Posted by Aig Imoukhuede on
One of the best tailors I ever patronised was not in the business of sewing suits or any garment intended for human wear. I still have his card somewhere. Under his name are inscribed the words: “Expert Household Tailor. Motto: Cut With Sence.” His spelling may not be perfect but he was very much an expert in his own line of tailoring......
One of the best tailors I ever patronised was not in the business of sewing suits or any garment intended for human wear. I still have his card somewhere. Under his name are inscribed the words: “Expert Household Tailor. Motto: Cut With Sence.” His spelling may not be perfect but he was very much an expert in his own line of tailoring, which was sowing window curtains and chair covers — or, as his card said, “household” tailoring.
His method was rather unusual. If you wanted some chairs covered, or some curtains made for your windows and doors, this tailor didn’t just bring a tape to take the necessary measurements, he brought his sewing machine, and did the cutting and sewing right there in your sitting room. The result was always a perfect fit.
If you had about a half dozen chairs and a couple of settees that needed covers, and your house had no less than fifteen windows that needed curtains, his sojourn on your premises could be a longish one — long enough for a rapport to develop between tailor and client; and for them to be engaged in conversations that would be spread over several days. In this particular case, it turned out to be also long enough for me to be given a crash course in the not-so-exact science of juju, also known as “native” medicine.
This was how it happened. After he had installed himself and his sewing machine in a corner of my sitting room, and had taken all the measurements he needed, the tailor unrolled the bolt of curtain material I had bought, produced a pair of scissors and, in between snipping: said: “Oga, your house is nice but it is too isolated.”
He was right about that. The year was 1983, and I was only the second resident in a new estate that has now grown to between three hundred and four hundred households. The house I had chosen to buy was then a considerable distance from the nearest neighbour.
“I like the peace and quiet,” I said, by way of explanation.
“What are you doing to ensure that you and your family are well protected?” he asked.
“You mean against intruders? Well, I have a night watchman.”
“Most night watchmen can’t stay awake at night,” the tailor said with a dismissive wave of his hand, confirming my suspicion that what my night watchman collects from me at the end of every month is actually a sleeping allowance. “What else do you rely on for protection?”
“I have a burglar alarm system, with infrared sensors in different parts of the sitting room.”
“What else?” the tailor pressed on, beginning to sound like my old housemaster unravelling a yarn spun by a schoolboy.
I scratched my head for inspiration, then added what I thought was the clincher. “My wife keeps a copy of the Bible on her bedside table.”
“What about native medicine?” the tailor asked.
“I have never believed in those things,” I said, with a laugh.
The tailor gave me a solemn, almost pitying look. “That’s what an oyinbo would say,” he told me, “but you and I ought to know better. In my house at Bariga I have a small broom hanging over the main entrance door.”
“On the outside or the inside wall?” I asked.
“The inside wall. Can you guess why it is there?”
Memory stirred. As a boy I had seen small brooms hanging over doors all over what we now call the South-West, and I had simply assumed that they were there as decoration. I mentioned this to the tailor, and it was his turn to laugh.
“It is a specially treated broom,” he said, “and it is very strong juju. Burglars fear it.”
“How does it work?”
“If a burglar walks through a door over which one of these brooms is hanging, the broom will drop to the floor, the burglar will irresistibly pick it up and begin to sweep the room. He will continue to sweep until the police come and take him away.”
I was impressed. I looked down at the new carpet I had just spent a fortune acquiring and wondered if I could have a vacuum cleaner treated with “native medicine” and suspended over the door. It would save a lot of labour.
“How much does a broom cost?” I asked.
“For you I can get it for two hundred naira.”
Even at 1983 costs that sounded like a bargain, and I told the tailor so.
“Yes,” he agreed, “but there are people like you, who live in G.R.A., and who don’t want brooms hanging on the walls of their sitting room. For such people the medicine man makes something that comes in bottles.”
I felt more comfortable. I knew about things that came in bottles. There were a few of them chilling in my refrigerator at that very moment. But those were not what the tailor had in mind.
“This one,” he explained, “is made with rain water that has not touched the ground. The water is collected from leaves in the forest, other things are added, and the mixture put in a bottle. All you have to do is bury the bottle up to its neck on either side of doors leading into your house. No burglar would ever enter through such doors.”
Marvelous! A bottle buried outside was better than a broom hanging inside. The bottle could always be passed off as a garden ornament.
“How much?” I asked.
“I can persuade the medicine man to let you have a bottle for a hundred and fifty naira.
“Are all his products so cheap?” I asked.
“Oh, he also makes some that cost a little more,” the tailor said. “There is one that is worn round the waist.”
“What does it do?”
“If an armed robber should shoot at you, the bullet will not penetrate your body.”
“That’s just the thing for these dangerous times,” I said. “Has it been tested on anybody?”
“Not to my knowledge,” the tailor said, “but I hear that it is what armed robbers use to protect themselves against police bullets.”
I thought of all those armed robbers reportedly killed in “shootouts” with the police, and concluded that the charms they had used were not “original”. The must have been made in Taiwan.
“How much?” I asked.
“One thousand naira. Would you like to have one?”
“I’ll think about it,” I said. “Does the medicine man have other charms up his sleeve?”
“Yes, there is one known as egbe. This one is also worn round the waist. If the wearer is in a tight spot - say his house is besieged by assassins - all he needs to do is smite the wall three times with his palm, and he will immediately be teleported away from the scene.”
How about that!
Inevitably I found myself thinking about how juju can be applied to other purposes, like winning the FIFA World Cup. Judging from the occasional glimpses of the televised matches that the spoilsports at the Power Withholding Company have permitted, Germany 2006 is not going well for teams from African countries. The Africans have been bursting their guts trying to outdribble the Europeans and South Americans, when what they should really be doing is applying a little native medicine. Everybody knows that, as far as juju is concerned, players from other continents cannot touch us. That is why I am now suggesting that African teams should immediately let juju do the hard work. The following charms are recommended:
(1) The shifting goal posts charm: The goalkeeper, hiding this charm inside his boots will stamp on the ground seven times, causing his goal posts to move sideways each time the opposing team ties to score a goal.
(2) The no-go-area juju: This is a powerful charm which, if buried in the penalty box, will ensure that no goal is scored at that end of the field. The team using the charm must remember to dig it up at half time and transfer it to the opposite end of the field.
(3) Confuse the goalkeeper charm: This potent charm comes in the form of a black powder put in a small soot-blackened gourd. Every time an African striker shoots at goal, the European or South American goalkeeper will see seven balls, and make a grab for the wrong one.
My suggestion may have come too late to improve Africa’s chances of winning the World Cup this year, 2010 will soon be here. That is the year the World Cup finals will be played on African soil, and until then we are keeping our black powder dry.
The people in charge of NEPA/PHCN have long forgotten their primary purpose, which is to provide electricity for which consumers pay. If power is to be rationed or rotated, I believe it can be done sensibly, but what they are doing doesn’t make sense. Bafflingly they are getting away with it.
Here at Agbara, somebody seems to be playing with the switch, turning power off and on at intervals as frequent as six times in sixty minutes. I have heard about alternating current, but this is crazy.
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This is a great piece of history, which is dear to our hearts as people and very much appreciated.
Many thanks to the people who worked hard in the past and those who are still making efforts to keep the institution.
The labour is obviouly worth it. We are proud of you all.
A lot still to be done, with the motivation of the champions of this course, others will follow as well to maintain the institution
May God continue to keep the edifice for development of future generations to the glory of God and the benefits of our fatherland.