By: Abraham Isaac Oluwatimilehin
The structure was cramped for living and breathing space. Fumes of frankincense rose into the atmosphere, gallantly subduing the natural air and suffocating everyone and everything in their path. The legend “JEOVA SHAMA HOLYGOST FAYA CHAPULL INTANATIONA MINISTRY HERDQUOTA” was sprawled across the face of a banner, as though written by a child and attached to the wall of raffia palm behind the makeshift pulpit. But the building looked nothing like a chapel. Indeed, save for the moth-eaten wooden benches arranged in a long row and the pulpit and the choking smell of frankincense and the people of diverse age groups and sex, all on their knees, the structure might have passed for an abandoned campsite.
But it was a church and I had come to seek some respite from the insanity of the outside world. I had walked in quietly as possible to avoid the prying eyes of other worshippers. Alas! It was to no avail. What seemed like a thousand eyeballs x-rayed my self as I located an empty space to my right on a bench and sat down. A particular woman continued to stare. Her eyes were narrow, awkwardly reminiscent of a bird of prey. The look on her face was a theatrical masterpiece; she had somewhat managed to smile, frown and sneer with a dash of hopeful enthusiasm and a drop of motherly pity, all at once. It was scary and I instinctively closed my eyes and began to mutter under my breath like everyone else around me in a bid to calm my spirit and soothe my soul.
“Brethren, let us pray,” the preacher or pastor or shepherd or whatever pseudonym he had attached to his nomenclature bellowed, his voice reverberating across the whole building in a clear baritone. It reminded me of a certain country musician whose songs were always blaring from the loudspeakers of Abu, a young man who sold pirated copies of whatever audiovisual media anyone desired of him. But this was the house of God and that was the devil’s music I thought, shutting my eyelids so tightly that it hurt. I felt good afterwards. My soul was in need of purging.
“Our father who art in heaven.”
My mind wondered at the thought. God? My father? A splendid idea that would be. Not only my father but a father to every person. But I looked nothing like the boy I saw by the roadside, leading a more elderly fellow by hand or the fat boy back in school, always munching on milky way candy packs. He never gives me a piece no matter how much I beg him. I should tell him that he is my brother next time. That would soften his heart. I hope God performs his fatherly duties to the boys I saw on TV the other day. They looked like they could do with a good meal or two.
“Hallowed be thy name.”
Not only God, Kamoru also requires of me that I hallow his name. Whenever I forget to add “Buroda” to his name as prefix, he strikes my head with his knuckles and reminds me that I was not present at his naming. It hurts and I yelp like Brutus, Bature’s dog, yelps when it is kicked for coming close to its owner whenever he is about to enjoy a meal. I should remember henceforth to hallow a name, especially if I was not present at the naming of whoever bears it. “Buroda Kamoru, hallowed be thy name.”
“Thy kingdom come.”
I know that soon, all good people will grow fly wings and fly up to meet God in the sky after hearing a very loud trumpet or die and be transported to God’s house in the sky. I want to go to God’s house. My mother says it is beautiful and I can have my own palace and my own throne and my own crown adorned with little stars and cute little angels to serve me as much pancake as I want. I like pancakes. I like God’s house and I want the trumpet to be blown very soon. If the trumpet won’t be blown soon, I’d rather I die. It is better there than here.
“Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.”
They say God’s will always is the best possible for any situation. I hope he has a will for Nigeria. Everyone is now complaining of inflation and a rise in poverty and hardship. Maybe that is God’s will too. Whatever it is, I hope Nigeria turns out the better for it. I love my country and there us much suffering in the land.
Brother Theophilus told my elder brother, John, that God told him Sister Janet is his will. I overheard them discussing it and I was mildly amused. How can a person be a will? These things happen though, God works in mysterious ways. I might have a will too. I wouldn’t mind Elizabeth. She has nice teeth and a dimpled smile that reminds me of a princess I once saw on TV. I have to pray hard and shake my head vigorously like Brother Theophilus does if I want God to make her my will though. I will.
“Give us this day our daily bread.”
I do not like bread. Moreso, I do not like Baba Risika’s stale bread. It smells like something unpleasant, distinct, unlike any other unpleasant smell I know. I understand that a lot of people do not have food to eat and I am supposed to be grateful for what I have. But I hope I still get to make a little choice as regards my meals. Bread and water is not really much of a balanced diet. I might get Kwashiokor. Dear God, give us this day our daily semovita, with vegetable-garnished ogbono soup coupled with stock fish, beef and a chilled keg of palm wine.
“And forgive us our trespasses.”
Forgive me too. I like Alice, Bimpe, Janet and Tito. I know God does not like that but I am polygamous at heart. I must pray hard so God can purge me free of dirty thoughts too. Not rotten dirty, bad dirty thoughts like “Is Muhammad really be God’s prophet” or “Are the traditionalists actually the right ones” or “What if the big trumpet does not blow again” ? Rubbish thoughts like that.
Forgive Abu for selling pirated CDs. Forgive that fat kid for never giving me any candy. Forgive Mr Dixon for beating his wife to pulp the other day- it was a horrible sight. Forgive Alamieyeseigha and his co-looters for spending the money meant for 200 million others like their monthly stipend. Forgive us, Lord. Forgive us.
“As we forgive those that trespass against us.”
I really have a lot of people to forgive. I won’t, not yet. But I promise to think about it. Some wounds don’t heal easily. Some never do. If I pretend to forgive while I still bear grudges, I will only be prolonging my healing process. There’s a lot of hurt I have been dealt. I need to get over them quickly and forgive so I can heal. I promise to try.
“And lead us not into temptation.”
Excellent. Temptation is bad. However, I don’t understand. God is good. Why would he lead us into temptation? I must be missing something. I must pray for understanding. I must pray.
“But deliver us from evil.”
Indeed, deliver us. From the cruel hands of Boko Haram, they’re finishing us off. From corruption, it is eating us up from the inside, making us rotten and dirty like the measly, small-sized tomatoes being sold for unbearable prices these days. From thieving politicians, they are drinking our commonwealth. From the Super Eagles, they’re such an embarrassment. Deliver us from evil.
Amen! Amen! Amen!
Isaac emerged from his mother’s womb, fairly bloodied and covered in amniotic fluid, some twenty-two years ago. He is now a fourth-year medical student at Ekiti State University and dabbles in writing and amateur magic. His poem, Iba, was shortlisted for the Nigerian Students Poetry Prize in 2016.