“Èmí naa n so fún mi lówó lówó [the spirit is telling me right now]…”
When I read Fisayo Soyombo’s first part of his “PROPHETS OF THEIR POCKETS”, I laughed so hard and prayed he does the same thing with some Muslim clerics. A few days later, I read the second part where a greedy Muslim Cleric tried to scam him.
For those who have not the piece, “After making semi-permanent alterations to his looks, investigative journalist ‘FISAYO SOYOMBO visited four churches and four mosques/Islamic centres, pretending to be gay and in need of spiritual redemption. Six out of those eight centres fed him with a litany of fake prophecies before demanding cash and material possessions from him”.
It is very common to see Pan-Africans talk about how Africans bought Islam and Christianity while neglecting their African traditional practices. Whenever I engage people who say this in a dialogue, I always beg to defer. On average, sub-Saharan Africans did not totally neglect their traditional practices, rather, they practice a cultural form of these religions…picking from this and that.
The culture of a people is well reflected in their art. Take, for example, the movie industry called Nollywood. A regular viewer of their movies is most likely used to seeing storylines where a good herbalist is a solution to complicated problems. Unlike the Europeans and Arabs from whence these religions came to Africa, the average African Christian or Muslim still regards traditional practices. Amongst the Yorubas, it is very common for people to “t’ese ile bo” which means to go the traditional way.
In matters relating to trust, the average Muslim forgets not to swear other than by Allah or not to swear at all respectively will rush to pick a metal asking someone to swear by Ogun, the God of Iron, or Amadiahoa. If one is not pouring alcohol on the floor as an homage to the gods, another is collecting soap from Baba to thrive in his/her business.
Before Islam came to the Yorubas hundreds of years before the British colonization, the Yorubas had a history of polygamy like many African nations. When Islam came, there were those who embraced Islam but instead of sticking to the four-wives maximum Islam legislated, Islam was culturalized in that some Muslim men took more than four wives and justified it using Islam by saying, “me ni Olohun wi” meaning God said many which is a mischievous interpretation because me-rin is four while me-fa, me-jo, me-san mean 6, 8 and 9 respectively. Thus, God says merin which is four, not a blanket “me”.
Following the advent of Islam, it became common to see “Wasiu, Taju, Muri” etc., which are some corrupt forms of Islamic names to either be the masquerade or following it. To this, it would be said, “Esin o ni ki n ma se oro idile Baba mi” meaning my religion does not forbid me from practicing my Father’s traditions.
For those born before the year 2000, it is quite common to have incisions on their heads, wrist, or arm. Also common in sub-Saharan Africa is traditional mysticism under the guise of Islam; an act common in regions now known as Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, and many other places. Sand googling, fortune-telling, lizard and pigeon hunting are common practices amongst many clerics even though the Islamic religion forbids it.
The Celestial Church of Christ founded is a Church that founded took its elements from Christianity, Gungbe and Yoruba thoughts. With temples facing the East, corrupted Arabic chants and the constant Eli! Eli! exclamation, the Church’s omnism cannot be further explained.
Unlike their European counterparts, many sub-Saharan Pastors have a culture of fortune-telling; they see doom and good which is often a well-calculated or just a mere prediction. With the many yearly prophecies, one wonders why no Pastor has been able to clearly see the way forward for Africa.
Holy water, anointing oil, protective handkerchiefs, and aprons are common in many African churches. If a Pastor is not seeing visions, another is saying God is looking for a very big donor while another is in the spirit, speaking in tongues to ask the member to beware of his mother. In the South-East region of Nigeria, it is common practice to be Catholic or Anglican and also partake in traditional spiritual festivals.
There is a popular joke that if African politicians are sworn into power using the names of African gods instead of the Bible and Qur’an, corruption would be greatly reduced.
Contemporarily, there are groups amongst the Muslims namely Ahlul-Sunnah and somewhat interrelated, Salafis who claim to practice or push for the practice of pure Islam as the same can be said for some Christian denominations like the Deeper Life Bible Church.
A strong evidence that Africans did not totally leave their traditional practices is that anyone used to the groups mentioned above can give an account of the hostility they face even by fellow adherents of their own religion.
While the correctness of a religion may be subjective, I am of the opinion that anyone who blends one religion with another is a scammer.
Bashir Lucas Samson Lukman