Saturday, 30 May 2015


       There was something unique about Rumuma. The way mad people seemed to congregate at its roundabout every Sunday morning intensifying the usual hold-up. Every Sunday as her dad drove past, she stared at them. How happy they seemed absorbed in their rituals. The way they seemed to laugh at absolutely nothing. The women jiggled their waists occasionally and tugged off their badly torn wrappers every once in a while.
      Today, they weren't there. She felt a little worried because no one else seemed to be. Just a little further past the roundabout was a place swarmed with beggars and the handicapped. Residents called it "Nyem iwai" bus-stop which meant "Give me money" in the local Ikwerre language. The beggars always came in hordes and droves to any SUV or car that looked promising screaming 'Nyem iwai'. Some bore placards that read 'I am blind, help me' or any other epitaph. Some were led by kids in tattered clothes who sought for alms on their behalf or they dangled damaged limbs or body parts so disfigured until you felt disgusted enough to give them money so they left your window.
        The only problem was once you gave one, the others didn't leave until you gave them a piece usually red - the common name of the ten naira note. It was standard procedure. Everyone knew this which was why she was shocked when her dad gave the woman with decomposing breasts two pieces of 10 naira notes. Every beggar on the road swarmed to the car hoping to get their own share all the while mumbling 'Oga God go bless you'. Her dad chuckled -the kind of rich man chuckle that said 'I'm blessed already'. He called out to her, 'Nkem, get the black nylon beside you'. She didn't even know it was there all the while. She handed it over to him and he gave each beggar at least two pieces of ten naira note out of the black bag. Her dad quickly wound up the car glass and she shivered in the coolness of the air-conditioning.They were happy beyond words and she shook her head in awe at how far removed she was from their world. She wondered why her dad would do this and then she remembered. He was going to be honoured in church as a founding father and benefactor.
  ****** **********
       This Sunday was different because they were only one hour late to church instead of the usual two hours whenever her father, Hon Chief Chidi George Weli came to church with the rest of the family.
    'No condition is permanent. You shall get your breakthrough today. We shall break every ancestral curse today....', the guest minister's voice rang out. On and on he went and she knew the tirade would continue. She cherished moments like this because it meant she could tune out and be absorbed in her own world. She began to wonder why the mad people weren't at the roundabout earlier on. Maybe the new governor had bundled them up in a van and sent them to a psychiatric home? She just couldn't say. She let herself become absorbed in her immediate surroundings. Some members of the congregation were sprawled out on the floor shaking violently in sync with the minister saying,
     "Brethren break free from every demon or family curse plaguing you."
Chairs were being broken every minute and more and more people fell to the ground. The minister urged that deliverance prayers be said by those standing on behalf of those on the floor. Hands were raised, voices soulful and people tried to outdo the other in the ferocity of the prayers meant to cast out ancestral and wicked spirits from those on the ground. In scenarios like this, Nkem thought, it was very easy to differentiate the poor and struggling from the rich.
     The poor were the ones who rolled on the floor, raised their hands so high up to the heavens and screamed the loudest. The rich merely nodded their heads and hardly shouted and they never rolled on the floor. The rich were the ones who came midway into the service and stayed behind to meet with the pastors to exchange words while the poor were the ones who came to church very early even before the service started and stayed behind to clean up the church. Nkem could see that clearly as she looked around. She was one of those that merely raised a hand as though to say hi to God. Her mother's maid Ekaette didn't even roll like every other person.
       Being poor or rich also had to be an acquired feeling. Ekaette only knelt with one knee as if to say she also couldn't afford to ruin her Calvin Klein hand-me-downs from her madam. Her father and other church dignitaries which was just another way of saying money-bags and millionaire donors- stood with their hands in their pockets, eyes opened and heads bowed. They never seemed to be possessed of any evil spirit of any sort. There had to be a level you got to that you could buy your way out of things like such. Her dad was at that stage. The pastor, a young bubbly man took the mic from the guest minister and started to proclaim blessings.
  He joked about the offering saying, "Our God is a god of purity. He deserves the white currency."
    White was slang for 1000 naira note. And in that split second, she realised that everything was really just colour coded.  Like how the police officers asked for twenty naira bribes with "Oga where is your green card." Or how officials at notable establishments subtly demanded for brown notes in brown envelopes. It was an unwritten rule that you gave them 100 naira or they found a way to frustrate you.
      She felt not quite right and during family thanksgiving, although she had her customary 1000 naira to give as offering, she chose to put her five naira note. That afternoon, as her father drove back home she wound down the window as a child beggar cajoled her for red. She gave the little boy the white note. He didn't tell her thanks but she swore the angels sang just then.


At 4 June 2015 at 18:56 , Blogger babajide obidigbo said...

Lovely.. If I fail my msqs today because of you treasure, know it was because of the time I spent reading this piece 'twice'

At 5 June 2015 at 23:16 , Blogger Treasure Akelachi said...

Just saw this....there's no way you can fail now especially after reading this ;). thanks :)

At 20 December 2015 at 01:02 , Blogger oge dextreme said...

This is all the church I need today. Thank you.


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