“Spiritual Snake” that Swallowed JAMB’s N36 Million in Benue, By Farooq Kperogi

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A JAMB clerk by the name of Philomina Chieshe reportedly told auditors recently that the N36 million realized from the sale of JAMB scratch cards couldn’t be accounted for because a “spiritual snake” had mysteriously swallowed up all the money. Now the lady is the object of all sorts of jokes. I am sorry to burst a few bubbles here.

First, the money wasn’t missing in the life of the Buhari administration. Most people didn’t go beyond the headline and just jumped to conclusions based on their preconceptions. The money was actually missing between 2006 and 2007. It’s just now being discovered after current JAMB registrar ordered an audit.

Second, and most importantly, most Nigerians believe in the sort of metaphysical nonsense that conduced to the JAMB clerk’s “spiritual snake” explanation. When it comes to belief in backward superstitions, most educated and uneducated Nigerians are indistinguishable. People who are laughing at the woman’s superstitious fraud secretly nurse and cherish their own superstitions, and would get all hot and worked up if their own superstitions are mocked. So let’s start.

In Nigeria, the vast majority of people believe that evil spirits can be transmitted through cell phones. Nigerian journalists characterize some phone numbers as “killer numbers” because they supposedly kill you the instant you pick calls from them. Hahaha! I blocked someone on WhatsApp who was always sending me “killer numbers” I shouldn’t pick.

In Nigeria, a “professor” by the name of Chinedu Nebo, who is a former university vice chancellor, told the nation’s senate in 2013 during his confirmation hearing for the position of minister of power that power outages were caused by “witches and demons” and that “If the President deploys me in the power sector, I believe that given my performance at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, where I drove out the witches and demons, God will also give me the power to drive out the demons in the power sector.”

A year earlier, a minister of state in the Ministry of Power by the name of Zainab Kuchi told a South African delegation that “evil spirits” were responsible for Nigeria’s perpetually capricious power supply.

And the vast majority of Nigerians believe that there is such a thing as “magun” (Yoruba for “don’t climb”), which is supposedly a metaphysical deterrence against marital infidelity by women. Of course, it’s superstitious nonsense. Biologists actually call it penis captivus, and it has nothing to do with what anyone did to any woman. It’s a rare biological, scientifically explainable condition that occurs in every society, including Oyinbo societies where people have gone past the sort of atavistic ignorance that still reigns supreme in our societies.

So before you laugh at the woman’s “spiritual snake” explanation, remember the superstitions you believe, too. Remember the “testimonies” you give for the mundane favors you get, for being able to steal government funds and not get caught. You’re no different from the Benue woman.

By Farooq Kperogi

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