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Sade Owoeye: The Fear of Your Village People

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When I thought of the perfect prelude for this article, an old Yoruba proverb came to mind: B’isu eni ba jina, a maa n b’oje ni, which literarily translates to: When your yam is well cooked, you must eat it in secrecy.

Growing up in a Christian, Yoruba home, I am familiar with the idea that personal successes are meant to be enjoyed in private, far away from the glare of monitoring spirits, watchers, bad belle people … village people.

Village people shouldn’t be taken literally as people from your hometown. Though we mostly point fingers at the people from our parents’ hometowns, village people are everywhere. From co-workers and domestic staff to immediate family members, or even church members (true story). No matter where they spring up from, they are all hell bent on one singular focus: sabotaging your progress in life.

The fear of village people is best described as that innate caution that prevents you from disclosing any positive thing that is going well in your life for the fear that some unseen forces or malevolent folks will jinx your good fortune.

This isn’t a debate on the existence of the supernatural. Heck, to be African and to deny the existence of the supernatural (carefully avoiding the word voodoo here) is … something. I remember my mind being scarred on an episode of “Nkan mbe” (a popular Yoruba TV show in the 90s which profiled several mysterious and often bizarre occurrences). A particular episode featured a woman who birthed two tortoises wrapped in a nylon bag. I still shudder at the thought of that TV show.

The concept of the evil village people has been propagated by Nollywood, (poor Patience Ozokwo – the matriarch of the village people). One in every ten Nigerian internet meme refers to village people. Yeah, I totally made up that statistic. Even Pentecostal churches have keyed into the anointing for destroying the “forces from your father’s or mother’s house” aka village people. Need proof? Just take a closer look at the revival posters you see around.

This was inspired by a discussion with my co-workers on why many expectant mothers in Nigeria go all out to have elaborate maternity photo shoots and then hoard the pictures until the baby is born before sharing them on social media. It has become the social media norm to announce the birth of a child with the parent’s maternity photo shoots because by then no “evil eye” can look through the pictures to harm the baby! Case in point, I came across a Facebook post on a young lady who lost her life during childbirth. A commenter blatantly insulted the deceased lady for posting her baby shower pictures on Facebook. A particular picture other commenters went in hard on, was a picture with the lady displaying the words ‘congrats” scribbled on her bare baby bump. According to some of the commenters, the deceased clearly had it coming by posting such pictures on the internet through which she inadvertently attracted evil eyes to herself.

We may laugh it off as illiteracy and our penchant for leaning towards the supernatural rather than critically examining the logical reasons why things happen. For example, could the flat tire on the morning of an important job interview be the work of an evil arrow or a mere stroke of misfortune?

Could the death of the long-awaited child the morning after his first birthday party be the handwork of toothless hags sitting around a boiling cauldron or a result of subtle fever symptoms overlooked in the flurry of birthday planning activities? Could the “single at 35” status of that beautiful and ever-pleasant lady in your office be the doing of world people who wove relationship woes into the fabric of her destiny or a chronic case of commitment phobia (which could still be caused by village people anyway)?

I could go on and on about how we may have been programmed by culture, religion, and media to look at the mysterious for the cause of our misfortunes rather than seeking logic. But beneath the internet memes and jokes about how village people can follow someone abroad, we have subtly donned on cloaks of suspicion to our fellow man. The world can’t be happy with your progress. You instinctively feel the need to mumble something incoherent when someone asks for your travel date or feign ignorance when someone asks what the gender of the baby is.

My colleague who was visibly pregnant vehemently denied being pregnant, blaming her protruding stomach on our office lunch until the “office lunch” refused to digest and soon took the shape of a baby bump. We all tease her about it but till date and she maintains that she didn’t know she was pregnant.

My friend who got a scholarship to study abroad for her second degree told me of how she kept the news from her extended family and only informed them three months after she had settled into her MSc program. Her actions created a rift between her mother and her aunt, as my friend had stayed with her aunt for 5 years during her university days and had a close relationship with her. Her mother had sternly warned to keep her applications, admission and travel date from anyone outside the immediate family. In my friend’s words “I love my aunt very much but you never really know people these days.”

Sometimes, our hesitation to share pictures of flourishing relationships, fancy vacations and other beautiful moments in life is not necessarily out of humility or a need for privacy, but rather an instinct to shield our happy moments from the evil eyes of our village people. Like my friends jokingly say, your village people are on Instagram too.

When I interact with people from other countries, especially Europeans, I am always struck by their forthrightness about things which we Nigerians would typically conceal: How far gone are you? What is your due date? Are you having a boy or a girl? When are you guys planning on getting married? I remember attending a particular wedding where the sister of the groom who couldn’t attend the wedding, as her expected due date was close, made a video recording of herself and her visibly huge belly wishing the groom marital happiness. The video was played at the reception and while all the guest gushed at the sweet gesture, I couldn’t help thinking about how such a video would have been received in a Nigerian setting.

We can’t discard the effect of the fear of village people on our daily lives: how it cripples our need for self-expression, burdens us with a distrust of people and their motives, overt disregard for logical reasoning in favor the mysterious and supernatural, and sometimes the failure to launch. We must learn to consistently guard our hearts and take responsibly for our actions and as the saying goes “What you focus on becomes your reality.”

So, if you ask me what my take is on village people, I will be quick to quote my favorite scripture, “God has not given me the spirit of fear, but of power, love and of a sound mind.” Still, when I’m pregnant and someone asks if I am with child, guess who is going to blame the office lunch? Me!

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

I’m Fola a finance consultant and an aspiring writer seeking a balance between my love for number crunching and creative writing. My life mantra is to “live while I’m alive”.You can catch up on my writings on www.thegraceadventures.com.

30 Comments

  1. Aburume Oluwasegun

    September 11, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    The synopsis of African beliefs and cultural attribute is a cancerous degenerate issues that as perpetuated our life and can’t be erased from our mindset, envy,greed and jealousy cause most of evil behaviour

  2. ME

    September 11, 2018 at 7:58 pm

    I really laugh at this write up because I see it has been polished for acceptability by the elites.
    Well

    • me again

      September 11, 2018 at 8:23 pm

      …….Well me I know village people exist even in this abroad and I can tell too many stories of my various encounters with them but i am getting to a place where I honestly don’t like the fact that I live by their dictates although I have noticed that if I share something not so good always happens,

      There have being arguments but I learnt to be careful who about these things recently.

      You see before now, relationships were hell to manage both male and female, it was difficult to keep a job nothing just seemed to work until it occurred to me tat something was wrong. so slowed thing slightly to constrain myself and its been a lot better.

      At the moment I am not sure what to make of it, because I am still in the learning process. I hope people will share and I can learn

  3. Ephi

    September 11, 2018 at 8:02 pm

    I used to be skeptical about all those kinds of thing but my dear sister, we live in a dark wicked continent. Very. The level of wickedness (usually emanating from envy) in Nigeria cannot be compared to Europe, in fact no basis for comparison. Till today I still always remember a classmate of mine who had a full scholarship (tuition, fares, accommodation) to Oxford, first class guy, he died few days before the trip, someone who was perfectly well. There are different kinds of families, just pray you are not in the wrong one.

    Ultimately, as a Christian you must know your authority and power in Christ, and stand in it. That trumps ALL else. There is no need to live in fear when you know WHO lives inside of you.

    • Ify

      September 12, 2018 at 2:02 pm

      God bless you

  4. Omoniyi

    September 11, 2018 at 8:14 pm

    lmaooo @ the office lunch refused to digest ???
    Nice article.. keep them coming.

  5. amara

    September 11, 2018 at 8:23 pm

    My sister no blame us o…. They say wetin our elders see while sitting down, even when we climb tree, we no fit see am.
    lol.
    When I got pregnant though I told all my friends. If I trusted them enough to have them spend the night before my wedding with me and stand beside me on the wedding day,wetin come be belle.

    You know your people. follow your instincts. Your instincts are usually right

  6. monica

    September 11, 2018 at 8:30 pm

    This is hilarious, so real and just interesting. I’m even guilty of some situations like not revealing pregnancies though unintentional.

  7. Funmi

    September 11, 2018 at 9:01 pm

    Oh Dear,!! you left me in stitches, Fola.. Thank you for this brilliant and fun article.

  8. Theresa

    September 11, 2018 at 9:35 pm

    Beautiful and much needed article on the Nigeria mindset and our irrational fears.

    • Cocoa

      September 12, 2018 at 6:28 pm

      Irrational fears? You’ve not met someone who can tell you of the day he discovered there is a black pot with his placenta kept specially for him at the back of a house in their village.
      If you did, he will tell you thatGod showed hi, the pot and he rerurned tonhis village to steal it and brought it back to his pastor for prayers.

      Stay FORTIFIED BY THE BLOOD OF JESUS, Be wise. Dont be ignorant. The Bible says “FLEE”. Dont take on battles you can avoid.

      Irrational? No my dear. Definitely not a fairytale world we live in.

    • Californiabawlar

      September 12, 2018 at 11:29 pm

      Lol. Cocoa, refer to other christian comments on this thread e.g. @Ephi, to see how you can state your confidence in Christ without hyping the power of the enemy to the point that you would give it indirect power over you and appear delusional.

      – meanwhile I woke up at 3am this morning to the airport noise of my Nigerian neighbor who’ a new mum casting and binding loudly cos her newborn won’t stop crying ?

  9. Miss Dee

    September 11, 2018 at 11:19 pm

    Hmm….I have seen things in this life to know that village people are real. I won’t go into details here but mhen, its to be jejely enjoying life low key. Who am I trying to impress anyway?

  10. posh

    September 11, 2018 at 11:29 pm

    Nice piece!very witty lol

  11. Edith

    September 12, 2018 at 12:12 am

    Very well said. We blame our misfortune to spiritual attack thereby making us to live in fear

  12. Fola

    September 12, 2018 at 9:09 am

    Thank you Funmi

  13. VIKY

    September 12, 2018 at 10:46 am

    WHO NOR GO NOR KNOW

  14. Vique

    September 12, 2018 at 11:27 am

    Well written, Shade. I look forward to more articles from you. I hope you become a regular here. Vique.

    • Fola O

      September 12, 2018 at 12:30 pm

      Thanks Vicky ❤️

  15. VIKY

    September 12, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    who nor go, nor know…….

  16. Dayo

    September 12, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    Nice one, Sade. This reminds me of Brymo’s ‘Banuso’ in his latest Oso album. Your Fortune lies in your belief.

  17. Ajala & Foodie

    September 12, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    While I believe in the power of “the village people”. I mean the Bible even says that, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood…” Nevertheless, I think many of us over spiritualize things. For example, when my mum came to help after my daughter was born, she (baby) had a severe case of colic, diagnosed by her Pediatrician and everything. If you have had any experience with a colicky child, you’d know being outside i.e walks and drives help them. My mum despite what the doctor said insisted there were evil spirits in our house (we just moved in prior to baby being born), and asked that myself and hubby pray on the house because baby seemed to calm down on walks or during drives or was it when I over heard her praying on my little girl, I asked her why she was praying she said she (baby) was fussing so she decided prayer was the answer. I took the baby and checked her diaper, yep baby had pooped hence her fussing. My dear mama was busy praying all baby needed was a clean diaper.

    I think we, religious African folks don’t realize 1) how much power we give the devil with how much credit we give him. We are so focused on evil that we end glorifying and magnifying it.
    2) Our tendency too over spiritualize the mundane or to blame everything on the spiritual instead of asking what we can do in the physical I believe is why as a Continent we still struggle.

    • Mz Socially Awkward....

      September 13, 2018 at 11:35 am

      😀 😀 😀

      Dear laptop keyboard, where is my dancing emoji, ohhhhh???? Congratulations!!!! Oh, sis! See how matter-of-factedly you slid that in there….. so so so happy for your good news!! BN Community of before, biko, let’s come and decide on thanksgiving asoebi colors.

      And may your family be made richer for her joining you, she will add joy and no sorrow by God’s Grace as He keeps her in every good way. Nne somebori! Dalu oh. 😀

  18. Kkay

    September 12, 2018 at 4:20 pm

    Envy + greed + wickedness =Village people.
    The world is a dark place but Africa is still largely a dark continent and Nigeria, a darker country.
    Do not live in fear but……be wise as serpent but innocent as doves like Jesus admonished.
    God is more powerful than Herod yet he instructed Joseph to take baby Jesus to Egypt away from threat of death by envious Herod and his cohorts. A prophet even foretold it, “Out of Egypt I called my Son.” Hosea 11:1
    Jesus grew up quietly in Nazareth, away from his birth town of Bethlehem in Judea until the fullness of his time of manifestation. Why Nazareth? That’s because the Law and Prophets already said Messiah will come out of Bethlehem in Judea. So, Village people had their expo where to haunt for him.

    Apart from his brief astounding appearance in the temple at age 12, not much was heard of him until he was 30 and came to the Baptism by John at River Jordan. Within 3 years, he was brutally murdered by crucifixion like a common criminal..

    Not everyone must know the important things of your life until the time of manifestation.
    Do not cast your pearls before the beast that wallows in dirty mud……or a trial will leave you battered.

    • gbaskelebo

      September 14, 2018 at 3:21 pm

      Nugget!

  19. Tena

    September 12, 2018 at 6:31 pm

    Let’s call it what it really is. The fear of village people is really the fear of poverty. Using poor people in the village as the reason why things go bad for you because they don’t have what you have… it is easier to blame the bogeyman than to take responsibility for your actions or accept that sometimes bad things happen for no reason.

  20. Asa

    September 12, 2018 at 7:37 pm

    Village people, village people, where do we draw the line?

    My brother’s wife is very religious, deeply believing in village people but I did not consider this a problem until a few weeks back. They were going through issues but they kept it from us (me and my siblings) because according to them, “they did not know who was who.” I ignored their lives after this piece of stupidity, I will not butt in where I am not wanted and where I will be viewed with suspicion.

  21. Lady!

    September 12, 2018 at 9:02 pm

    SIGH! I really just wish people will understand the power of the mind. WHAT YOU DON”T GIVE LIFE TO CANNOT HARM YOU. Once you feed into something whether or not it will work is irrelevant because your mind becomes lazy and you find ways to self destruct unconsciously. Yes you can’t believe in good and not believe in evil however if you choose a positive outlook, there is no way you can be consumed by evil.

    This is why I believe religion should be banished from Nigeria. It insights fear more than it eliminates it. Just focus on God and have faith, be positive and watch things turn around for you. Your village people are not the cause of your problems.

  22. Fola

    September 13, 2018 at 10:17 am

    Thank you all for all the insightful comments. I can’t reply all but really thanks for sharing. It just occurred to me this morning that I left out a critical peice in this article: Sometimes we are our very own “village people”, with our self-sabotaging behaviors and constant indulgence in things that opens room for negativity and retrogression.
    No matter how frail a ship is, it won’t sink until water gets in. So perhaps the major take away from this write up is this “ how am I my own personal “village person”.

  23. Maze

    September 22, 2018 at 10:39 pm

    Chai! Madam V catch your shade ooo

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