It was last summer when I first heard about Mr Madu. At the bottom of my mailbox was a small note from an “African medium of international fame” basically promising a magic-pill solution to all of life’s woes. Love, sex, health, finances, court cases - you name it and Mr Madu would cleanse you of your bad spirits, with success guaranteed at a lofty hundred percent.
I thought nothing of it back then. Clearly just another scammer trying to make a few pennies out of gullible people desperate to hear some good news about their lives. Yet when people started posting promotional notes they had received from Mr Madu a few weeks ago, my curiosity got the better of me.
For a medium of international fame, Mr Madu doesn’t have much of an internet presence, with only a single blogpost on a tech website dated 2009 referring to him at all. I called him up and he told me he was currently working in France but would be returning to Malta in two weeks’ time.
We finally met last night, bang in the centre of San Ġwann near the Bank of Valletta branch. Mr Madu, thin and of average height, with short hair and a neatly cut beard and wearing a long and slightly dirty green robe, was waiting for me at a corner and took me to his house nearby.
There were at least three pairs of shoes by the door, and I could hear guttural voices at the end of the hall. Mr Madu clearly did not live alone. I didn’t get to meet his housemates though as he took me straight to the dimly lit adjoining living room where a TV was playing a Nigerian news channel and a Quran was planted firmly above other books on the coffee table.
Mr Madu sat down on a old sofa that was falling to bits, I sat down on a basic wooden chair opposite him, the coffee table between us, and the session began.
“So what do you want from me?” he asked.
I admittedly hadn’t given much thought to what problem I was going to go to him with, but I decided to play it safe - “I’d like more financial success”. He asked me where I work, he got a bit confused, I showed him Lovin Malta’s website, he scrolled down till the end of the page and looked at me strangely as though he was trying to figure out what I do for a living.
“If you just want me to help you, I can add you to my list and pray for you for free,” he said. “If you want me to read your future, you’ll have to pay €20 and I’ll tell you whether you have any problems that I can fix.”
Worth a shot.
Mr Madu made me trace my hand on a sheet of file paper and write my name on top of the outline of my hand, and he then started writing Arabic words in the outlines of my fingers. Then out came the ‘magic’ cards, ie. twenty pieces of cardboard, each with a number from 1 to 20, which he laid onto the coffee table. I could start to see where this was going. I picked a number, Mr Madu shuffled the cards, and laid them out into three piles. I told him which pile had my card, and he shuffled the whole pack again. The process repeated itself three or four times, with Mr Madu taking occasional intervals to clutch at his prayer beads, continue scribbling on my handprint and mutter inaudibly with an expression as though he was paying utmost attention. In the end, he correctly guessed my number, looked back at my handprint and said wildly with a feverish glint in his eye: “I now know everything about you….everything!”
It feels ridiculous in hindsight but I felt a chill run through me at this point.
“You didn’t tell me the truth. The number you picked doesn’t match what is written in your hands. You only came here because you wanted to know who Mr Madu is…”
I suppose that was true, but I pressed on.
“So you know everything about me? Tell me something.”
“Be careful. Be careful. You are young, you have a good future ahead of you if you continue down your path and the number you chose is brilliant for you, but be careful.”
“Is that it?”
“Yes, you have no big problems. Just be careful.”
"Oh, that's good, I suppose."
"Yes, now you want to know who Mr Madu is? Ask me something."
"How many people come to you everyday?"
"I can't answer that, but I see people both in Malta and in France and I help them when I can. Now, I'm sorry but I have to get going because I have an appointment with another person at 8."
And that was it. I went to Mr Madu for financial advice and left the room €20 poorer than when I entered it. Coming to think of it, that was the advice though. Be careful. Well played, Mr Madu.