Saturday, December 4, 2010

What's in a Miracle without Jazz

If you’ve been in Nigeria long enough and you hear the word ‘jazz’ there are two things that would come to mind. The first is the music genre while the second is embedded in supernatural beliefs involving the use of charms in achieving desires. I’m talking about the second, the one historians have labelled as being part of the African culture. Growing up in Nigerian you can’t escape being socialized to believe the existence of Jazz. I remember the Yoruba movies I watched during my early years, supernatural forces and powers were the central theme. There was an actor called Abija who was cool at being the bad guy and another one, Lalude, who was the protagonist most of the time. Then the winner between battles in these movies was based on who represented good and had the longer incantation which usually ended with ‘ile’ meaning you should fall down (and die). The good guys always won. Then I began to watch ‘English films’ that changed the script. They substituted the ‘good jazz’ with Christianity while if you were involved in any jazz at all there was high probability the character was going to die in the movie (unless the character repented). But one thing became clear to me, there was good and evil and if you believe in miracles then you would believe in Jazz. Apart from the movies I watched, I grew up hearing tales of Jazz which you might have heard the same stories but never questioned it. The bros around then would tell these stories that they probably heard from someone else who never confirmed it. I remember one about a guy who wanted to fight with another guy. He unbuttoned his shirt and hung it in the air. That act made the other guy and spectators run. I also remember another one; a guy wanted to become an armed robber and was given ‘protection’ that prohibited him from walking beneath electric cables. It had been working for him until after a stick up and he was being chased by the police who shot at him. The bullet did no damage until he ran beneath an electric cable while trying to escape, he got hit and died. Recently the stories I hear most of the time involved Yahoo boys and the tortoise (sounds like children’s tale) but I’m not going into that. I have also heard about a yahoo guy that was given a jazzed ring which mustn’t be in contact with any liquid. After a night out partying he decided to wash his face and he forgot about pulling the ring out of his finger before he did that. Consequence: He got blind. The fact was these stories were heard and never experienced but I didn’t doubt/believe them totally.

I got home one day and heard one of my distant cousins (I never knew existed) was coming from America to stay with us for a while. Days later I heard he would be arriving with his mom. Days later I heard their stay was indefinite. Fifteen minutes before they walked in I heard the punch line, the cousin had a psychological ‘malfunction’. It wasn’t up to ten minutes this cousin walked in and he wanted to spar with me (which wasn’t going to happen, forget say I dey chop fufu). He was bigger as expected and looked alright but I noticed he kept spitting on the floor which I learnt was the side effect of the medication he was using which was prescribed by his doctors in America. He had been in coma for over three months after being jumped back in the states. For reasons unknown some boys decided to literally beat the living day light out of this guy leaving him in a coma. Call it shock or trauma but this guy had the tendency to be violent and his thought was like a bad disc, he could repeat himself for over five minutes. I remember being woken up by the sound of him fighting with his mom in a free-for-all fight. They were literally exchanging blows like boxers. To avoid this it was important for him to take his drugs but that only made him sober (for a while). The drugs were not making him better and down here in Nigeria there were alternative options. He was taken to one place in Ogun state where he was put in shackles and the use of force was used to exert control or self-discipline. The beating they gave him was more than enough for someone to confess to what they didn’t do. After a couple of months he returned looking worse, you could see the signs of where the shackles were on his wrist and feet. I looked bigger and I felt bad for him, he was too calm. Unfortunately or fortunately that only lasted for few days and he was back to his ‘usual’ self. It was hell now ‘cause there was no more drugs to ‘humble’ him. When all else fails, including our personal effort, we men fall down to our knees to recognise higher power. His mom decided to take him to church, she belonged to the Celestial Church of Christ and they showed promise. I happened to witness one of their prayer sessions in my house. They came from another angle to explain why the guy was in that case. They claimed that before he relocated to America with his mother he was very rude to an old woman here in Nigeria. It was the woman that cursed him and the events occurred to put him in that state as punishment. You know the saying, if you all you got was a hammer you’ll see every problem as a nail, so I wasn’t surprised by what they said, religious people see issues from that angle. They gave him cooked snails to eat. One thing you have to know about land snails is that their body constantly release water that’s why they looked slimly and wet. Seconds later my cousin began to act like a snail. He kept complaining of head ache and sweated profusely all over his body. I don’t mean hard labour under the hot sun kind of sweat, what he wore looked like they were drenched in a bucket of water and brought out. Sweat was dripping from it that it had to be squeezed before it was hung on a line. The Alagba (Pastor) claimed the curse was being released. She brought out olive oil and began to sprinkle drops on him. His body began to make sounds as if something was running, trying to hide, in his stomach. It was audible amidst the loud prayers being said. Oh boy! I fear that day o! The guy was in serious pain while cradling his knees close to his chest and his body was making weird noises. That whole episode lasted for about an hour. The pastor claimed the sound from his body was the ‘curse’ attempting to still hide in his body. The only thing I could think of was what was a miracle without jazz. The fact was whether she was right or not, nothing changed afterwards. He was still the same and I had to feel for him. Medical, physical, and spiritual method didn’t solve his problem. His mother packed their bags and off to America, at least she still had a son.

One thing I have noticed is that when all else fails and desperation pushes you to the wall using jazz might not seem like a bad idea. Even the most religious of us all might bend rules. And either you are religious or not you take caution when you see a charm by the road side or anywhere else, you still accord it its respect. In my area there was a plot of land place where people had converted into an illegal dumping site. The owner of the land did all he could to stop this but Nigerians could be redundant. Despite the sign ‘DO NOT DUMP YOUR REFUSE HERE’. One day we woke up to find what the owner left at the dump site. There were two poles stuck to the ground about sit foot apart and tied from one pole to the next was a red cloth. In the middle was a clay calabash tied to it with white polka dot on it tied to the cloth. Either the people in my area believe in jazz or not, I know no one dared to dump refuse there since then. Everyone just ignored it as if it wasn’t their habit and one of my guys that I asked claimed he wasn’t scared to still dump refuse there but when I dared him he never did. The behaviour exhibited shows the fear of man for uncertainty. I kept wandering, what would happen if I dump refuse there after all I’m the curious one but then again what if it was really jazz (like the ones I hear about)?