“They are deceitful people! Native doctors or whatever they call themselves! They are fake! They are greedy eaters! Some say they are soothsayers, never listen to them. They will only say words that suit their needs!”
Our teacher, Mr Matthew told us in the class one day. I listened with rapt attention, just like every other person that was present. But as we listened, we, many times, shot glances at Chimezie, a big boy in the class, who kept on scowling at Uncle Matthew. Everyone knew why; Chimezie’s uncle with whom he lived was of the category of the kind of people Uncle Matthew talked about, in the yoruba land, they are called Babalawo, and the Igbo’s call them Dibia. Everyone was scared of Chimezie because he would always threaten you with one fearful fetish thing or the other. Two thoughts filled my twelve-year old mind as I listened. I was not too sure of how true what Uncle Matthew was saying was, I also was scared that Chimezie would take the matter to his uncle, and they would harm our sweet Uncle Matthew.
“It is not true sir.”
Mr Matthew shifted his gaze to the big-headed stubborn Chimezie who wore the look of defiance. My heart thumped heavily, I was sure by then, that my fear had just become reality, I could feel the heat of the fire in the mountain. The silence in the class was so perfect that even a calm breath could be heard by everyone.
“They are real and not fake.” he tightened his face as if he would command thunder to strike our teacher dead. For the moment, I regretted coming to school that day, I wanted to run away.
Uncle Matthew roared with a sarcastic laughter, and walked out of the class. He came back about five minutes later and told us we were going somewhere with a bright smile on his face. Then he took my pen raising it up.
“This pen belongs to Obinna, and I am putting it in his pocket” he smiled as he dropped the pen in my left pocket.
“And off we go.” He said, leading the way, and we followed suit.
We finally arrived at Chimezie’s Uncle’s house. Fear gripped everyone to the teeth when they realized. Some took to their heels, I would have done likewise had Uncle Matthew’s grip not been so firm. He knocked, and a short charcoal skin bald pot-bellied man, came out of the small house. I could picture Chimezie’s face in his. It was his uncle.
“What brings you here, young man?” his voice was hoarse
“My boy here, has cried that his pen has been stolen, and I have tried all forms of threats on these people you see here, but no one wants to accept being the thief. Wise one, I trust that your strength by far exceeds this problem, so I have come for-”
“You put the pen in his pocket, and it’s right there” he pointed at my left pocket. I marvelled. Instantaneously, all eyes were shot at an Uncle Matthew that was by then as confused as the dog whose bone vanished in between its teeth.
“You do not know what you are doing, teacher. It is true there is a God. But there are gods too. Is it not also written in that big book you call holy? Leave immediately before something terrible comes upon you!!” he barked.
Only few of JSS three students remained, the rest ran away. I fled into a nearby bush. With disgrace, I saw Uncle Matthew and the rest trudged back to school. But then Chimezie’s uncle brought out a cell phone.
“Hello Chimezie, my son. Thank you for the quick text message. That was so close. One chicken lap for you, son” he laughed, and shook his head, going inside.
I smiled. He was a fake, and Uncle Matthew, though not totally correct, was not totally wrong.
But then, I have always known that, though there is a God, there are other gods.