Àrélù ruled the airwaves in Ibadan in the late 1980s. It cleared the streets on Thursday evenings when it hit NTA (or was it BCOS?). If you were visiting friends, you quickly terminated the felicitations at 5pm so you could be home by 6pm to watch the show or you stayed where you were to watch. Even NEPA was cooperative so we had electricity on Thursdays. I vividly recall the theme song:
“Wárápá ni, wèrè ni, Dìgbòlugi ni, Ẹ yà’gò fun.”
(roughly translated “he’s a stark, raving, rabid S.O.B., better get out of his way)
You guessed it, the series was about a fourth-generation a**h*le who possessing magical powers used it to terrorize the community. He once struck down a boy for looking at him! And his reign of terror continued unbridled until someone began to plot carefully to discover his Achilles heel, developed a plan of action, and took him out at the opportune time. I forget the name of the main character but the theme of that program reverberates today in most Nollywood pulp fiction whereby folks use juju to prosper at the expense of their victims and evil triumphs with little or no repercussion.
Why was Àrélù so captivating? Or perhaps a better question, why does evil thrive?
There are many explanations and I will attempt a few non-expert theories below:
Across the globe, we see a macabre fascination with the depth of human depravity. Human beings feast on sordid revelations about fellow humans. It makes us feel superior to discover we haven’t quite degenerated to the level of another. A review of the airwaves in most developed countries reveals a fixation on abnormality whereas so called reality shows are doctored to display dark/fringe cultures/behaviors. And virtually the only news that make the headlines are negative, disturbing phenomena. As they say, “if it ain’t bleedin’, we ain’t filmin’.”
Often our obsession with evil confirms our innermost thoughts that evil is much more powerful than good hence Pentecostals who profess to serve a God bigger than the devil and his evil cohorts spend an inordinate amount of time ‘fighting’ the devil.
Another explanation for the flourishing of evil is our complicit silence. We hope to be left unscathed if we do not confront evil/doers. The bombers terrorizing Nigeria sleep and wake up somewhere; they are someone’s brothers, sons, fathers and husbands. Yet they go undetected. Can their relatives not rat them out as did the brother of the Unabomber or even Abdulmutallab’s father? For those who know them, please do us all a favor; stop the evil by exposing them!
Ignorance also allows evil to thrive. The less knowledge people have, the more they confer mystical powers to vile, decrepit, and creepy evildoers. They acquiesce to the killing of twin babies for fear of a bad omen and the torture of young girls on accusations of witchcraft. Indeed, the less people know, the more power evildoers exert to manipulate them. We see this scenario played out over and over throughout the continent.
Yet another explanation is couched in justified suffering or the idea that one has committed sin and therefore needs to suffer. This is found in all religions but what is unclear is whether one’s suffering should come from the hand of another or from the hand of the Supreme Being. Should we allow evildoers to thrive in order to do penance? Really, if you need to suffer for your transgressions, do so, but don’t bring the unborn into it pretending they are sinners by virtue of being your offspring. Stop the suffering with your generation.
One dangerous sentiment that allows evil to thrive is: “there go I but for the grace of God.” We can identify with the evildoers. We think we’d steal if we have no food to feed our families or kill if we feel it’s the only way to get what we need, or -. This is one of the primary reasons African Americans never rat out drug dealers or thieves, or smugglers. They sympathize with the pressures the evildoers face in a system rigged against them. So, the community stands by while they loot, kill, drug, and destroy themselves and everything around them including the community.
Or we fear that confrontation of a larger evil will slowly move the axe of confrontation closer to us. If we take out all killers then robbers would be next, then accidental killers, then governmental and corporate fraudsters, and down the line. We’ll then deal with doctors who kill through gross negligence by administering a saline drip to a hypertensive patient. And deal with religious leaders who promote homicidal behavior in order to keep their coffers filled by telling an abused spouse to stay married to Mr. Moneybags (sic Tithebags?).
Finally, we excuse evil because we are too weak-willed or afraid to confront it. We don’t have the willpower to tell loud and obnoxious neighbors to stop the noise, bullies to hands off their victims, corrupt politicians to return their loot, nor philandering spouses to stop spreading AIDS.
And so Àrélù reruns continue both onscreen and in real life; God help us.