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Opinions of Sunday, 12 June 2011

Columnist: Yankey, Stephen Duasua

The Modern-Day Juju Man

What do you expect from a write-up with such a title? Perhaps you are expecting a virtual roller coaster ride through the various shrines scattered across the length and breadth of Ghana. Or better yet, you’re yearning for an in-depth analysis of the job description of juju men. Well, that wouldn’t be necessary because the Ghanaian and Nigerian film industry has brought us all into close contact with the activities of these men. I’m neither a wannabe juju man nor a traditional believer. Rather, I’m just a young writer whose attention was drawn to the new twist in the modus operandi of our juju men.

Recent centuries have seen the world being dubbed a “global village,” perhaps due to globalization and its effects. Hence, cultures are now being bridged. Today, with just a single press of a button, one can access a vast collection of information from archeology to zoology. Voice communication has also seen a further boost. At least, I can now talk to my nomadic friend, Abdulai in far away Zuarungu, without having to make that 817 km journey up north from Accra, which translates into 14 hours of steady travel by bus. With these technological advancements, many opined that the influence of jujumen, whom some refer to as traditional healers or priests, would dwindle. Many were of the view that as society developed, the once exulted position of these men would come to naught. Quite ironically, that’s far from the reality. As the African adage goes, “Since hunters have learnt to shoot without missing, birds have also learnt to fly without perching!”

For the sake of some readers who have little or no idea who a juju man is, let me pause here and shed just a little light on them. One reference work traced the etymology of “juju” to somewhere in West Africa or France, as a term used by the “white” imperialists who in times past visited the African continent. They used the term in reference to the indigenous West African Religion. With time however, the term gained roots in the Americas due to the number of West African slaves who became victims of the inhuman Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, who took their acts of juju along with them to the “White Man’s Land.” A juju man’s preoccupation is looking for omens, casting spells, preparing charms, curing the incurable as well as dealing in acts of necromancy. In recent times, they even strengthen marriages, aid in the acquisition of travel documents, help clients secure promotions at work, aid university students in the attainment of first class honors. A few months back, it was rumored that one of these men even aided a Ghanaian head of state in securing an overwhelming victory in a general election, by as it were, binding voters with a spell. Well, the least said about that particular issue, the better!

In times past, to find a juju man was a very arduous task due to the fact that they dwelt at the remotest parts of villages as well as in the thickest of forests. It was thus attendant on their seekers to search them out. However, what pertains today? Are they still operating in camera? Ex cathedra, I dare say that the opposite rather pertains in our modern society. Thus, instead of globalization clamping down on their activities, it has rather been a phenomenon that has given juju men the right publicity they need. Their trade has thus become far from unpopular. Readers in Accra may have on a number of occasions heard of Nana Kwaku Bonsam, Nana Oboa Nnipa, Nana Ababio (Akingye Wura, i.e., lover of challenges). How may they have heard of him? Through the radio! Day after day, commercials of these men are run on most radio stations, providing contact details and type of services provided. In addition, they all have large digital billboards littered all around the city. Nana Kwaku Bonsam for instance has a mammoth billboard at Sapeiman, a suburb of Accra, with the inscription “Nana Kwaku Bonsam welcomes you to Accra!” among others. A similar billboard is erected at Kasoa bearing the same inscriptions in addition of “consultation days and hours.” Well, that’s what technology can do. Perhaps readers in Kumasi may have also heard of Mallam Zack’s commercials on Hello FM. Such a touching commercial! And perhaps also heard of Nana Kwaku Bonsam’s escapades in the Garden City! Thus, gradually, these men have tapped into the various elements of globalization to promote their ventures.

In their bid to increase their fan base, many of them have made copious use of the internet, with most of them having websites and email addresses through which their clients can contact them. If you’re on FACEBOOK, do well to search for Mallam Zack and Nana Kwaku Bonsam and add them as friends. Who knows, you may need their help someday. You can also get them on YOUTUBE as well!! That’s how far they have come. No doubt they even ride in the flashiest of cars! That’s how far our modern day jujumen have come.

In fact, I had wanted to take some footage of some of the billboards mentioned herein. On one occasion, I was on location, only to realize I took no batteries with me. Perhaps he cast a spell on me! On another occasion, the billboard scared me: it had a fearful picture of the juju man in his juju outfit with the inscription “Akyingye Wura” boldly written above his portrait. I must confess I got scared and put my camera back into its pouch.

What more can I say…………………………………THIS PAPER IS STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION