THE MOST LUCRATIVE BUSINESS IN TOWN

“If you were born with the ability to change someone’s perspective or emotions, never waste that gift. It is one of the most powerful gifts God can give – the ability to influence” – Shannon L. Alder

“A true leader is a person whose influence inspires people to do what is expected of them to do. You cease to be a leader when you manipulate with your egos instead of convincing by your inspirations” – Israelmore Ayivor

“The message of the gospel speaks loudest when people can see Christ in us” – Jerry Kinard

 

I saw Akaraeze on the road leading to Elegu’s shop. I was on my way to purchase fresh palm wine for the visitors that would arrive in the afternoon. Chineze’s fiancé and his clan members would be coming to the house for a formal introduction. That was the demands of the tradition. Chineze had been smiling and giggling a day before this day, praying fervently for the safe arrival of the guests. I guess she even woke up earlier than the cockerel on this glorious day. On the other hand, I knew Chineze’s father, Dee Mgbidi had memorized a thousand jokes and proverbs with which to entertain the guests as well as to prove he is a worthy son of the soil.

Akaraeze hasn’t changed much since the last time I saw him. On this day, he wore a Tee shirt with the picture of the charismatic governorship candidate of the state. He was holding a bible in his right hand and a bottle of olive oil in the left. He was praying for three people that knelt before him with arms spread to the sides. I recognized their faces; one was an elderly woman who sold akara at the town hall every morning, the other was a man I had only seen once at Mama Chineze’s shop, and the other was a young lady with massive hips. I parked my motorcycle on the roadside, beside the ukpaka tree and went towards the place he prayed. He was speaking loudly in strange tongues and I felt I saw a dove descend on this head.

After about ten minutes, he was done. The three converts thanked him while calling him their ‘Daddy’. He smiled and encouraged them to keep studying their bibles and attend follow-up classes regularly. As they turned to leave, I stared at the young lady’s behind and didn’t know when Akaraeze tapped me on the right shoulder.

“O boi, e don tey. Akaraeze the guy man. Hahahaha. Na this one you dey do now”, I exclaimed. He beckoned on me to keep my voice low by putting his right hand over his mouth.

“Na wa o. King Baruu, e don tey o. E don reach like 10 years wey we see last. Hafa…how’s life and every? You don’t look bad jor”, he said.

We talked about a lot of things, pretending that we gave a phuck about seeing each other. He was one of the toughest kids on the block while growing up. Since I came back to the town for Chineze’s wedding, I’ve been bumping into a lot of old faces. I saw Lasso, I saw Kakpo and now, Akaraeze. Before I left this town ten years ago, Akaraeze was working for the Local Government Chairman as a personal thug and enforcer. Nobody messed with him; once you saw him coming to your territory, you made sure his drop was ready otherwise, you’d be swimming with the fishes (just for a night though). All of a sudden, this former thug is now a pastor that goes about the whole town preaching the word of God and people called him Daddy, including a lovely girl with massive hips. The Lord is really good.

Forget talk jor. Now don’t mistake me for a doubting Thomas. I believe that God can turn a man’s life around, no matter how bad the person’s past was. Honestly, I believe that. With such repentance comes a genuine desire to serve God and make amends for all the wrongs that was done over the years. But in Akaraeze’s case, something was different. All I saw was a man disgruntled with his former job and decided to take another one – one that was lucrative as well as reputable.

I quickly said my goodbyes and left for Elegu’s shop. I promised we would still have a sit-down before I left town and also to drop some cash for his church. He laughed heartily after I made the last statement.

The rapid increase in the number of men of God in this nation cannot be attributed to any factor other than the hardships in the country. It’s as simple as that. Let no one bring up an assertion about how God’s word is transforming people and converting them to workers in his vineyard. Yes, it is important to work in God’s vineyard. But does working in God’s vineyard entail starting up a ministry and adding to the already saturated ‘church business’? I believe that wasn’t what Jesus planned when he was on earth.

And these ‘fresh’ men of God keep thriving in deceiving gullible folks with their twisted and hackneyed versions of the word of God. All you need to do to thrive in this business is to purchase an OK suit or worn-out coat. It doesn’t matter who made this coat or suit for you. It could be Emeka at Aba or Okechukwu at Abakiliki…e no matter. Just make sure you have a special skill in convincing people and know a few ‘heavy’ English words; words that when said at the market square would make the gullible market women scream ‘JESUS’. Make sure you jump up and down every once in a while during the sermon and learn how to speak in tongues. Then on revival services, arrange with your neighbor to pretend her child has been sick with a strange illness for many years. Come on stage and lay your hands on the little kid. All of a sudden, the mother would scream ‘Praise the Lord’ and claim the pastor healed the kid. Mind you, the pastor and not God o. Issorait!

Overtime, you’d have to learn how to subliminally convince your members to pay tithes, sow various seeds of faith and first fruits. Warn them against robbing God and stress on the consequences of stealing from God. I bet you, the next Sunday, you’d have enough cash to purchase a new ride.

Encourage the mothers and young sisters in the church to come over to the pastor’s house to cook in turns. They should come with different edible items: turkey, chicken, salad dressings, yam…in fact, anything they think the pastor would like. And after they are done with the cooking and sweeping, ask the most beautiful lady amongst the sisters to stay behind for a special word of God. Pamurogo!

With time, you’d be invited to different revival services at other churches. Remember to tell the organizers to lodge you in a classy hotel (at least 3-star if they can’t afford 5-star). I mean, c’mon, your new status as the ‘latest frosh young pastor in town’ deserves such na. By this time, you’d have a personal assistant and personal tailor that makes exquisite suits for you.

And before jumping on the stage, take some time and marvel at how your life has changed all of a sudden…from a struggling hustler in the village to a renowned preacher of the word of God in township. Smile at your cleverness and wit. Write down in your personal diary other things you plan to acquire before you turn 35. Make sure a private jet is amongst the list. And hope the wrath of God doesn’t catch up with you.

So here I am, in this godless place, staring at my consultant as he heaps insults on me. Some of the patients are giggling while a few are really feeling sorry for me. My Oga threatens to reduce my salary if I continue with this bullshit. And then after he is done, leaves the cubicle as I stand facing the stupid nurse. She was the one that snitched on me.

Phuck ‘em…Phuck ‘em all! I’ve already made up my mind. Tomorrow, I would write a resignation letter and drop on his car. I’d keep it in between the wiper and the windscreen, so he’d see it easily. I’d tell my Oga how phucked up his attitude was and promise never to come back to work again. I’d also tell him I carted away with two sphygmomanometers and some other valuable items. I’d tell him I destroyed the door to the female ward and hope more mosquitoes attack the patients. I’d promise to come to his house and pluck all the ripe mango fruits on the tree and watch as his little kid cries. That’s all! I won’t murder his cat sha.

And afterwards, I’d proceed to the nearest market and purchase a coat from the okrika section. I’d buy a big bible and head to the nearest car park. I’d survey which bus has the highest number of passengers and walk straight to it. And when I enter, I’d scream “Praise the Lord my brethren in the Lord”…

The phone alarm sounded and woke me up from my sleep. Chai…it was all a dream! I woke up and realized I was still in my one-room apartment and the curtain was the same color as yesterday. Nothing has changed. Damn, the gods are really crazy!

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