One of the amazing things about magician and paranormal investigator James ‘The Amazing’ Randi was his One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge -- the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) would pay one million U.S. dollars to anyone who could demonstrate a supernatural or paranormal ability under agreed-upon scientific testing criteria. The challenge ended in 2015 without ever being paid out. A man in Nigeria is now offering a similar challenge – he will pay 2.5 million Nigerian naira to anyone who can demonstrate supernatural powers to him … including changing into a cat. We hesitate to call this offer “amazing” because 2.5 million Nigerian naira is $6,000 US. Will the payee want the money in cash or kibbles?
"For a reasonable human being to believe that a human with all his biological components can turn to yam or banana is illogical, and worrisome."
Gbenga Adewoyin was interviewed by the BBC in a market in the southwestern city of Ibadan, Nigeria, while walking around with a bullhorn making his offer in English and Yoruba to reward anyone who could demonstrate “the existence of the supernatural, be it juju or voodoo magic.” Most people would agree with Adewoyin on a person changing into a yam, but cats are magical and that kind of shapeshifting legend is common in many cultures. Unfortunately, Adewoyin’s real purpose is to stop false paranormal practices which are far more gruesome than the Amazing Randi ever encountered.
"If money ritual worked, we would have seen a massive inflation in the economy for the decades that we have believed in it."
The “money ritual” Adewoyin is referring to involves cutting off body parts, mixing them in a pot with ‘magic’ charms and waiting for cash to fly out of the pot. The poor economy in Nigeria, coupled with the cultural belief in such rituals, has resulted in maimings and murders, often of single women, by evil pastors, religious leaders and swindlers who want to keep the money for themselves. If the description of the act is not gruesome enough, the BBC offers pictures of survivors – and their fingerless hands are not clutching pots full of money. Adewoyin wants these rituals to stop, as do many others, but religion runs deep.
“This ability to be able to transform yourself to [a] cat, to disappear and reappear, these things are possible within the dynamics of traditional African religion. Although [it] sounds illogical, like old wives' tales, however from what we have seen and heard, these things are possible."
Jude Akanbi, a lecturer at the Crowther Graduate Theological Seminary in Abẹ́òkúta, believes in the money-making pot ritual, as does Dr. Olaleye Kayode, a senior lecturer in African Indigenous Religions at the University of Ibadan, who told the BBC the money is “gotten by spirits from existing banks." Many popular movies depict it and social media promotes it. In other words, changing Nigerian juju beliefs is extremely difficult – if seeing maimings and deaths doesn’t and leaders support it, what chance does Adewoyin have to become amazing?
“You will see the money with your two eyes before you demonstrate the power. Follow me as we proceed to become a millionaire.”
Adewoyin says he not only wants to debunk juju and put an end to the killings, his ultimate goal is to change Nigeria's educational system to teach that juju and the supernatural are not real.
Maybe he should take the one million naira and run for president.