It was between the late 90s and early 2000s, when Y2K was still a thing and we would burn time reading the stories in G.F. Oyor’s ‘Who Needs Deliverance’. Ever so often, we’d slip into our landlord’s parlour to watch one of those Liberty Films, on VHS tapes, about witchcraft and Jesus’ victory over the powers of darkness. We had private primary education, we were winning all the Bible quizzes at church and reciting Psalm 91 on Children’s Day, proving that mom’s Bible-teaching investment was paying returns. We were flying in school and three of us consistently remained top of our individual classes.
Life was good … till IT happened.
It wasn’t a single incident but a string of occurrences that I’m sure would have read like those stories in the G.F. Oyor’s book if they’d been written down. Daddy was going through a rough patch and momsy was trying unsuccessfully to get a job with her degree in Microbiology… and we were busy spoiling daddy’s radios and breaking his lamps with our destructive spirits. By the time the old boy considered the headache his extended family was giving him, it was obvious to anyone who had watched Helen Ukpabio in ‘End of the Wicked’ that this was a case where someone needed deliverance and so sleep disappeared and the nights became longer, filled with prayer points from ‘Dangerous Prayers Volumes 1 & 2’.
If you slept off while the whole family was attempting to escape calamity, daddy’s kicks would wake you up. Sometimes you’d get flogged so bad you’d run out of the house to sit on the verandah to consider your welts and wait for the day to break.
Some nights, your aunt would join you to sit on the verandah after her failed attempts to obtain mercy for you on the grounds that you were just a kid.
It wasn’t long before we were all summoned before the pastor’s wife, who apparently had experience in handling those type of matters. The interrogation was straight to the point: what our dreams were about, if we ate in the dream, if we flew, if we found ourselves near water… I don’t recall which happened first, but in a few months of life challenges the old man and lady were facing, we were diagnosed with witchcraft.
Witches were wicked. Witches spoilt with their parent’s electronics with their destructive tendencies. Witches were just bad luck. The Bible had warned that one should “suffer not a witch to live”. Witchcraft was why parents would warn us not to accept biscuits or sweet from any of our classmates lest they turned up at night calling us away to meetings at the coven with that notorious modified puff-puff chant. Biscuit, biscuit, biscuit…
My elder sister buckled under pressure of the long periods of starvation and fasting, periods of being away from school and told the pastor’s wife what she’d yearned to hear.
Yes, she had weird dreams. Yes, she had been initiated. Yes, they had given her some weird assignments to do. No, she wasn’t alone, my younger sister was also one of them.
That year was my worst result in primary school. My now frail memory says I placed 27th.
We were out of school and always in church deliverance meets: from Mustard Seed Assemblies to Assemblies of God, prayer warriors tried to get us to vomit the witchcraft that was making life so difficult for our parents. I remember sitting on the pew, exhausted from the 6 to 6 fasts, listening to a young prayer warrior command my sister to vomit that seed of witchcraft. It was in her stomach, then it moved to her throat, then it stuck there and stopped, refusing the command to move to her mouth.
They finally got shipped off to an orphanage and rehabilitation home for kids. I’ve never really understood why they didn’t ship me along considering my destructive and evil streak.
My sisters spent almost ten years in that place before someone decided that they weren’t witches and it was safe to have them move home and cook for my father. They wouldn’t put witchcraft in his food, they wouldn’t give witchcraft to any of my younger siblings either. They were either delivered or were
I didn’t bother to ask which was which. I don’t think much about that period and my memories from then are scanty. My head does this thing where it refuses to recall memories that spur a burning knot of anger in my chest and I would suppose that even though my family never really survived the drama of that period, we were maybe luckier than those who had been burnt with hot irons and boiling rings on account of witchcraft.
But the ignorance and gullibility still annoys me all the same and really, sometimes I don’t just understand how life could be so screwed.