The Divine Ministries International Church, Wurukum held its sessions at an apartment cramped between a drinking joint and a striving welding shop. It was a bubbling new church trying to break into the Pentecostal arena at a pace that its pastor had termed “Holy Spirit-propelled”. The self-proclaimed Apostle Nicodemus Samber was the general overseer. He had lost his job as a day laborer in a massive layoff exercise with a construction company about a year ago. The company had failed to regain favor in the eyes of the present administration, prompting a desperate retrenchment measure. Two months after he lost his job, the Lord appeared to him. He got a vision to spread the Word of God. He had disappeared and returned three months after with the title of Apostle that was to be regularly substituted with that of Prophet, different form of dressing and a diverse, almost rambling knowledge of Bible quotes. The one thing that was certain was that the Apostle Nicodemus Samber’s future as a minister of the Word was brighter than the sun’s shine.
A few more weeks after, the ordained man of God was reeling in lost sheep under the umbrella of DMIC. Things were happening at this small assembly that had begun with the Apostle himself, his wife and seven children. From one miracle to another, the congregation swelled, made chiefly from people of Nicodemus’ past caliber, who have come to appreciate spiritual power more from the wonders Nicodemus Samber did. It had become that in this part of the world, wisdom and ability was no more a means to man overcoming everyday life. Men sought to get divine interventions, understanding that the manifestation of miracles was not in practical experiences but incomprehensible spiritual breakthroughs. The notion that spiritual cleansing was the guarantee to good life had sold across the nation more than foodstuff. The battle was not of the flesh but of the spirit. It was not in any human logic or normal for one to experience the harsh aspects of life; it was an affliction meant only for those who continued in sin.
The country at large was suffering because there were too many evil forces against its progress. No one believed in the factors that were the human elements. So people like the Apostle Nicodemus Samber had rose to effect a transformation, starting at this humble beginning; starting at this small arena, flanked by a booze house and a metal-works shop. At some time, the loud forceful preaching and intense songs and praise worship, amplified by the loudspeaker positioned on the roof in front of the one-room apartment combined gloriously with the circular music—most often highlife, and the rattling and screeching noise from the welding.
Today, after a long, angry sermon, the apostle had declared, again, a moment of ‘spiritual cleansing’. It was not left for members of the congregation to come forth with their blemishes, sins—past and present, and say them regretfully before the apostle and the congregation. A hand would point at a member, straight from the prophet, commanding such member to come forward and confess his or her sins, and receive healing; get on the road to living a trouble-free life. From sins as flimsy as harmless lies to serious ones as thieving to robbery to adultery and fornication to murder. By the touch of the apostle’s hand on his forehead, a man had fallen awkwardly to the ground, jerking and twisting, babbling, foaming and scratching himself all over while the apostle hovered over him casting out demons with angry spurt of words. When he subsided and was brought back up by a group of three employed to be at hand to assist the apostle (because some times, someone would break into a mad, confused run.
Such person was to be chased after and brought back before the man of God), the man raised his hands up in the air and confessed tearfully to have been a bank robber until now. Then he pledged his life to the church, no to the apostle, making declarations that included for the starting a gift of two hundred thousand naira to the ministry. The worst was not heard yet, until a young woman of about twenty-nine confessed to murder. This time, the apostle had not pointed; he had walked straight to this lady, tugged her by the arm to the front of the congregation and commanded her to speak of her sins. He had not spoken another word before the lady dashed blindly. The group of three had broken into a quick run after her and immediately surrounded her, grabbing her back to where the apostle stood, now smiling ominously.
“Duuuue ke na kera!” he screamed, grabbing the lady by the jaws with his left hand and twisting violently, while the three people held her firm before him. “Oooouuuut! I say speak of your iniquities!” The apostle broke henceforth into a language that was no more English, had no elements of the local dialect Tiv or any of Latin, Greek and Hebrew. One won’t be far from the truth if he concluded the composition came right from him, right at the moment. Now the lady was screaming, and struggling violently. The apostle had released her jaws. Now he was clutching her stomach, wringing it as if there was some juice he wanted to squeeze out of her belly. “Speak of your sins, woman! Mer ken Iti I Yesu pase asorabo ou!” As if a fast acting tranquilizer had been pumped into the lady, she fell limp and the men released her to the ground. Apostle Nicodemus Samber squatted before her and smiled. If one was told he just got in from a heavy rain, it won’t be anything to argue about because he was completely drenched from his own sweat. The woman had began speaking and moaning. The man of God put the microphone he held in his hand before her mouth and everyone’s mouth within the congregation was agape as she confessed to killing seven children and making her neighbor’s husband sterile by locking his testicles in a bottle.
The lead detective had stopped his car and protested driving it further.
“Why didn’t we use that rickety 306?” he said, scowling at the bad road ahead of them. “My Honda is not driving through that.” The detective meant his words. Apart from the murky waters ahead, an attempt to fill the potholes with rocks had rather left a strong impressing that a car navigating the street at that point could not do so without ending up with a bad tire or a punctured exhaust pipe as ragged-edged rocks scattered all over, standing firm in the mud.
“We could walk then, sir,” someone said.
“And you are going to wash my shoes when we get back?” the detective said.
The man who had spoken smiled and almost hid his face. “I mean, based on the description, we are just about two hundred meters or so away.”
They navigated the murky street, stretching in long strides at times, even jumping. The lead detective had jumped to scale a large spread of algae-infested puddle and had scuffed his foot against a rock and stumbled. He did not fall but had landed heavily into the green puddle. Slimy green matter splashed. He cursed until they reached the brown building ahead of them. The signpost by the building read SHARP CONER MOTEL. Apart from Cheap Lodging at Afordable Price that appeared to serve as the motel’s business slogan, the signpost listed a variety of what could be obtained from the motel: from isiewu (goat head) to kayan ciki (internal organs-preferably intestines) to cow tail to fish pepper soup to roasted fish…the list continued. Also on the signpost, all the known beer brands that the manager must have remembered to include on the menu were listed. And one would wonder when Budweiser and Castle Lager got into the Nigerian alcohol market. What was not listed on the signpost but people were sure to testify to it that dominated the activities at this motel was cheap sex, with the danger of going away with disease ever present.
The gate was rusty. The base was eaten ragged by moist and rust. One of the shutters was hanging on only one hinge and had remained constantly open. Even on a Wednesday morning, loud discordant and meaningless music, that kind that Nigerians have come to love, played within at high shrieking volume made worse by the broken speakers.
The three policemen walked into the premises and came to stand before three ladies, sitting by a door on a low bench. They asked who ran the place and one of them said the manager had not reported to work. She went ahead to tell them that there was no need going to arrange anything with the manager. Maybe they wanted some good rubbing and sex. She said they had paid their dues already so whatever accrues was theirs. Customers came straight to them. Unless they wanted to drink beer…
“We are asking after a Ms. Cecelia,” the lead detective said.
Another of the ladies, she was plump and had bleached her skin so that it almost turned to the color of olive green, smiled at the three men and said, “Oga, you no sure say una go share una selves among us?” She was at great comfort to display the stretch marks that sprouted on her arms large breasts like tributaries, even the ones that meandered on her inner thighs as she sat legs spread wide carelessly in that scanty piece of clothing they call bumshort. The excess of her buttocks that the short could not cover folded beneath her in flabby ridges. Her noisy gum-chewing culminated her indecent appearance.
“Who dey look for me?”
The door in front of which the men were standing opened and a lean lady stood there. The blue bra she wore made her dry breasts look like small stones in slingshots. She was actually wearing panties that were not only see-through but had holes designed in them. Her skin was better in color but looked too thin. She was applying powder to her face. One of the cops turned his face away as if not in the mood to feed his eyes with such disgust. The other two continued to stare at the lady who was yet applying powder to her face.
“You are Cecilia?”
These men looked like they were not buying, and none of these ladies had noticed that. The plump one was still seeking a share of them, saying it’d be greedy of Cecilia to have all those virile looking men all to herself.
“We are not here for some cheap whore business,” one of the men had turned to the plump lady and said this to her with a serious look on his face.
“We are from the police. You are under arrest,” the lead detective said to the lady hanging between the door.
“Ehn?” the plump lady voiced.
“You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to a lawyer.”
“I no get any lawyer! Wetin I do?”
“Wetin I do. Why you dey arrest me?”
“You are under arrest for the murder of seven children. You have—”
“I no kill anybody—”
“Hey hey, anything you say from now will be used against you in a court of law. You have to remain silent. You have a right to a lawyer.”
Cecilia was made to put on her clothes, and she was taken away, leaving behind confusion among her colleagues.
To Cecilia, this was a joke because she knew she did not kill anybody. How much of a joke it was, she did not know. The warrant was bearing her name, but what she knew was that she did not kill anybody.
The lead detective circled around her slowly, then came to stand before her. His face was grim. He had a mustache that was rather funny on his face. He cut his hair such that there was more hair at the back than there was at the front—some hairstyle that could be called reverse-punk when one could not find the name of such type of hairstyle.
“Last Sunday, you were involved in a ‘spiritual cleansing’ session at one Divine Ministries International Church, am I correct?”
“And you confessed to killing seven children and making some man sterile by locking his testicles in a bottle, is that correct?”
The detective brought his hands together and rubbed them. The lady laughed almost heartily, forgetting the magnitude of trouble that possibly lay ahead.
“You think we are joking?”
“No, you people don’t understand. If una want know wetin happen, una for just ask me.”
“What is she saying?” The detective turned to the other man that was in the room.
“How do you mean?” The man drew closer.
A long explanation broke when Cecilia realized that the only way out of this was to tell the truth; tell the sham that was Divine Ministries International Church. But what was to become of her oath of secrecy to the Apostle Nicodemus Samber?