“You’re damn too ugly not to be a wintch!” And other gists

From the Editor: According to a large percentage of Nigerians, witchcraft is the root cause of all their problems. Parents, children, extended family members and whole communities have been abandoned because of this spiritual problem, David surmised the problem of witchcraft perfectly in the piece he wrote for 9jafeminista, “witches were wicked … witches were just bad luck.”

Two weeks ago, Nigerian Twitter was abuzz with the news of an old woman who was caught ‘shapeshifting’ from a BIG BLACK BIRD into an old woman, and a few days ago, another old woman was accused of witchcraft because she was caught on the rooftop of a church, the question being asked was ‘how did she get there except she flew?’ – nobody considered this, that maybe – she got on there because she climbed a ladder, she climbed the ladder because she was suffering from dementia…

Although The Spanish Inquisition, was originally instituted by Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of
Castile in 14th Century Spain to regulate orthodoxy (aka killing Jews), one of the ways it helped was by also cleansing country of witches. A lot of women were tortured and often hung once they’ve been accused of witchcraft. The Great Witch Craze took place across modern Europe and their Colonies in North America (it peaked between 1580 and 1630) in which over 40,000 people (mostly women) were killed for being ‘satanic witches’ (this brings to mind the great David Oyedepo who slapped a young girl across the face in 2011 for claiming to be a ‘witch for Jesus’ – so you see, whether you’re a satanic witch or a witch for Jesus, you simply can’t win).

The point of this whole story, is that over the centuries women all over the world have been on the receiving end of death sentences and lynchings once the accusation of witchcraft has been leveled against them.

The root of the problem of course is power, because most people accused of witchcraft are the powerless – poor women, old women, people suffering from one form of mental health disorder or the other, single ladies defying the society and remaining unmarried, women considered prostitutes, non-conformists, and even people that do not meet with the society’s standards of beauty during that period (aka you’re damn too ugly not to be a wintch!).


Although young children are also regularly accused of practicing witchcraft,(in Nigeria they are referred to as Ogbanjes), in most cases parents resort to spiritual means to ‘cleanse’ their wards and children of witchcraft. However, between 2008 and 2011 there was an intense hunt for ‘child witches’ in Nigeria, specifically in Akwa Ibom, a state in the Eastern part of Nigeria. The hunt was led by Helen Akpabio, a self-proclaimed evangelist and ‘deliverance minister’, who specialized in ‘delivering’ children from the spirit of witchcraft through several means, including prayers, whippings, starvation and imprisonment. The ‘delivered’ children are often returned to their parents, but the ones who refuse to ‘vomit’ witchcraft are often driven from their homes, poisoned or taken to orphanages.

9jafeminista was able to find one of such accused children who was barely 10years old when he and his sisters were accused of being witches by their father because he was going through a difficult financial period (which is commonplace in a Nigeria suffering from economic woes and over 60% of its citizens are living in poverty, a poverty whose root cause is corruption).

David contributed a piece about his and his sister’s experiences in this blog. During which he talked about what they went through after they were diagnosed with witchcraft by their Pastor’s wife. We decided to have a chat with him … read on.

9jafeminista: Tell us a little about yourself

David: Well, there’s not too much to tell. I’m 22 and in the final year of an undergraduate programme in Electrical/Electronics Engineering, I’ve almost always lived in Uyo and when I’m not busy with schoolwork (which is like always), I stroll around the internet, read and listen to the radio.

9jafeminista: Radio, that’s a new one, It’s difficult to envisage a young netizen listening to the radio. Is there any special reason why?


David: I’ve always been around radios. First, because Deeper Life people didn’t own TV sets (my dad was one for a while), then later because I discovered the BBC world service and I fell in love with their programmes and documentaries.

9jafeminista: Future plans include the radio?

David: Not really. Right now I co-host a weekly tech show with a friend on Akwa Ibom state radio but what I’d really want to do is work as a researcher or scriptwriter. Presenting is not my biggest strength. Or so I think. But first, we chase oil company job with our engineering degree (smiles)

9jafeminista: I must say your creative non-fiction piece is so well written, some of our readers might think it’s actually fiction. It has all the ingredients of a good story and the right amount of suspense. But there’s also a wealth of anger and sadness between the lines… so how did you cope? With your parents after they accused you and your sisters of witchcraft, with missing your sisters for ten years. How did you manage to survive it all?

David: Thing is I was quite young [when it happened] and for a while I lived in denial. People would ask where my sisters disappeared to and I’d immediately push out some nice story I’d cooked up. So, I didn’t really feel it. As I grew up though and spent more time talking to my sisters, I grew very angry. I didn’t understand why a parent would ship their kids off to an “orphanage” simply because of some prophecy or whatever it was. I didn’t think of it then too much. I just survived. I still saw my sisters once in a while when we’d visit


9jafeminista: What about your mum? Did she just fold her arms and watch it happen? Didn’t she protest?

David: I didn’t really know. Adults didn’t share too much with children then. What I remember is she warning me not to discuss the issue with the neighbourhood kids. Something about maintaining family pride or so.

9jafeminista: So how are your sisters doing?

David: Good really. Elder sis is graduating from pharmacy this year. Not planning any party for my own graduation but my sister’s will be major. Real tragedy was with my younger sis. You see my younger sis came back from this orphanage pregnant. She hadn’t even turned 18 then. When I found out, I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. Kept blaming the old man for exposing her to such dangers by keeping her there for so long and in my head I was like ‘why is it okay for her to return now? It’s not like she was delivered from the witchcraft or anything. Why is she suddenly not dangerous now?’

9jafeminista: Did she tell you how she got pregnant?

David: There was a boy who’d grown up there too. That’s what she said.

9jafeminista: Did she keep the pregnancy?

David: She did. Baby turned two this year so I’m hoping she’ll get admission next year to resume school

9jafeminista: I’m so glad she’s trying to get her life together. Actually you sound so much like their dad… You’re very protective of them.

David: My sisters are the real heroes. I just do the occasional roforofo [translation: troublemaking] here and there (smiles)

9jafeminista: Has this in any way affected your relationship with your parents?

David: (laughs) hope this won’t sound like too much tragedy but my mom passed when I was in JSS3. Me and the big man are not too particularly close. He tries as a dad. But we’re not too close

A typical ‘deliverance’ session

9jafeminista: It’s not a tragedy because you all survived it. Getting on with your lives. And you are a better man and your sisters are strong women and that’s what’s important. This is a story of triumph. What would you say is the greatest lesson you’ve learnt from this?

David: Well like I keep saying the danger witches portend, if they exist (I’ve since become agnostic) is nothing compared to the evil that goes on because we’re scared of witches/witchcraft. And no, religious bodies do not have all the answers. Religious organizations should stick to what they were originally called to do and leave matters outside their purview to the professionals trained to handle such. Apart from witches, there was a mad chap chained to one of those deliverance churches they took us to. I don’t know what eventually happened to him. The prayer warriors were trying to deliver him from his demons too. Funny now remembering that they would minister to him chained. Nobody wants to test their Jesus before a raging unchained mad man. I think they moved us to another church shortly after then.

Confessions of a ‘Child Witch’ – by David


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.

Helen Ukpabio the lady who ‘delivers’ children from witchcraft by abusing them

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’.

8If 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.

child witch
Is this what a child witch looks like?

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.

6We 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 c9ook 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

never witches.

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.