by Bisi Ogunwale
Two major fears expressed by my loved ones when I discussed my political ambitions with them was, juju and hooliganism. I had also heard, read and seen several videos of how politicians go in search of mystical or black powers but I’d always discountenanced it as the concerned individual’s choice. So as I began partisan politics, I never considered juju as a factor, either pro or anti. It wasn’t even anything to consider talkless seek. I was raised to believe in God only and my faith was potent enough, or so I thought. Until the campaign progressed and I began to experience an open display of real black power.
While I was running around in Kwara, I kept close tab on my very good friend, Habeeb Salawu. He was contesting for the Ogbomosho South Constituency in Oyo State House of Assembly, under the umbrella of People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Habeeb and I met while working in Guaranty Trust Bank and we became members of the Plural United Football Group – the bank’s football team was drawn from the group. HB, as he’s fondly called by friends, is a very resourceful and selfless young man.
We agreed to meet in Ilorin to review activities of our campaigns and share ideas on other strategies to win our primaries as well as the general elections. During that meeting, I decided to share some of my worries with him especially because I had been attacked at a function. A stranger had also approached me that I should get some metaphysical powers. He laughed uncontrollably. I couldn’t understand why he’d laugh at something that clearly bothered me.
“Bisi,” he called. “Do you recall seeing three men with me the other day you came to visit? Those are my bodyguards, appointed by people of my ward, to always stay with me whenever I am in Ogbomosho.”
“But why would I need to go around with bodyguards when I’m in the midst of my people?”
“It’s for your safety because you can’t trust anybody,” he responded. He then went on to tell me about his experiences with people propositioning him for juju and other rituals and sacrifices. I shook my head in disbelief. That was before my time came.
It was a hot afternoon and I was driving along Ibrahim Taiwo Road in Ilorin when I saw an Airtel customer care signboard. I decided to do a quick stop to buy data for my iPad. As I made to drive out of the shop, I saw an old woman of about eighty years old by my car window. I freaked out and slammed the brake. I quickly wound down the glass and greeted her.
“Omo mi, ewu wa ni wa ju e o. O ni lati so’ra daada ninu oselu.” (There is danger ahead of you. You must be extremely cautious in politics). That was what she said to me, after which she walked away.
I still think about that afternoon. There was nothing on the car or my body that could have suggested I was running for office. I was several miles away from my constituency so how did this woman know I was getting into politics. I had goose bumps all over my body and almost shivered from cold even though the sun was very hot. I didn’t tell anyone what happened. Three days later, I was travelling with my younger brother and we had a very bad accident in Ogbomosho. The car was badly damaged but nothing happened to any of us in the car. Unfortunately, the occupants of the other car we collided with and an unfortunate okada man fractured their limbs. My mind immediately flashed back to the old woman I met but then I shrugged it aside, choosing to think of the accident as a coincidence. Since we were in Ogbomosho, I phoned HB who arrived with his boys. They were very helpful and the car had to be towed away.
To be very honest, my view towards juju has changed. I no longer believe it is a myth; rather a reality. We live with people who practise the use of juju on a daily basis. Be not deceived, there is plenty of juju in our society. Yet, with my new realisations, I did not think anyone would directly confront me with such because I kept away from any and everything that may signal or suggest the use of juju.
When the news of my accident filtered into the village, people got worried and my mobile phone was on full blast. Everyone wanted to show solidarity, even the ones who had shown openly that they weren’t my friends. But there was a particular woman who called and reminded me of what the old woman I’d met earlier said. She did not make any reference to the old woman but she said the exact same words as did the old woman. I got more scared and just thanked her for the best wishes with an assurance that everything will be okay.
On returning to the village the following week, people started visiting from different parts of the constituency. I was approached by several people on numerous occasions to come for spiritual fortifications. I kept refusing the offers, telling everyone that cared to listen that I have God who will continue to be my shield and that I believe that people were praying for me in different parts of the world.
As the night fell, I noticed everyone was leaving but a particular woman who sat quietly in a corner, waiting for an opportunity to get close to me. I beckoned on her saying, ‘Mama, I noticed you’ve been here for a long time. Do you want to see me?’ She quickly stood up and came closer.
“Baba oko mi, yes. I have been waiting to see you, omo ola l’oje. I brought something for you.”
“What is that, ma?” I asked looking at the small thing wrapped in a black nylon bag. She smiled and said, ‘It is for your protection my son. All these accidents will never happen again if you can just keep this in your car.”
I politely thanked her and rejected the offer stating that I cannot and will not use juju for whatever reasons. She begged me not to discount her opinion and then went on to tell me that politics is not for the weak; everyone is doing one thing or the other in a diabolical way to make sure they keep standing.
“You will just be killed like a fowl if you don’t fortify yourself with juju. I don’t want anything bad to happen to you, my child.”
But I insisted and she left.
Another incident I remember was when an old man in his early 70s approached me during a rally. He called me aside and said, “Honourable, I have been following your story and I am very happy with what you are doing but I have fears that you are not taking good care of yourself enough.” I was curious to know what he was saying and so I enquired, “Baba, in what way do you think we are deficient so that we can make necessary amends.”
“O ka’are, omo daada. You see, politics is not done only in the physical. There are spiritual angles to it too. You have to fight the battles in the spiritual even more than you are currently doing in the physical. We need to make sure you are ready for whatever is coming your way. I am not asking you to give me money. This will be my own contribution to your campaign and my happiness will be full when you win and do good things for our people.”
I said, “Baba ko need, e ma worry sir. God is still on the throne and He will be the one directing our affairs. Whatever he doesn’t decree cannot and will not happen to anyone of us so let us leave everything in His care and continue to pray for His wisdom, grace, protection and understanding.”
The old man wouldn’t listen to me as he kept trying to make his case for the use of juju. Eventually, he grudgingly agreed and walked away. I sighed heavily thinking I had won another battle. I was too hasty.
Five days later, I got a call from one of my campaign team members who inquired when I was going to return home that there was a particular man who had insisted on seeing me that night. Confused, I told him I’d be on my way right away. It was dark when we got back so I could barely see everyone but I recognized the old man. He was holding a black ‘polybag’ with his left hand. I greeted everyone as I entered the house and the man was ushered in.
“Baba, se dada le wa? Hope all is well, sir. My people said you insisted you have to see me. What can I do for you, sir?” He reached inside the nylon and brought out a calabash. I was so shocked I screamed, ‘Blood of Jesus!’
“I have been preoccupied with your matter since our last discussion and now everything is ready.”
“Baba, I thought I told you that there is no need for all these.” I interjected. But he wouldn’t listen.
I gave up and let him finish his explanations. When he was done, I thanked him profusely and gave him an envelope as he stood to leave. I am not sure he would have reached his house before we torched the item with petrol and fire. As if that was not enough, my phone rang at about 12:45 a.m. while I slept the other day. As a politician, there are no sacred hours. You are obligated to speak with everyone whether he or she has something tangible to say or not. I answered the phone and heard, “Hello Honourable, it is me Iya Wasiu.” I couldn’t place the name so I asked, “Please don’t be offended, which Iya Wasiu is this?”
“Oh, you can’t remember me again? I came with Baba Oluwo the other day when he was talking about preparing you for the battle ahead?”
“I remember you very well now, ma. Please don’t be annoyed. What can I do for you? I hope everything is alright?” I thought something had happened to the old man. “I am here with Baba Ogunjimi, Baba Oluwo’s second son Ifadare, and we are both in Igbeti as I am speaking with you. Baba sent us here to do something for you. All we need you to do is to start saying ase (amen) as we carry the sacrifices to orita meta because Baba said we must put down the calabash at exactly 1:00 a.m.” And she started her incantations.
I hurriedly cut the conversation and switched off the phone. I was sweating profusely and shivering in my bed. That was the last I heard from them or Baba Oluwo himself.
I sincerely cannot speak for anyone on this matter but I do know that any politician that’s not involved in fetish procedures must fortify himself in whatever other way he is agreeable to. One thing is certain politics in this part of the world is very spiritual.
How did I manage? I had religious leaders and prayer warriors both in the Muslim and Christian circles praying for me, some of them I don’t even know till today.
There is really nothing you can do about it. People will do whatever they think is right on your behalf. The choice is left for you to be a part of it or not.
Editor’s Note: Bisi Ogunwale’s new book, “Stepping Out: A rookie’s guide to Nigeria’s politics”, chronicles his experiences during the 2015 general elections when he ran an unsuccessful bid to unseat an incumbent representing Oke-Ogun Constituency in the Kwara State House of Assembly (KWHA). It also narrates his role as a member of the Buhari-Osinbajo campaign team in Kwara, as well as several other personal experiences. The Scoop will publish three more excerpts from Ogunwale’s “Stepping Out” on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. You can purchase a copy of the book here.