Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Interview With A Nigerian Snake Charmer

You just can't make stuff like this up. The following is from the AllAfrica.com website, it was posted November 21, 2010. See the video.

One man's meat is another man's poison. In this interview with Augustine Aminu, Alhaji Audu Nadije, a snake charmer, who finds pleasure in playing with snakes, speaks on his trade. Excerpts:

What do you do?

I'm Alhaji Audu Nadije, the snake charmer. I am married to four wives, with children and grand children. I am also the grand commander of snake charmers of Nigeria. I equally sell traditional medicine. My origin is Gashuwa in Yobe State.

For how long have you been in this profession?

I have been in it for the past 51 years and it has been good.

Apart from the snakes, what else do you do?

Like I said earlier, I equally sell traditional medicine. In this business, I have trained young men who sometimes help me in selling my traditional medicines and I have over ten boxes of snakes which we travel with to different parts of the country to do our business. We've even traveled outside Nigeria.

Snakes are dangerous species of reptiles, how do you cope with them, and how do you feel when you are called the snake charmer?

I feel good and always happy. This is because over 50 years, I have been in this act of snake charming. For the hazard, I believe it is God who gave me the wisdom and the powers, so he has been protecting me.

As a professional in this business, I can tell you the species of the snakes and I have them in different species. There is no snake that is not harmful and dangerous to man, but like I said it is God that has given me this business and he protects us in the business.

Is it true that snake charmers die by snake bite

Well, I'm still alive. I have been in this for over 50 years. I believe is it just people who feel they have mouths and so should say something about snake and snake charmers, they are illiterates.

Do you know that even food can be the source of one's death? But, doctors say we should eat food to have strength. So what we are saying is that if God says you will die in a particular condition, that is it, there is no magic that can change it. Like I said the people making this kind of insinuations, to me are illiterates. They should go and do their research before they come out to say anything.

Any memorable moment?

Yes, for the number of years I have been in this profession, there are two days I will never forget in my life.

The first is the day I was traveling in the company of my friend to Yobe and after the performance, on our way back, I had about 50 snakes and they all died. My friend asked what I was going to do, but I told him not to worry. When we got to a big dry tree, I told him there is a snake here. I set firewood to smoke the snake out but to our greatest surprise, the snake was so big that half of it had not gone into the box before it was full. I was confused, but I had to try again with more smoke and at the end of the day, the snake finally came out and went into the box itself and we left. The second experience was in a forest where we went to catch snakes and had an encounter with whirl wind. What amused me was that, as the wind passed by, you will see fire at the place. But I was destined to catch that snake that day. Those are the two days that remain memorable to me.

What is your hope and aspiration in this business?

My prayer is to die a peaceful death. In the whole world, I don't think there is any kind of big shop you will open for me that would make me leave this business of traditional medicine. Even if old age comes and I cannot do anything further, I have young ones who will take over the business until infinity.

Can you estimate the number of snakes you've had since you started this business, and how many do you have at present?

Hmn... its difficult to say this is the number of snakes I have come in contact with since I started this business. But I know I have had so many of them. Presently, I have 47 in these boxes (pointing to some boxes).

What do you feed these snakes with?

We feed them with meat. Do you know they eat good meat? We don't give them intestines. We give them healthy meat which even human being sometimes don't eat. Sometimes we even give them a full goat to eat.

What success have you recorded from this business?

Alhamdulilla, I have really made a lot of fortune from this business of mine; snake charming and traditional medicine. I have cars (the reporter saw five), I have houses; apart from the one I occupy with my family, tenants rent other houses built by me. I am blessed with children and by the grace of Almighty Allah I have been able to conquer hunger. I have gone for the Hajj 13 times. You can see these are some of the things I have been able to achieve all my days in this business.

What is your call to others in this line of business?

I always walk on the part of truth. I advise them to be truthful all the time, they should avoid all forms of evil and embrace peace. There is nothing like peaceful co-existence.

When they give traditional medicine, they should stand by the truth and not deceive people. They should always respect their elders. I do respect my own elders, that is the secret of my long years in this business.

Earlie, you said to catch a snake, you just smoke it out, but we all know it goes beyond that. Can you tell us other things you use?

Ha, ha, ha, you are a funny youngman. I can't tell you my secret. Ask me other questions other than this and I will give you answer. Don't ask this kind of questions because it is our own mystery and we can't let it out like that.

Snakes they say sometimes behave abnormally. How do you handle such situations?

You see, Almighty Allah does his things the way he so wishes. We have encountered a lot of situations in our quest to get snakes in the bush. Sometimes, spirits turn to snakes and that is why if you go after a snake, it will start talking to you.

And if we see a snake talk, we will know that it is a spirit, or sometimes they don't even talk but once we catch them, we will know that they are not just ordinary snakes, but spirits and we allow them to go their way. The risk of this business is enormous.

You said you are the grand commander, do you have an association?

Yes, we have at least about 4,000 members and it was at one of our meetings that I was elected the grand commander.

The issue is that in the whole of these members, there is no one like me. If there is someone who can play with my snakes, he has no medicine like me. If he has medicine like me, he has not traveled like me.

There is no one in this business that has made name like me. Even the person who introduced it in the Northern part of this country, Audu Iro hasn't made name like me. This profession has taken me to many places; Sudan, Central Africa, Cameroon, Niger and so many other countries. I have traveled far and wide. Allah has given me name.

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