Monday 15 June 2009

Nigeria: Congregation growth by maggot count

The stories baffle

What it takes to live in Nigeria can only have begun to be stranger than fiction in a recent conversation I had with a resident who can be identified as a true Nigerian.

Having lived in quite a number of places and with the ability to speak all the three major languages almost flawlessly, one cannot discount the insight this person brings to appreciating Nigeria, Nigerians and the different ways of engaging with people from all the different parts of the country.

Points were made that I could not discount outright but left one thinking about that we might consider logical explanations and the sinister workings of superstition and fetishism in a society where distrust and selfishness leaves everyone suspicious of everyone else regardless of their relationships.

My Western naivety towards the bizarre

It is quite easy for me to sit in my Western hemisphere comfort zone and scoff at happenings back there being exasperated by the happenings and news stories that boggle the mind, sometimes these things cannot be appropriately relayed because one has to draw on sophisticated powers of articulation and risk ridicule at expressing what can only be stranger than fiction.

The apparent religiosity of Nigeria is too obvious to be invisible to sight or not too distant to ones hearing, somebody is worshipping something but the question is changing about what is being worshipped.

Evidence in the bones

In what can only reflect an X-Files investigation I find myself wanting to dig up the grounds of the main buildings of places of worship that have their teachings outside the mainstream traditional religious doctrinal codes passed down by the missionaries of yore.

What I am supposed to or expected to find are bones of the bovine variety, however, that might not be strange until you appreciate the amazing liaison between animist fetishism and supposed religions of the book – apparently, the projected congregation growth which has both a financial and mesmerisation component is derived from the amount of maggots produced by a decaying bovine carcass.

Believing the unbelievable

Now, I have no reason to believe any of this and as an X-Files investigator I would probably have egg on my face if I ever mentioned this to anyone with any rational bearing.

But, something is self-evident in this matter; the medicine man has probably conjured up this superbly atrocious and incredible scam of indeterminate congregation growth by maggot count and enticed some nefarious but charismatic religious personality whose core business plan is of tithing the gullible looking for the spectacular and funny stories rather than saving souls.

Or there is a genuine interworking belief system that allows for this liaison of the macabre to thrive, but it is unlikely anyone would be counting maggots just as Abraham of old never went counting the sand of the sea to determine the projected growth and number of his descendants.

A shovel to the ground

If one were to expose this as a scam, do you get a shovel and dig or just allow a stratospheric rise in your sceptical quotient when a phenomenon is beyond rational insight?

More dangerously is the extent to which either the fetishist or charismatic religionist would go to fulfil their aims to get their hands on the money of the desperate seeking quick and spectacular solutions to problems that probably could be solved if the intellect is allowed basic stimulation and exercise.

Somehow, ones upbringing in these overtly superstitious societies militates against viewing this with an open mind, but make sure you have a good story if your religious leader finds you digging up the floors of the place of worship for the sacred cow bones to place in a reliquary, better still try ground penetrating radar and suggest you are on archaeological research.

Now your suspicions have been roused, it is not too strange that in Nigeria you are schooled to live with suspicious minds.

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