Our culture and our belief have influenced the way we react to events, especially the very unfortunate ones. We are quick to blame our neighbours for our misfortune. This is especially true if we had recently or previously been involved in a confrontation with them. We place the blame for all the series of unfortunate events that befall us on them. We have been told of how witches fly at night looking for innocent people to prey on. We are told of how a powerful and wicked medicine man derived joy in afflicting people with illnesses and ensured that calamities befell different people who crossed his path. It is also not uncommon to be told of how a man “blocked” the destiny of a young man, making sure that the man never progressed in life. This could have been a young man who was lazy to work while others were working. It could have also been a man who rejected the chance to grab quality education like his peers when the opportunity arose. We have grown up to be told of stories of how our grandfather was killed by his young brother over a piece of land. Our grandfathers may have been old, may have been men who drank to stupor, who took tobacco in different forms and may have been obese as well. Could all these have predisposed him to a stroke or any heart diseases?

Our grandmothers may have been wealthy, a big-time trader. Suddenly, she may have different some vague abdominal discomfort over the years and vaginal bleeding at some point in her life. She may have also had a running battle with her neghbour at the market where she sells her goods. When her health began to deteriorate, we quickly looked for a scapegoat. Her neighbour just had to be the source of her predicament. She was jealous of our grandmother’s success and couldn’t stand the idea of seeing her make such progress in life. It seemed like a very convenient thought. We push the blame to her when she passes on; her neighbour may have been taken to different shrines to swear that she was not responsible for the old woman’s demise. Different concoctions are prepared for her to drink at these shrines, concoctions which may be too toxic for her liver to metabolize. When the concoction kills her, we beat our chest and say with certain but ignorant authority that she was responsible for the death of our grandmother. Could our grandmother have had a problem with her reproductive organs? Could it have been a cancer or a tumour? Could she have had an ovarian cancer or endometrial cancer or what have you?

Over the years I have come in contact with people who have found it very convenient to blame their misfortune on someone else. I came across a young lady few years ago who had brought her five year old son to the hospital due to the little boy’s inability to walk for a few months and a swelling on his back. The little boy had Tuberculosis of the spine. During our chat, I tried to enquire if the boy had at some point in his life had cough for a long time. And then the story began. She told me about her old landlord who hated her and her husband. She said her landlord had made up his mind to take the little boy’s life. He had a cough for about three months which deferred all orthodox and unorthodox medication. The boy was however never investigated for tuberculosis. They even went to various churches all to no avail. She later met a prophetess who told her the man who owned the house where they lived was responsible for her son’s predicament. They moved out and after some months, the cough subsided and stopped. Hence, she “confirmed” what she was told. But what has happened over two years was that the bacilli responsible for the tuberculosis had quietly and skillfully spread to the spine. All attempt to convince her that her old landlord had no hand in that cough proved abortive and swiftly fell on deaf ears. In this case, she has erroneously blamed a man, who she sees as the agent of the devil, for the chronic cough her son had.

My sister and I got into a discussion a couple of weeks ago. She was sad and felt sorry for a young lady who had lost her life to breast cancer. Like every cancer, the prognosis of breast cancer is better if it is detected early. A lump in the breast should be an alarm signal for every lady. It should be a reason to see a doctor quickly to get investigated and seek a definitive cure if available. In short, the earlier the better. No drama. Unfortunately, the first thing some women in this environment tell their doctors when they are told of the diagnosis is “It is not my portion. The Lord I serve cannot allow me have Breast cancer”. They are carried away by the religious programmes they watch on television, how women have found cure to their problems. Don’t forget, these pastors even claim to have cure for HIV/AIDS. They practically spend the next one or two years in churches seeking divine touch and favour. They drink numerous bottles of anointing oil, kegs of holy water are sprinkled and they are “transferred” to the supernatural realms. They, however, return to the hospital when it has metastasized (spread) to other vital organs including their brain. At this point, there is no way back. Can I ask a question? Is it fair that such women end up blaming the devil for such final but fatal outcome? Don’t we blame the devil too much? Such deaths could have been avoided.

Have you had of the concept of the “Hebrew woman”? I was educated on this phrase this year. When I heard it for the first time, I was curious; I really wanted to know what it meant. And then I was educated. A Hebrew woman in our local setting here is used to describe women who were able to give birth to their children through the vaginal route and not through caesarean section. I later got to find out that this was a thing of pride for women here, especially the uneducated women. For them, it was vaginal delivery or no way else. It is not uncommon to see a woman who has had about two or three previous caesarean section insisting she wanted to give birth to the next baby via the normal vaginal route, regardless of the fact that having that number of previous caesarean sections is an absolute contraindicated for vaginal deliveries. But for her, it is so important for her to enter the “league of Hebrew women”. So they try to avoid the tertiary health centres and specialist hospitals. They go to traditional birth attendants or midwives who may agree to supervise such vaginal deliveries at little cost. In most of them, there are almost always complications, the most important of which is uterine rupture and is usually associated with severe blood loss. Many of these intending Hebrew women lose their life and that of the baby even before they can get access to a doctor who can do an emergency caesarean section and/or hysterectomy. Her children are left behind with a father who is never at home. He may get married to another woman. He needs someone to take care of him, his house, his children and someone to warm his bed at night. She comes in and has her own children and may end up maltreating the children of the late woman. The late woman’s children face an uncertain future and severe hardship. The woman has lost her life because she failed to do the simple thing she was asked to do.

Finally, I recognize that there may be bad people everywhere who derive joy in other people’s downfall. I understand that fact. I also know that some people may actually never rest until they bring us to our feet. But in most cases, almost every time, we have control of our destiny. It is high time we stood up, took responsibilities and did the appropriate things that define the course of our destiny. We must as a matter of urgency begin to realize this and stop placing the blame solely on the feet of our neighbours who we feel do not like our faces. Our neighbours may be too occupied thinking of their problems. The fact they do not reply when we say hello does not mean they hate us. They perhaps have too many issues to think about. I feel blaming the devils and others for our predicaments all the time is weak. Do you think so too?

 Let me know your thoughts.

Uche H. Okafor