Ojuju Calabar

A Black Girl Removing Her Mask. Photo credit: HEC Paris

We love and adore children. Their compelling naivety and inexorable innocence can disarm Lucifer. They illuminate the heart and bring cheer to troubled souls.

Witout them, the domestic atmosphere is tepid and uninspiring. They are important factors to be considered if any of the parties in a conjugal union, for any reason consider quitting.

Those who have them celebrate while those who do not have them despair and submit to ridicule without realising that procreation only resides within the domain of the Almighty.

For the sake of children, many marriages are saved and hope is restored to a home hitherto ravaged by a blazing furnace of quarrel, hate and suspicion. Some children are a joy to behold, some are infinitely rebellious and inquisitive, some of them are vandals and rascals bringing pain to the soul but not in the same measure they bring joy.

Adults have devised various schemes to keep children in check and make them align with the neat roles of domestic decorum. In these days of hi-tech and global awareness, punishing children by physical assault has become very unpopular; therefore adults resort to threatening them to comply with instructions. One of the methods is to invoke the Ojuju Calabar myth.

Thinking critically, one is bound to interrogate the origin of Ojuju Calabar, a fictitious creation of the imagination that has acquired notoriety for scaring children in the Kingdom of Kindergarten irrespective of social status, ethnicity or locale.

What language is Ojuju and what is Ojuju itself? Is it a deity or a masquerade and why is Calabar its abode? My five year old son has refused to enter his room since his elder brother told him Ojuju is there. Even after I allayed the boy’s fears that there is no Ojuju in the room, he has refused to enter there.

Those who recreate the Ojuju character in various folktales do not delineate its gender category, so we are at a loss whether Ojuju is male or female. However, given its manifestation in folktales as a fear inducing, fiendish character, always causing children to cry and shiver with trepidation, let us concede that Ojuju is male.

Male chauvinists may threaten to hang me by the neck. They may accuse me of gender insensitivity for casting the Ojuju character in a masculine mode and not stopping there, investing him with negative attributes generally shared by both sexes.

Let us also concede politely that Ojuju has conquered the world of our children by providing us with an illusory fear factor to threaten them, keep them in check, force them to eat their food and take their medication. But beyond inducing fear among children, Ojuju does not seem to have any relevance in the Kingdom of Kindergarten. Ojuju does not prevent the children from getting sick, he does not bother about their welfare or even show any concerns to their plight. Yet, some of the children, especially conniving degenerate and treacherous raconteurs among them love Ojuju specifically for inordinate, selfish ends.

Let us, for the love of our children enhance our understanding of the Ojuju motif and expand the frontiers of this discourse by situating it within the contemporary socio-political aviary of children in the kingdom of Kindergarten. This is because; politics in Kindergarten provide a medium where everyone seems to have some knowledge no matter how pedestrian or banal.

Ojuju is gaunt, with a permanent lean and scrawny look on his face. Ojuju does not laugh much, but when he laughs, he does so in a manner to suggest self mockery and dubiety. He is irredeemably lost to ethnic prejudice, an incurable religious bigot who is a victim of strident messianic complex. With Ojuju, the relationship among children in Kindergarten has collapsed abysmally along the lines of various considerations.

Now, children in the Kingdom do not see one another eye to eye, there is mutual suspicion and bitterness in the land and rivalry rend the air. Ojuju’s latest commitment is to conquer the world of children in the Kingdom the way the great Uthman Dan Fodio conquered the Sokoto caliphate in times gone by. Ojuju’s technique is to sacrifice many lives in the process through a terrorist group who derive immense pleasure from shedding the blood of innocent children in the guise to advance the cattle economy.

Some children have argued that Ojuju is a composite illiterate, an unlettered son of a certain nomad from a nearby kingdom whose desperation for power has seen him enter the world of children for the second time. Even Ojuju’s wife has threatened to look the other way the next time an opportunity presents itself for children to choose between Ojuju and another folktale character.

Ojuju is holding children in a suffocating stranglehold as they daily encounter a rigid figure who is only interested in forcing them swallow bitter medication, sleep with forced lights out and put up a smiling face in pretence that all is well. Regrettably, the children collectively invited Ojuju with their eyes wide open to bestride their fortunes and inflict anguish on them.

The entrance of Ojuju into the equation means that there are no candies anymore and when they are available, they come at a very exorbitant price so that only the privileged can afford it.

Although, Ojuju’s presence has mitigated bullies who arm-twist children and convert their collective candy to their own use, unfortunately, none of these bullies have been brought to book in a proper way and the candy recovered from them have not translated to a better life for the children. In this quandary the children find themselves, they have characteristically turned to divine powers to intervene and cure the Ojuju malady.

Adiele wrote from Department of English, University of Lagos.

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Ojuju Calabar
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