I grew up in a house that had no toilet; what we had instead was an outhouse, made of zinc. Rickety, rusted zinc with moist and slippery planks that lined the two sides of the pit hole.
I was just 7 years old and I was not even your average 7-year-old. I was skinny, malnourished and hadn’t grow bigger than a five-year-old.
So, whenever I needed to use the latrine, was always dark even in the afternoon; I would gingerly walk the planks; legs astride, squat at the middle over the big hole oozing out perpetual heat and that putrid odour of feaces down below and do my business.
Half the time, one hand would cover my nose because that odour can blacken your soul, the other hand would be used to stead myself, why? The plank was shaky, it was not balanced, some parts have been eaten off from moist.
I was scared of falling into the hole and be lost forever in a sea of shit! So, when I used the hole, I always tried to position my bum so that as I shat, it went straight down; unfortunately, I always missed the mark and littered the edges of the planks with feaces. See, if I ever fell into that hole, I swear, nobody would have rescued me because I was a witch!
My story sounds really disgusting but I need to tell it.
Ok, so now, many times, when I ‘miss the mark,’ my father and my aunty made me scoop up the shit at the edges and eat it as punishment for soiling the plank. Of course, you realise that the plank would be soaked in urine and feaces from previous users .
Again, I do not mean to disgust you, I just need you to understand where my pain and trauma lies in this story I am sharing.
Now, what’s a witch? Someone with diabolical powers, who roams the night on a broom and casts evil spells on innocent people.
But I’ll tell you what, my own kind of witchcraft is limited; it’s the type that just wants food, comfort and peace. I had no diabolical powers otherwise I would have used it to create food for myself, I had no powers over anything or else, i could have transported myself to a different family.
I became a ‘witch’ at the age of 7 when I went to live with my father and his new wife whom I called ‘aunty’; before then, I had lived with my grandmother; she was old, she was poor and food was scarce. I don’t know my mother; I was told she died at child birth. I used my hands to form quote marks on the word “witch?because that was what I was called. To date, I don’t know how a witch performs or what they really look like. I was firsr called one a few months after my aunty gave birth to a baby boy.
Everything went well after the baby came until a few months later. I was not allowed to touch him; I took a peep at him one day and wondered how come a new born baby had yellow eye with plenty of pus.
At the beginning, all I did was run errands, cook small meals, like rice, eba, yam…wash clothes, dishes, clean house. I was never given any meal until everyone in the house had been fed. Many times there would be little left over for me. So I devised a plan, I fed off the baby’s milk. I would scoop baby milk in my palm and go out to lick it dry. Other times, when baby milk would just not be satisfying, I would roll eba and soup in my pocket and go out to eat, afterall, I am always the one preparing the meals.
Now, I said my aunty’s baby was always sick, I didn’t know he was jaundiced; to me, he was my little brother and I would sit on a stool and sing to him, when I was not washing dishes or washing clothes or scrubbing the floor or preparing food in the kitchen…I would sing to him.
Until one day, aunty came and told me to stop singing because I was initiating him into witchcraft.
That was the beginning of my troubles; I was accused of being the witch behind the baby’s constant sickness. The baby did not sleep at night but cried all through.
Now, when the baby does not sleep, it means aunty won’t sleep and when aunty doesn’t sleep, there would be no sleep for me. I would be changing the water, washing the soiled clothes, standing just outside the door, yes, no matter how late in the night. I had to be awake!
One night, I must have fallen asleep at the door, aunty came and kicked me, I didn’t wake up, I was tired. She kicked me again, I just rolled over and continued sleeping. Then she poured water on me. That was when I woke up!
I was later to hear that I was in the coven that was why I didn’t wake up on time. A few days later, the baby died. I was accused of killing the child. I was whipped, mercilessly and told to confess.
I kept telling them I was not a witch but when the beating didn’t stop, I had to tell them, yes, I am a witch and yes, I killed the boy. If I didn’t, I would be whipped to death.
I had bruises from the broom used to whip me, there were plenty of broken broom in my skin for days and they hurt like hell.
I spent a few weeks with the local prophet who promised to deliver me from witch craft. And I met other ‘young witches.’ We were all mostly hungry children, all we wanted was food and a place to sleep so when we understood they wanted us to keep confessing, it was very easy to just keep telling them what they wanted to hear.
I killed the baby; I swallowed his heart; I made my father poor; I changed my sister’s destiny…very easy.
I can’t tell you what I went through for about three years at my father’s house.
Afterwards, I was sent away to be househelp to a family in Lagos, I must have been about 10 years old then, they were godsent.
They sent me to school; they treated me like a human being. Today, I’m a graduate, a staff of a multinational agency and married with kids of my own.
I am not a witch, never was, never will be. I found out years earlier that my aunt’s son was a sickler and that they kept giving him herbs and holy water from the fake prophet. They stopped going to hospitals because they thought it was a spiritual problem, me being the witch trying to kill their son, I was just a hungry child, I am not a witch.
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)