoever calls on the Name of the Lord shall be saved).
Members of my family could hardly believe. I no longer need to patronize witchdoctors or their religious counterparts. Jesus Christ did it all. And without any ritual or sacrifice on my part!