By Mukhail Suleiman
The moment I saw him, I knew he was one of them. Those intrusive characters who thought they loved you more than you. Those pests who go about buzzing around your ears with their boring message. I was in a bad mood; I was frustrated; I was broke; and very angry. Who wouldn’t be angry? No job, no money; and yet we are being told that Change had become Next Level.
Why are these political parties no different from each other? One is made up of big time crooks who ate and soiled thsir lips with oil, and didn’t care to wipe their lips. They wanted us to know they were prosperous. The others, with their brooms; were also thieves, who robbed us blind, ate like those under the umbrella, but were smart enough to deceive us into thinking they were saints. We fell mugu. Four years after, we have discovered they were not a shade different from the umbrella boys and girls. In fact, most were under the umbrella, until they changed to wielding brooms.
We were so easy to bewitch. So very easy. The broom men (mostly men, of course) were also adept at eating, but knew how to wipe their lips clean, insisting ‘you know Baba does not allow anybody to eat’. Yet they stuffed their pockets with everything from dollars to Naira.
Are we cursed?
Then he smiled at me, again. I glared back at the religious bastard! He just kept smiling, while I turned away. Next Level. Is it up the ladder or below the ladder? Oh Allah, the most beneficent, the most merciful; when will you rain down your punishment on these wicked bastards?
“Good afternoon, my brother.” I almost jumped as I heard the soft voice. I turned to see the religious bastard standing right beside me in the bus. I was livid. Whether it was the snarling sound I made under my breath, but he took a step away. So, he had the temerity to make an incursion into my space. What is wrong with these Christians? He repeated the greeting.
I shouted back: “What is it, this man?” Everyone in the bus turned to look at me. Like me, they were all looking tired, frustrated, and angry.
The idiot almost jumped out of his skin, as he again cringed back. Serves the fool right, I thought to myself. He dared not do that to me in Maiduguri four years ago. I would have taught him a lasting lesson he would remember when he arrived hell. Bloody infidel!
“I am sorry, sir,” he managed.
“You better be,” i grunted back.
I returned to my political thoughts. When are the innocent ones going to be born in this country? When are we going to escape these blood-suckers, who have left us with a mishmash of terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, militant herdsmen, armed robbers, and to worsen matters, a crop of treasury looters. Oh, Allah, how long before you rain fire and brimstone on them and their children? How can a country for 20 whole years be this unlucky? Who cursed us?
And then it happened again. That voice. That idiot. That religious infidel spoke up, again.
“Good afternoon, sir”. I turned ever so slowly, like a cobra, mustering all the anger, gathering spit from every corner of my mouth to respond and spit in his ugly face.
“Oh, good afternoon, my brother,” another passenger answered. I quickly swallowed the mouthful of spittle, to even my own disgust.
And then the conversation that was to enthrall us all began.
“You know that Jesus loves you”.
“Seriously? Is that why you greeted me? I shouldn’t have answered you at all. So Jesus loves me and is allowing the suffering all around us? Please do not disturb me, I am a Muslim, and I don’t believe in your Jesus”.
“You are a Muslim and you don’t believe in Isa al-Masihu? That is strange.”.
“That is not what I said. I said I do not believe in your Jesus, not Prophet Isa. Your own Jesus is different”.
I was recoiling and praying that this would get out of hand, so I could shed some blood. I touched my side, but my dagger wasn’t there. I was disaappointed. I took a cursory look around, and saw we outnumbered them. I was itching for war. These ChristIans needed to be taught a lesson.
“But I thought Jesus Christ is the same as Isa al-Masihu, born of a virgin woman named Maryam, announced by Angel Jibrin?
“So when did he become my own Jesus?”
“From the day you people said God is his father”.
“In Arab culture which you draw from, can a person be without a father?”
“Okay. From the Jewish culture which you draw from, can a person be without a father to now claim God is his father?”
Now this was getting interesting. I was sure we were all listening but we pretended not to care. I knew my people were waiting for a word of blasphemy, and the bus ride to Gwagwalada was bound to come to an end. I craned my neck and was somewhat disappointed to see the driver and those immediately surrounding him looked like ChristIans, but I was confident we had the number. But with everyone these days wearing kaftans, could I be that sure? I began to check the foreheads as the two continued their discussion.
“I concede, but what is it Angel Jibrin told Maryan. I thought he said the spirit of God will come into her and she would have a son?” the Christian asked.
“So, if the spirit of God is the one that caused her to conceive; and we both agree that in Jewish and Arabic cultures you cannot be a living being without a father, who can he, I mean he, Isa al-masihu, claim to be his father?
“I don’t know”.
“Haba, aboki na, how can you say you don’t know. By your admission, the spirit was God’s, just like the sperm from me into my wife stayed in her for nine months and produced my first child, Caleb. So, who is Camel’s father?”
I was both confused and angry.
“You are wrong!” I shouted angrily.
Everyone turned to look at me. Was it my voice? Was it the shout? Was it the anger in the voice?
“Gentlemen, let us end this needless debate,” an elderly voice said from behind.
“Nooo!” I shouted again.
This time they all really looked at me. Some listlessly, others with uncomfortable interest.
It was only the preacher that was smiling with something, like gentleness, in his eyes. I felt like throwing a punch at his wide African nose, but held back. For the first time, I noticed he was a burly man. I was sad my dagger was not on me.
“So, why do you say no,” he asked gently
I was lost, waiting for the anger to dissipate, so I don’t sound like a senseles zealot. I changed the direction of the discussion. “You ChristIans…” as soon as the words came out, I shut my mouth. They had bile, they sounded accusatory and war-like. I quickly reminded myself I was in Abuja and not Maiduguri. Oh, how I missed Maiduguri. May Allah punish those Boko Haram boys!
“What I meant to say was why do you ChristIan’s say he is God. That is the worst kind of blasphemy.” I managed to say through clenched teeth.
“Please remember I said we should close this discussion,” the same elderly man cautioned, again, from behind.
“No, sir! Are we saying that as Nigerians we cannot have a civilised discussion in a bus”. I couldn’t beleve I uttered those words. Everyone turned to look at me as if I was from the moon. I began laughing inexplicably. Almost everyone joined and the tension eased.
“Okay, Mr. Smiley,” I said to the gentle giant, “what is your take on my last question, now that there is no tension again”.
The Christian looked around, and when he saw everyone in the bus fix their gaze on him, he erupted into rapturous laughter that shook all of his frame. When he finished, he asked, “is it me you called Mr. Smiley?”
“Of course, you are the only suffering and smiling Nigerian on this bus,” I replied. I was really seeking to draw him out for a killer punch to his Jesus preachment. He fell for the bait.
“Well, what is your name,” he asked. I was caught off-guard.
“Mukhail Sulaiman,” I ventured
“So your father’s name is Suleiman”.
“Yes, and so?”
“So Suleiman’s son can be called Suleiman?”
“Yes, and so?” It hit me like a bullet before I could take it back. I felt foolish.
“In effect, if the Arabs and the Jews from whom we draw our different faiths believe a man can’t be born without a father and Jesus was born of the Spirit of God, he is the son of God; and if Mukhail can claim to be Suleiman, then Jesus can claim to be God”.
Everywhere went silent like a graveyard.
We drove in that eerie silence until we arrived Gwagwalada. And then he spoke.
“Thank you, Mukhail, for the interesting time. I am not asking you or anyone to become a Christian. Just that we all remember that the Almighty God is the way, the truth, and the life. Good bless you all”.
I watched him climb down and walk away as he exchanged numbers with the man he started the discussion with. I made a mental note of the time, hoping to catch a ride with him for a return match. I would have to visit my Mallam and study harder for when I meet him or his type again.
Weeks now, but I never stopped thinking of our discussion.