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Opinions of Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Columnist: Adofo, Rockson

How the Lies of, and Unflinching Believe in, Fetish Priests and Pastors killed

As there are many ways to kill the cat, so there are diverse ways to be of service to humanity. Has the old wise man not advised us to be one another's keeper if we really anticipate living better lives worthy of recognition and emulation? I am vividly going to shed light on some family encounters which may help correct some of our false perceptions and beliefs. I hope lives may be saved if fellow Ghanaians would read, understand and advise themselves accordingly after getting familiarised with these insightful incidents.

More often than not have we unrealistically been seen to give in to some of our African beliefs without logically analysing issues and situations? The propensity at which some of us do succumb to such beliefs, without giving them second thoughts, are not only detrimental to society but can, culminate in fatalities to the believers themselves in the long run. Such unfaltering beliefs can destructively inconvenience the entire family and their posterity.

My late mother of blessed memory, Awo Serwaah, once narrated to me the circumstances surrounding her mother's death. I was gobsmacked to learn how my unknown grandmother, Nana Gyamfuah, who passed in the late 1940s was left by her siblings and family to die a very degrading painful death. Upon my understanding, she was taken to "Murunkumso", a renowned fetish shrine in the Ashanti Region in those days, accused of witchery. She had fallen seriously ill. Her family believed her illness had resulted from the fact that she was a witch; an unproven allegation of course! The more she cried insisting she was not a witch but ill, and that she should be taken to the hospital, the greater their gleeful insistence that she remained at the shrine to be exorcised for she was a witch. Her brothers, as novice and awash in paganism as they were, kept her at the fetish shrine until she died. My unknown grandmother died a miserable death and was buried in an unmarked grave at "Murunkumso" until today. My eyes are welled up with tears as I recount this sorrowful end of my unknown chubby grandmother. Her relatives believed that as long as all her children died in their infancy with only my mum as her surviving child, she was to be held accountable. To them, she was herself the witch killing her own children. What a stupid conclusion without cogent proof? I am annoyed at what they did to her. Though I am getting emotional, it will be quite a defeatist idea to declare that I hate them. It took place over sixty years ago so I forgive all those who in a way or the other contributed towards the agonizing death of my unknown grandmother.

In another sad incident, my half-siblings from Kumawu-Woraso have been dying in yearly sequence to the astonishment of any ear that hears it. As usual, the belief has been the current multi-generational household has gone against the laid down requirements of the household fetish. It is said; their elders once consulted a fetish shrine for assistance. They had not enough people in their family. The elders wanted more people so they decided to seek help by going to the said fetish shrine.

They were prepared some sort of spiritual concoction or object, to be buried in the house. This was believed to assist towards their request for a populous household. Nothing from the fetish is given without the observance of strictest instructions. It is understood that no woman member of the household that happens to be in her menses is to come to the house for the entire duration it takes to end the menstruation. They are to stay in a purposely built outhouse or find somewhere else. Furthermore, no any pounding of "fufu" should take place in the house after 6 of Clock in the evening until the next day. These instructions are being flaunted by the current generation. They are Christians so they see no reason why they should abide by divergent satanic views. To hell with fetishism and their instructions, they seem to say.

Let us examine what is happening and see if we can attribute them to the fetish or to mere ignorance, poverty and stupidity. Any woman who becomes the eldest of the household, shouldering the relevant responsibilities thereof (according as demanded of her by the Akan traditions and custom); begin to have her children dying in sequence on almost yearly basis.

One Madam Akosua had her children, Kwankye, Kofi Gyekye, Guy Worry etc. die under circumstances that made the ear that heard them tingled. Kwankye was among the Ghanaian deportees from Nigeria in 1983. He came home almost bare-handed like many other deportees who had their money and goods stolen from them by the Nigerians. Her mum constantly viciously slurred him for coming home with nothing. Having had enough of her mum's derogatory remarks and felt he could no longer take anymore, he poisoned himself. He had come to the conclusion his mum has tarnished his reputation beyond redemption. The best alternative or option left to him was to take his own life. His brother Kofi Gyekye also killed himself. Kofi Gyekye was required to perform the naming ceremony of Kwankye's son/daughter born after Kwankye's death a few months later. He insisted before he took the money to the child, it had first been shown to Kwankye. How could this be possible? How could he first take the money to show to the dead before giving it to the child? He had his own plans. He went on a drinking spree in the end of which he poisoned himself that same evening. The woman's children kept on dying.

Let me briefly touch on my half-siblings from that household. My step-mother has assumed the position of the eldest woman of the house. She is now an octogenarian. My half-siblings, Nana Yaa, Kwasi Boateng, Yaw Sarpong, Yaa Pokuaah, Kwasi Badu and Yaw Poku have all died within a space of ten years. Kwasi Boateng is said to have been arrested for an alleged petty crime but was unfortunately found dead in Kumawu-Bodomase police cell the following morning. Yaw Sarpong fell ill but kept it from us. He had not wanted to be a bother or a nuisance to us, the very people who could have helped him financially. He had his own reasons for the action he took but I totally disagree with him. What could his reason be? We had barely buried my mum when he needed financial assistance to enable him enrol his son into a Senior Secondary School. We gladly offered the requested assistance and even went beyond that. He came up with other business propositions which we were looking into. He felt he would be asking too much of us should he make us aware of his illness to foot his subsequent hospital bills. He kept it secret from us though he had not enough money to secure the required medical attention. By the time we were aware, he was fully wrapped up in a white cotton sheet, and gone to return no more to this troubled world. Tears are now streaming down my cheeks but I have to proceed with the story until positive sensible conclusions are made, and bitter, but better changing lessons are learnt.

Kwasi Badu was resident in Accra as a mason. One sunny afternoon, he fell from scaffolding onto his death when at work. But the near-death of Kwasi Ben, another half-brother from my step-mother under discussion is what is of most interest to me. His case holds the key to unravel the mystery surrounding the numerous deaths that have since occurred in the house. Kwasi Ben nearly passed in February this year had it not been the timely intervention of Kwaku Adu alias "Abi Le". Ben had for two weeks not been able to eat, drink and sleep. When my elder sister, Comfort, was informed, she rushed to find him highly dehydrated and completely emaciated. He was all bones with eyes deeply sunk in. Death was staring in his face. He was a walking dead, so to speak. He could neither walk nor sit but lie on his back. The body had started rotting due to lying on the same side all this while.

He was rushed to a prophet in whom I believe. God has His powerful hands upon him. He prayed for him. Ben was taken back to Kumasi to Asokwa where people were around to attend to his dying needs. As if by the design of God, Kwaku Adu proceeded from France to Ghana on holiday a day or two after Ben had been taken to Asokwa. He straightaway went to see him. He was shocked to find Ben in dying throes. Though it was a Sunday, he was able to arrange for Ben to be admitted to one of the best clinics in Kumasi on the next day hoping that he never passed away overnight. There was no Doctor to see him on the Sunday but surely on Monday, hence the pre-arrangement as just said. Luckily, Ben never died as many had dreaded.

Lest I forget, "Abi Le" was advised by the neighbours not to waste money on Ben as surely he would die in a matter of hours, they surmised. But he said to himself, I will rather have him die at the hospital than at home. This means, he will have to give it a try without withholding his money. What will the public say if they discovered that he became nonchalant about Ben's health when he was critically taken ill? What is money, when a brother is sick?

Ben against all odds is now living thanks to the medical attention he received though at a great cost to "Abi Le" with a little help from my brothers and sisters. He would have died without the effective medical attention he received. If he had, everyone would have said it was that fetish buried in their house that had killed him. He was only an inch away from his death. He wouldn't have survived two more days if he was not admitted to the hospital where he was immediately administered drips.

It was poverty with the attendant non-availability of medical care that killed all my half-siblings but not the fetish as many have so far been made to believe. We should not be held prisoners of conscience by our false beliefs.

Another sad but interesting case worth noticing is about one beautiful sister Amma Kwahu. She was under treatment for breast cancer in France. She decided to seek spiritual or traditional help from Ghana when she realised the medical care was not yielding the much expected positive results. Back in Ghana, she was held at a prayer camp waiting on God's mercy through a miraculous healing. I can't tell whether it was at Adumfa but all I know is a prayer camp. The prophetess knew Amma's health was fast deteriorating against any anticipated positive results but still did not release her to her family to be taken to the hospital. The prophetess let her die at the camp before releasing the body to the patient's family. What is the sense in this? She was not allowed to seek further medical help but had to die a lamentable death without the hoped for miracle ever forthcoming.

My honest request and advice to Ghanaians in general and my readers in particular, is to first seek and exhaust all possible medical attention whenever you fall sick prior to rushing to any fetish shrine or priest. The fetishes and pastors can perform miracles but the best miracle ever performed in this world lies with conventional doctors. Never listen to most of the lies told by these fame and money seeking Fetish priests and pastors. Any fetish priest or pastor who keeps you at his shrine or camp when indeed you require medical attention is a quack, regardless.

If my grandmother's cries for medical assistance had been heeded, she would have lived much longer than she did. If my half-siblings had sought medical attention, some of them would still be walking the surface of the earth but not buried in the belly of the earth. Ben is a living proof!

This mind-blowing write-up is dedicated to the memory of all those dead as a result of our false beliefs, especially, Nana Gyamfuah and my brothers and sisters. May their souls rest in peace!

Rockson Adofo