By Isaac Asabor
Let’s assume that a larger part of somebody’s teenage days were spent in the village, like this writer, where varieties of superstitious beliefs were divulged to him. In fact, there are various superstitious beliefs in African culture that inform who to relate with or who not to socialize with. To a well brought up child within the context of the African culture, superstitious beliefs are sacrosanct, particularly when socializing with others, and it is necessary they are kept in mind even when in Diaspora. The first is, “Don’t ever greet an ill-mannered person or respond to his or her greetings in the wee hours of the day, particularly when he or she is the first person to be seen on that day”. According to the elders, such person can cause bad luck to the first person that saw him or her throughout the whole day. There is another superstition that has it that when anyone sneezes, it means he or she is been gossiped about somewhere. Sneezing also means that someone’s soul is been attacked by the devil or his earthly agents. It is ostensibly against the foregoing background that when someone sneezes, even if you don’t consider yourself a particularly superstitious person, you probably say “Bless you”, just in case the devil should decide to steal his or her soul, as our ancestors thought possible during a sneeze.
Also in a similar vein, “when a dress is worn inside-out, it means a good-omen” as such person is unescapably fated to make money or receive wonderful gift on that day.
Some other superstitions cut across “Rain on your wedding day” which means you will get rich, “Rain on the day of your trip”; you will experience good luck, “White spots on your fingernails;” you will make additional income”; “Hands are itchy”, you will get money” and “Broke some dishes”, you will experience good luck and so on and so forth. Again, it is considered to be a good omen when a flying bird defecates on somebody’s head even as a building is considered to be impregnable when doves make such buildings their dwelling place.
Whether it’s wearing that lucky shirt when gambling or taking a few steps to avoid walking under a ladder, some people convince themselves that certain actions will influence some aspect of their lives. Yet in the age of science, people with academic backgrounds based on logic and reason still have superstitious tendencies.
At this juncture, it is expedient to ask, “Why do we believe the unbelievable?” The foregoing question is been asked because psychologists are of the view that the fascinating thing about superstitions is that we often believe in them despite knowing, on some level, that they can’t be true. The question then is, why do we believe in superstitious views?
Jane Risen, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth in Illinois and a member of the American Psychological Society, has used the so-called dual process model of cognition to explain our belief in superstitions.
According to Risen (and other renowned authors, such as Daniel Kahneman), humans can think both “fast” and “slow.” The former mode of thinking is snappy and intuitive, while the latter is more rational, and its main job is to override the intuitive judgment when it finds errors.
The dual thinking model is an established one, but in the case of superstitions, Risen suggests that the model should undergo refinements. The researcher notes that error detection does not automatically involve error correction. In other words, people can realize that their belief is wrong but still act on it.
The “thinking fast and slow” model “must allow for the possibility that people can recognize, in the moment, that their belief does not make sense, but act on it nevertheless,” writes the author. “People can detect an error, but choose not to correct it, a process I refer to as acquiescence,” she continues.
But superstitions are not merely a manifestation of our flawed cognition. Sometimes superstitions offer a host of benefits.
In fact, superstition belief can be half-belief or practice for which there appears to be no rational substance. Those who use the term imply that they have certain knowledge or superior evidence for their own scientific, philosophical, or religious convictions. An ambiguous word it seems, it probably cannot be used except subjectively. With this qualification in mind, superstitions may be classified roughly as religious, cultural, and personal.
Every religious system tends to accumulate superstitions as peripheral belief. In the Christendom, for instance, in time of trouble believers tend to be guided by the Bible if the bible is opened at random and the text read first, and which strikes the eyes is considered to be the prophetic remedy for the problem that deserves miraculous solution.
Against the foregoing views, it is expedient to ask, “Is President Muhammadu Buhari’s phone call behind Super Eagle’s loss or the coach and players are to be blamed?
The reason for the foregoing question cannot be farfetched as Nigerians have since yesterday, January 23, 2022 been bashing the president over the video call he had with the Nigeria Super Eagles.
They said the President Buhari transferred ‘bad luck’ to the Super Eagles through a video conference he had with the team earlier on Sunday shortly before the Eagles’ match with Tunisia. This is as the Eagles are out of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations after they lost 1-0 to Tunisia in their Sunday encounter in the Round of 16.
The superstition was no doubt heightened with the fact that the Super Eagles had won all their three matches at the group stage in Cameroon but lost to Tunisia to the consternation of many Nigerians and international observers.
Shortly before the game with Tunisia, Buhari held a video conference with Coach Austin Eguavoen from the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Buhari said, “You’ve been doing Nigeria proud. You’ve been winning. Please keep on winning. The Federal Government is supporting you, and I say thank you to all the technical crew and the players. Please keep doing the country proud.”
Without agreeing with the proponents of the facts that the president was the cause of the Super Eagle’s loss, it is expedient to strongly hold on to Edmund Burke’s saying that “Superstition is the religion of feeble minds”. Given the veracity of the foregoing quote and its applicability or relevance to the issue at stake, it is expedient to ask, “Does the president play with the eagle that he is been blamed for Super Eagle’s loss?