By Mukhail Suleiman
It was a Monday morning, a bright and beautiful one for that matter. I had woken up quite early and done the early morning Salat al-fajr at the nearby mosque. I was really upbeat, but did not know why. May be it was the prospect of moving nearer the city to Lugbe. The settlement is just a few kilometres to the federal capital city.
Also, after pulling a few strings here and there, and Mama played a prominent role, I was about to get a job with the Civil Defence Corps. Two beautiful things about to happen to one young man in a space of a few months, who wouldn’t be bouncy and spritely? Alhamdulillah. Things were working out as Mallam said they would. I had already told Mama I was ready for the grandson she always nagged about.
Trust her, she was already lining up her own bevy of beauties. The only way I could escape the match-making was to quickly get one of my own, fast. My only other fear was contemplating the prospect of polygamy, which I knew Mama hated with a second-to-none passion. She believed it was the reason her husband turned out the way he did. I had often heard her, as I grew up, admonishing women in polygamous marriages to accept it, because it was the right of their husbands to have four wives; but I had wondered the hypocrisy of it all because of the angry and bitter comments she made privately. I had sworn never to be polygamous, but often wondered if I had the discipline to resist four beautiful women in this lifetime. It was just very appealing, no matter the tales of witchcraft, sorcery, or even drug addiction I heard of so often. But there other happy stories even though they were far between, and I had not physically seen one. Was that part of my father’s libidinal tendency growing in me? Allah kiyaye, I spat out loudly! How I disliked that man. Even the thought of him was spoiling my upbeat mood. I switched my thoughts back to Civil Defence Corps and Lugbe town, and I was again refreshed. These days when I drive past the Lugbe area on my way to the city centre and back, I felt a sensation that was simply beautiful.
It was also my way of putting Gwagwalada and all its memories behind. Especially Joke. How I wish I had converted her. Perhaps, her prophecy of half-Yoruba children would have come to pass. I quickly banished the thought. There was no way I could pollute my superior race with that of an infidel tribe. Try as I did, Joke kept creeping into my thoughts as it had done in the last few months. Was it a guilty conscience for defiling such a pristine character? Was it anger that she was going to belong to another? Somehow, I still had this nagging thought I did not conquer her, though my Mallam and friends praised me to no end. Why these thoughts? Why these feelings? And why now? Many had come and gone after her, but thoughts, and even dreams, about her persisted. I think I should find an auspicious time to discuss with Mallam to cast away this spell.
As soon as I entered into the bathroom and came out, my city prospects bounced back into my thoughts.
I boarded the mass transit bus feeling on top of my world. I was soon going to leave this very hot university town for the city, I was day-dreaming, when that stentorian voice boomed from somewhere in front. It sounded familiar.
“Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, may I have your attention, Please? I bring you good news…”
“No, you cannot have our attention, please, not on a Monday morning,” another voice rang out.
Soon there were loud murmurings and grumblings. The bus driver finally waded in.
“Sorry, Oga, you can’t preach here today, these passengers are not interested,” he declared.
“I am sorry, please forgive my indiscretion,” he replied.
There was something about the apology and the voice. I rose slightly from my seat. There he was! The gentle giant, the reckless infidel I had been seeking for a year!
As the driver raised the volume of his bus radio to drown every other sound, I yelled from behind, so loud, even I thought I had gone bonkers.
“So, Oga driver, we can’t listen to preaching, but can listen to useless political talk and music on radio! Me o, I want to hear about Allah than this useless government and foolush music on radio!! Today is the first working day of the week, I want to hear about Allah and be prayed for, Please tune down the volume of your radio!!!”
Whether it was my Hausa accent (as my southern friends always said in school), my Kaftan and Maiduguri cap which made me look like the average Muslim, or the sheer logic of my argument, it worked like magic. One saucy Bahaushe (Hausa man) in the bus shouted back: “Wai sai ka yi ihu ne, kai abokin kafuri?” (Must you yell, you friend of an infidel?).
“Uban ka ne abokin kafuri! Ka ci kaniyarka, Allah ya tsine maka!” (It is your father that is the friend of an infidel! Go and you eat your faeces, may God curse you!) I retorted! He glared at me. I glared back at him. The fool did not know what I was up to and was going to spoil it all with his stupid interruption. The bus was quiet for a few seconds…the driver did not raise the volume of the radio…I waited with bated breath for that reckless infidel to bite the worm on the hook…and he did!
“I am sorry gentlement, I do not have to be the cause of any disagreement in this bus; but I humbly decline the call to preach, if …”
“Just preach and pray for us so that this week will be better than the last,” another passenger said.
“Why not just tell him to pray since that is what we are really interested…” someone started to say.
“No way!” I yelled again as I racked through my brain for something I once heard a Christian mention to me.
“Let him just pray since we are praying to the same God…”
“Who told you that? Same God? One has a son, the other says he does not. My own God does not.” The Bahaushe spun around in confusion. I ignored him…and then I remembered what I was racking my brain for.
“After all, it is better we hear the good news from the scripture before all the bad news from the radio aand newspapers. So, let him preach before he prays, I said.
I don’t know if what I said made sense to anyone, but I needed the reckless infidel to speak so I could stab him with my drawn sword. He fell for it. Oh, what a beautiful day! Is this why I have been in an exhilarative state since I woke up?
“Ok,” he said, as I saw my Bahaushe brother still staring at me confused.
“Sir,” he spoke without turning around to even look at me. I prayed he shouldn’t so he did recognise me from the past. I kept my head bowed now. “Is it really true we are not serving the same God, or it is simply that one group has a clear image of him and the other a blurry image,” the infidel asked.
I touched my side to be sure my dagger was there if this turned ugly. “So, which group has the blurry image,” I deliberately asked.
For the first time, he turned around, as I quickly bowed though I doubted if he could recognise me through the heads that were between us.
“I think that would be left to each of us to find out by sincerely praying to him,” he said. “But suffice it say that we all agree that a day of reckoning is coming, and anyone who has been lying or making God to be a liar will answer only to him. That day is nearer than we all thought. My simple advice: believe God; believe in his ultimate sacrifice, Jesus Christ, who died and rose from the dead on the third day; live holy, righteous lives, loving God and loving men till you drop dead; and paradise is assured.”
“Bit I thought Jesus said someone is coming after him,” I poked.
“Yes, he did, sir. He told his followers to wait in Jerusalem for that someone. That person came as he promised on the day of Pentecost. He was and still is the holy spirit of God.”
“How can a spirit be a person,” I asked sneeringly.
The sneer was not lost on him, as he turned around again.
“I thought you said you wanted to hear the good news, but I perceive you are turning this into an inquisition, sir.
“Anyway, I know that you know that every human being is a spirit that has a soul and lives in a body. Why are you then surprised that the holy spirit of God is described as a person? Nonetheless, the summary of the good news is this: For God loved so much loved all of mankind and the world, including you and I; that he gave his only begotten son, Jesus Christ, who was born of a virgin woman, Mary; so that anyone at all that believes in Jesus Christ from his heart or spirit, and genuinely confesses Jesus Christ as his lord and saviour with his mouth, obeying him daily; shall not die eternally in hell but have a never-ending life with God.”
The bus became so quiet, I closed my eyes thinking of how to tackle this man, without sounding over-antagonistic.
“Now that we have heard the good news, please, can you now pray'” someone around me said.
Before he opened his mouth, I said, “La-ilaha-illallah-muhammadur-rasulullah”.
“Ameen,” a few persons in the bus replied.
There was now an uneasy calm in the bus. I knew what I had ignited. I waited for the explosion to happen. There was tension as I tapped my side to reassure myself the dagger was clasped there. This is it! I looked at my immediate surrounding to be sure I was not outnumbered. The Bahaushe was now looking at me with what I thought was respect. The bus came to a slow stop at the airport junction bus-stop, under the bridge. Some passengers boarded. Quite a number who appeared to me earlier, to be going to the city, disembarked. Fear had gripped them, so it was safer to disembark.
As the bus took off, I looked back at the bus-stop and saw some who disembarked from our bus hopping into another one that was parking as we were leaving. I didn’t see the infidel. As I rose to see if he was still where I saw him last, he had moved a little toward me behind. He was just a few feet from me, looking in my general direction. He caught my eyes, and peered from those gentle eyes at me for a few seconds before looking away. His look disconcerted me, but I was past caring now. Somehow, he had managed to come to stand between me and my Bahaushe brother. I wished the Bahaushe was carrying his own dagger or weapon as we were required to. I looked over at him, and he appeared to be fiddling with his phone.
“Oga driver, please put on your radio nah,” one of the passengers that just embarked said.
“Yes o, at least we have heard the good news,” an old passenger said.
“Good news? Which good news? Has the result of the presidential election been reversed? Is Atiku now President?”
“You wish!” Someone said.
“In your dreams!” another said.
“So, what is the good news?”
“That God sent Jesus, that he was killed, that he rose from the dead, that we should believe in him to make heaven to be with God, gbam! That is what this newscaster (pointing at gentle giant) was telling us before you came in. We are waiting for him to pray before we switch on the radio,” the old passenger said.
“Oh, sorry o, I thought INEC has announced the real result,” the new passenger said.
“So you are one of the delusional persons who think that party of lootocrats won. Keep dreaming!” someone else told him.
“Pastor, pray now so we can listen to other news and music,” the old passenger said.
Preacher man looked at me; I glared at him. He smiled at me with those gentle eyes; I glared back.
“Let us pray. Father, I invoke the power of your holy spirit, in Jesus name.”
Was it my imagination or nearly everyone in the bus answered.
“Father, as we enter into the city of Abuja today, let your name be exalted above all names; let your kingdom come; and let your will be done in Abuja and Nigeria as you alone has determined. We reject as a people any evil policy. We remind you that the spirits, the lives of all our leaders, whether traditional or modern, are in your hands. Direct them as it pleases you, and in a way that will make our lives better, peaceful, and prosperous…”
“Amen” resounded through the bus.
‘Take care of President Buhari, his Federal Executive Council, as well as all 36 State Governors and States Executive Councils, the heads of the Federal Legislature and Federal Judiciary and their opposite numbers in the States and Local Government Areas. Guide them in the path of your own righteousness; and please, do discipline them yourself since they answer to you, if they seek to foist unrighteousness, stealing or any form of wickedness on us. Please let this week bring an inflow of blessings, good jobs, and a beautiful change in the condition of everyone In this bus…
“Amen!!!” the passengers thundered
Did I also join in that chorus?
“In Jesus name,” I pray. Another thunderous answer followed.
Nigerians just love prayers, but our lives are all so opposite to Allah, I wondered.
“My brother, you are right o,” someone said, as angry eyes turned in my direction. I didn’t even know I verbalised my thought.
“Especially these hypocrital preachers,” I drove in the dagger. “They preach and pray so beautifully, but they are snakes, the green and poisonous types,” I went on, loud enough for everyone in the bus to hear.
Preacher man just kept a straight face. He was no longer smiling, and I loved every moment of it.
“So, what is your point,” someone up front lashed back. But the bus driver chose that moment to raise the volume of the radio, as I inwardly savoured my last cut. Now, we were even as far as I was concerned.
We drove past my Lugbe, and then the Shoprite Stores as I dreamt of what was going to happen to me in a matter of weeks.
At the Area One Roundabout, almost all of us disembarked. “My name is Kefas,” gentle giant said, as he tapped my shoulder from behind.
“I am Suleiman, Mukhail Suleiman ” I said, acting polite.
“That name sounds familiar,” he said.
Liar! There they go again.
He gave me his card and I squashed it and threw it into my pocket, making a mental note to tear it to pieces later. He headed toward the Area One Old Federal Secretariat, which was equally my destination; but I deliberately slowed down and pretended to be buying something until he was far gone.
I arrived the Ministry of Interior, admiring the uniform of the Civil Defence man there. I asked to see the Liaison officer for the corps there. He asked my business.
“I am here to pick a letter from him.”
“What kind of letter?”
It is none of your business, I almost blurted out, but I politely told him, “A letter of appoinment.”
“Has Oga come,” he asked a female Immigration officer by his side.
“Yes, Oga Kefas just came In,” she said.
“Oga Kefas?” I froze.
“Yes? Do you know him?” I was now sweating profusely as I put my hand in my pocket and brought out the squashed complimentary card. I smoothened it beneath the desk, away from their eyes. What I saw brought a flow of hot urine in a little trickle to my underwear. I was now covered in sweat.
“Are you alright, sir?” Of course, I was not.
“Are you okay, sir,” I heard as the reception area began to spin. I held tightly to the high desk, and asked for somewhere to ease myself. They exchanged glances, as the man asked me to register my presence in a big notebook.
I was shivering almost uncontrollably and couldn’t hold the pen down. They kept watching me closely as I asked to compose myself. I pleaded for a restroom as I felt the hot urine about to pour out. The Defence Corps officer asked me to come with him. I noticed he beckoned on an arm-bearing prisons officer to follow. I knew I was acting suspicionsly but I was past caring, I needed to empty my bladder. He led me to the conveniences on the ground floor and pointed a room to me. I rushed in and did my thing, standing there to regain my composure. As I did, I removed the dagger and hid it behind the toilet seat. How could I explain the dagger if they opted to search. I quietly thanked Allah they didn’t do it while I was acting funny. I came out to where the drum of water was and washed my face, wiped it, and stepped out of the convenience area. They were still there waiting. I followed the Defence Corps man as the man with the rifle walked behind me.
There in the reception area, I came face to face with my nemesis.
Kefas, the gentleman with a soothing smile I had dubbed the reckless infidel, was staring down at me. The lady must have called him. He smiled ever so gently, while I felt like going again.