A 35-year old man, Oluokun Muyideen, has flayed the continued barbaric cultural practice of tribal marks (Scarification of the face) in his home town in Oyo State.
Muyideen, who spoke to journalists in Ibadan, the Oyo State Capital, at the weekend, expressed outrage at the continued practice of the barbaric act in the Atiba area of the State, stating that his brother recently lost his child to the practice.
The young man, who said his family had continued with the practice, called on the State Government to come up with a law to prohibit it, explaining that the practice, which involves a long and painful process of the skin, being cut or pierced with a sharp object or hot instrument to leave scars on the affected area, forever implants the victim with tribal marks.
“I want the whole world to know that the cultural practice still holds here and remains very strong in some places, including my town and cases arising from the practice, no matter how awful they are, are never reported to the police nor are actions allowed to be filed against the family heads, who have continued to champion this activity, in court.
“On the 1st of November’ 2018, one of my brothers was blessed with a baby boy at around 10am, the entire family was happy and on the day of the naming ceremony, on November 8, the head of our family and his cohorts, who went to his house to celebrate with the family, reminded my brother of the practice of scarification of tribal marks on the first son of every male child of the family. He equally told the wife about it but she rejected it, scared that the child could be infected, the husband calmed her down, assuring her that nothing bad will happen to the baby, if he was given the tribal marks even though he was himself not in support of it.
“On December 8, 2018, to be precise, a month after the head of the family and his accomplices were at the naming ceremony, they used the power of the tongue (Ase in Yoruba) to call the spirit of the wife to their home town, she could not recall how she got there to have the cultural practice performed on the child, when she regained consciousness.
“Ase in Yoruba is a spiritual power of the tongue invoked by powerful Yoruba elders (Oluwo, Babalawo and others) to move out people spiritually to locations, usually a distance of dry land with no water at all, to carry out acts on persons they make unconscious so as not to be aware until they make them regain their senses after the acts have been performed.
“On regaining her consciousness on December 9, 2018, the wife called the husband immediately to inform him about what his family had done to their son and the husband went to meet the following day, alerted his own parents and they told him to calm down, that the deed had been done already and there was nothing they could do to reverse the tribal marks. After fights and discussions in the family, my brother had no option than to accept his fate and to continue to treat the severe injuries of the tribal marks on the child’s face.
“But by February 13, 2019 the parents noticed that the child was developing temperature and fever, the mother took the child to the clinic and was diagnosed to be infected, though it was unclear if it had to do with that act carried out on him or the exposure of the wound to that environment, the sickness lingered and the child died consequently. Many cases of children as this that underwent this sacrfication abound, but they are never redressed or is it given any thought while this has been; the practice has continued unrestrained, claiming more and more lives of innocent children in the cover of cultural validity.
“My brother was severely angered but again, the family pleaded with him to leave everything to God and accept his fate, insisting that such family issues were not exposed to the public as he attempted to file a suit against the head of the family and his tribe in the crime.
“ Oyo State remains a stronghold of this abysmal cultural activity and It is surprising that it can still continue to happen in this century and, as it appears, it would remain here with us until the powers of traditional rulers on issues of culture and tradition are completely jettisoned or reformed,” Muyideen narrated the sad experience of his brother and his wife, explaining that the practice has continued to be used in Nigeria for identification or purposes of medication., stating that the ritual is performed by members of different ethnic groups in Nigeria and for similar and varying reasons.
While, according to him, it is regarded as a ritual of identification in some parts, in some others, it is performed as a sacred tradition to distinguish special children from normal ones or as an act of protective covering and manifests as tribal marks, mutilation, and protective cuttings.
Ironically, however, Muyideen continued, ”the cuttings are made by people, who know nothing about medicine and their crude and unhygienic methods lead to blood loss and even death.
“They do not administer any form of analgesic to reduce pains in the victims. The instruments for cutting are not sterilised as they believe that every one they are applied on are of the same bloodline, unaware or unconvinced that it could lead to contact of varing diseases like hepatitis B, tetanus and HIV. Scarification do not only cause psychological trauma and social stigma later in the child during adulthood, victims are usually left with trauma and psychological bouts to battle with all through their life time.
“Every child is born into patrilineal kindred, which shares a particular tribal mark. These marks, which are usually facial, are worn by each child born into the extended family and it assigns the child full kindred membership rights.
”These rituals have always been culturally relative with diverse root explanations and spiritual significance. They are not ordinary acts or performances; they are not for entertainment or beautification purposes, they are sacred and are treated as such. Incantations and other spiritual rites are a part of what heralds these tradition,” Muyideen further gave an insight into the underlining reasons for the fearsome and ageless cultural act that has prevailed till date, notwistanding that it has become gruesomely very harmful.