CHAPTER ONE OF A NOVEL 'MONSIGNORS LAST DAYS'
By the time you read this letter, I will be dead. It is my wish that you do not stop and mourn for me, for I already have been shown a glimpse of the place I am to be. It is a beautiful place, the kind of dwelling place I have always wished for on earth, but which more have been added that I cannot here describe. Rejoice then that your father is gone to a good place.
I write this letter to you because; among all my children you are the only one who could be able to understand me best. Regard this as the greatest gift I can give to you. In this writing I impart to you the greatest secret ever to be found in creation. But then again, this secret is unknowable in its completeness. Imagine a wall ten feet high as the enormity of the secret that I am giving you. It becomes clearer to you if you understand that my own understanding and explanation of the final ramifications (as well as the inner knowledge) of the secret do not go beyond the level of six inches above the ground. But that surpasses all the knowledge and the activities of all the so-called occult and spiritualist groups, who actually make use of only the last ramifications of the effect of the secret to mesmerize the ignorant masses. Even the magicians, for example, only utilize the last ramifications of the law of attractions, which they do not even understand in full.
Before I show you the secret itself, it is necessary for me to show you a glimpse of the result of applying the secret to obtain what I wanted in life. Although I stumbled on this secret much later in my life, I am really grateful to Chukwu for my understanding and the fact that I was even permitted to encounter the secret at all. You know your grandfather, Mazi Odinaka, was one of the greatest dibia this part of the world ever produced.
But he was also open minded enough to have sent me to Rome after obtaining my early education in the village of Umuaga. Several things that he was doing then was evil in my eyes, having been trained to imbibe the white man’s religion. I passed through the Seminary in Rome and was ordained a Roman Catholic priest. You know the lie we have both lived together. What you do not know was the agony of always having to pass over my son-my only son – as my nephew for the simple reason of hiding it from the Church that I have a child.
Let me not bore you with the deep pain that I passed through as a priest, knowing full well that the self sexual privation was a vow actually to the church and was against nature, for if it is wrong nature could have removed the urge from me.
But the issue of your birth is not what I am going to dwell on: you already know the details, for this I have told you over and over again. It is even because of this that you broke away from the church to become a pastor, where, as far as you are concered, the Bible is used and the natural instinct obeyed within law. But you must admit that the sessions we have had together has taught you so much more than what any Pastoral Schools could have done; you must admit that we catholic priests are learned, though of the history of the church and theology.
But there is a limit to what, from the dept of your knowledge, you can give to your congregation. The only property I can bequest to you is the knowledge contained in that secret. I can only demonstrate the accurateness of the secret of trying to explain some concepts and ideas, which seems impossible to explain.
Let us take the village Agbara, for example. Has anyone been able to explain why the deity has as it’s symbol a Cross inscribed in a Circle? Not the normal kind of cross but one with all the arms equal. The one with the lower arm longer – more like a sword – is more associated with Christendom. If you investigate why ogbuefi Nnayelugo Nwada, the last chief priest, died mysteriously you will find it surprising that he abused the high office of the deity by siding with false witnesses against the truth. And that is what that symbol stands for: The truth. And the truth was what cured your mysterious sickness.
I know you do not believe me. Neither am I forcing you to do so. But reflect: How and when did the sickness begin? It was shortly after you went to the house of Emeka Obele, the son of Njoku Obele, and ate. You remember that doctors, even at Lagos University Teaching Hospital could not diagonise what actually was the problem. Professor Adeyanju, who happens to be a knight of St Mulumba in my church, told me in confidence that he feels this can only be handled in the village. Hence I compelled you to go home for treatment, which you did. You stayed at your Auntie’s house. What you did not know is that when you returned to Lagos completely cured after two days, your Auntie called me to explain what has happened.
You never believed in re-incarnation but you know your mother used to call you Nna dim. According to you the Bible did not say anything about it, but in your immediate former life, you committed nso ani by killing Emeka in his former life. Agbala dictates that no indigene of Umuaga should shed the blood of another indigene. By meeting Emeka in Lagos this lifetime, the cycle has closed, and that was why, though you did not know this, your auntie took an old penny coin (symbolic of closing of a cycle) and waved it round your head when you slept and took the coin to Agbala. And that marked the point of your recovery.
Since you came back to Lagos, you were carrying on in righteous indignation, preaching against re-incarnation on the ground that it is not Biblical. You conveniently forgot what you learned in history of theology about the way the council at Constantinople handled the issue of the so called anathemas, of which the issue of re-incarnation was one. You will recall, if you wish, the turbulent reactions to the works of Origin, and how, after a vote of seven to six – seven against and six for - they decided to revise the Bible, editing out references of re-incarnation in the Bible. But they could not completely wipe it out, particularly the indirect references. Thus when Christ says (in the report by Mathew) that “if you are willing to believe it he (John the Baptist) is Elijah that is to come” (Matt. 11:14), in apparent reference to Malachi 4:5 where it was stated that “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord”, you did not read reincarnation there.
There are so many indirect references to re-incarnation in the bible but I did not want to turn this letter into a treatease on re-incarnation. But a practical examples here may surfice to clear your doubts. Do you remember Akueke, who used to be your mother’s friend? One day she came to my office worried. Because she believes I am not like other Reverend Fathers (according to her) she told me of a dream she had of chief Jonas Orjinta, who died four years previously. In the dream chief Jonas came to her and asked that she accept him in the family as she is the only one who can look after him if he is born again. Akueke told him she has stopped having children but that he should go to her younger sister Nwakaego who is still having children. After three months she had another dream where she saw Jonas weeping profusely, complaining that he went to Nwaka and Nwaka chased him away. I told Akueke to go and ask her sister why she had committed abortion. She went and confronted Nwakaego, accusing her of abortion. Nwaka was embarrassed, and wanted to find out how Akueke knew. The person you denied entrance to your house has come to report you, she was told. She explained that the pregnancy came too soon after their last child and they were not yet ready for another child, so she and her husband settled on abortion.
Let me just give one last example. You remember the death of Nneka Ezeugo? You probably remember her celebrated death at childbirth about two years after her marriage. You know she was a very active member of my church. Being a rich banker, it was obvious what she was looking for, since at thirty-eight she was still single. Although Fathers are not expected to reveal what members of their flock tell them in confidence, but I will tell you this much: as time was going, she was becoming desperate. It was not that she was not getting attention from men: far from it. But it was what some youths call hit and run. None of the men seemed to be serious. Until she met the young man from Shell Petroleum Development Company. I will do anything to keep this one, she said to me. I advised her to take it easy because what is her own will come to her because Miri madu ga anahu asofe ya. She just smiled and nodded her head. True to her word, the man became serious and soon I was approached for Marriage Bans. It was a society wedding, one that my Church has not witnessed for a long time. After the wedding, things became quite on her side until she came six months later to complain of not yet becoming pregnant. It was about six months later that the miracle of womanhood happened.
All her subsequent visits were on a happy note. Until that fateful day, nine months later, when I got the shocking news that she was dead. She died after an operation, a caesarian operation after three days of hectic and prolonged labour. The child died too.
I rushed to the hospital just in time to see her being wheeled to the mortuary. It was then the meaning of the funeral song dawned on me: Nnukwu madu nututu ozu na ururuchi. Eze nke mamadu nile, ife olili aruru.
Throughout the following month, I worked as somebody who was in a daze. I was always dropping things at wrong and odd places. My concentration at the sermon declined. One day, the choirmaster, Mr. Ezekiel, came to my office. He said that he had noticed that father is having an emotional burden on him, can he be of help? It’s not that he was prying into my privacy, he said. I assured him I was alright, but that recently the pressure of work has become much on me. After some pleasantries, he left.
But that gave me the opportunity to reassess myself. I discovered that I had a fraternal attachment to the poor late girl. Apart from the fact that we hail from the same place, she was like a daughter to me.
Finally the burial date came, and I had to travel from Lagos to the village for the burial. I celebrated the requiem Mass, assuring all during the homily that our sister is in good hands, and has gone to meet her maker. I did not feel comfortable at the graveside when I am compelled to tell the departed that dust thou art, and to dust thou returnest. If she had returned to dust, how then was she gone to meet her maker? Or is her maker in the dust? There and then I felt the compulsive urge to fully explain the duality of man to those who entrusted their fate to me. But I did not do that.
After the burial, I had to go and see Papa before returning to Lagos. He was looking rather frail. Apart from that, his eyes looked ever alert. After normal greeting, I told him that I came for the burial of Mazi Ezeugo’s daughter. Papa kept quiet for some time and commented that ihe chukwu ga ekpe na ikpe kariri. I don’t understand, Papa, I said. He sat on a mat by the wall of his palour. He suddenly closed his eyes and learned on the wall. When he opened his eyes he started to speak slowly. Mazi Ezeugo’s daughter came to me two years ago. She wanted me to do medicine for her so that she could tie the man in her life and control him, to force him to marry her. When I went inside and consulted my Afa, I discovered that doing that will be death sentence on herself. In her former life she was a ruthless woman who went about destroying families by dealing with men, who fell for her charms, he said. He picked up some beads he kept in a calabash beside him. After examing them he put them back.
I told her that I will not do that for her, he continued. I said she should go and adopt two children and train and forget marriage in this life. I tried to explain to her that if she marries this man, who, incidentally was one of the people she deait with in the past, she will die during childbirth. She offered to pay me a lot of money but, of course I refused. She stormed out of my house saying that I should know I am not the only medicine man in existence. So she went somewhere else to do it, I interjected. Papa nodded. I found out it was in Lagos, he said.
I tell you this in such details, my son, to let you know what ignorance and stubbornness about re-incarnation will lead you to. After staying with Papa. I returned to Lagos. I was then worried about all those who today still bind themselves to other men through certain rituals of some so called white garment churches. When they tie themselves up, if one dies before the other, or both dies and one comes back before the other, the bond will still be there, strong as ever. And so they go about trying to sever the bonds themselves. A fanciful name is found for it: spiritual husband or spiritual wife. They never knew this was what they brought on themselves. This was what they sent out to nature, and nature, ever willing to serve, preserved and returned it back to them. But then, it is only those of like nature that do these things to themselves, for birds of a feather flock together.
This, too, is also a glimpse of the main substance of the secret so often mentioned.
Your grandfather, Papa, was one of the rare breed of human beings who are in short supply now. Many times I remember in those days sitting down with him in the hut and being told of many wonderful things. It was from him that I heard the story of the activities of Umuagbara. These were told in Solemn Moments, for Papa will never allow me to talk down on them. Once I told him that I don’t believe in them because I cannot se them. He simply smiled and called me oti anya afu uzo. Then he pointed to different parts of the house where he claimed three of them were standing. He plainly told me that they hate being talked about.
Knowing that you are still as blind as I was, I shall endeavor to explain some of these concepts. You already know, or I have just explained to you, the symbol of Agbala. What you don’t know is that every where, indeed everywhere, there are some creatures that majority of human beings don’t see any more. Those who are pure enough to work with Agbala in those days (not much these days anyway) always see these creatures playing around Agbala. It was later on I got to know that these creatures are of different species. There are those who are in charge of the rivers, air, the farms (including those that stay around houses) and those that are associated with fire. I know that the picture of the four elements automatically rises in your mind. Clairvoyants see these nature beings and take advice from some of them. They also influence them to do certain things for them. You know that female clairvoyants are called eguru and male ones egwu in Umuaga. The Egurus are particularly said to be averse to the use of mirrows because of the entities they may see behind themselves.
Have you heard the statement that diochi adighi ekwucha ihe nile ohuru na elu nkwu? Or that Dinta anaghi ekwucha ihe mile olwru na ohia abali? Those statements came about because both hunters and palm wine tapers, because they go out during the wee hours of the night, may be privileged to see the nature beings, demons, entities and phantoms. They may also see human beings not in the body (discarnate human spirits).
And that is the problem of all those who think they can perform miracles and cast out demons. Your colleagues in the pastoral profession either try to play cheap tricks on their congregation or, when they are genuine, lack the necessary knowledge. As far as they are concerned, everything they cannot understand has a spirit, is caused by a spirit, or is demonic. They cannot differentiate between a discarnate spirit, demons, entities, phantoms and nature beings. But there are worlds of differences. For example, only a discarnate human spirit can posses anybody. And the actually possessed people are mad men. Possession occurs when another spirit fights over the body of an individual with the owner spirit, sometimes crowding it out of the body, except for a small hold the owner spirit has on the back brain of the person. If the owner spirit is completely pushed out, definitely the person will die, and the intruder may not have achieved his aim, which is using the body to work on earth, without actually incarnating on earth. Can you now understand why mad men utter nonsense? Two different people are struggling to use the same brain, and thereby the same speech centers.
A different category of the possessed is one who momentarily is taken over by an alien spirit. This has been the group that churches popularized in their bid for exorcism. Since you are a pastor who, I believe, wants to do the right thing, I will not want to leave you ignorant of those things that you need. Most times this takes a longer or shorter period for total possession to take place. It comes initially as back headaches, with occasional cold waves passing down the spine. Clairaudience could be induced where the victim hears horrible sounds and taunting words – be it only in the pronunciation of the person’s names. Then it could reach the stage most popularized in films as possessed and ready for exorcism. Remember that not every person is able to send out such an alien spirit except one Called for it. Many pastors who have not the calling try to do what is beyond them to boost their ego and number of their congregation, to their detriment. Many resort to going to the forces of darkness to be able to get support and protection. A case of sending out a discarnate spirit through the power of worse discarnate spirit!
The issue of poltergeist is a case different from what I discuss here, for poltergeists are not possessed but influenced – or better put, provide the anchorage through their blood for the activities of discarnate spirits in their vicinity. In the same way demons can only influence the human beings, but does not possess, because in reality they are simply the products of human thoughts and fears – wrong thoughts, while good thoughts create purer thought forms also visible as benevolent entities.
The nature beings are different from all these. They are the owners of this earth we live in – we are only guests. Remembers that, in reality, Uwa bu olili, onye notucha onaa. And they also want to help human beings stay on this earth in the right manner. But they are saddened that we are really planning to destroy ourselves.
I remember one day I was in the village, I visited Papa. I forgot to switch off my cellular phone (Papa has banned me from bringing phones to the house). During our discussions, my phone rang. I snatched it from my pocket and switched it off instantly. He was on his favorite position - sitting on the mat and leaning on the wall. A sad look flitted across his face. After some periods of awkward silence, he started slowly. Our friends are very angry and very agitated, he said. They would want desperately to help us but we block such helps using rays coming from our technology. Hence umummadu are speeding up their own destruction. The worst culprit, he said, is the telephone, followed by television. Ona emebi ihe gbara madu gburugburu so ya aga. It brings out light, which interferes with the light around us, he said. He kept silent for another minute. Then he closed his eyes and two drops of tears flowed down his cheeks in slow procession. He opened his eyes. They have just told me that the most part of the world will be destroyed by both natural disasters and ogbunigwe, he said. World leaders will be thrown into confusion because every body has become debtors, and there will be a period of sufferings that has never been witnessed in the world before. Greed and selfishness will even make mothers abandon their day old babies out of fear. Waters will rise above the earth and destroy all those houses whose roofs touches the clouds, he said. He then kept quite for some time again. Then he suddenly asked: Did you bring the Akwete cloth you promised me? He suddenly changed the subject.
It was only when I stumbled on the secret that I had been able to begin to understand Papa fully. It became clear that what Papa told me had been recorded in the Bible, in the book of revelation about two thousand years ago. It is only the secret that provided the key that allows me to open that book of seven seals. Thus the book of revelation itself has become the secret before the secret.
Do not pass my words lightly here. I already see you thinking your father is only playing with words, but I am only stating what I have come to know as true. At least I am stating the truth as I have come to understand it. And if my struggling to lead you to the truth, to the Living Word, necessitates my using the human word (which actually is a faint reflection of the last ramification of the Living Word) I will not fall shy of it, since my search for this secret – I have just revealed to you it also can be called the Living Word – was an odyssey for me, for it took me far and wide.
The search took me to both the best and the worst, to the wise ones and foolish ones, to belief and incredulity, hope and despair, and to the mirage of emptiness where the substance seemed just within reach.
The search was long and tortuous, and took me to wild concepts like the flowing rivers of roads. But the roads were filled with beyond earthly water labyrinths, and there always seemed to be spiritual crocodiles lurking just below the putrid surfaces. And whenever danger threatens I seemed to naturally merge with lifebuoys thrown to me from sources I was only able to understand when I finally found, and to which I had been eternally grateful.
But the search ended. It ended so simply that I wondered how I could have missed it all these years going round and round in circles. But I was also grateful that those years served to mature me to understand the simplicity that belies every act of greatness. And I finally found the sacred fact that the more you think you know, the more you are aware of how little you actually know.
The strangest thing was that the search took me again and again to the Illiad of Homer, where I struggled to convince myself that what I saw in my dreams about being present at the historic fall of Troy were not signs of emerging cracks in my mind. When I found, understanding was as simple as a child’s first steps guided by the mother.
It was then that I know I was meant to impart the secret result of my search to one who could be able to use it. Yesterday confirmed my best fears. Perhaps I might share this dream with you in order for you to strengthen your own sense of responsibility.
It was yesterday afternoon. I just returned from visitations. You know I usually perform my parish visitations on Thursday’s. Although it is a weekday, I always choose people with peculiar problems to visit. Last Thursday, on the usual parish visitations, I told my driver to take me to local orphanage where I was being expected. The subject of that visitation is not the crux of this letter, so let me skip it.
I arrived home and was exhausted. I made straight to the bedroom, after leaving instructions that I may not be disturbed. I had to give such instructions because it was too early for my standard siesta time, which was two o’clock in the afternoon of every weekday. I remembered with a chukle how I was one day struck with embarrassment when I was coming downstairs and overheard two young parishioners who wanted to see me. One was saying he hopes father will see him before Esther comes. That was a Wednesday. It struck me dumb. I remembered that reverend sister Mercy Onubuogu comes to the parish house on Wednesdays, and her coming always coincides with my siesta time. Since she always comes upstairs to the fathers’ apartment and leaves two or three hours later, they nicknamed her “Esther”, because she was obviously the Esther I always see during “siesta” (read “see Esther). Trust youths to always be up to some mischief new para. Being very tired I closed the door behind me and decided to lie down, removing only my shoes and suitan. My mind started wondering reviewing the day’s activities. When I looked towards the door, I could not believe what I was seeing. A man just walked in, passing through the door as if it does not exist. All his movement reflected clear, undulating light – as if he is a moving ball of radiations. A short distance to the bed - could be four feet, could be three, I cannot be sure at that point – he stopped and looked steadily at me. Then he gently placed his hands on his lips. I seemed to hear voices from within me, telling me not to be afraid.
Then the being removed his hands from his lips and started to speak. But as he spoke, it appears he was only opening his mouth, and I was hearing his voice deep within me.
Prince of the church, he said, hearken to my words, but first watch and see. Then he pointed towards the east, and then the miraculous happened. The wall at that side of the house suddenly disappeared, and a sea that stretched out to infinity came to my gaze. The sea was calm except for occasional turbulence. The Turbulence gradually was becoming more frequent. Then I saw a mighty ship tossed hither and thither by the turbulence.
When I looked closely, I noticed that an animal that appears like a whale was the cause of the turbulence. It appeared to be six times the length of the ship, which now appears to be on the verge of capsizing.
Have you watched the epic film titanic? That will give you the idea of the panic prevailing on that ship as the beast tossed and splashed. So many souls were lost into the sea, and a deluge of water was sent to the shore. The cities became inundated with flood, mostly through the rivers. Whenever the animal tossed and splashed, there was an earthquake somewhere. Then a great potent appeared in the sky. A large red crucifix appeared, sending out it’s menacing rays to all corners of the earth. The lower and long arm of the crucifix suddenly tapered into a sword point and appeared to be thrust forward by an unseen hand. Just as the beast is raising it’s head, the sword was thrust into the head. Blood gushed out, and the sea became red with the blood of the beast, and with one enormous thrust it rose out of the sea like an eel and split the ship into two. One half of the ship fell into the sea. A mighty earthquake shook the whole land. And I heard a voice say: “And with his sword he will slay Leviathan, the sea animal”. I believe I have heard that statement from somewhere before, but I cannot figure out where. With one last convulsive heave, the beast that was called Leviathan shuddered, recoiled, and expired.
Then there was a mighty roar, such as I have never heard before. So massive was the earthquake that followed that I trembled where I was. In a flash, the part of the sea where the head of the beast sank turned into a mighty island, barren of trees and other lives. Out of the center of the Ireland sprang just three sticks of Lilly flower. The crucifix had its lower leg-the longest leg that became a sword point – shrink until the crucifix became the six-pointed star of David of a silver color.
Then it started alternating between the six-pointed star and the equal armed cross. Finally it stabilized into the golden colored equal armed Cross.
As suddenly as it opened, the picture folded like a mat and vanished like the magical carpets of the Arabian Nights. I was confused as to the meaning of the vision. Then my visitor spoke. Prince of the church, he said, listen and learn. Only a short time is still allotted to the instrument of the antichrist to grow strong in activities until it reaches the peak of it’s dominion. Then with the arrival of the Sign of the Son of Man, mankind will meet the kind of crisis that has never before been witnessed on earth. What was the ship and why did it split into two? I asked. Prince of the church, watch and learn, he said. Suddenly there appeared a mighty hall filled with a throng of people, each doing all sorts of things. A thunderclap flashed lightening into the hall and there appeared a separation. A small group of those in the hall were bathed with light, beautifully attired and calm. The majority was left in the dark skimpily dressed, some dressed in rags, and there was commotion, distress and fighting among them. Those ones are already lost, he said. And I asked: Where is heaven? My heavenly visitor smiled and held out his left hand to me. I took it and saw myself being pulled out of my body. I saw myself speeding through a tunnel with him and I closed my eyes. Suddenly, I felt our movement – or to be precise, our flight – slowing down. I opened my eyes as we touched down.
An exquisite flower garden, stretching into distances, greeted my eyes. The colours were radiating, and each hue seems to emit a tone. The blend of colors therefore emitted a soothing surge of music that I felt like I should merge myself into it. You can stop the music if you want, he said. True to his words, the music stopped when I wished it to stop. Is this heaven? I asked. He pointed. Look towards the east, he said. I turned and looked, and soon turned away. A dazzling light appeared, cool, severe; I could not even look at it. He smiled. That is the road to Paradise, he said. You could not even look at it, how then can you get there?
He now took me through a narrow pathway until we came face to face with beautiful orchard house – just the kind of house I have always wanted. I rushed in, and looked around. The whole place was so familiar to me. I rushed to my study, and saw all the books at my bookshelf, plus others I have always wanted. I was particularly looking for one, the one that contained the secret I told you of. I could not find it. My friend touched my shoulder. I turned and he pointed to the corner, where in the wastebasket, dusty and covered with cobwebs, lay the books of eternal secrets. You were given the privilege of knowing the eternal secret of life, but you have hidden it beside the refuse basket, my friend said. For this reason only was I permitted to come to you. You are required to go back and do something about it. You only have three and half days to live on earth. Within this period you are permitted to make amends for your neglect. Your whole existence depends on these three and half days. Now we can go back.
When you wake up, he continued. You will notice changes around. You have been given some extra sensory powers to help you these last days. When you wake, you will find that you suddenly become aware of certain knowledge that you do not know the origin of. Let it not alarm you, it is only part of the help that will allow you achieve the goal that has been set for you, or, more precisely, the goal you have set for yourself, he said,
When I woke up and looked at the time and discovered that all that has happened to me happened within seven minutes, I was surprised. But I was more shocked when the steward knocked on my door to ask whether I would like to eat lunch at the usual time. I could clearly see his aura.
And that was when the urge to write this letter to you became so strong, Jasper. I could not think of any other person who could help me pass on this great secret to mankind. Your two sisters, my other children, are out of the question. Lilian, your immediate younger sister, has become a source of embarrassment for the family. Can I blame myself? How could I? I have lost count of how many times I have gone to bail her out of trouble at the police station.
And each time she comes out unrepentant. She has everything she needs to be successful in life. Let me give you a confession. It could have been better for me if she is known to be a full blown prostitute, so that we know where we stand with her. I longed to guide her, instruct her and protect her as a father, but how could I? She sees herself as a child of sin, and she sees me as a betrayal to the course I stood for. How can she go and kneel in front of a reverend father to tell him she has committed fornication, so that the father will tell her to say Hail Mary fifteen times and our father five times so that her sins will be forgiven when she knows that her own father is a Reverend Father? If only I have a way of letting her see the truth in the secret.
Even when your mother died, I thought she has finally come to a crossroads, and will change for the better, since she was blamed for her death.
You remember what happened, then, she has been the greatest headache your mother had. There was no party that takes place within the area where she lived that she does not attend. She has become used to jumping out of the window at night for one night crawling activities or the other. Many times she comes back home reeking of alcohol. Even in the compound, stories has it that she was available to every young man just for the asking.
Then one day your mother came back from her shop to see commotion all over the whole compound. She came in to discover that she was fighting Iyaa Sikirat. When she rushed down to the fight scene to separate the fight struggle, Lilian unwittingly pushed her. She fell down, and hit the back of her head on a stone. The fight ended by force. Before she could be taken to the hospital she had died.
I later learnt that she was fighting the woman over her husband who she was sleeping with.
During the burial – even before then – she was much of an outcast. People jeered and hooted at her. She just sat there with starry defiant eyes, eyes that says I don’t really care. But behind that I – don’t – care look I sensed a troubled soul yeaning for help, wanting to be reached out to.
It was much later, when sympathizers had thinned out (I was supposed to be one of them, apart from being her parish priest) that I sent for Lilian to have a private audience with her. I was in what used to be her father’s (her late step father actually) bedroom. When she came in, she stood at the door, hesitant. I stood up and took a step forward. Before I know it she was in my arms. “Daddy”, she said, and broke into an uncontrollable sob.
I was at a loss on what to do. This is the first time ever any of my children will call me Daddy: Always I am Father to everybody. With my daughter sobbing in my arms I reviewed the whole situation and tears also came to my eyes. I patted her head, ruffled her hair attachments and led her to the long bench at the corner of the room. Daddy, I did’t do it deliberately, she said amid tears. I know, I said, it was only an accident, it was meant to be.
Everybody thinks I am wicked, they all think I am a child of the Devil. Daddy, am I very wicked? She asked. I held her hand and re-assured her she was just a normal human being who fell into wrong habits which is ruining her. Will I go to hell? Will you also go to hell for being my father? I was asked in such childlike trust I knew I needed to tell her the truth. But the truth does not conform with the teachings of the church which, as a priest – a Monsignor for that matter, which is a step to becoming a Bishop- I am duty bound to uphold. Unfortunately I took the path of least resistance, the part that will not upset my comfort zone. My daughter, I said, we have a merciful Lord who will forgive us our sins if we confess and repent. If you confess your sins to a priest, he will give you penance and the Lord will forgive you. I myself, as a priest, always go to confessions to other priests. This is because the Lord told us that the sins we forgive are forgiven, the sins we retain are also retained, I said. She did not seem quite convinced now, but she decided to confess to me there and then.
After the funeral, as you are well aware, I brought her back to Lagos to stay at the parish house with me. Neither you nor Joan wanted her at your places, you because you believe she may prove an embarrassment to you and your ministry; Joan for her own hidden reasons. At first everything was normal. Until rumours of her escapades with the parish men – and, sadly, the alter boys – became strong. She started avoiding me. I never wanted it to appear as if I was policing her. Of course, you guessed right: she never came for confession. Neither was she coming for communion.
Then one day, the choirmaster, Mr. Ezekiel came to me (she has joined the choir) to complain of her activities. The worst, according to him, was that she now attends one of the Pentecostal churches around town.
I called her up to the home and asked her what she had been doing at her spare time. Nothing father, she replied. I noticed the slight change from Daddy to father, for she always called me Daddy in private. I asked her which of the Pentecostal churches she goes to on Wednesdays. She wanted to deny, but one look at my face changed her mind. I only went once for their deliverance hours, she said. But people have seen you several times there, I said. But uncle, I only wanted to make some money, she said. The pastor, a woman, has just lost her husband. Eager not to loss her congregation, she called on me to help her. We knew each other when Mama was still alive, before she got married to Pastor. Though she was my senior in age, we had shared several good times together. She was honest with me that her husband died, and people believed that armed robbers killed him, but he was actually killed by hired assassins who were sent by those he shortchanged in 419 deal. She told me that she needed help to keep her husband’s flock together. Would I help her? I said I would if I can. She said they are having deliverance night on Wednesdays. Can I come to her house on Tuesday? I agreed.
When I arrived at her house, her children have all gone to school. She told me that she would want me to come to the church the following day to act as one possessed so that she can cast out the demon in me. I told her I will do that but not for free. I demanded for ten thousand naira, she begged me for eight but I stuck to ten, she accepted.
We had some rehearsals that day at her house. She also taught me how to speak in tongues, she said.
I became curious. I asked her to speak in tongues for me, and she started: Bababa mama korobokorobo yamaha suzuki Kawasaki. Rashidi yekini urhobo scatter shiroro dam –
Stop, I shouted. I could not contain my laughter. She seemed pleased with herself and her achievement. She continued; on the final day I jus kak for one corner, the congregation begin waka come in. Soon the service began with praise worship. Then reached deliverance hour. Na him I begin de demo. As she kept waving her hands over my head, I started convulsing and swaying my body at the same time. At the heat of her shouts of “Go out of her”. I started swaying violently. He used our local dialect (she lived in our village for five years) to tell me it is time for me to fall and become healed. Before I could obey, strong hands pulled me down from behind and caught me at the same time. Na hin I just fainted.
I waited for sometime before waking up, normal. Then I sat at the front pew until the service was over.
When the congregation don go, I was taken to a room for further counseling. There they offered me a bottle of fanta to cool my body. I rejected it and requested for malt, although I actually would have preferred big stout! she ended.
I was looking at my daughter and wondering whether she understands the implications of what she was doing. I asked her, don’t you think what you are doing is sinful? You are actually mocking the Lord by the use of his name in such things. But father, I will always go to confessions now she said, or at least that was what you told me.
Those words were like arrows in my heart. One thing became clear at that moment to me: The longer you postpone the truth, the more the pain of its impact will be on you. But even at that, I lacked the courage to correct the anomaly. I did not let her know that no body has a right to wipe away sin from any other person. Hence Paul once warned us: Let no one be deceived for God is not mocked; for whatever a man soweth, that shall he reap. And Christ, in one of the gospel reports, noted that you will even reap it many times over. According to the report, good measure, shaken down, flowing over, you will receive for what ever you sow. Was it not Jeremiah that corrected the one time Israelite saying (which the Israelites protested as unjust) that the elders have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge? He told them that in fact, the soul that sinnet shall die. It never occurred to them that the elders who ate sour grapes may have re-incarnated as the children whose teeth are set on edge, or at least those homogenous to then in having eaten the sour grapes in the past.
All these I was meant to explain to her but failed to do so. I also failed to explain to her what speaking in tongue actually is. I did not tell her that, apart from such frauds as her pastor friend, there are those very few people who actually speak in tongues. They fall into two different categories. One group represent those temporarily possessed by a discarnate spirit, who snapped at the opportunity presented by the environments created by the worshipers. They now use the brain of their victims to speak in the language they spoke in one of their earthly incarnations. The other group consists of those who were able to regress back to one of their own past lives, and therefore spoke the language they spoke at that time.
I could have told her the amazing story of a seven years old girl whose parents are members of my parish. I have been fighting a losing battle to regain a group of breakaway Catholics who are leaning more towards Pentecostalism. They were members of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement. They had started kicking against Mariolatry. It did not really have much effect even when we insisted we are only honoring Mary and not worshipping her. We finally had to accept that if we do not follow the times, we may loose out in terms of members, so we have allowed the charismatism to be integrated into the catholic mode of worship.
I invited the Bishop for the charismatic mass. They were allowed to use praise worship, speak in tongues as long as the fundamental Catholic doctrines were maintained. It was during the mass that, at the point of consecration, during the liturgy of the Eucharist that the Charismatic raised their praise songs and naturally people started speaking in tongues. One little girl of seven was speaking clear ancient Greek dialect.
I perfectly understood all she was saying, which was something about a quarrel between one Ezra and one Petroklos. Obviously they were a Jew and a Greek. After the mass I called the girl and the parents and asked them some questions. No, they have never left Lagos in all their lives to any other part of the World. No, she had nobody we know of that can teach her foreign language. Has the girl heard of Greece? No she had never heard that name before. I then explained to the parents what had happened during the mass.
It is rather sad that, quite contrary to the command of Paul about speaking in tongues, it had become the signature tune of every self-styled born again Christian. I remember Paul telling the Corinthians that he is happy he can speak in tongue better than any of them, but that he will prefer to say one word in his right senses than a thousand words in tongues.
He said that he who prophesies edifies the church, but he who speaks in tongue edifies himself. He than gave a standing rule that if speaking in tongues must be practiced in a congregation, there must be an interpreter, or else they should desist from speaking in tongues. According to him, how can a passerby say Amen to your prayers when he does not understand what you are saying? Finally he concluded by saying that God is not a God of confusion but of order.
All these things I could not tell Lilian, and she left the office not any wiser. It was not a surprise when, in the next few weeks she left the parish house. No one was able to trace where she was. Until one day I was called upon to come to the police station. She had fought the man she was living with, but the major problem was that she was being detained because the man was a suspected armed robber wanted by the police. Now she is being held to help the police in their investigations. You know the rest of the story.
Jasper, my son, I need to stop here for the day. One day is already gone out of the three and half days that I am meant to live. It is already past three o’clock in the morning and I had to get some steep. The Bishop will be coming on Sunday and we are making preparations for his coming. Unfortunately, he is coming for confirmation of parishioners who are prepared for it, but he will end up presiding over my death. But before then, I had to hold forth as the parish priest, and do business as usual.
Can you then understand the urgency with which I had to live the last days of my life? Would they know that my entire existence depends on the next two and half days? I beg of you, my son, do not take this letter lightly because in it lies your redemption – and mine. And I mean it in every sense of it.