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Thursday, December 8, 2022

Money rituals: Why people with hunchbacks live in fear

By Maria Famakinwa

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Niran, a 38-year-old hunchback, has been living in fear and apprehension, due to his condition. According to him, he was born normal like any other child before his parents discovered when he was young that his chest was growing abnormally. He said: “They did everything medically and traditionally possible to solve the problem with no positive result. Since then, I have accepted my fate.”

Niran, a cobbler, was initially reluctant to talk to this writer, until the writer’s friend who was Niran’s customer assured him of his safety. Asked why he was reluctant in speaking initially, he said: “ I know that my condition makes me vulnerable. I see people around me as suspects. If not for my customer who brought you here, I would have shouted for help.

“I know what evil minded people think about me. They see my kind as easy channel to make money. I am careful about where I go and what time I move around. Even though I need more patronage to make money, I don’t attend to all customers. Once my instinct tells me not to attend to a particular customer, I turn such down. Let me continue carrying my cross till I bid the world bye instead of being used for rituals,” he said.

The case of a 59-year-old woman who simply wanted to be addressed as Iya Iyanu is even more serious. She is carrying the burden of two humps, one on the back and the other on the chest. She vehemently resisted being interviewed on the excuse that she was going out. This writer left and told her that she would come back the second day. Iya Iyanu was, however, surprised to see the writer the second day. She said: “I thought you were joking when you said you would be coming back yesterday.” She then agreed to be interviewed after all entreaties in the presence of her brother, Ayeni.

Iya Iyanu, a mother of one who sells fruits in front of her house in Ilara-Mokin, a suburb of Akure, Ondo State, lamented that her condition made her vulnerable which was the reason she could not take people at face value, as she narrated her ordeal. “I grew up to see my condition like this. I am the only one with this condition among my parent’s six children. My parents told me that they visited several witch doctors and made sacrifices to deities, to no avail. My pathetic situation led to my parents’ untimely death.”

On what goes on in her mind, considering the high rate of ritual murder cases across the country, she said: “ People like me have become endangered species. Our condition makes us potent for rituals. You can’t trust anybody, not even your family members. I sleep and wake in fear, especially now that ritual killing is on the rise. I depend on trusted family members to survive. Though I sell fruits, I can’t go to the market very early like others to buy in bulk, due to my condition. I give money to people going to the market to buy fruits for me which I sell. How many hunchbacks do you see around these days? They seem to have been sent to their early graves by evil doers. Since I cannot change my condition, it is advisable to be safety conscious,” she said.

The story was not different from that of an undergraduate, Anike, who was described as being sociable by one of her friends. Though she claimed to interact  freely with her friends and others, it was a herculean task getting her to talk to this writer, as her approach was not friendly.

Asked why she sounded snobbish, she said: “My experience taught me to act rudely to strangers. The way people stare at me tells me that I am not like every other person and the belief of the society towards people like me leaves more to be desired. Anike, who still wished she could change the hand of time, maintained that the fear of being kidnapped for money rituals is greater than the shame of being a hunchback.

Her words: “ People erroneously believe that hunch contains magical substance or mercury which can make them rich overnight, and that has compounded my woes. It becomes more serious now that both old and young want to be rich at all cost. If people without hunchbacks were being killed for ritual purposes, what do you think of me with this condition?

“Forget my make-up. It is to give me more confidence. I live daily in fear of being caught in the grisly hands of ritual killers. I ensure that I walk in company of someone, if I must go out, and I do my best to avoid strangers. That explains why I misbehaved to you  when you approached me initially. Everybody is my friend, but I am not a friend to anybody. Many in my condition were killed through those who were closer to them.

The murder of a 62-year-old hunchback, Ahmed Suberu, by suspected ritual killers in Kogi state few years ago was a lesson for me. They killed the man and removed the hunch. I doubt if any arrest was made to that effect. My mother also told me how a hunchback young lady was murdered and the hunch removed in her village. We are not happy with our condition. Instead of making the yoke lighter, the society is adding to it by the hunting down of hunchbacks by people who are desirous of making quick money. The recent happenings in the country are warnings for me. Hence the need to be rude for my safety,” she said.

A trader, Mummy Seun, whose only male child has a hunch at his back, claimed it was an attack against her son’s future. “ I am the second wife of my husband and my son is the only male child. He was  born normal with normal growth until after his fifth-year birthday that I noticed his back was protruding. I was told at different places where I went to seek for help that it was an attack against his brighter future. I am optimistic that very soon; the evil attack will go back to the sender.”

Regarding her son’s safety, she said: “I don’t allow him to run an errand for anybody. Even he is not happy with his condition, as you can see for yourself. He is 13 years old now and understands the peculiarity of his nature. He is always reluctant to go to school because they make jest of him.”

In a chat with Dr  Roli Oritshemeyiwa of Mother and Child Hospital, Ikeja, Lagos, she explained that hunchback, also known as Kyphosis, is a condition in which a spine in the upper back has an excessive curvature. She said the upper back that should have a slight curve becomes excess and the victim will look abnormal.

Her words: “The upper back, or thoracic region of the spine, has a natural slight curve. The spine naturally curves in the neck, upper back, and lower back to help absorb shock and support the weight of the head. Kyphosis occurs when this natural arch is larger than normal.

“If you have kyphosis, you may have a visible hump on your upper back. From the side, your upper back may be noticeably rounded or protruding. It is purely a medical issue and can be treated medically,” she said.

On how hunchback turned out to be a tool for money ritual, this writer visited some traditionalists in order to unravel the misconceptions surrounding the belief about hunchback. An Ifa Priest, Pa Ifaleye Ifagbemi, who explained that hunchback didn’t bring money as people speculated, added that it is a ploy by some people to exploit and defraud gullible and greedy persons who want to be rich by all means. The man added that none of Odu Ifa (Ifa corpuses) recommends the usage of human parts for money-making ritual which makes it impossible for an Ifa Priest to engage in such an act.

He said: “If hunchback truly brings money as the gullible are made to believe, why can’t those who perform the money ritual do same for themselves, their children and relatives in order to be rich? The notion by some people that hunchback is a veritable ingredient for money-making ritual is not only an act of wickedness but a disservice to humanity. People with hunch on their backs are very special and need to be treated as such. Nigerians should be warned that the spirit involved in using human blood for money rituals cannot be appeased once it is ready to strike. That is why people who became rich diabolically died mysteriously,” he disclosed.

Another native doctor visited by this writer, Mr Adeniyi Ifasikuola Afe, also debunked the myth of associating hunchbacks to an easy way of becoming rich. The man who cited the collapse of Yahoo business (internet fraudsters) as the major reason many are seeking alternative by targeting hunchbacks, said that people who are desperate to be rich at all cost could go to any length to achieve their aim, but warned that any money gotten through diabolical means especially with human blood has great consequences.

His words: “Money making through ritual is a simple case only, if the person is ready to face the music, especially when the so-called spirits who have been bringing the money demand for anything which must be given to it. Any refusal can lead to the death of that person or madness. That is the reason some men slept with their biological mothers, female children or mad people. The truth remains that such money comes with serious consequences which cannot be escaped. It is wealth laced with everlasting sorrow,” he warned.

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