CORPERS LODGE (SIX)

This election is so keen that whoever wins it will definitely work for Nigerians. This election is no battle between the forces of evil and good. Accept the result in good faith. Insist on #NoViolence Post-election. #ProudlyNigerian *

NCCF Uncle Dayo started the whole thing. I was in my room sipping pap with Micah, and hating him for sharing in my breakfast when Uncle Dayo walked in like a thief in the day. As soon as I saw him, my heart began to race. When he opened his mouth to talk, he confirmed my fears. He has NCCF jotter/devotional in his hand. ‘Join us,’ I invited.

He smiled thanks. ‘I want to show you something.’

What could that be? Inside NCCF jotter! I rose weakly to my feet to peep.

‘You will be preaching on Thursday,’ Dayo said.

My heart ceased. ‘I didn’t get that.’

‘…You would be preaching on Forgiveness. Study these Bible passages and follow this guideline.’

‘But, er… I am not an exco.’

‘It doesn’t matter.

I held the book with shaky hands. I looked at Micah who had finished my pap and hiding behind a newspaper, obviously laughing his eyes out. I turned to look at Dayo who was now at the door. I sighed. I was hooked. Evil me, preach on Forgiveness. I was finished.

I sat on the mattress and starred at the threads of blank prints that refused to register in my mind.

Micah burst out laughing. I glared at him. ‘What is funny?’

‘You, you! Preach at the fellowship?’ And Micah fell on the floor and laughed till I could condole it no more, and went outside to gather my thoughts. I sat on the bench in the veranda and the full weight of the exercise hit me. What do I know about forgiveness? I pondered. I was certain I would stutter before nearly eighty corps members on Thursday and Micah and the rest would laugh at me for the rest of their lives. Thursday! Less than forty-eight hours. If it were Sunday fellowship which only ten corps members attend, I wouldn’t mind, but Dayo had to choose Thursday which attracted everyone as it would hold just before CDS meeting. And it wasn’t even raining season, the chances of rain falling and disrupting it all was minimal; considering my luck, zero percent….

‘You have a phone call,’ Micah standing at the passage door extended my phone to me; he was trying hard not to burst out laughing. I snatched the phone. The caller, Helen was a girl I met in the village: I was awaiting my call-up letter; she was home to bury her grandfather. We became more than friends. But she soon returned to Abakaliki (she studies in Ebonyi State University) and I left for Osun. We called each other regularly for few weeks, then slowed down till the love of guys waned cold. We hadn’t spoken for three weeks now, but we kept in touch by liking each other’s statuses on Facebook.

‘Hi K,’ she exclaims in her borrowed American accent.

‘Longest time,’ I said with little life.

‘How is life treating you?’

I looked at the NCCF live coal in my hand. ‘We thank God.’

‘Shey you are serving in Osun State?’

‘No,’ I said.

‘Where are you serving?’

‘In the State of Osun,’ I said.

Helen laughed. A beautiful sound. ‘What is the difference?’

Ask Aregbesola. I said nothing.

‘I am in Lagos right now, and preparing to go back to Abakaliki on Thursday. But school just resumed and will be so so boring;’ she laughed.‘I will branch in Osun and chill for the weekend. Hahaha, what do you think?’

I swallowed my Adam’s apple.

‘K, are you there?’

Micah’s eyes were shining with interest.

I swallowed my Adam’s apple again. ‘Yeah, yeah.’

‘It will be fun,’ Helen declared. ‘I heard Osun has so many sacred tourist sites. Tell me how to go about it. Oshogbo, right?’

I couldn’t find my voice. ‘I will text you,’ Micah whispered.

‘I will text you,’ I said to the phone. Helen cheered and the call ended. I thumbed into my inbox and scrolled down till I found my last account balance, 1,784 naira! I looked up. But Micah had disappeared. I could almost hear him reeking with stupid laughter, who wouldn’t?

An impossible preaching on Thursday, now the invasion of a girl! How could I preach Jesus then smuggle in a girl the next moment?And in an empty pocket! I was completely cooked.I slapped the jotter on the floor, then remembered it was God’s book and quickly picked it up and hugged it on my chest. ‘All is well, all is well….’

#                    #

Corper IBK was frying akara. I sat on her mattress trying to study the manual but stealing looks at her at intervals. IBK is provocatively beautiful, even a blind man would stare, but I just glanced at her, once every fifteen seconds.The toilets were oozing terribly and as IBK’s room was farthest from the toilet, I came here to seek asylum from murderous smell while I study for tomorrow’s showdown at the fellowship. I still didn’t know how to start discussing forgiveness; I still hadn’t gotten where to borrow money from; I still didn’t know what to do with Helen. I hissed.

IBK looked at me. ‘What is the matter?’

I looked at the small, calm eyes, the red soft lips, the dimples in succulent cheeks and the brown hair lying on well-formed shoulders; I hissed again.

‘If you want to hiss, go to your room o,’and she turned to face her fry-pan. I admired the awesome long legs and hissed again. ‘Yeye,’ she said.

The frying soon came to an end and IBK dished out colourless akara balls into a plate which she placed on the carpet before me. The akara shouldn’t be called balls; they were so shapeless. Beautiful mess.

‘No,’ I shook my head.

‘Why?’ she attempted a glare.

‘I don’t even have energy to eat.’

IBK took one akara from the plate. ‘Should I feed you?’

My heart lurched. I swallowed quickly. ‘If you wish.’

She brought the akara towards my mouth and I shut my eyes with joy. She rubbed the akara on my nose and dropped it in the plate. ‘Yeye. If my boyfriend catch you.’

I just hissed. #                    # Our Community Development Service meetings take place in the Owa’s palace, in the multi-purpose hall. The hall sitting arrangement is three sections of plastic chairs. Batches A, B and C occupy one section each. CDS meetings commence by 9am, but from 8 to 9, various religious bodies hold their meetings. Muslim Corpers Association of Nigeria hold their meetings in the conference room, National Association of Catholic Corpers meet beside the hall, while NCCF, 85% of the lot, hold their fellowships inside the hall. Today the fellowship was unusually full and I was going to preach.

My stomach was filled with live butterflies and my bladder full of hot water. I sighed; I looked at my palms, full of salt water. God, have mercy. Uncle was introducing me. ‘I invite Corper Kings to speak to us this moment. God has been doing mysterious things in his life; the grace of God has found rest in his endeavours. Kings is a collection of testimonies and we will not be disappointed as we listen to him talk about a problem that has stunted Christendom…’

Who on earth is he referring to?…

Our uncle had stopped talking and all eyes were on me, Reinhard Bonnke, to stand up and bring heaven down to the Owa’s palace. I rose lazily to my feet. I faced them. I looked at them. Agu who had never attended fellowship in his life, was here (Jumoke’s father is searching for him–I prayed!). Edwin who is a catholic and hates anything protestant, was here. IBK who ought to be in Lagos or Benin City this moment, hiding behind dark glasses, was here. Micah, of course, was here, seated, legs crossed like a judge… all here to see my downfall.

‘Praise the lord,’ I said in a small voice. A cold hallelujah greeted me. I raised my voice. ‘Praise the lord again.’ An average hallelujah was returned.

Tun-tun, tun-tun, my phone announced an SMS. ‘Whenever a strong wind of God wants to blow, distractions arise,’ I said for comic relief and laughed alone. But I stopped laughing when I saw Helen’s text: ‘I am approaching Oshogbo now, what next?’ I switched off the phone.

I looked at my audience with a defeated face, and saw Edwin chuckling; he had seen through my predicament, I was sure. Angry, I decided to punish him. ‘Corper Edwin, could you please open Psalm 51 and read from verse 1 down to verse 17.’

Edwin’s face drained of laughter. I watched as he scurried about, asking the people sitting around him for Bible. None of them had come with Bible. It was normal to come to CDS meetings without Bible. In fact, I hadn’t touched my Bible for close to a month until I fished it out, dusted it and opened it two days back to study for my exhortation. ‘We are waiting for you, Brother Edwin,’ I turned the pressure.

‘The guy didn’t bring Bible to church o,’ someone said and the fellowship laughed. My confidence soared, and the revenger in me drew closer. I scanned my congregation looking for another victim. My gaze fell on Micah. Please don’t do this to me, please bro, he pleaded with his eyes. I almost smiled as my gaze moved on, seeking blood.

But the Mama of the house came to their rescue and began to read the passage.

When she finished, I launched into a strong critical message of forgiveness. I spoke with so much energy and passion that my words took bigger meanings and fervent urgency. I didn’t think of Helen, all my existence was hinged on this assignment. I spoke well pass the allotted time and by the time I left the pulpit my crested shirt was drenched with sweat. I went straight outside for flesh air as the fellowship circled to sing the family song.

Outside, gulping air in mouthfuls, I felt the pain of my burning phone in my hip. But I wouldn’t temper with it now. I had just scaled one high wall, and I must rest very well before I take on the evil called Helen.

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DILEMMA

An old woman sets for a journey

To a land of gold and honey

Thorns litter her path, I recall

And rain of still stones fall

 

A child gives her for change

A broom to sweep the thorns off range

Another offers umbrella for power

To shed the stones raining over

 

With rickety umbrella and old broom

Her journey is slow and sorrows loom,

I fear she heads towards doom

Choosing one of abused umbrella or stained broom?

 

Tired umbrella, a thousand holes

Will well-performed, its roles?

And ancient broom, too

Well-sweeping? No clue

 

Uncertainty! Confusion croons

As fate ambushes in misty tunes

Old broom or rickety umbrella

Which’s to choose, a dilemma!

 

Written by Ishola Abdulwasiu Ayodele, produced by @Oke4chukwu as Hard Voices contribution to March 28th and April 11th. Insist on #NoViolence Polls