Fidelis: Showing a little kindness


Christ a poet

A call came through my line. It had been a long while since I got any calls from unregistered numbers. I hesitated a little and went on talking to Ramat. The phone rang again and this time I felt like picking up. Just as my hand pressed the green button, the caller hung up. It was a flash. I looked at the number closely and realized it was totally strange. I felt a positive urge and so I dialed back. “Kator”, the voice called out. It sounded so familiar. It was a blend of nearly educated Tiv accent and an unpolished desire to sound British. ” Oh Kator”, the voice called again. ” Do you know who is speaking?” I paused a while, felt like dropping the call, but went on to respond. “Hello, I really don’t know who I’m speaking with.” This time an excited shrill spread through the…

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Fidelis: Showing a little kindness


A call came through my line. It had been a long while since I got any calls from unregistered numbers. I hesitated a little and went on talking to Ramat. The phone rang again and this time I felt like picking up. Just as my hand pressed the green button, the caller hung up. It was a flash. I looked at the number closely and realized it was totally strange. I felt a positive urge and so I dialed back. “Kator”, the voice called out. It sounded so familiar. It was a blend of nearly educated Tiv accent and an unpolished desire to sound British. ” Oh Kator”, the voice called again. ” Do you know who is speaking?” I paused a while, felt like dropping the call, but went on to respond. “Hello, I really don’t know who I’m speaking with.” This time an excited shrill spread through the line. I heard an anxious reply, “it’s Fideris”. “Oh my God, Fidelis!”,  I called out. The voice was now unmistakably matched.
I first came across Fidelis during one of my numerous journeys to the University Town of Nsukka. He had boarded the bus along me and other passengers. Unknowing to the rest of us, Fidelis for whatever reason had failed to come along with the complete transport fare and had arranged with the driver that he’d pay the rest on arrival. It was his unlucky day. I don’t know if he planned it or it happened inadvertently, but by the time we arrived Obollo, Fidelis’ phone was dead and whoever he had planned to receive money from was nowhere to be found. Of course, whoever it was would have gone after waiting because by the time we arrived, the evening breeze had given way to the cold and piercing winds of the night. Even the famous white skinned prostitutes who have given Obollo its fame were not so bold to stand in the open night. Rather they hid in thick clothings behind closed sheds. Even the Alhajis and pot bellied politicians remained in their cars while their drivers went to make the pick. It was the worst day to get toast. As the driver kept shouting and refusing to release Fidelis’ luggage, the rest of us had our attention drawn to the scene. It was night and even the sound of a dropping pin went far into the darkness. We wanted them to stop. But the driver would not. Fidelis owed him two thousand five hundred naira balance of the transport fare and an additional eight hundred naira for the luggage. Unlike the most of us who travelled with few belongings, Fidelis had packed a sack full of oranges, another full of yams and sweet potatoes , a live chicken and another sack full of over ripe and rotten mangoes. I let out a saddening laughter and returned to where my bag was. Some of the passengers who had arranged with their loved ones to come pick them up where already leaving. Some went along to board the busses to Nsukka. I was by an empty warehouse trying to put my things together when I felt a cold tap on my neck region. I turned sharply. It was him, Fidelis. He spoke with a heavy and thick Tiv accent. ” My broda, please find me small money make I give dat driver. De man don seize all my roads and lifuse to give me.” I didn’t know what to think. Why on earth did he choose to disturb me. There were at least four passengers still around. I looked at him again and again not sure of what to do or say. Those were not good old days when you could just help strangers. I had heard stories of how evil people disguised to be in need and when helped, turned around to cast evil spells on their good Samaritans. I would not fall a victim, not in my final year in school. Besides, I had left home with very little money barely enough to last me the first week. But even as these thoughts filled my mind, I knew the driver would not let him go till he had completed the fare. I asked him, ” how much do you need?”. He called without remorse the sum of three thousand and three hundred naira. Sluggishly and without knowing what I was doing, I counted three thousand naira and handed over to him. “Ah, God go bless you my broda.”, was the reply. “God go bless you well well”, he said again before going off to pay the driver. He returned again but this time, to kneel down and thank me. This was the time I became so emotional. “You don’t have to, come on stand up.” Stand up!” I kept saying these words as he prayed several blessings on me and my generations. When I realised he would not stop, I spoke to him in our native Tiv language. ” Okay, kuma higen. Mo ase sha angom.” This was the biggest mistake. Fidelis rattled something I never understood, stood up and started dancing. Then he said,”Wandaful……u ngu Tiv eee?, u ngu Tiv ve mfa ga ye? I began smiling. He went on, ” No Wanda, na only my broda fit do dis kind tin for me. No oda perhen go fit just give me money rike dat.” “Kai my broda, msugh. Msugh kpishi. Thank you very much. Then I asked him, ” what’s your name?” “Fideris, iti iyam ka Fideris” was the reply. “Okay, Fidelis, what’s your plan because I am headed for Nsukka and would love to join the bus now before it gets full.” I looked at my wristwatch. “It’s 11pm now and I am not sure there would be any other bus after that one there.” I said pointing in the direction of the bus. ” Okay, rets go nau….I dey go Nsukka also.” Was this not the young man whom I just gave three thousand naira to pay his outstanding fare? Where did he plan on getting three hundred and fifty naira to pay for Nsukka and with his luggage, maybe eight hundred naira? Well, I decided to keep my thoughts to myself. To avoid trouble, I didn’t offer to help him move his luggage to the other side of the road where the bus for Nsukka was packed. I went ahead. Fidelis effortlessly transferred his heavy sacks of yam and potatoes, mangoes and oranges, then the live chicken one after the other. I was seated in the front when he walked up to me and said, ” the driver say na one tauzend, five hunduled naila fa oooo. De man wan cheat me again ooo.” When he noticed I Said nothing, he went on, ” u wu… Orne…. an igboon wa afee dedoo.” Loosely translated, ” Really, the Igbo people are really cheats.” He kept hissing and hissing till the bus got full. I had no option again. I brought out a thousand naira note, went down from the car and bargained with the driver until he accepted to transport Fidelis and his luggage to Nsukka. He however said, ” make you tell your brother say if dat chicken wey him carry shit for buut, na him go pack am oooo. I no know why person go dey carry chicken travel for dis time wey no be Christmas.” As the journey progressed, I got less resented and grew more fond of Fidelis as he told me his story and what it was that brought him to Nsukka. When I got ready to drop, I handed him a five hundred naira note. He thanked me again and asked for my contact. That was the first and only time I gave him my contact and strangely enough, Fidelis has not lost it all these years. The following day when an unknown number gave me a missed call and I called back, I heard the receiver say, ” ka Fideris.”, and I knew at once who it was. I saved it as Fidelis Obollo. We had started talking at Obollo.
Fidelis kept calling to thank me over and over again. Sometimes he would not have airtime but flash me all the same and when I called back he would say, “I just say make I greet you.” Then he would go ahead to tell me how he was, what he was doing and how grateful he was to me. Later when he traveled back to Gboko, he called still. Over and over again I changed my phone and lost his contact but he’d call again and his accent would introduce him. Over and over again, I’d save his contact as Fidelis Obollo.
Today when he called, he didn’t just call to thank. Fidelis was asking when and how he’d pay back my kindness. This is over two years now but Fidelis still remembers me and my goodness to him. He insisted that he’d do anything possible to be good to me and kept asking how he could pay back. Well I told him, ” I am away from Benue now but will be coming back soon to join politics. You could make yourself available to rally around me when I begin to contest and campaign.” And as if that was what Fidelis was waiting for, he shouted so loud. “Wandaful, Orne….I am with you. You have my full support.” He went on to tell me he was now a student of Akperan Orshi College of Agriculture, Yandev. And how he really wants to see me again.
As I dropped the call, I kept thinking, how much a little act of kindness can do. I had only given out four thousand and five hundred naira to a stranger, and now in him I have a very powerful ally for my tomorrow. I have learned, showing a little kindness still pays.

The Last Post


When I was much younger than I am now, I enrolled into the Boys’ Brigade, a paramilitary church organization for boys and men. It was the custom with our family. Grandpa and my elder brother were members; all the older boys who stayed with us were  members. Only dad was not a member. So it was simply traditional for me to join as soon as I came of age. So the year I turned four, I joined the Anchor Boys’ rank of the 17th Benue Company and later would be promoted to the rank of an NCO. I would stay on that rank until I grew older and attended several camps and then I’d be promoted and become an officer. However, I did not stay that long.  My activities with the Boys’ Brigade ended when I was eleven and had to leave for my secondary education.

During my seven years with the Boys’ Brigade, we engaged in lots of paramilitary activities. We were taught discipline. We attended camps, went for rallies and on few occasions had to go for funeral services and ceremonies of our members. It was on one of such funerals that something unique happened to me. We had lost a member, a young boy of my age. A very painful one! We had gone camping in Makurdi very close to the Benue River and the first instruction we had received was to stay away from the river. It was dangerous. A lot of people had died in there.  But how could we? Young, exuberant, high-spirited  and highly adventurous boys not play with the river water? Was it not River Benue afterall? Our river? We had heard so much about it and we would be foolish not to have a feel of it. So we decided we’d wait till a day to the close of camp and pay the river a visit. And a visit did we pay.  We went seven but returned six. One of us (I can’t recall his name, he was from a different battalion) had drowned. The fire alarm sounded but little could be done to save him. He had drowned in the vast waters. His turgid body would be recovered two days later close to the north bank of the river. I’ll save you the reader all the details.

Two weeks later we were gathered in a small village, Mkar in Gboko, Benue State for his funeral. The wake keep was dreadful. I guess it must have been normal for others but dreadful for me. I had dreaded it right from when the burial was fixed. At night, I was sorely afraid of everything. The unexpected start of the brigade drums, the piercing silence afterwards, the thick wall of darkness. I saw his face when my eyes closed and when I opened them, he stood somewhere in the dark corner, sad, smiling. At times, he was the one sitting next to me and when I felt the urge to urinate, I dared not stand for he’d be waiting for me in the darkness. I knew though that all of these were simply my imaginations yet I was so stricken by fear and I wouldn’t take chances. Did I want him to pull me away and drown me in the sea of darkness that enveloped us? I’d rather pee in my pants.

A little while before dawn we were awoken to get set. Those who could have their bath did while some of us, especially the junior boys who needed no bathing simply dressed up in our uniforms. The ceremony had begun and all the procession had taken place peacefully.  There was so much going on around and in my head that I really paid attention to nothing. Then finally, the Commanding Officer gave the command for the bugler to blow the tune, the last post. I had heard it a couple of times. That solemn tune that reminded people to cry, for they cried more after it had ended than ever before. However, this last post began with a shrill in my body. I shook. I had been expecting it, but I shook all the same. It sounded more solemn and ominous than all the others I’ve ever heard. It was the sound of sorrow. A sorrow that I was very much involved in; a sorrow I’d very much played a part in, my sorrow.  It was here, that the real essence of the last post came to me. So later when it would be played again at my grandfather’s funeral, I’d read more meaning to it than anyone else. Grandpa’s funeral would be the last brigade funeral I attended up till now, and there again, the last post sounded.

Whenever they played the last post, everyone stood still. It was the last honour given to the dead. When the last post had sounded, the coffin would be lowered six feet beneath the earth. That would be the end. So the last post served as a reminder that truly this person was gone, never to be seen among the living again. If you had nursed any hopes before that something miraculous would happen, the last post seemed to dash all of such hopes. The last post brought reality upon many.  So immediately after the last post, wails and screams poured in from different parts of the compound where the grave was. But the last post had come to mean much more than tears to me. It had become a question.

Is the last post really the end of it all? It’s been eleven years since when I last renewed my membership with the boys’ brigade. But I hope to, and will certainly renew it before I die. Then would the last post be sounded at my funeral. Would it be the end? Certainly not! Fifteen years ago the last post seemed to me a reminder of the brevity of life and the certainty of death if Jesus tarried. But now, as I look through the years, I’ve come to see that death is only a beginning, an opening to a new world just like birth. If you are reading this and you do not believe in life after death, please hold on. Don’t stop yet. I’m still coming to that. So for me, when my last post has been blown, what next? That became a question that troubled my soul for several years. And I’m glad now that as I write, I’ve found answers, several answers to that question.  When and if my last post sounds, I’d be in paradise watching the events on earth. There I’d await the end of the age when My Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God and I, dead in Christ and many others like me, will rise first. After that, those who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with us in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. That’s for me because I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; He descended to the dead. On the third day He rose again; He ascended into heaven, He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic and apostolic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

Hold on if you don’t believe in any of these things. At least you believe in the certainty of death. To deny death would be to deny your very existence, to deny science. You remember MR NIGER D? The D is constant. Whether it be the last post or some kind of solemn hymn or speech, there’d be a last something in your honour even if you’ve lived the most worthless of lives. Where would you be when that last something is going on in your honour? If you’ve ever believed that you are made up of more than your body (flesh and bones and blood), then where would the rest of you be when your body is lowered six feet beneath? Do you ever actively remember death? The reason why most people live as they do is because they hardly ever actively remember that they’ll die. Think again and again.

If you believe in resurrection and life after death then think of eternity. Think of the seven year marriage ceremony with the lamb. Think of the millennial reign with Christ and endeavor to be in paradise when your last post sounds.

PENSPEAK in Heaven


Christ a poet

We raised tangerines in our little orchard, and oranges too. Towards evening, when the dusk had enveloped the atmosphere, the orchardsphere was full of citric smell. The kind of scent that is peculiar to pregnant orange plants whose pollinated stigma has just begun to form seeds. It was that kind of scent that made me wonder the awesomeness of nature and how God was careful and meticulous about every fabric that wove into what we have as earth today. Yet a new thought fascinates me more. If God spent six days in making earth and it’s this beautiful and awesome, then how awesome would a world still under construction after two thousand years look? Jesus told me in John. 14: 1-3 that He’s gone to prepare a place for me. And when He’s done, would come to take me there. He has been preparing that place for the past two…

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PENSPEAK in Heaven


We raised tangerines in our little orchard, and oranges too. Towards evening, when the dusk had enveloped the atmosphere, the orchardsphere was full of citric smell. The kind of scent that is peculiar to pregnant orange plants whose pollinated stigma has just begun to form seeds. It was that kind of scent that made me wonder the awesomeness of nature and how God was careful and meticulous about every fabric that wove into what we have as earth today. Yet a new thought fascinates me more. If God spent six days in making earth and it’s this beautiful and awesome, then how awesome would a world still under construction after two thousand years look? Jesus told me in John. 14: 1-3 that He’s gone to prepare a place for me. And when He’s done, would come to take me there. He has been preparing that place for the past two thousand years. If there are gonna be orchards with tangerines and oranges filling the heavensphere with their scents then, wow!, that scent is going to be magnificent. Nevertheless, it’s not all about the plants. What of the buildings?; The technology, the art, the science, the poetry, the choir? What of the ice-cream and eggs (if I’m to take my Sunday School teacher seriously) and all that we can imagine? Awe, what of the water? What colour would the rivers be? Would they be pinkish blue or silvery gold? Ah! The stones, would they be transparent like glass? If we planted trees there, would they grow and blossom and bear fruits immediately, because a thousand years are like a day to God? What will it feel like walking on the streets of gold? Would I ever wanna put on shoes? How would PENSPEAK in heaven look? When Beulah Speaks his poetry, Cindy Dike, her mellifluous niche of words, UC TRUTH reciting the book of Ruth. Would Jedidiah need to walk round and share PENSPEAK fliers or would she just look at people and they’ll know place, time, venue and come? What is it gonna be like worshiping God forever, singing poetry and rhymes into His ear? Oh, is He really gonna hear us all if we said our various poems at the same time? I can’t wait to find out how heaven is and how PENSPEAK would be. It’s not gonna be PENSPEAK 2016 or PENSPEAK 2017, it’s gonna be PENSPEAK ad infinitum. You are invited. Please don’t miss it.

Email to Wole; Five nights ago


Wole,

I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you immediately after the counseling session. A follow up was necessary. Do you still remember the story I told you during the counseling? And do you still remember I told you I wrote the whole incidence in my diary and that I’d email it to you? Well this is the excerpt from my diary. I hope you find it useful.

…………………………………………………………………………………………

The night turned to day and then it was night again, today’s night, so much like the others. A hazy feeling of shame lurked my mind. The same usual feeling. Will it continue like all the other nights?  I was still laid on the bed, my fingers pulling through the short hairs on my head, hot tears rolling down my face, sniffing back the phlegm that was running down my nose.  I had given up all I spent eighteen years building. Eighteen fruitful years of my life had come crashing just like that, in a night, five nights ago.

It had always been my tradition to keep bad company at arm’s length. I still hear daddy’s voice very clearly, when he’d quote the bible and say, “bad company corrupts good manners’’. He had also taken time, so much time to sit me down and talk to me before I left for the university. He had warned me to avoid bad boys and girls, and had always promised to support me and make sure I lack nothing. This promise he kept even till now.

As I wriggle on the bed even now, I am so much filled with shame and dismay. The memories of last Friday refrain from leaving my mind. I still see Joke, lying beside me with nothing but my black polo covering her body. The smiles, the red lips, the made-up face I now find scary, the long nails. Why didn’t I see all these all along? Why didn’t I see what they symbolised? I probably was blinded by lust. In a moment, I had lost consciousness and forgotten everything I knew, my identity as a child of God, my background, my eighteen years of sweet fellowship with God, my life.

It started on a Sunday morning at church. The brightly fair slender lady, who led praise and worship that Sunday, was not the usual girl we were accustomed to every Sunday. Hers was a peculiar style of singing. The way she blended her Yoruba accent into her high pitched soprano voice was dazzling. I knew there was something more to her. At least at the moment I was content with the fact that she was beautiful and a good singer with a mellifluous voice. Those were dazzling and unusual qualities.

After service that Sunday, I had proceeded to go and shake hands with her and of course tell her how wonderful her voice was. She called me by name to my amazement, and told me my department. In fact she called the names of two of my classmates. We got along well and it seemed we were friends even before we met. I think I walked her back to her hostel that day.

Joke was determined to be my friend because I remember, after that Sunday I never really made efforts at keeping the friendship, but she did. She was the one who saw me later that week at the bible study and requested for my phone number. She was the one who called every night to say good bye to a “just a special friend”, it was she who remembered that last Friday, was Val’s day, and all of those things. Of course, I’m not blaming her, not at all. It was she who introduced the goodbye hugs. And it was I who saw nothing wrong in any of these. Let me take my own portion of the blame.

Last Friday, the Val’s day, Joke insisted she’d come visit me in my room. To me, it was okay, after all we were friends, from church, and we’ve been friends for some time. And it’s okay, come on, what are friends for? So I cleaned my room, laid a cleaner bedspread on the bed (the very one I’ve now stained with tears and mucous), got drinks in the fridge and made everywhere comfortable.

The Joke of Friday evening was not the Joke I’ve known. She wore a black gown, heavy make-ups, long nails, and….and yes, the gown was very tight and cleavage revealing. I didn’t seem to hate that. So I welcomed her, we spoke for long, laughed, stared at each other and exchanged smiles. Somewhere along the line, she pushed the window and the darkness was revealed into the room. The day had crept silently into the night and it was way into the night. Joke suddenly realised that she had to get back to her hostel, then she realised again that the hostels would be locked already, and then again she realised that the porter on duty that day was Mrs Ali. Of course, all of us who had female friends knew Mrs Ali. She was one of the porters in charge of Bello hostel. She was mean, rude and crude. All the boys who went for Belloship had once or twice encountered her. She was well known.

That night, Joke resorted to passing the night at my place, this was five nights ago.

As the night went on and we kept talking, Joke began to feel uneasy in her gown and demanded she needed to change, but to what?

“Ah, what’s there?” was the reply. “You can easily give me one of those your big polo shirts, or long sleeved shirt, as long as it’s big. But I prefer a polo shirt; I’d be freer in it. And then you can go out while I change. I won’t take long.”

The ease with which she sounded should have suggested to me that she was used to sleeping over at guys’ houses, but I wasn’t thinking. How else did she know that big polo shirts would do, and several other things. I gave her a black polo top and made for the door.

“You don’t even have to go if you don’t want to, let it not be that I’m asking you out of your room, making you uncomfortable. Lol.”

“You don’t mind if I stay?” I asked. “Seriously I don’t, is it not your house, I should be the one going out not you.” She replied. I went out all the same as soon as she started undressing.

A voice called out to me few minutes later telling me she was done. I went into the room to see her sitting on the bed thighs fully exposed. My body at this time had understood the full gist and was already reacting. The urge to resist Joke was not there. Perhaps I’d wanted it too. Like a lamb to the slaughter I went to the bed, so easily.

It is five days past now but I’ve not been myself since then. I’m crying and praying but it was real, it happened, it was not a dream. I had sex with Joke, five nights ago on this same bed. I fornicated.

The feelings of shame have not left me since then although I’m remorseful and have prayed for forgiveness. I’m writing and I’m crying because I know that things are not the same any more. For the Bible, I’ve become like a piece of bread. I’ve lost my life to nothingness in vain short-lived pleasure. I don’t know about Joke but she’s gone and I haven’t heard from her since Saturday morning when she left the house.

…………………………………………………………………………………………

Here is the truth about what really happened to me. That very Sunday when I first met Joke in the church, my heart began to lust after her. I’d thought everyone was holy, at least in church. But there was I, looking at a lady leading the worship and lusting after her. I think the real truth about it was the moment I began to look at porn pictures in Gbenga’s phone gallery. And then maybe those moments when I downloaded them myself, deleted and re-downloaded again. But somehow, it didn’t start in church, that Sunday.

So as time passed and I and Joke got to spend more time with each other, I’d always come back thinking over the hugs and then the words she said and wishing I really got more than the hugs. I was really giving the devil a foothold in my heart and in my life. Those days when every SMS she sent meant the whole world to me and I’d spend hours reading and rereading all built up momentum for that Friday night. No wonder it was so easy for me to give in.

So Wole, your story is not too different from mine and may the Lord help you to overcome like I’ve done. I am praying for you and will call you in due time. Remember you are now a new creation; old things have passed away even Vera.

Cheers!

Kunle.

Ode to the preacher


I am a sinner, a sinful one,
but you oh Preacher,
should see most clearly.
You have traveled the same road as I,
and made an almost identical journey
up the same similar mountain.
Your nude feet have marched
a similar dusty path.
Surely, this piece,
of our younger days,
this peace confession
of a life ill spent.
This piss- beaten,
termite-eaten signpost
on the road we both knew,
should stir some familiar echo
in your mind.
Like a father’s favourite fairly-tale
heard again years after his death
or
the long-forgotten voice of a child hood friend,
heard again at his funeral,
sin has become
an all possessive obsession,
an obsessive compulsive disorder
and
like a block of ice left out in the sun,
I break up and melt
when temptation provokes.
In the very same river
where you once swam,
I now drown
like an oil-soaked sack of sand.
preach to me once more
preach preacher
my life sure needs a swing..

AWAKENED DESIRES


So full of myself,
Crawling upon the waters
The darkness envelopes
The pressure develops
I’m born again! Thrice have I received Christ
My soul groans
My body yearns
The photo of the crucifix is on my wall
I look, but no
It’s not in pictures
The life of Christ is not in images
I’ll surely tear off that photo
If after all, I fall victim of lust
And my four-day old Christian life is lost
I grab the chaplet lain on my table
Perhaps, I’ll sin no more
My heart pounds, the rhythm is faster
The life of Christ is not in symbols
Smoking, women, alcohol
I gave up all these three months ago
I gave them all up again
Three days ago
But I still feel them, and want them
In between the darkness and the pressure
I stand, shrouded in sin
Expressing desires, I long let go