Source: The Independent on Sunday, 18/03/2007
I am from Nigeria, I’m a textile designer and a craftsman, but I am also caught up in two worlds. Elements talk to me and teach me to work with the forces of nature. That’s what becoming a shaman is about. I was working in Switzerland when my voices started telling me I have to go home to Nigeria and become a shaman. So I went back in 2000.
At the time a vigilante group – called the Bakassi Boys – organised by the Nigerian government – were killing people, burning down houses and bringing fear. I decided to confront them, by going on television and speaking out. I even went to meet with them. On my third meeting they abducted me, telling me they wanted to kill me.
They tortured me – my body is full of marks. I was strapped down, beaten with machetes and cut all over. My mother called my cousin, who was a representative in the House of Assembly, who in turn called up the Governor and, after a long dialogue, they released me. After that I started having panic attacks. I couldn’t sleep. I’d see people chasing me with machetes, even in my dreams. But my voices told me I needed to go through this to understand Shamanism; I had to be wounded to understand about pain. I started painting and writing stuff down about my abduction experience. But then the Bakasi boys came to my office and burned down the whole place. I lost all my pieces – all that energy that it had taken to make all these things and understand stuff, and it was gone. It was hell.
In 2001, I came to the UK and brought a lot of evidence and videos of what these vigilantes had been doing to people. But staying in London made my panic attacks worse. It was a hard time. I’d have panic attacks everywhere. I’d start sweating and all I could hear was negative voices. I’d think the people around me were following me and wanted to kill me. I realised I had to move away from London to the sea, where I would be able to communicate with the elements and get myself better. So five years ago, I moved down to Brighton.
Because of the problems I was having, I had to talk to the doctors, who sent me to a psychiatric ward. They saw me as a mad person, who was delusional, as I was still talking with my voices. My social worker was the only person who trusted me.
As my panic attacks continued, I started getting angry at my voices and myself, then one day they told me, “You have to fight.” So I brought an old Egyptian sword and hung it in my flat. It was my tribal sword. Next time I had a panic attack, I saw the machete men, but this time they ran away. I thought, “I’ve got the key now. There’s no need for me to be afraid.” It was a symbolic event, and now I am fearless again. I haven’t had any panic attacks since.
Now I help others who have had similar problems. I see myself as an African psychologist. The modern, European approach is only geared to the body and mind – not the spirit. These things are not clinical – psychiatrists can not cover it; I think us shamans can.