A harrowing account of Omari Jackson’s encounter with ‘GOWA’
Death was not a word that ever occurred to me the morning I was accompanied by my younger brother, when I managed with difficulty to get into a taxi to seek treatment from a treatment center near the Baptist Seminary Community. It was on Thursday, June 22, 2018, my left foot had developed blisters and I seemed to lose my concentration. I did not know what was happening around me. All I could hear was my brother’s encouragement that he knew somewhere to take me to get relief.
What was my problem? “Someone threw GOWA on you and wanted you dead,” journalist Trouble Suah, told me the next night before and he had sought to get help for me. However, the young man that he brought to help me gave me a white chalk with the instruction that I should not attempt to go to any medical center for treatment. His problem was that he said GOWA hated injection and death could result if I chose to take an injection at any medical center. I was shocked that I had contracted GOWA because until then I had no idea I could become a victim of GOWA’s insidious horror.
“Someone threw it on you or you stepped on it,” was the statement I heard again and again as I arrived at the treatment center on a motorbike on the second leg of my journey to a Treatment Center outside Monrovia. At her center, we were directed to another location where the woman that we sought said she was preparing to visit another location so we went there to wait for her.
After arriving at the location, to climb the low steps that led to the three-bedroom that she was using for church service and treatment center, my brother and another person helped me to climb. I felt tired and wanted to sleep. When the woman came, she explained that she was on her way to an occasion and decided that I could wait if I wanted to. But when she examined my left leg and saw huge bubbles of blisters all around it, she apparently felt sorry for my condition. “This is an emergency situation,” she said. It became apparent that she could read from my face the horrible tiredness and exhaustion that I was going through at that moment. She confirmed that I had contracted GOWA and noted the wickedness of people who seek to harm their friends. She meant that someone, though she could not reveal to me at the time, was responsible for my suffering, for it is an accepted fact in Liberia GOWA is one disease that can only contracted when someone, an enemy or a wicked person could only send to harm anyone they are against or simply a disease that is sent to kill.
Though I had a problem reconciling the statement that because my left leg had contracted GOWA, it was someone who was responsible for it. I was overwhelmed with the number of people who came to encourage me and to wish me God’s blessing ‘in the name of Jesus’ for two days after the blisters gathered around my left leg, I was still alive. Many of those who came to empathize with me kept praising God and Jesus since many felt that I was a good man and did not deserve any evil person to harm me. But what might have done for someone to throw GOWA on my way to go through such an experience? One of the obvious questions that came to me was, whether I was following someone else’s woman. When I would answer in the negative, many of the people would simply shake their head and asked God to bless me.
As I understood the nature of my sickness, I realized how vulnerable Liberian poor communities and even the majority of the people have allowed the whims and ignorance of many to dictate their lives in cases in which they are quick to blame some enemy for their suffering. What was the motive for anyone to kill me through juju (GOWA)? In all my life I have been a journalist and I know no other job and I am not sure I have done that great an evil to someone who may want me dead. Until the GOWA experience, I don’t remember doing anything to injure another human being. I have always been a journalist and I have not caused anyone to lose their job, and there was no indication that someone was interested in someone’s else job in which he would want me out of the way. As one of the editors at the Daily Observer newspaper, I have not been given any preferential treatment and I don’t know any issue that could be the reason for anyone to suggest the motive to kill me by using GOWA. All these reasons I am pointing out mean nothing to those who have made up their mind that one could only contract GOWA through another somehow wicked human being.
Personally, I share the belief that only the living needs help and not the one who is dead and in my weak way I share my little resources with others as much as I could. But the reality was that anyone who came across me with the distemper believed that someone was trying to kill me or in the worst-case scenario, someone wanted my left foot cut. At the treatment center, I learned about a man who died when it became apparent that Mother Johnson could not help him after she received a vision that the man was beyond redemption. But could God, the Almighty reveal to his prophet that a sick man could not be healed? In the end, I was told that the man died one week before I arrived at the center for help. The man’s story in actual fact was not helping me but I could not tell them to stop making life hard for me. However, I made my resolved and was determined not to allow stories that were without collaboration to scare me to death. So, every evening I would bow down in the room that was given to me to use while I was there, and asked God not to abandon me. I would quote Isaiah 41:10, when God Almighty told the children of Israel: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.Do not be anxious, for I am your God.I will fortify you, yes, I will help you, I will really hold on to you with my right hand of righteousness.” It gave me reassurance and the courage to hung on because it was clear that I could not change the situation. So, I made a vow to wait for God’s time.
Meanwhile, I began to investigate what kind of disease I was suffering on my leg. What was it? How could someone contract it? What was the most effective treatment of this GOWA? Now since my GOWA began as blisters around my left leg, I was told it was ‘water Gowa.’ I also learned there is fire Gowa. From my brief investigation, I gathered that GOWA is prevalent in the Southeast of Liberia: Grand Kru, Grand Bassa, Sinoe, Grand Gedeh, and Maryland. But what is GOWA? As far my experience was concerned, it appeared to me to a certain kind of disease that affects the leg and sometimes neck. As the foot succumbs to the infection, it produces pain. Since blisters surrounded my leg on the second day of the infection, the water-filled blisters had to be open to get the water out. As the process continued, I saw my flesh decaying right before me. It was depressing to see my foot ‘being rotten’ before my eyes and though center applied several traditional medicines to the foot, it was apparent that I had a long way to go because of the slow response of my foot to the traditional medicine. At the same time, the center encouraged me to take a lot of antibiotics to avoid any future gangrene that could lead to the cutting off my foot. In what appeared like a hopeless situation, the consumption of antibiotics and the use of several leaves suggested by the woman proved worthless, they decided to encourage me to put my trust in God, for He is the doctor who knew solutions for all diseases.
So far, I had spent one month at the center and the results had not been encouraging. What was I to do? So, I decided to inform some of the friends who are more religious to come to my rescue. I called my friend Augusta Lafalay of Gardnersville.
“I have a request for you,” I told Lafalay on the phone.
“What can I do for you Mr. Jackson,” she replied.
“Are you going to church this Sunday?”
“That’s what I am talking about, listen is it possible you can put in a request at your church for me…I want you to sing some gospel songs for me.”
“It’s serious, my friend.”
She gave a deep breath and replied that she would be in the church that Sunday.
“Please, can you ask your church to sing for me ‘What About Me?”
“Are you serious?’
“Yes,’ I said, “Lafalay. “It goes something like this: He Did It for Other People, What About Me…” Lafalay interrupted me and said she would ask her friends to do my request.
“There are two more,” I said. “The second one is, ‘My Life Time, I will Give God My Lifetime…do you know that song?”
Still laughing, she said, “Yes I know it and I will ask my friends to sing as a dedication to you.”
I was enjoying the conversation since Lafalay had agreed to do my request.
“Now the last one is,” I said, “They are men, they are not God, They are men they are God…’do you know it?” It was also apparent that Lafalay was enjoying the conversation and she assured me that she would do my request. I felt at peace with myself and looking at the situation I knew I was in for the long haul. But I began to re-examine my position carefully when I heard that someone had a dream and a certain woman had gone to her to say, “That man in the room, I will see to it they cut his foot because of what he did to me.” When it was revealed to me, I realized that someone wanted me to say something that they could use as the basis for the situation I was in.
However, I was not prepared to let anyone pick my mouth and begin to tell me an issue that had already been part of my activities, therefore, I felt that if anyone thought they knew what caused my situation, they should be bold and let me know what the problem was and they should not engage in any fishing expedition to explore and to appeal to my fear to reveal any kind of information to them.
I realized that since many of the people believed that one could not be infected with GOWA except someone sent it, it is the cause why many religious Liberians are found in local churches every Sunday and under the influence of smart pastors, mothers and prophets who would tickle their ears with titillating tales about their enemies and their goliaths and become slaves to orders and instructions of these people of God. They are noted to point to family members as the sources of their suffering. It is no wonder that some families are torn apart because some elder members of the family were accused of being the sources of their young relatives suffering. As I went through three months of not being able to walk, I never for one minute believed that someone was responsible for my situation. All of us have different destinies and while consequences place two or more people together, we are comforted with chances that come our way, for either good or bad and how well we manage the chance encounters is up to us. I felt that GOWA could cause by a bacteria. There was even a report that GOWA was on sale at Gorbachop Market in Paynesville. Again there was no collaboration and later investigation proved that false.
To fight the disease I was encouraged to consume a greater number of antibiotics and while I thought they could help me, it was confirmed one day when my leg was being attended to that my foot was spoiling and the specter of amputation went through my mind.