if witches were horses

A Novel Written By: Kolade Segun-Okeowo (KSO)

“Iya Derombi, you want to talk to me “? Morakinyo asked as the woman moved closer. Her skin shone even in the darkness of the twilight.

“Yes Sir, I want to inform you about something Sir”. She courtesied and knelt; her usual way of approaching Morakinyo.

“Please have your seat Mama Derombi…. I hope all is well? What is it?”

She rose from her kneeling position and sat on the bench opposite Morakinyo. Another bench stood between them.

She sighed heavily and spoke…

“Pastor … it’s concerning one of the women in the church. The wife of Lagunju the blacksmith who gave palm nut shells for the flooring of the church”

Morakinyo’s mind quickly raced back to the man Eebudola referred to. He remembered him; Lagunju, the blacksmith who brought the idea that palm-nut shells could be used to cover the floor of the church instead of leaving it bare. On his own he brought twenty bags of palm-nut shells for that purpose.

“I remember … hope all is well?”

“Ehn… the woman just delivered a baby last market day, now she is very sick. I visited her yesterday, her condition was critical. She was breathing at intervals… Pastor I don’t know what we can do about it” The woman threw her hands as if in despair, her face showing great concern.

“Ah! That’s simple! Let’s go together so that we can pray for her. I believe the Lord will heal her. How far is her place?” Morakinyo had started re-tightening his loosened sandals.

“Ha! No, pastor, you will not be allowed to see her. It is the custom here that a woman who has just put to bed must not see any other man except her husband until the day of the naming ceremony”

“Oh, I see” Morakinyo said realising the futility of what he had just said. His training as a missionary has taught him to respect the culture and customs of host communities as long as they‘re not against the word of God.

“Em… but pastor, why don’t you allow her to come and join you here, so that she can help you in situations like this?” She asked.

“Who?” Morakinyo was not sure of what she meant.

“Your… em, I mean your wife” Eebudola said blushing.

“Oh… I see. Not really, I don’t have a wife yet. I ‘m looking unto God for one” The words came out coldly hitting Eebudola hard. She was sorry for asking. She quickly knelt to express apology.

“Oh… Mama Derombi, there’s no need for that… please rise up” She rose. “We can also pray for the sister here and God will heal her right there in the house”.

Soon the two of them knelt and prayed for the woman. After the prayers, they exchanged pleasantries and the woman departed leaving Morakinyo alone in the church. The thoughts of his discussion with the woman soon led Morakinyo into a monologue.

“If indeed I have a wife, this work would become easier for me… I believe I’ve had enough patience for Sister Gbayike… I’ve sent six letters now and she replied only one”

Indeed Morakinyo had written six letters since he arrived the village sending them through the Post Office in Sepeteri. Gbayike replied the last one. Her reply was neither here nor there. She acknowledged the receipt of all the five previous letters and complained that she had been too busy. She carefully avoided mentioning anything about the proposal but simply thanked him for writing and prayed that God will grant him success in his missionary assignment in the village.

Morakinyo read the letter again and again and wondered if Gbayike understood the contents of his letters at all. He had not minced words in the letters. He was straight to the point that he loved her and would want to hear her response, be it positive or negative soonest.

‘God, five months is enough to wait for any lady who is really interested, I’m not sure this one is interested’

He knelt down and began to pray.

“God I lift my eyes to you. How long will you ask me to wait, God, perform a miracle. Cause my paths to cross that of the woman you desire for me now! I want you to do a miracle now. Now is the acceptable time to do it”.

Greatone shook his head, he wiped his tear-stained eyes with the tip of his shoulder. Morakinyo continued the prayers, completely unaware of the events going on around him. Greatone sighed.

Every Saturday, Oba Folagbade enjoyed a session of private Bible study with the Pastor. Morakinyo suggested it and the King was happy to welcome the idea. For a few months after the arrival of Morakinyo in the village, the private study continued uninterrupted until about fourth month when a battle started.

As usual Morakinyo was busy taking the King through the scriptures when it happened. He was explaining to the King the story of Solomon from 2Chronicles.

“You mean a single man married seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines?”

“Yes Your Highness… the story of Solomon teaches a great lesson especially to those in positions of authority. Pride moved Solomon to the extent of committing such terrible sins. God punished him in return”

The King nodded. He was no longer listening to the rest of Morakinyo’s explanation. The huge number of wives and concubines of Solomon kept intimidating him. He wondered how Solomon managed to keep and satisfy such a large harem.

“Your Highness…” Morakinyo stopped when he saw that the King’s mind had wandered away. The brief silence brought Folagbade back into awareness.

“Eh… sorry, I was trying to imagine how large a house with seven hundred wives would be”. Morakinyo smiled. He sincerely understood the shock of the King about the fact that Solomon had many wives. Folagbade had only one.

Morakinyo adjusted his cane chair, drew it closer to the King to read another portion from the scriptures to him. Just then, Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru; the Chief Priest stormed into the palace. For about four months, he had been away from the town. Some people said he went to receive more powers from an unknown destination. Others said a huge whirlwind came and carried him away into Elegbeje, the forest of a thousand and one demons.

Different information and rumours flew about in the village concerning his whereabouts. A few people believed he ran away from the village when reports came to him that the ‘wonder man’ was coming to start a church in Onigba-Iwofa. In the markets, women argued endlessly about the sudden disappearance of the priest.

A woman living close to his house said she saw him leave the house around midnight wearing a white agbada and moved towards the river where a huge crocodile was waiting to take him under the great River Oniwaraka. The story gained ground and spread quickly around the town, though no one believed it.

“Folagbade, the gods have seen your worth!” the Chief Priest roared violently as he stormed into the palace. He came back about three days earlier to hear strange reports from his children. The strange epidemic had stopped, a church had started and sacrifices have ceased!

“The sacrifices the gods asked from the villagers, you stopped it!” He roared again his voice gradually reaching a peak. Morakinyo shifted his position to the other side. “Who gave you the false assurance that you’re leaning on ….eh?”

Then the unexpected happened! Folagbade stood, walked two steps closer to the priest, his finger pointed near his nose “Who gave you also a false assurance… I ask you, Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru” Folagbade roared back. The suddenness of the challenge made Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru jump back unconsciously. He opened his eyes wildly, unable to believe what he had just seen. He had expected Folagbade to cringe with fear, begging and asking for forgiveness profusely.

“I said who gave you a false assurance?” Folagbade continued. “Ever since you have been collecting sacrifices from the people, of what benefit has it been to them except that you and your children have been growing fat”. It was getting too much for the priest. He strained his aging eyes to be sure he was seeing the right person

“I have nothing to do with your gods and goddesses. I got my assurance from Jesus” Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru cast a careful glance at Morakinyo and wondered if he was the one called Jesus. He thought to himself; “I’ll finish this one in minutes”

Folagbade continued his outburst “Olojongbodu saw Jesus and became powerless…Ogaranganjan became dead like vegetable at his sight” Morakinyo nodded in agreement. He was enjoying the scene. He was proud of the King. Initially, he had thought of standing in defence of Folagbade but now, it was glaring the Priest was in for a great show down.

“If there’s any attack you want to launch, go try it… the great calamity Jesus will cause you and your demons will be more than what the soap causes the eye.” Folagbade hissed aloud and returned to his throne-chair. Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru looked around in despair and mock-sympathy for the King.

“Folagbade!” his voice roared again “The little child in his folly abuses the Iroko and looks back to say… ‘did they not claim the Iroko can kill. The little child does not know that the Iroko strikes when least expected. …Ahhh, you a child have cursed the Iroko tree; now watch the Iroko devour you. You have defied the gods, go and bid the world farewell… today, you shall eat the dust as your fathers did! I swear by Orowusi Anikulapo; my father!” He shook his fist violently at Folagbade and turned around to leave; Morakinyo quickly rose and stopped him.

“Baba…I salute you Sir. I bring greetings to you from Ibadan. I want to appreciate your care and consistent love and care for the people of the land. His Highness has explained to me all the exploits you have done to assist in bringing the recent health challenges in this town to a halt. May you live long Baba. You see; His Highness is not angry with you, he can’t, he is your son. He simply wants you to understand that there is someone greater than all the gods and demons you’ve spoken about. They ‘re merely….”

The priest hissed loudly interrupting Morakinyo.

“You…!!! It is not your fault… I suppose you are the one Folagbade handed over the great shrine of the Olojongbodu to. Thank your stars that I was on a journey when you and Folagbade went on your demented rampage. The absence of the cat renders the rat an emergency landlord. Let me warn you!….three days are sufficient to pack your load and return to wherever you have come from… or else thunder will strike you!” He stormed towards the door. Morakinyo spoke quickly.

“That is not possible! The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof! The Lord sent me here and only Him alone can remove me from this village!”

Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru turned back and stared strangely at Morakinyo. “You shall hear from me very soon!” With that, he dashed out of the palace in a violent manner that betrays his age.

“Your Highness, Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru cannot do you any harm” Morakinyo started. He knew Folagbade needed assurances now. He had challenged the Chief Priest with the confidence Morakinyo had built into him using the word of God. The slightest expression of fear from Morakinyo would crash the entire confidence of the King.

Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru stormed into his house and made straight for his power room. He stopped, breathing heavily as he considered his encounter with the King. It had never happened before. None of the three Kings who had ruled before Folagbade; all of them his direct ancestors could look at Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru straight in the eyes, but Folagbade had done the impossible!

‘So what was the Queen of the Coast of the Katangua River doing when all these happened?’ He sat on a log in the power house thinking of what to do. Suddenly an idea struck him. He stood and approached one of his deadliest charms!

Darkness had fallen before Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru proceeded on his deadly mission. After a careful consideration, he decided to carry out the attack himself and not send any demon. He did not see what any demon could do if Olojongbodu and Oganranganjan; the greatest amongst them all have been humiliated by the gods of the Pastor! He resolved to kill Folagbade and afflict Morakinyo with paralysis. Once the King dies and the Pastor is paralysed, no one would teach the villagers where to return.

Soon, he was standing in front of Morakinyo’s house. ‘He stays in the last room there… by the time I get him paralysed, to attack Folagbade become easier’ He said to himself as he dips his hands into his bag and brings out a powdery substance. He raised his head to cast a spell. His countenance changed immediately as he saw Greatone, a long shining sword in his hand pointed to the ground.

“So who do you think you are?” Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru charged at Greatone “Who are you? A spirit or a demon? Stand clear out of my way or I will destroy you both”

Suddenly he launched forward towards Greatone who lifted the shining sword towards him. Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru stopped, a strange force withstood him, he could not move ahead anymore. Fear gripped him. He marched a few steps backward carefully surveying the astrange creature with some blinding rays of light shinning around him. “I guess this must be the demon they call Jesu” He told himself.

He turned around and headed towards Folagbade’s house. He was there in a twinkling of an eye, having used “egbe”, the speed-inducing charm. He walked gently towards the personal room of the King and chanted incantations.

“The dead does not argue with the living.
Termites dwell underground.
Underground is the abode of the dead,
May you from now on dwell underground like termites!”

He picked a charm and was to throw it on the wall when he saw Powerone who had stood there all the while. Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru looked menacingly at him and thought he was Greatone.

“You this white demon, what have I got to do with you… I will harm you this time around” Powerone did not say a word. His sword lay carefully on his side, his right hand already on the handle.

“Whether you like it or not, I cannot be stopped this time around” he made to throw the charm again. Powerone got angry and struck his sword, a distance from Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru. The priest landed heavily on the ground groaning in pain. He tried to stand and flee, but his legs would not cooperate…he’s been paralysed!

He crawled away towards his power house. He tried the distance-consuming charm, but nothing worked again. He had to endure the pain of having to crawl over stones, broken bottles and sharp stumps. By the time he got back home, wounds covered his legs.

“What double insult is this? Me…. Paralysed! I’m finished! Could this be the work of the Jesu… ah Jesu, you have done your worst!!! Ah I shall be back….The stealth of a leopard is not act of cowardice !!!”

He tried again to rise but falls again. His hands had also shrivelled completely. “It will be a big shame for me to go back and apologise to that boy…never, death is better than shame, I’d rather die!” He rolled himself carefully to another corner of the room where his dane gun hanged near the wall. ‘Rather than have the lion lord over the tiger, they had better hunt separately’

He reached for the gun and checked to be sure it’s loaded. Satisfied that’s its loaded, he drew it closer to himself with the nozzle of the gun fixed directly to his forehead. ‘Death is better than shame’

He adjusted his legs carefully, struggled to get of the big toes to the trigger. It was midnight. He sighed heavily and said to himself.

‘Only two things befit the brave… He won the battle… He died on the battle’

Gradually, the great toe found its way to the trigger and he pulled!

To be continued in Episode 12.

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