Snakes are generally seen as dangerous reptiles, but in Machina Emirate, Yobe State, they are revered. Here, it is believed that royal blood runs in their veins. In fact, they consistently pay homage to the Mai Machinama palace, where their ancestor was born, together with one of their ancestral kings, as twins.
It is also believed that, just like the Machina Emirate, the forebear of the snake procreated kings, queens and princesses that were of equal status with their relatives in the kingdom.
“Since then, their lineage has continued, just like human beings. I am the 77th Mai Machinama, so there must be one snake that has attained the same position in their kingdom,’’ he said.
He recalled a mysterious encounter the snakes had with the media crew that came to cover the event. Out of curiosity, some of the journalists attempted to photograph the snakes, but the moment they fixed their cameras on them, they got out of sight.
Speaking on how they relate with the snakes, the emir said they occasionally come together as a family to share moments of happiness or sorrow.
“As I sit here, a snake could come and curl under my chair. I feel happy seeing them around. But each time I see them around, I will pray and hope it’s for good because something will definitely happen. Whenever my wives are about giving birth, you will see the young snakes coming out, a sign that something is going to happen,’’ he said.
Our correspondent also learnt that in Machina Emirate, killing of snake is forbidden because they are considered as having royal blood. The snakes don’t harm anybody; however, they retaliate when someone tries to harm them.
The Emir of Machina gave many instances when people disobeyed the protection law and persecuted the snakes and eventually paid dearly with their lives. It has become a norm in Machina that every visitor must be educated that snakes are not harmful and must not be harmed.
“Also, there was a truck driver from another town who came to Machina to drive my father’s truck. He came with his first wife and married a second one in this place. One evening, a snake came into their house and the first wife, who is not from Machina, shouted. Her husband rushed in from outside, looking for the snake, but the woman from Machina told them not to bother, saying it would leave without harming anybody. But their husband said he would not stay with a dangerous creature in the house. The first wife pointed to a hole where the snake hid and the first wife boiled water and assisted the husband to pour it into the hole. Miraculously, the woman, who was pregnant, gave birth to a baby girl with features of a snake. She used to crawl like a snake. I knew the girl when I was young; if you heard her speak you would think she was a complete human being, but if you saw her, she was just terrible. She couldn’t walk, so her parents used to carry her in a basin until she grew up to the age of 18 when she died,’’ he narrated.
“You know, during the onset of the rainy season, termites would come out en masse with grains. As the man threw the snake on the anthill, surprisingly, all the ants went back to their hole and none of them came out. In the evening, the young man’s house became filled with snakes.
“Later, the young man was taken to the emir’s palace where clerics gathered. They prayed and he survived that day, but it became a seasonal sickness he suffered until his death. These are just few examples I can give. That is why we don’t kill snakes here,’’ he added.
“In the olden days, there was a place we used to put milk for them.
If we made sacrifices we threw it around the area, believing that they would use it. But we don’t eat or play that much with them,’’ he explained.
When our correspondent visited the rocky hill where the snakes have lived for centuries, it was a beautiful sight.