Something happened to their swift, ruthless, no nonsense, instant delivery of dirty, backhand slaps to the offender in the days of our fathers.
I watched that Yoruba movie in preparation for a forthcoming lecture in South Africa. The actress has a problem: bad fortune, home trouble, just pure bad head. Nothing she does prospers. At work, she stagnates. No promotion. She runs from pillar to post. Nothing doing. Her Pastor says it is generational curse. Prayers. Fasting. Anointing. Tithing. Sowing. Nothing works. Her fortunes do not change.
As it must inevitably happen in a Yoruba movie, a friend finally whispers to her: “mo ni Baba kan ngbejo.” – I have one Baba I see quietly in the corner…
This is usually a very interesting point in the life of a Nigerian. And it is replicated across Africa. Africans always cheat on their marriage to Christianity and Islam. No matter how civilized, modern, and cosmopolitan a Nigerian purports to be, wait for that crunch time in his life which requires other modes of intervention behind the back of Western modernity. He may have a front row seat in 100-seater prosperity Pentecostal auditorium or he may go to Mecca five times a year and pray five and a half times a day, wielding the Quran, just wait for that crunch time in his life…
Back to the movie. Our character goes with her friend to the Babalawo who intervenes for her with assorted “eyonu”. The Babalowo washes her head with charms and the power of the word. He calls forth the Orishas and the mothers of the earth for her and assures her of results.
Swift and immediate turn around. The following day, a promotion letter is waiting on her desk in the office. And this is the most dramatic moment for me. As soon as she opens the letter, she screams out in joy: “praise Jesus!!!! praise Jesus!! My Jesus is a living Jesus!!!”
She is on the phone with her Pastor. She is rushing to church for testimony.
And I start to think of how many times Nigerians take from that source in the dead of night and credit it to their Pastors and Jesus and Christianity in the open during the day.
And I think of how many times Nigerians take from that source and credit it to their Imams and their Aafas.
Even some Pastors and Imams merely run errands for the faithful. You run to them in the Church or Mosque, they quietly run in the dead of night to their own “Baba ngbejo” and your miracle is loudly pronounced the following day.
In all this, the deities who are never thanked, whose work and authorship of some turnarounds are attributed to foreign faiths, are just watching. No dirty slaps.
Maybe the bitter intra-faith division among Nigerian Christians and Muslims is the revenge of the Gods?
In the North of Nigeria, many Muslims suffer from superiority complex. He looks down on his fellow Muslims in the Southwest. Deep down, he doesn’t really believe they are Muslims. From Kano to Sokoto, he has slurs for his southern Muslim brethren. He thinks he is the purest representative of the Arabs with his black ass in Nigeria. He thinks they are kinsmen. He does not know that there is no difference between his black ass and the black ass of the southern Muslims he despises in the bigger scheme of Arab racism. He does not understand that in Saudi Arabia, the Muslim from Sokoto and the Muslim from Abeokuta are equally yoked in racial and other forms of inferiority.
Apart from replacing the Bible with his Pastor, nothing assures heaven for the Nigerian Pentecostal more than a relentless contempt for his Catholic compatriots. Sometimes the contempt bothers on hatred. His family is not the Nigerian Catholic. His family is the far right American evangelical. He has never been to the airport. The closest he has been to far right American evangelicalism is when his Pastor uses a private jet to fly one of the celebrity evangelical Pastors in America to come and minister in Nigeria.
Benny Hinn and Jeol Osteen and Kenneth Copeland and Rick Warren have perhaps been flown down for celebrity appearances in his church after Bible-mocking comedy routines on the altar by Basketmouth, Still Ringing, Bovi, Kenny Blaq, Apkororo, and Klint da drunk.
He sees these American superstars and this fuels his delusions of familyhood and oneness with American right-wing Christian evangelicals. Those are his family, not Nigerian Catholics. He does not understand the meaning of Fox News. When his “family” in America talks about “our Christian values”, he thinks it means the same thing as “Christian values” in Nigeria. He does not understand that christian values is a code which excludes his racial ilk in far right American evangelical Christendom. He does not know that his black Nigerian ass does not feature in the grander scheme of American far right evangelical racism. He does not understand that the evangelicals who congregate to listen to Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity after Sunday service do not see any difference between his black ass and the black ass of his Nigerian Catholic compatriot he despises.
Are these bitter divisions among the Muslim and the Christian faithful the revenge of the Gods they secretly consult without acknowledging?