The arrival of the Juju man brought pandemonium. He seemed to materialise out of thin air. Women grabbed their children and ran behind closed doors. The men took slow backward steps. The juju man reached into the front of his trousers and pulled out a live rat. In one deft movement he bit off the head of the rat and threw the rest of the body in the air.
He chewed on the head as he spoke. ‘So will the thief die! The thief must die!’. Shame and pride was forgotten as men moved hastily into their rooms.
Ben Benito Junior walked over to the Juju man and thrust the K-TV microphone in his face. The lighting engineer moved into position, extracting a squint from the Juju man. Without prompting the Juju man performed for the camera. He told of his family’s illustrious history in the field of crime fighting. The police officers guarding Exhibit One gave each other knowing looks. ‘Crime fighting my smelly armpits’ they seemed to say with their eyes. The Juju man looked impressive. He wore a bright red cap studded with cowries and a tight black sleeveless shirtwhich gave the impression that he was showing off his figure. He definitely had breasts and a pot belly to match. Both quivered as he moved uncontrollably like one who had a Viper and its off springs spending Christmas in their underpants. His baggy red trousers had not been washed for years. It looked and smelt like it.
Extracting what looked like bones of a medium sized primate from his black bag which he held under his left shoulder he began to sing off key. ‘I smell the thief is near and he is about to meet his ancestors. I will shout fire four times. He will die on the third fire! I do not waste time. Fire!’
From the safety of his window Tunde offered words of advise ‘If na you, better confess o! My motor no go carry dead body go mortuary lai lai!’ Tunde was the only car owner in the compound.
‘Fire!’ the Juju man screamed. ‘I say Holy Ghost fire burn you!’ It was Pastor Jimoh returning from his prayer meeting. The Juju man ran to Pastor Jimoh and they almost clashed heads. K-TV cameras moved over to where the action was unfolding.
Bassey, a college of education lecturer came out of his room with a chewing stick in his mouth. ‘Pastor Jimoh, you wan die? You and your White man’s religion. Was it not the Portuguese that brought Christianity to us in the 15 th century, meanwhile na cover up for trading. Go Portugal today go see weda dem carry Bible for head like you. You go die o’. Bassey was cheered for his wisdom
People began to come out of their rooms. This was the only kind of entertainment available in this part of Lagos; quarrelling and fighting. The action was too good to be missed. The initial fear the Juju man evoked was waning. Standing eye ball to eye ball Pastor Jimoh and the Juju man looked deep into each other’s eyes. The tension was building. Both men were breathing heavily and the crowd expected a fight.
‘If I shout fire now, how I sure say no be you go fall and die?’ asked the Juju man. Jimoh backed off, picked his Bible which he had dropped to the floor and started off on his Christmas preaching.
SERMON IN THE COMPOUND
‘Not again Jimoh, you wan kill us with your Bible?’ said Tunde. ‘If your Bible waters down this medicine and the thief is not caught, Jimoh you will pay me compensation’ said Skido speaking for the first time. ‘Tuffia! Nothing can water down my Juju. Preach and pray well well. When you finish, I will shout the third fire and we shall have a corpse!’
‘Good will to all men and Glory to God in the highest is the message of Christmas. If Christ died for us while we were yet sinners what gives us the right to kill a sinner for stealing a Ram. Forgiveness and love is my message. Skido forgive’ said Pastor Jimoh who had now walked over to where Skido sat. ‘You pray- forgive me my trespasses as I forgive those who sin against me- and yetattempt to take a life just one week to Christmas. I rest my case’. Everyone went silent as Pastor Jimoh walked off to his room. Everyone except Bassey. ‘All the picture of Jesus na Oyinbo. Pope sef Oyinbo’. ‘Shut your mouth, you- on- leave historian’ replied Pastor Jimoh. Everyone knew that the college of Education where Basseytaught had been closed down for five months following student riots. During this time Basseyhad not received a salary.
‘Oh, so the holy Pastor get yabis for mouth eh? If you yab me, you dey yab my God. Na so Bible talk’ was Bassey’s weak reply. ‘On leave Historian!’ cajoled Tunde. ‘No mind dem Ojare. Even the Bishop title wey dem give Ajayi Crowtherna sake of say Malaria don kill Oyinbo missionaries finish and dem want Dudu man jaki to go dey work for dem. Jimoh, abi I lie. At least you go CMS grammar school. You suppose know that one’ said Bassey.
‘So long as the gospel is preached, I no care’ replied Pastor Jimoh as he vanished into his room.
While all this was going on, Junior, Sir Skido’s sixteen year old son had convinced his mother on the merits of Christmas forgiveness as propounded byJImoh. The wife whispered in his ear and the case was closed.
As Sir Skido saw the Juju man off the members of the compound discussed the unsatisfactory end to the evenings happenings. In these parts, forgiveness was low on the agenda. It was more like- an eye for an eye and a life for a life.
The Skido household soon came to terms with their loss. A chicken was bought by Pastor Jimoh’s congregation as they felt immensely proud of Sir Skido’s Christmas spirit.
Skido himself had lost his shame of slaughtering a mere chicken. He killed his chicken happily two days to the great day. ‘At least everybody here knows I can afford a Ram’ he said to himself in consolation.
The Christmas play at church filled Skido with great pride as his daughter was selected to read out a poem she had written especially for the occasion entitled –The Ram.
The Ram sings a carol
For it’s that time of year
The butcher sharpens his knife
A happy Christmas is near
The ram was bought by Daddy
Has been fed well each day
Now feels part of the family
Will be eaten on Christmas day
The ram will give it’s life
For us to enjoy our Jollof rice
With delicious moin moinand Dodo
Coca Cola and crushed ice
Pastor Jimoh made reference to the poem during his sermon. Christ was the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world, giving away his life for others. In passing he also warned against using Juju to solve problems that should be prayed about. Sir Skido shifted nervously in his seat at that point.
Christmas day came quickly. Skido was the happiest he had been in years. Just before lunch however he had visitors. Pastor Jimoh and some elderly neighbours. He silently prayed none of his relatives had died.
‘What is it’ he asked. No one repl
ied. Lady Skido served the drinks and from the conspiratorial looks she gave Pastor Jimoh, Skido knew she was in on the secret. Thirty minutes later in came Junior looking solemn. ‘Go on, tell him what you told me. He is your father. Tell him’ said Pastor Jimoh.
Junior knelt before his father. ‘Papa please forgive me. I sold the Ram to buy a pair of new trainers for Christmas’.
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