Post: Aljenu| Another Shade of Abuse

Aljenu| Another Shade of Abuse

  • Wednesday, Apr 17, 2019

My brief stay at Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Katsina revealed to me another shade of abuse of the female gender that is still prevalent in some parts of Nigeria deeply hidden in some cultural beliefs and norms.

I spent a few days at the Post Natal Ward of FMC, Katsina. My first night was typified by horror and shock. 

A lady (whom I presume should be in her late 20s) who just had a baby through Caesarean Section (CS) the day before went wild insane in the middle of the night about 2:00 am.

The scream and acting up roused other patients in the ward awake. I quickly stood on guard to protect my day-old niece and elder sister who were the reason why I came to spend some days at the hospital. The security personnel, nurses and doctors on duty did their best to calm her down but to no avail. 

Her mum wailed, pegging the cause of the insanity to “aljenu”. A few women around nailed it on “aljenu” but the nurses on duty said otherwise, they called it “Postpartum psychosis”. 

According to the nurse that I spoke with, she said that the medical record of the woman already predicted a possibility of coming down with Postpartum psychosis just after delivery due to family history. The nurse further pointed out that they already prescribed a medication that would take care of that.

Hours after, about 4:00 am, the husband of the lady arrived at the hospital. I heaved a sigh of relief, ‘help has come for her’. How wrong I was. 

“It is aljenu, the nurses speak non-sense” exclaimed her husband in Hausa and began to chant. 

He chanted and made his wife who just delivered through CS less than 12 hours with stitches and pains repeat his chant. The chant went on, 4:00am…5:00am…6:00am…7:00am…, 8:00am… He even made her gulp down some substance until a man, whom I deduce might be her dad or an older relative came to the hospital and paid for the medication prescribed.

What amazed me was that she was made to chant some lines for hours unending despite her condition as doing so would appease and exorcise the spirits disturbing her.

When she eventually took the prescribed medications, she became calm and coherent. She slept for a long time and later held meaningful conversations with relatives who came to visit her in the days that ensued before she was discharged with her baby from the hospital.

That experience left me stunned and portrayed a subtle kind of abuse going on in some part of Nigeria fueled by cultural practices.  

If proper care and caution were taken, that woman might not have come down with postpartum psychosis. I still think of her and how she would deal with the shame and stigma when they disclose to her that she went nude the few hours of her insanity at the hospital. Should her husband have prepared to properly care for her, he would have bought her medication on time. 

According to the nurses on duty that night, they said if they had administered the medication immediately after the CS, she would not have come down with Psychosis.

I am sure her husband might not have had the intention of abusing her directly but the cultural practice of left her abuse. Left to her husband, she might not get any medical intervention.

It leaves me wondering what happens to the baby should she come down again with psychosis when she is alone. 

How many women, children and other adults have been denied proper medical intervention because of some cultural practices.



  • Ryta Abiodun

    ... it's God's Spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty One, that makes wise human insight possible. Job 32:8. I am a God chaser, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister and a Nigerian.

All Comments (70)

  • Tina

    Thanks for this insight Rita. I am surprised such practices still go on.

  • Jude

    It is a complete rape on womanhood in the name of culture. We need to eradicate barbaric acts like this.

  • Nike


  • Ryta

    I agree with with you Jude! @ Nike, it is really sad. Thanks Tina.

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