Survey: Top Four Nigerian Fears

We sent out a team of people to gather a list of things that scare Nigerians. The list they brought back was whittled down to the four things that Nigerians are most afraid of:

The most common thing that Nigerians are scared of is voodoo, aka juju, aka jazz. By whatever name you call it, it sounds like fear.

Even if you’re one of the fancy Nigerians, reading this on your flatscreen monitor with broadband internet, rolling your eyes that you don’t believe all that jazz, there is probably a forest in your village that you won’t enter. And even if you were comfortable entering it, your loved ones wouldn’t let you.

Others are rolling their eyes thinking, “Pish-tosh, Africans and their silly superstitions.”
No no no.. it doesn’t matter whether or not you believe it. The problem is that there are other people out there that believe it. If you get hacked to death in a ritual killing, dead is dead regardless of where you stand in the belief spectrum.
So when an occultist says, “we need some blood to complete our charm”, the appropriate response is not “Gentlemen, have you contemplated the fallacy of your-” Hack!

Until I was about 14, I didn’t know ‘armed robbers’ was two separate words. Nigerians always pronounced the words together ‘harmrobbers’ as one fear-tinged word, like a mythical creature.
They never address them simply as “thieves”, because for Nigerians, thieves are completely different from armed robbers. If a thief steals from you, you shout “ole, ole” or “barawo” and they’ll scurry away back into the shadows but if harmrobbers show up, you shut up.

What are they armed with? It doesn’t matter.
Most people who have an armed robber story never really address their weapon configuration. During the retelling, no one ever asks, “How many of them carried guns? Are you sure they was loaded?”

It is the mindset not the weapons that makes armed robbers more respectable than common thieves.
Armed robbers could break into your house with slings and catapults, they could be armed with only their fists, the instant they talk to you in that gruff voice their leader always has, it is over.
You’ll give them your gold, give them everything that is not nailed down in your house and help them load it into your car. Push-starting the car too if necessary.

Unlike armed robbers which are a common enough occurrence to make them a legitimate fear, snakes aren’t that common. Ask if any Nigerians know someone who died of a snake bite or even was bitten by a snake and you’ll realise just how rare an attack by these “terrors” are.
But when you hear people tell snake stories, they always give them frightful names.
“It was a black mamba”
“It was king cobra”
“It was a python, the head was up and it was spitting”

Seriously? Do snakes even spit? Research says no. Encyclopedia says 80% of snake species are harmless. But try telling that to these people.
Their snakes are half genetic-experiment, half acid-spitting alien lifeforms out to eliminate man.

And the number one thing that Nigerians are afraid of is:

All the other things (voodoo, armed robbers, snakes) are all only subsets of the fear of family.
Nigerians who are scared of voodoo are even more scared of family members who are out to get them with voodoo. After all, who else has access to your food and can put a juju calabash under your bed.
They are scared of family members sending armed robbers to their houses with directions on how to break in and a map of where all their valuables are.
They are terrified of family members turning into snakes and attacking them.

The Nigerian family is a vault of information, a study in over-enthusiastic information management. There are sections of your family you do not tell when you’re traveling, others you don’t tell when you’re home. And an entire group that you don’t tell when you’re having problems. You definitely don’t tell them when you’re pregnant or when you are about to get a new job.
God forbid you have a child that doesn’t know the rules and just blabs truths to your extended family. You would be forced to keep that child locked up until they learn the rules.

If someone asks, “How is your mother?” You always say fine.
You never say, “She is out of town.”
And if they are more specific and ask, “Where is your mother?” You say, “Probably at home, I’m not sure” and then you start coughing and excuse yourself.

The family members go away with the impression that you’re lying to them, and when they act hostile, you say they are out to get you and create even more lies to keep them away.
It is a perfect circle of distrust.
“Secrecy is a vacuum and nothing fills a vacuum like paranoid speculation”

Did I miss anything?


28 thoughts on “Survey: Top Four Nigerian Fears

  1. I live in constant fear of power cuts. I am the one that all the members of my family are afraid of, so no fear there, lol. I’m not afraid of harmrobbers by day, or a snake (before it makes it all the way up to my room, someone would have stepped on its head…squished it, cobra or mamba….especially now that I know 80% of snakes are harmless). For someone who is always home, I’m always afraid that the light will not come, or that it will soon go. And nothing scares me more *tears*

    • That’s a new one. That’s like being afraid of the heat (hint: it will be a hot day tomorrow).
      My problem with light is the planning, I would rather know there is no power than live with the uncertainty of some power. On my way home everyday, to prepare myself, I chant, ‘there is no light, there is no light’

  2. After ALL my personal encounters with snakes I believe I am well entitled 2 my fear. + they’re extremely slimy lookin 2! Massive eeeeeeeeew-age.

    • All?? More than two encounters? Hmm… gist.
      Have you ever eaten snake? I heard they taste like fish. If you can eat them, you can’t be scared of them. I checked, that’s the rule.

      • Eeeeuuuuurrrrggggh!
        I should probably eat them though!, show ’em who’s boss.
        Honestly though I can’t abide the creatures. Encroaching on my bloody space…(I feel me gearing up 4 a nice long ‘anti-snake’ rant now) Lol. šŸ˜€
        I better go…

  3. This is an absolutely apt post! I was trying to explain the secretive nature of Nigerians to a friend and this last bit on family just sums it up perfectly šŸ™‚

    • I think all Nollywood films that want to create conflict must use one of these four things OR sickness/accidents sometimes caused by juju and taken advantage of by the family.

      I like your blog, I don’t know how you (almost) daily posters do it. *phew*

  4. ha! fear of family…That, my mother drummed into my head. But I am the prodigal child in that regards. I tell her “if they are going to do juju, even if we don’t tell them, the juju man will somehow find out what we are hiding, with his revealing mirror” why bother keeping it secret…lolz..

    Now that I am in obodo America, still the typical Nigerian, I am afraid of being shot by a random man on the street-who has a hoodie over his head and his hands tucked in his pockets. Tell me, don’t we Nigerians believe all what we are shown in the movies?

    P.S: I enjoy your posts. Asha recommended you.
    P.P.S: I love a man that has sharp wits. Do you have a girlfriend? are you married?…..(ha ha ha….)

  5. Right on the money, especially with the family and armed robber bits. I have heard too many armed robber stories to count, never witnessed one myself, though every time I visit Nigeria, my family and friends make it their duty to instil the fear of armed robbers(and juju practicing or money asking family) in me.

    Made me laugh too, as most of your posts did (I read the entire blog, do I get an award? Gala? La Casera?)

  6. WOW! am laughing so hard! help me somebody…my sides are seriously…na wa! absolutely funny…and on point! Nigerian families very secretive and will say things like “my enemy is not feeling well” when they are seriously in hospital bed …

    • haha, if the doctor comes into your room and says, “I don’t know what is wrong with you, it must be an attack.” You have no option, you’ll start analyzing who your enemies are.
      Awon ota mi!

  7. Em, this is rather late but there’s a subset of family called mother in law. Especially when you’ve not gotten a child to prove your fertility or you are ‘headstrong’.

    • lol, it’s never too late. I’m banking this for Part 2.
      Mother-in-laws are an interesting group because the victim in many cases become mother-in-laws in the future, how does that affect how they treat their daughter-in-laws? This should be explored.

  8. “harmrobbers” LOL! As in!!!!
    The list of “Nigerianized English words” is endless tho. iLaugh

    And the family part.. So true!
    I don’t know any of my Nigerian relations (in Nigeria, that is) personally.
    Apart from those who are in Europe and the few that are Christians (back home), most others are dangerous idol-worshippers who must either be avoided.. or who wish to destroy my life, my career, my unborn children.. *le sigh*

  9. I stumbled on this blog from a friend’s twitter page and I’m glad I did….I haven’t stopped laughing!! Especially about the family part as it reminded me of a conversation I had with some friends when I was trying to explain why most Igbos (cos I’m Igbo) go home @ Christmas. They couldn’t reconcile the desire to go ‘home’ with all the precautions taken against extended family members….
    The spelling of ‘harmrobbers’ I think depends on where one grew up…I learnt them as ‘armrobbers’ it’s a miracle they never stole my arms. They are worth fearing because they visited our house when I was a child and it wasn’t funny at all.
    One specie you left out of the list is the ‘rodent specie’ be it rat or mouse.. I think the fear of rats is the beginning of!

    • I think we called them harmrobbers because we’re Yoruba.
      But seriously, thank God nothing happened when they came to your place. It’s all fun and games until someone loses an harm -_-
      Thank you, and thank your twitter friend.

      *writes down rats for Part 2*

  10. The fear of cats is worth mentioning too. cats and owls are regarded as witches in disguise, once you sight any of them in the house especially at night, there would be a prayer vigil for the rest of that night, Zillions of angels would be requested for, together with a drum of Jesus’ blood. It doesn’t get any scarier

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