As told to Kunle Ologunro
Weeks ago, I was intrigued by the notion of being initiated into witchcraft through food, so I put out a call for stories. I honestly thought I wouldn’t get any responses because, really, who would boldly come out to say they had been initiated?
But I did get stories: people who had eerie dreams after eating food offered to them by classmates, people whose housemaids confessed to being witches. It was by far the scariest and most exhilarating thing I have ever written.
And then I got this DM from a lady who had a witchcraft story to share. No, she didn’t eat food offered to her by a stranger, neither did her housemaid confess. Instead, she was accused of causing her uncle’s sickness. What happened next is an experience I don’t think anyone should go through.
My name is *Linda, and I’m from Oron in Akwa Ibom State. I am the fifth of the six children my mother gave birth to. Not long after my mother had the last child, my father abandoned her, and she was faced with the burden of providing for six children alone. As a way to lighten the burden, I was sent to Lagos to stay with my uncle, my mother’s only brother.
My life in Lagos was fine. My uncle was a senior staff at NNPC. He enrolled me in a private school and took care of me like I was his child. The only problem was his wife. She treated me like the typical Nollywood evil stepmother, but I didn’t let that get to me. I’d come from a place where basic necessities were hard to come by. But here I was in Lagos, enrolled in school and living well. I wasn’t going to let her treatment get to me.
But then I turned seven, and my uncle became sick. It started gradually: dry cough, rashes and all. They took him to several hospitals yet there was no improvement whatsoever. Back then, TB Joshua was the trend and his church (the old site) was very close to us, so they took him there. He was given a handkerchief and special plates, but he never got better.
Instead, he became leaner. Then, they took him to another church around Ikotun Egbe. The pastor and some members of the church came to our house to pray. It was during their prayers that they told my uncle’s wife that I was a witch and that I and my grandmother, who was 70 at that time and was suffering from dementia, were responsible for my uncle’s sickness.
The next day, my uncle’s wife came to pick me up from school and took me to that same church. I was there for over a week. I wasn’t given any food, just water and olive oil to drink. Every morning, the pastor would flog me and ask me to confess. I was innocent, but he wanted a confession from me, so I started making up stories from the movies I had seen just so they would let me go.
Fortunately, one of the family’s bigger cousins heard what was happening, so he stormed the church and took me away. I stayed with him for a few weeks before his wife also drove me away saying I was a witch because I was very inquisitive. I had to return to Akwa Ibom.
If you’re from Akwa Ibom or you’ve been to Akwa Ibom, I’m sure you’ve heard stories or seen young boys and girls, who were driven away from their homes all in the name of witchcraft, roaming the streets. It happens in Oron where I am from, and it is still very much in existence today. In fact, it is a common thing in my village to murder people who are perceived to be witches or wizards.
Because of what happened in Lagos, I was branded as a witch, and my Uncles wanted to kill me. There is something they give to those who are perceived to be witches. It’s believed that if the person isn’t a witch, they would eat and vomit it, and if the person is, eating it would would kill them. But our bodies are different, and that stuff has killed many innocent people. When they gave me to eat, I vomited, and they concluded that I was a “strong witch.”
Very early the next morning, my mother smuggled me out and took me to one church. From there, I was taken to a home for kids who were driven away by their parents. The home is disguised as an orphanage, but it really isn’t. I can’t mention the name because so many kids are still there. The home is located in Abia state and the founder goes about picking up street kids. She often travels to Akwa Ibom to get these kids that were driven out of their homes; she brings them back to her orphanage where she cleans them up and gives them out to those looking for house helps for a specific amount.
I stayed at this ‘orphanage’ for a couple of weeks and then I was ‘sold’ to a couple whose children were all abroad. In the one year I was there, I was abused continuously by my adopted father. I eventually ran away and went back to the orphanage where I was scolded and resold to another couple who wanted a house help. I stayed there for six years, started and finished my secondary school there, and eventually ran away when one of their older sons started abusing me sexually.
After I left, I stayed with a few friends I made on Facebook, started working, and was able to save some money to further my education. I’m currently a student of the University of Benin.
And now, here’s the most surprising part: last year, I discovered that my uncle actually died of AIDS.