A Novel Written by Kolade Segun-Okeowo (KSO)
He dropped the calabash gently adjusting it to sit perfectly on the floor. ‘Why don’t I open the calabash now and die. What enquiries do I know of now!’ He turned around, surveyed the palace and knelt beside the calabash; he placed a hand over the lid and set to open it.
“Death is better than shame!” He closed his eyes and said a silent prayer. He opened his eyes and…
“Coward! Feeble hearted coward! So, at last you have brought the calabash of Onimomotirimo!” Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru mocked as he entered the palace adjusting his trousers. “I went to answer the call of nature while you take your time to bring out the calabash.”
Folagbade could not believe his eyes. He stared at the old man with stern hatred. A minute more, he would have been dead! Yet the old man was enjoying his mockery!
He stood from his kneeling posture and returned to his throne leaving the calabash on the floor. It was hard trying to hide his anger. Beads of sweats were already forming across his face. Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru drew the feather-dotted calabash closer and opened the lid. Folagbade quickly turned his eyes away as Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru looked across just to be sure Folagbade was not looking.
‘If he must die, let it not be in my presence’ Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru said to himself. He brought out an object from the medicine bag hung across his neck, he chewed the object and spat into the calabash, and then he started to chant an incantation. Folagbade stole a glance to see what the old Priest was doing.
The brave Spirit who bears Onimotirimo
O ye knower of all truths
Akiriboto the most senior of all demons
Who drinks pap with tortoise shell
The sharp and witty demon who dines with Lucifer
O ye Lucifer, Laalu Oganranganjan
Laburumbata, short but wicked!
You know all, yet I am full of follies.
Reveal to me the secret of what goes on in the village. Why are the villagers dying….? We desire to know, speak to us, Onimomotirimo knower-of-all-truths.”
He spat into the calabash again and gradually, the appearance of the Queen of the Coast emerged from the water filled calabash. Surprised, Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru crouched closer to the calabash as the appearance in the water began to speak to him.
“Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru! The deadly viper that lies across the footpath. The one who roars in the forest and fear grips passers-by. The one who steals from the farm and punishes the farmer….. Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru!”
“It is me you greet” Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru said, not opening his mouth.
Apparently, the King did not hear anything. He simply turned his head away avoiding any eye contact with the water-filled calabash.
“Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru you seem not to have recognized the gravity of the situation at hand!” the Queen continued. “This case is beyond your intervention. I simply respect your person if not, I would have attacked you fatally. Now let it be known to you that I, the Honourable Queen of the Coast and my daughters are behind the calamity in Onigba-Iwofa!”
Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru turned around to ensure Folagbade was not looking at his direction, then he stopped, remembering that he would not see or hear anything no matter how much he tried to glance or listen.
“Must you claim ignorance of the fact that the Lord Lucifer announced at the last Conference of the Rulers of Darkness of the Earth that your village has been chosen as the base for the supply of souls needed for the next meeting of the Grand Council of Spiritual Wickedness in High Places.” The Queen said from the calabash her face squeezed as she fumes heavily with anger.
Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru changed his perch and dropped his horse whisk. “Honourable Queen of the Coast, I never knew all these, but why did you not inform me before starting the operation. You know an operation of this magnitude is not carried out except with the prior knowledge of all powerful herbalists of my worth. The mistake is yours” Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru said the last word pointing at the face in the water.
Folagbade stole another glance and saw him pointing at the calabash he wondered why the old man was merely gesticulating and munching “I hope he is not drunk today” Folagbade said to himself. He quickly turned back as the Priest stopped his gesticulating.
“Are you drunk?” shouted the Queen, completely annoyed at the statement of the Priest. “Were you deaf when the King told you that all the victims were screaming my name as they die? Was that not enough a sign for you, must I attack your children before you understand?” The Queen’s anger caused some bubbles in the water, the calabash shook.
The conversation was next to reality. Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru stared wildly into the calabash; he knew the mistake was his. He had a long standing agreement with the Queen of the Coast never to treat any patient she afflicts. The idea of victims screaming the name of the Queen, though novel, should have delivered the message to him.
“Honourable Queen of the Coast, pardon me, my power of memory failed me. The loss of memory that rendered the chicken toothless, the same that befell the snake, thus leaving him without legs; forgive me….. So what can be done to appease you now that …”
The calabash shook violently causing huge bubbles in the water.
“You dare me! You dare my authority?” the Queen screamed, rocking around the calabash. “Are you deaf? I said the village was set aside by the Lord Lucifer himself! Do not trouble me again; nine hundred souls shall be taken in the village. Presently, only four hundred and a few more have rolled into our ovens here under the water, therefore, our operation continues!” The Queen said this with firmness that shook the Priest. He looked sheepishly around trying to form the right words.
“Em…. It is well, but then, what shall I tell the King who called me … please I must not be put to shame.” Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru said pleadingly.
“That is your headache!” the Queen roared back “It is none of my business…… anyway, find some ways of deceiving him. Tell the villagers to appease Iroko Oluwere in the forest of Alupayida if they’re attacked by the disease…. This will work for the first few, at least for your own glory thereafter, we shall continue our operations!”
The Queen let out a loud hysteric laughter and disappeared from the calabash. Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru breathed a sigh of relief; he replaced the lid and packed the calabash aside. He returned to his seat and relaxed.
“How did it go Baba?” said Folagbade anxious to hear the report. He saw the gesticulations but could not understand what they meant.
“Folagbade, I congratulate you!” Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru said beaming for the first time.
“Congratulations? How?” asked Folagbade his anxiety had mixed with fear and confusion.
“I have just spoken with the gods who held this village under bondage. They’ve been vexed and were on the verge of destroying this village but for my appeals.”
The Priest was speaking with such boldness, concern and seriousness that it will take a genius to detect his real intentions.
“The gods accused you of neglect and disrespect” continued the Priest.
Folagbade simply hanged his head on his palms concerned and troubled. He had truly neglected the gods. His training and experience as a court clerk of over thirty seven years had taught him not to believe superstitions and fetish ideas. Now, those experiences are negatively affecting him.
“The weekly sacrifices you were ordered to make to the gods at the time you were undergoing coronation rites has never been fulfilled.” Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru was enjoying himself. He knew the words were hurting Folagbade. “Have you forgotten? Obedience aids, disobedience kills!”
Folagbade stood; he strolled around the palace hall recalling his seven years as the King of the village. No sacrifice apart from the coronation rites was made. He turned to Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru with pleading eyes “Baba you are right, I have not taken the sacrifices serious. Forgive me! I will be willing to obey you now. What shall we do to avoid more deaths?”
“Sacrifice!” interjected the Priest. It was an opportunity he had been waiting for. Sacrifices were his own blessing. This time, not only the King will make sacrifices, all the villagers will be involved. He smiled to himself as he remembered that meat will soon become surplus in his house. Great!
“The gods have asked that whoever is struck by the disease should appease the iroko Oluwere in Alupayida forest.” Folagbade shook his head. He knew what that meant; a goat! “Moreover, you and the elders will make a special sacrifice”
“What special sacrifice again Baba?” He asked
‘I wish he is not going to ask for a cow’
“Walls have ears!” Folagbade rose and moved across the palace hall to hear the old Priest. Ajamolaya-Bi-Eru smiled, rejoicing as he remembered that once again, meat will become surplus!
Two days after his discussion with Professor Adarabioyo, Morakinyo went to see the Pastor again. Things have started moving faster than he expected. Having resisted the temptation of the Doctorate and the prospects of overseas trip, he knew more were likely to come. He had arrived the Pastor’s place as early as seven in the morning. It was an issue that gave him a sleepless night.
He had stayed awake all the night ruminating and wishing the day would break earlier. As soon as it was five, he stood up and started preparing to see the Pastor. He must see him before he leaves for the office. Not only was the issue an urgent one, he has to be on campus by eight, his students were to defend the proposals of their Long Essays that morning. Morakinyo was never in the habit of playing with time; if he says lecture will start by nine, it certainly started at nine. The students dubbed him ‘Time Freak’.
“Why have you come so early in the morning like this Doctor?”
That caught Morakinyo by surprise “Doctor?” ‘Who….who told him’ He asked himself. Morakinyo smiled. He knew Professor Adarabioyo could not keep the news to himself alone.
“I’m sure you’re surprised……. Anyway congrats” said Pastor extending his hand “Professor Adarabioyo spoke with me on the phone yesterday, he told me about it and the new department; praise God for that!”
Morakinyo stared at the Pastor with amazement. He wondered why the man of God was rejoicing. Can’t he understand what hindrance the ‘good news’ was to him? They shook hands.
“You remember my last discussion with you Sir?” He was almost sure the Pastor had forgotten the issues of the Lord’s call, thus his rejoicing over the ‘news’.
“Perfectly” The words rang out too clear to be mistaken. Morakinyo stared at him again in disbelief ‘The Pastor remembered everything?’
Pastor smiled and said “My son, I know why you are surprised at my reaction.” He leaned across closer to him. “You expect me to pronounce that the promotion is a stumbling block or a temptation to be resisted? Well I have chosen not to” He stopped smiling now and wore a serious look “You have heard enough words from the Lord to take your decision. To whom much is given, much is expected…Do you understand?”
Morakinyo breathed a sigh of relief. He understood why the Pastor took that stand; God called him not the Pastor. He knew he had to be responsible for his decision and convictions. At thirty-two, with nine years of knowing the Lord, he knew what it meant to be responsible for one’s decisions and actions. He smiled and shook his head confirming that he understood the Pastor’s decision and short exhortation.
“Sir, there’s another important reason why I’ve come to see you.” Pastor Kalejaye leaned forward to hear the young man. Morakinyo’s expression was enough to tell him the troubles he had gone through on the about-to-be-discussed issue.
“I have accepted to serve God, but what of my marriage? Is it not appropriate that I get married before going for the mission work or should I just start without an helpmate?” The Pastor sighed heavily; he knew Morakinyo was deeply depressed. He prayed silently that God will give him the right words to console the young man.
“I am glad you’ve decided for God….. The issue of marriage should not be allowed to hinder you.” The Pastor started with an assuring smile. Deep within him, he was pleased that Morakinyo could overcome the huge temptations around him. If things work out well, Morakinyo would be the first missionary from the church in two years. In recent times, the response of the congregation to missions has been very dull and discouraging.
Supports and donations did come in for missionaries but no one was interested in going on the mission field. He was proud of the young man who was willing to leave the prospects of a Doctorate degree for mission field.
“I have prayed concerning the sister you told me the Lord laid in your heart” Pastor continued, struggling to fight back tears of joy and gratitude to God for answering his prayers of many years. “I have no reservations concerning her. If am not mistaken, she is presently the Assistant Leader of the Welfare Unit?”
“You’re right Sir, Sis. Gbayike” said Morakinyo.
“Why not go ahead and speak to her, explain your convictions to her. Hhowever, don’t be disturbed or overwhelmed by whatever response she gives. If truly she is God’s will for you in marriage, she will soon join you in the assignment the Lord has called into….but don’t wait until you are married before answering the Lord’s call….. Marriage is not a condition for entering God’s service” the Pastor said with firmness.
“Thank you very much Sir” said Morakinyo beaming with smiles as he rose to leave. “I have to get to the campus Sir; my students have their defence today.”
Suddenly, the Pastor’s countenance changed, he looked straight into Morakinyo’s eyes and spoke “My son…exercise great patience! Do not mix the sheep with the goats!”
“Mix sheep with goats? I don’t understand Sir”
“Remember Abraham? Check through Genesis Chapter 16 and see how he derailed the Lord’s plan through impatience…stay blessed!”
For seven days, Morakinyo pondered over those words. He read Genesis Chapter 16 twice every day. The story was clear; Abraham impregnated a maiden with his wife’s consent and approval and had a child. “So in what way is that related to me?” He asked himself again and again, but the answers simply refused to come.
Another great hurdle stood before him; how to propose marriage to Gbayike. He knew her quite well in the church. They’ve once worked together as members of the Welfare Unit before he became the Director of Evangelism and Outreaches in the church. However, no close relationship existed. In fact, he had visited her place only once when she celebrated her last birthday.
‘How do I know she’s not engaged to someone already?’
‘What if she says no?
‘What if she looks down on me?’
‘What if she’s not interested in the vision?’
‘What if she says no marriage for now?’
‘What if her parents refuse to ……?’
‘What if… What if… what if… ‘
The small alarm clock on the table went off at four in the morning. He stood up and looked straight to the clock as if to say “Are you sure?” He had slept off asking a thousand and one “what if’s”. He knelt and started his usual quiet time of devotion and worship.
Gbayike was planning to leave the house when Morakinyo came. Though on vacation, she wondered why he had to come in the morning. Her heart jumped when she saw him. Morakinyo had never visited her before. He came briefly during her birthday party simply to say congrats and drop a card. He did not even wait to eat. He gave excuses that he had some important field work with his students.
Gbayike had always admired Morakinyo in the church. She thanked God for Bukola when her engagement to Morakinyo was announced in the church. As a member of the Welfare Team, a big surprise was being packaged by the team for Bukola’s wedding with Morakinyo until the unfortunate happened. She died in an auto crash three months to the date.
It was a big loss to the church and the Welfare Team in particular. Bukola was nice, sacrificial and courteous. She would offer herself to do any available work in the Welfare Team, even sweeping; her job as a senior bank official notwithstanding. She was a model of what the Welfare Team expected her members to be.
But she died three months to her wedding!
“Please have your seat Bro. Morakinyo, it’s nice having you around though I must add it’s a bit odd to see you at a time like this; I hope all is well?” Gbayike said, not knowing exactly what to say. She was happy that he had come when her vacation was on, she would not have been able to attend to him if the session was on.
“I’m really sorry to have jumped on you without any formal notice, em….. I must say…. that……. em….. I’m sorry that…..” The words would not flow.
Gbayike cut in “No problem, I understand.” She really did ‘understand’. Morakinyo was not the kind of man she will resist his visit. After praying for about two years hoping to get a brother to propose marriage to her, it was only right for her to welcome a man like Morakinyo; only God knows what he came for.
To be continued in Episode 7.