‘I Hope Your Hand Is Good’: Superstitions Amongst Nigerians


By Favour Chiagozie Ebubechukwu

We live in a country where different cultures, traditions and religions exist. It is also a country where people of different social classes live. As a result of the large population of people, languages and tribes, different superstitions exist.

 One of the definitions of superstition is this: a widely held but irrational belief in supernatural influences, especially as leading to good or bad luck, or a practice based on such belief.

For example, a fellow‘s carefulness in covering their spittle on the floor for fear of another stepping on it, lest they be afflicted with a sore throat; or a fellow who after sneezing, panics for fear of their name being called for evil; or a hopeful and ecstatic fellow who has been assured by their itching palm, of some great fortune that lurks around for them. These are a few of the numerous superstitions that exist in the country.

Amongst our fundamental human rights is the right to freedom of opinion and beliefs. This means that it is expected to see and recognize different perceptions and beliefs from individuals, cultures/tradition, even religion. It also happens that to question religious, cultural and traditional superstitions is to stir arguments that might eventually lead to castigation, national war, genocide and other inhumane acts.

No doubt, everyone is entitled to their personal beliefs. However, we have cities, towns and regions that have, over the years, been inhabited by people from various tribes- places like Lagos, Portharcourt, Abuja, just to mention but a few. Do you not think that projecting our various superstitious beliefs in our dealings with one another will build a foundation of division, discrimination and prejudice amongst us?

Let us take the statement “I hope your hand is good” as an example in the scenario below.

A customer walks up to a retailer’s shop to purchase some goods. This customer turns out to be the seller’s first patron, what we usually refer to as “di person wey open market”. Upon the customer’s request, the seller comments in all innocence: “I hope your hand good o”

A fellow seated idly, beside the shop, smiles, expecting a friendly conversation to begin between the seller and the customer. Surprisingly, the customer’s countenance changes and the following statements surface: “Excuse me? What sort of insult is that? Do I look like a leper or a beggar to you? I think I made a mistake coming here.”

The seated fellow tries to explain: “No, it’s not like that. It is a wish of good luck and blessing. What you ought to say is ‘yes o; you go sell well today’”.

The customer storms off with a fierce determination to terminate further patronage, while the seller freezes in awe or responds to the customer’s annoyance with some insults: “Leave am make im go; na only am dey for this town? If e no buy, another person go buy. Make im carry im bad luck dey go, abeg.”

Apparently, the customer does not buy into the superstitious belief of wishing for luck by asking a customer if their hand is good. The seller, on the other hand, cannot fathom the reason why anyone will pick an offence from such a friendly comment.

This brings us to the importance of diplomacy in our communication towards achieving the goal of peace and unity. We might not forsake our superstitions or agree with others; however, to achieve our goal, we must be ready to uphold diplomacy, understanding and social intelligence.

Rather than fanning the flames of separation, let us uphold unity.

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