Navigating life as a woman in the world today is incredibly difficult. From Nigeria to Timbuktu, it’ll amaze you how similar all our experiences are. Every Wednesday, women the world over will share their takes on everything from sex to politics right here.
Today’s What She Said is not anonymous. Last week, a 22-year-old Ghanaian, Dzifa @MakyDebbie_ shared an experience from her childhood that had to do with being accused of witchcraft.
I just remembered how I was accused of witchcraft at age 7, at age 7 I was fasting for three days dry, no food no water for 3 days. Because of witchcraft I knew nothing about.— DZIFA✨ (@MakyDebbie_) September 15, 2020
We were curious about this experience, so we decided to talk to her about it. She tells us about how when she lived in Nigeria with her family, her father’s friend told him her mother and sisters were witches. He made them endure several deliverance sessions, amongst other rituals, in different churches to get rid of this so-called witchcraft.
Let’s start from the beginning. Why did you and your Ghanian family live in Nigeria?
My parents are Ghanaians. I don’t have any Nigerian bloodline, but I grew up in Nigeria. My parents moved to Nigeria when I was three years old.
My mother married my dad in Nigeria. He was already there hustling.. Things were really hard in Nigeria, so they came back to Ghana, where they gave birth to me. And when things got bad in Ghana, we relocated to Nigeria.
So how did the witchcraft accusations begin?
It began when my father made a Ghanaian friend in Nigeria. The friend called himself a prophet of God even though he didn’t have any church. I was about seven years old when it started. My mother tells me this story every time: he got into the house and said, Spirits are living in this house.
My father was sold. He told my father that my mother was a witch and all the girls — my sisters and I — were witches.
Do you have any brother?
Yes. He wasn’t accused of witchcraft. Although my father’s friend told him that my brother would soon be initiated by us. So while we were going for prayer sessions and deliverances, my brother never went with us. My brother was already an adult though, and he didn’t believe in all these things. He was also working, so he didn’t depend on my parents.
It seemed the witchcraft accusation was what my father wanted to hear because it meant he was a hero among witches. “These people are witches and yet nothing bad has happened to me.” When my father lost his job, it reinforced that we were witches trying to bring him down, and that was when the whole thing started.
Every pastor said it was witches that made my father lose his job. At a point, he didn’t have any money, but he still sent us for deliverances so we would release his job for him.
I grew up at Jakande Estate, Isolo. One day we trekked from Isolo to Ikotun. My father gave us money to go there and told us he had given money to the pastor to give us to come back. He had not. The pastor didn’t help, and we couldn’t sleep at the church. I can never forget that day. My mum, sisters and I cried on our way back. My mother is plus-sized, so it was too much for her. We gave her massages for days.
We started with the Mountain of Fire camp at Ibadan expressway. I did three days of fasting. If you had seen me and asked, “Dzifa, what are you doing?” I would have told you I’m fasting because I need deliverance from witchcraft. I didn’t know what witchcraft was. It’s not like I was seeing things in the night.
From Mountain of Fire, we went to Chosen. We would go for night vigils, no sleep. Immediately after school, “Go and baff, we are going to church.”
I can’t count how many churches we went to. There was a time they said we were all delivered except my sister, so they took her to another church at Ikotun. The church was built at a dumpsite — I cry every time I remember this story — because this man cut my sister’s hair with scissors and was washing her head from witchcraft. Which witchcraft?
Wow. I’m so sorry.
We drank anointing oil like it was water. If you had cut our skin, it would be anointing not blood that would come out. They also gave us soaps and salts. My father set a table in our room with salt and stones on it. He called it an altar, so that in the night when we want to “fly”, the altar of God would stop us.
There was a time he wouldn’t let us sleep with lights off for the same reason.
This is a lot. For how long did this continue?
It started when I was seven and continued till I left Nigeria — it’s just less now. My father still doesn’t have a job. I came to Ghana with my parents when I finished secondary school — at 15. I visited my brother a year later in Nigeria, and after a conversation we had, I was done with it all. When I went back to Ghana, I was done.
He cannot disturb me because I’m independent now. He tried to fight me, he even started a church. But right now, he doesn’t disturb me. I don’t go to church anymore; I’m not religious anymore.
Your dad started a church?
Well, somebody started a church then had to travel. He left my dad in control, but they had a fall out later and my dad left. Everyone just assumed my father was the owner of the church.
Mind blown. How was your mum throughout this period?
My mum endures everything. I told you she trekked from Isolo to Ikotun. And still, tomorrow, If my father says go here, she would go. I hated her for always agreeing because if she said no, we wouldn’t have to go to any church. But she always agreed.
But now I know that she was unemployed and totally reliant on my dad. She had a little catering business, but that wasn’t enough to take care of us. She couldn’t afford to be rebellious, else things would’ve gone south. These days, she says she did it for us and I think it’s true. If my dad had neglected us, I don’t know how we would have coped. Right now that we, her children, take good care of her, she doesn’t go to any church anymore. We talk a lot and she tells me the things my dad says. I tell her, ma, we are not going to any church.
How did this witchcraft obsession affect your family’s relationship?
It affected our relationship with my father grossly. These days he tries to mend a very broken relationship. Right now I am the only child living with my parents. The others are in Nigeria, and I can tell you their relationship with him is sour. My father complains my brother doesn’t respond to his messages, but once I text my brother, he replies immediately. It makes my father feel bad.
One time he asked if he had ever wronged me, and I looked at him and said nothing. If I start talking about how he messed me up, made me feel unloved, made me hate myself for being a witch and question my existence, I would start crying.
How did it affect you?
When my dad stopped working, we couldn’t go to school. They would chase us because we had not paid our fees. And because I was a witch holding my father’s job, this was my fault.
I hated myself for causing extreme suffering. I thought, “Why did they give birth to me if it was to make my parents suffer? Why am I making them cry every day?” My mother suffered domestic violence because of witchcraft. Till today, when she argues with my father, he brings up witchcraft.
I hated men of God. If you say I’m a witch, why can’t you deliver me? Why did my father never get a new job? It was when I became older that I realised, bruh, these people were lying. If I was a witch, I think I’d know.
Do you believe witches exist?
Well, no one has come to meet me and said, “Hi, I’m a witch, this is what I went through” or “Dzifa, I’m a witch, I’m coming to torment your life.” I only see it on TV.
I’ve experienced what it’s like to be falsely accused of witchcraft. When a witch comes to tell me of their witchery, then I’ll believe. For now, it all ends at Harry Potter witchcraft.
If you’d like to share your experience as a Nigerian or African woman, email me.