(1). A woman called her cousin in a neighboring country. Her cousin was single and living alone. She was my friend.
“I am flying down to spend the weekend with you. Can you pick me up at the airport?”
“Of course, I can. Just send the itinerary.”
She picked up her cousin at the airport. There was a man with her. They appeared to be very friendly…joked and laughed heartily together. When they got home, the host went into the kitchen to start preparing food. On two or three occasions when she walked back into the living room, she found her cousin, who is a much older woman, and the man in somewhat compromising positions. She knew her cousin was married with children…grown children. In fact, she had visited them in their own country of residence the previous summer. She knew this was not her husband. In fact, she had spoken to the husband the day her cousin called to say she was coming. When she couldn’t stand it anymore, she called her cousin into her own bedroom.
“Auntie, what’s going on here? Who is he?”
“He’s my Pastor…er…our Pastor?”
“The Pastor of your church?”
“So, what is he to you?”
“We are dating?”
“Please be serious”
“We are dating! You asked!”
“What! What about Uncle?”
“Ah! You know, ever since your Uncle had that stroke, he had not been able to perform very well anymore. For close to two years now, I have just been managing.”
“Ehn! Auntie! So, the next best thing for you to do is to start dating your church Pastor? Isn’t he the Pastor of the same church that Uncle attends?”
“And Uncle is still paying tithes to that church?”
“Yes. But my friend has been very good to him. He comes to the house and conducts special prayer sessions for him. And his condition seems to be improving.”
“Ha! Auntie! E o lorun o! (You have no salvation) This is not fair. Why not divorce him then?”
“You are talking about salvation; don’t I first have to live and die before worrying about salvation? Who is going to marry me if I divorce him now? At my age and especially with the kids…they will be devastated. Besides, his job’s medical benefits have kicked in such that if I decide that I don’t want to work for the rest of my life, we are going to be okay.”
“Auntie! Auntie!! This is not fair! The man was good to you and the family.”
“Listen! Don’t judge me o. Pray that whenever you find a man, he does not lose the ability to please you in bed.”
“Okay Auntie. I am not going to judge you. But you have to do me a favor: he cannot spend the night here. In fact, he cannot enter the bedroom with you. I will gladly take him or both of you to any hotel you want. But he cannot stay here. I will not be able to look Uncle in the eye next time I see him. And if this so-called Pastor spends the night here, I will definitely confess to Uncle if he finds out and asks me.”
(2). My church hired a Pastor who had just arrived from Nigeria. He had overstayed his visa and had no work permit. He was in country in search of greener pastures. The church let him use the apartment right above the church on the second floor. A few weeks after he arrived, I noticed…in fact, most church members noticed a lady (non-church-member and non-Nigerian) coming and going upstairs. Soon, the lady just pretty much lived there. But she never attended service. So, I asked an elderly member of the church if he knew anything about the lady. He didn’t. That same day, after service, I pulled the Pastor aside.
“Pastor, who is the lady that is staying with you upstairs?”
“I don’t know her name.”
“She is my girlfriend.”
“Girlfriend? I thought they said you were married.”
“In Nigeria, yes. But not here.”
“…And that your wife and children live in Ibadan.”
“Yes. I have four children but only one wife in Ibadan.”
“So, what’s with the ‘Akata’ woman then?”
“Ah! Brother Ladepo, you know how it is now. I have to normalize my stay in this country. I am going to marry her, get my papers and then divorce her. Then I will bring my wife and children from Nigeria.”
That was the last day I attended that church. I had been contemplating leaving the church anyway, ever since I was invited to a money-sharing meeting by the leadership. After all church bills were settled at the end of one particular year, the leadership decided to split the “profit”. I was a newly-appointed Deacon. Of course, I was mortified! So, this was how our tithes and offerings were being used? Nobody ever invited me to “profit”-sharing meetings after that. And I reluctantly remained a member of the church. But this Pastor’s Akata matter was too much for me. I left.
(3). I had just relocated to another State and was looking for a Nigerian church to start attending. My friend, a lady who resided in another country altogether, recommended a church to me.
“The Pastor is about your age…vibrant…cosmopolitan. Try the church. You’ll like it!”
I drove 30 minutes from my new residence to the church one Sunday. I didn’t like it. It was one of those break-away variants of a popular new-era mega-church in Nigeria. I just didn’t like the mode of prayer…the “Die! Die! Die!” chants. I called my friend and told her that I didn’t think I would return to the church.
“But did you see the Pastor?”
“Of course, I did.”
“Did you actually meet him in person?”
“That’s the guy I told you about?”
“Remember about two years ago when I told you I was dating a guy in that country after my divorce?”
“Oh yes! I remember! You said he was a childhood friend of yours who became a Pastor. You said you guys fell in love over the phone after your divorce and he sent you a plane ticket to visit him in this country and this State. He picked you up at the airport and drove you to a hotel. But no sooner had you sat in the car than his wife started calling and he started lying about where he was. You guys got into the hotel and his wife’s call became even more incessant…spoiling the mood for anything meaningful. You said he barely finished one round of copulation (I have to use this word because kids might be reading this) before he had to hurriedly leave. You said he could not even come back that day and the next. Your ticket was booked to allow you to spend four days there, but he couldn’t come back and you couldn’t call him because you didn’t know who would pick the phone. On the day of your return flight, he called from a pay phone and told you he would send a taxi to take you to the airport; which he did. Are we talking about the same guy?”
“Yes, Biodun. You have an incredible memory! We are talking about the same guy! Such a wimp! When he knew he didn’t have an antidote for squeamish things, why was he eating cockroaches? When he knew he was not in control of his house, what was he doing inviting me across international border?”
“And you recommended his church for me to attend? Are you out of your mind?”
“Ehn, you were the one who said you were looking for a Nigerian church. It’s better than nothing.”
“No, it’s not. I’d rather go to the Oyinbo church near my house. There are three Oyinbo churches within walking distances of my house; why am I driving 30 minutes to attend a church where I know the Pastor is a philanderer? Is it because it is a Nigerian church? No. I won’t go there anymore.”
After hanging up the phone, I thought hard about it and decided I was going to “deal” with this Pastor. The next Sunday, I was in the pew. Near the end of the Service, an Usher handed me a note which read that the Pastor wanted to meet me after service. I asked the Usher why, thinking maybe our mutual friend had told him about our conversation. The Usher said it was the practice that if new faces came to the church more than once, the Pastor liked to meet them in person. I reasoned he wanted to make a pitch to me about joining the church as a member. So, I obliged.
“That was a great service”, I lied. We were in his office now.
“Thank You. We try to deliver the Lord’s message as passionately as Jesus loves us.”
“You wanted to see me?”
“Yes…yes. I am happy and honored to have you worship with us again. You were here last Sunday too. Are you new to the area?”
“Actually, I am not from this area at all. I am new to the State though.”
“Nice! Are you here with your family?”
I didn’t want to offer more than that. He then went into this long monologue about how great the church was, how wonderful the people were and what privilege it would be for him if I joined the church. Then finally:
“By the way, how did you find out about us if you have just arrived in the State three weeks ago?”
I smiled and trained my eyes on his eyes. I told him (by name) the person who told me about the church and watched his heart sink as he felt the knife. He became crestfallen all of a sudden. Then I twisted the knife:
“She and I are very good friends, you know. We have been friends for a very long time. We tell each other everything. She told me you and her have known each other since childhood. In fact, she told me you had invited her all the way to this city. Did she attend service here when she came?”
“Oh no! She didn’t.” He sounded like he had a frog lodged in his throat.
“It was inappropriate.”
“Really? Was it appropriate for you to have invited her in the first place?”
“No. And I am very sorry about that.”
“You don’t have to apologize to me about that. I am not the One you are worshiping. I have my own demons too that I am battling. It’s just a shame that her marriage didn’t survive and all sorts of conmen took advantage of her, including so-called men of God.” I twisted the knife harder.
“I am truly sorry about that.”
“So, do you still think I should become a member of this church?”
“No…no…I don’t think so.”
“Good! That’s what I thought too.”
We shook hands and I left…forever.
(4). A friend of mine since the mid-80s, who was a prolific bribe-taker and palm wine drinker, relocated abroad. While young, he had been raised in the church and he had the gift of hymns which, when combined with his Kegites gyration-ability, he was a delight to hear sing. But he was no churchgoer when we first became friends. Upon relocating abroad, he got into the fast lane of credit card fraud and successfully got out after making some money. Our friendship suffered due to his lifestyle and we lost touch. Years later, I learnt that the spirit of the Lord had gotten into him and he had become born again. With his oratorical gift, knowledge of bible passages and singing ability, he moved out of the State in which he was known as a man of sin and started a church in a far away State. About five years ago, we reconnected again and rekindled our friendship.
“Biodun, I am tired of this country. I want to go back home.”
“What are you going to do in Nigeria? Start a church there?”
“Yes and No”
“What do you mean?”
“I am building a hall…an event center. Well, let me rephrase: My church members here think we are building a branch in Nigeria. With their Building and Missionary funds, I am actually building a multi-purpose event center in my name and my name only. Any time a key member goes to Nigeria, I ask them to go and see the structure. It looks like a church. But it is really going to be my bread and butter. Once I complete it, I will sell this building here, take the money and go back to Nigeria?”
“You will sell your church building in this country?”
“Yes. It’s an investment in my name, but the church paid for it through the mortgage. The original mortgage was for 30 years. We accelerated the payment and it will be fully paid for in about three years. It could fetch me a cool $550,000”
“And what are you going to do with the members? Throw them out of the church?”
“No. They can buy it if they want. All I know is that I am tired of this place and I want to return to Nigeria once the youngest of my children graduates from the university.”
(5). I was visiting a relative in Lagos. He took me to a nearby joint and we both ordered Gulder. This relative was married. In fact, his wife was home with their two children, getting ready to prepare dinner. Minutes after our beers arrived, one of his girlfriends joined us. He smoked cigarettes. I didn’t. I don’t.
“Biodun, do you know that there is good money to be made in church business?”
“Business? I didn’t know that church was business.”
“Oh, it is! It’s good business and I am going to get in it.”
That same year, he converted to Christianity from Islam, bought a half-plot not too far from his rented two-bedroom apartment, set blocks around the land up to 4ft high and covered the space with some corrugated iron sheets. And his church was born! He is still a Pastor till this day. He has since sold that half-plot, moved his church to a bigger place, and started two branches. All his children (now four) have graduated from university and gotten married. He still drinks, secretly. And still womanizes, secretly, of course.
Note: All the stories you have just read are true. As you can see, I have protected the people in the stories by not naming any of them. The only name you found is my own true name – Biodun. These incidents occurred between 1979 and 2012 and cut across the many places in which I have lived. To further protect the characters in the story, I did not name cities, except Lagos and Ibadan. Other than Nigeria, I have lived in Germany (multiple cities), Ghana, the U.S. (multiple States) and South Korea. These incidents happened in places in which I once lived. All the characters are still alive, to the best of my knowledge. And for sure, some of them are reading this right now and thanking me for not naming them. Many who know me in person have heard me tell some of these stories before. Now you too have. Please understand that I tell these stories not to denigrate Christianity or lump all Pastors together as incorrigible, ungodly beings. I just have not been under the leadership of a Nigerian Pastor who, upon digging deeper, I did not find him/her to be worse than me in terms of sins…active, continuous sins even as they lead churches. So, this piece is not about me trying to be sanctimonious. I just want the reader to pay more attention to what is going on in his/her church. I have had phenomenal Oyinbo Pastors…which does not mean there are no crooked ones among them too – the gay ones raping boys and girls in the church and those stealing church money etc. But they have not been Pastors of the churches I attended.