After the Bible study comes the requisite banter, fellowship after fellowship as some called it. And to spice that up, Ope, Stephen’s wife had homemade cupcakes for everyone. When I walked into the house at the beginning of the meeting, I was very self-conscious and slightly embarrassed cos I hadn’t been to the weekly Bible study meetings for well over three months and now, after my husband’s demise, I show up with my children. I felt like the perfect example of the believer who goes astray when things are smooth and rosy and turns back to the fold when life hits her over the head. But as soon as the study was over, the love and attention I got from the brethren made me feel a sense of camaraderie as though I had always been consistent. Grace was here with her son, Kunle who was playing with Yemi and Sandra in the hallway. Along with the Obis and Ope and Stephen who hosted us, we formed a small hub of friends who meet to fellowship together.
Grace asked that we come over to hers after the Bible study, to which I obliged mostly because I loved the glow I saw in Yemi and Sandra’s eyes as they played with Kunle. Mama returned to Ibadan soon after the robbery attack. She was quite traumatized by the encounter. Who could blame the poor woman? It’s not every day one sees masked gunmen.
On our way to Grace’s, the children wheedled us into making a stop at a yoghurt shop. I watched them pick what they wanted with chuckles and bickering interspersed here and there. I watched Grace and thought of how her name was a perfect fit for her person.
“Mummy what flavour do you want?” Yemi me snapped out of my reverie.
I waved him off. “I’m fine.”
“Oh, come on,” Grace nudged me. “Don’t be such a spoilsport.”
I didn’t mean to, but the tears creeped up on me. Calling me a spoilsport was the kind of thing Femi would have said. He would have asked for strawberry flavoured ice cream with chocolate toppings. I sniffled.
“Sola, now isn’t the time.” I whispered to myself. “Strawberry… strawberry with choco-” My voice broke. I excused myself and went to the toilet. I gave myself a little pep talk before the mirror. Even though all I wanted was to be left alone and be allowed to stew in self-pity, I decided to chin up for my children’s sake. They deserve this respite. I dabbed the corners of my eyes with a handkerchief and rejoined the others with a plastic smile.
Each scoop of the ice cream brought a rush of memories. Femi, I miss you.
Being in Grace’s house seemed to have awakened me to the reality that the aura at mine wasn’t normal. I unlocked the door to the main entrance and pushed it open with one hand. I stood at the threshold, confronted with the reality of the dark atmosphere of my home. It didn’t sit well with me.
I am a carrier of light. A carrier of God. Darkness should have no room anywhere around me. This has only happened because I was sleeping.
“I am God’s temple. My home belongs to Jesus! I and all that is mine is submitted to Christ, therefore, I resist you, Satan!” I drew a deep breath. The dark tension let up almost immediately. I smiled and walked into the house. I looked over my shoulders, Sandra was groggy and she shuffled along to her room. But Deyemi seemed troubled, distracted. All the excitement of being with his friend was gone, and so was the burden of sleep that weighed on his eyelids some minutes back.
“Yemi, are you fine?”
He nodded. “Good night, mummy. I need to sleep.”
I watched him go to his room. I shrugged and walked into my room. It was time to take charge in the spirit. It was time for warfare. I shut the door behind me and whipped my phone out of my bag. I plugged in my airpods and scrolled through my playlist. I enjoyed praying with music and I needed the right song for warfare. Dunsin Oyekan’s ‘Song of Angels’ came in as the perfect fit. I bobbed my head to the rhythm and prayed in tongues. Few minutes later, I sensed the need to just worship God. I paused the song and started worshipping God. Fragrance to Fire, still by Dunsin Oyekan played in the background as I worshipped the name of the Lord. The more I gave thanks, the more I came into a consciousness of God’s power, Jesus’ victory over sin and death and his triumphant defeat of principalities and powers.
The fact that Christ was seated in heavenly places, at the right hand of the father, in that position of authority, far above principalities and powers, settled afresh on my heart. And it was a liberating truth to realize that I was seated with Christ in heavenly places. I wasn’t going to fight my battles from a place of agitation, but from a place of rest. Knowing that God had overcome for me. The word ‘rest’ just kept ringing in my spirit as I prayed in tongues. Interspersed between a string of tongues, I declared words in line with scriptures.
“I rest in the finished works of Jesus.”
“I am seated with Christ in heavenly places.”
“My life, and that of my children are hid with Christ in God! We are safe and secure from all alarms.”
“I, Sola Morris, am the apple of my father’s eyes. I am treasured and cherished. My children are safe under the shadow of the almighty! No evil shall befall us, neither shall any plague come near our dwelling!”
“Because the Lord is our refuge and fortress, we are like mount Zion which cannot be shaken!”
“Oh, I am not alone! I might be a widow, but I’m not alone. Jesus is the husband to the widow, he’s my helper. I am not without help; I am not disadvantaged!”
“Thank you, Jesus, for paying the price in full for us! Thank you, father, for blessing me with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places!”
After some minutes, my throat got parched and I decided to go to the kitchen to get a glass of water. As I approached the kitchen, I saw a disturbing sight that stopped me dead in my tracks. I saw Deyemi, standing with his back to me, holding the pot of salt with one hand and scooping spoonful of salt to the ground. He’d pour salt on the ground and step on it. I watched in stunned silence as my son carried on with this bizarre procedure. He took a turn and faced me, but he was focused on the floor, the salt and his careful steps. My eyes narrowed. Was he muttering something?
I could have assumed that he was just startled, but it was obvious that Deyemi sudden stillness, his hyperventilation and the pot of salt rattling in his trembling hands wasn’t just because I had caught him in the kitchen at night. I knew that I had stepped in to disrupt something… something weirdly deep. Something way beyond my son. The only sound in the kitchen for some seconds was the rattling of the plastic pot in Yemi’s hands. His eyes were wide, then he slumped to the ground and passed out. I scuttled to his side. Fear twisted my gut. Then the utterance I had received in prayer returned.
“Deyemi’s life is hid with Christ in God! He’s inaccessible to the Devil or his machinations!”
I laid hands on Yemi’s head and prayed, as I did, the fear in my heart quietened and faith surged up.
Deyemi drew a ragged breath, retched and threw up a white, frothy liquid. Palm wine?
He sat up, eyes wide, but not with shock this time, but with fear. He held unto me and wept.
“They killed Daddy.” He kept repeating until I pulled him out of my arms and asked him to explain what just happened. He couldn’t say anything. He sobbed, his shoulders shaking vigorously. I carried him in my arms and took him to the parlour.
“It’s okay baby. It’s okay. Mummy is here. Jesus is here. You are safe, honey.”
When Deyemi finally pulled himself together, he started with the story Mama told him. The story of Samson of the skulls. How Samson, a great man, strong in battle and valiant went to war and obtained a crown from the Philistines. He lived in the glory of the spoil he acquired until he died, but for his children to continue in his wealth and glory, a son from each generation must take up the Samson seat. This chosen ‘Samson’ has to drink from the calabash of his father or whoever the ‘Samson’ of the previous generation was. This calabash was the calvaria of the previous Samson. After drinking from the skull of the previous ‘Samson’, the new Samson would have to go through some rites and then be coronated. Mama ended her story by telling Deyemi he was a Samson.
I shuddered. “Yemi, that is not a Bible story.”
“Today was my coronation… They said I had to take the seat my father refused.” There was a haunted, far-off look in Deyemi’s eyes. “They made me drink something from… From Dadd-” He broke into tears. But I needed to be sure.
He nodded. Shivering. “Uncle Dosunmu gave me the drink.”
The vision I saw during the funeral returned. I remembered also, with a jolt of nausea, Femi’s decapitated body as I had seen at the cemetery. Questions poured into my heart. Deyemi’s voice cut my thoughts.
“Mummy, I have to take the seat. If I don’t, they’d kill me… That’s why Daddy died.”
“Listen,” I held his cheeks with both of my palms. “Jesus already won for us. When we stay in Christ, no power of hell can over power us, because greater is he who is in us, than he who is in the world.”
Deyemi nodded slowly and then stopped. “Why then were they able to get Daddy?”
I sighed and reclined. “Daddy… Daddy wasn’t standing right.”
“Is Moses home?”
“No, he hasn’t returned yet.” Tola replied, bringing me a tray holding a jar of orange juice and a glass.
“I told you, you don’t have to worry.”
“I insist.” She dropped the tray on a stool and poured me a glass of juice.
I smiled. “Thank you, Tola.”
She sat on the sofa adjacent to the one I was occupying. “You’re always welcome, sis.”
I took a swig of the juice, fighting the urge to say something about what I knew… I lost that battle.
“Tola, why are you cheating?”
She laughed. “What?”
“You know what I’m talking about.”
Another cackle. “I couldn’t be more clueless.” She crossed her legs.
I nodded. “I see,” I tapped on my phone screen and brought up the picture I took of her lover the other day. I held the phone to her. “So, you don’t know this guy?”
She stared, narrowed her eyes and jerked up her chin. Defense mode. “It is none of your business, madam!”
“And I agree. But I’m concerned about you, Tola. This could destroy your home.”
“If Moses finds out?”
She sniffed a chuckled. “He already knows. We agreed to do this.” She let out a lavish smile. “He’s stepping outside too, and that’s fine by me.”
She laughed again. “Don’t look so stunned. We just wanted to bring some spice to our love, you know. To find that energy and novelty again.”
“Wow! Wow! I don’t know what to say.”
“Come on, it’s nothing new. People do things like this in our world today. Abroad, where civilization has taken stronger roots, it’s nothing.”
“Tola, when you run out of wine in your home, the person to go to is Jesus. Remember the wedding at Cana? Jesus is the one who brings newness and freshness to love… Not adultery.”
Tola laughed. I was starting to get irritated by the sound of her laugh. “Preach mama! Look, it’s no biggie, okay? So, when are you resuming work?”
“Tola, as children of God we don’t look at the culture of the world to determine what’s acceptable. Remember that the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and “let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity””
Tola uncrossed her legs and rolled her eyes. “It’s very convenient for you to sit there and judge me, but we all have our demons and we manage them differently.”
“Jesus didn’t die and conquer hell for our sakes so that we’ll keep some demons as lap pets.” I saw how her eyes flashed and realized a little too late that I was pushing too much. I sighed. Trying to pick my words cautiously. “Look, all I’m saying is-”
The door burst open and Moses walked in. Tola give a glance that said ‘enough of that’, before she went to hug her husband. Moses apologized for keeping me waiting and asked after my children. I had dropped them off at Grace’s after picking them from school.
“You sounded really bothered on the phone. What’s the matter?” He pulled out a seat for me at the dining table and plopped down on the next chair.
I took the flash drive out of my handbag and dropped it on the table.
“What is this?”
“The reason my home was burgled and probably the reason why Femi was murdered…” I thought about all Deyemi told me the previous night and added, “not very likely, though.”
“Is it virus free?” Moses lifted the flash drive before inserting it into his system.
I nodded. I watched as his eyes dilated as he studied the contents of the file.
He brought down the lid of his macbook with a bang. “I can’t take this up, Sola.”
“This was the last battle Femi was fighting,” I retorted. “Do it for your friend.”
“This battle claimed Femi’s life. Aderile is powerful, he’s not the kind of person I want to be caught in the ring with.”
“You want this corrupt man to just roam free?”
Moses scoffed. “There’s hardly anything that will stop his kind, Sola. My honest advice will be that you drop this thing. Nobody will take this from your hands and you could be endangering your life and that of your children.”
I rose up. “I’m taking it to the press.”
Moses clamped his hands over mine. “If you must, do it anonymously. And I will suggest a YouTuber, cos most TV stations are very discrete… scratch that, most of them are not honest with the news they publish.”
I nodded. “Thank you, Moses… I’ll try to be safe.”
He smiled. “You have a thick spine. I admire that.”
I smiled. My phone started ringing. Dosunmu. My heart started a wild beat. I picked my bag, said my goodbyes and left Moses’ house before I picked the call.
“Hello, Boda Dosunmu.”
“We need to talk.” He blurted. “This evening.”
The line disconnected. Talid’s Kitchen was Femi’s favorite restaurant. Dosunmu knew this. He was up to something.
I hadn’t even settled in my seat when Dosunmu launched into his talk.
“You interfered yesterday.” His face was straight, betraying no emotion.
“Interfered in what?” I leaned my chin on the back of my palm.
“Don’t play dumb, Sola. You interfered in Deyemi’s coronation rites. That could be very dangerous. When the elders offer you wine on a platter of skull, you don’t say no.”
“You speak in parables, Egbon. Why don’t you tell me everything, starting from the top?”
He reclined and studied me for seconds. I held his gaze, showing him that I was unfazed by his bravado.
“I will,” He replied belatedly. “if that’s what it takes to make you understand how important this is.”
He started with how an ancestor of theirs, Gbolahan, in his quest for money went to a deity of wealth, Oriaje. He was offered a seat at the table of the deity after undergoing all the necessary rituals and he gained access to great wealth. Having a man in every generation of the man’s lineage to take up the Ajeduro seat, was a clause of Gbolahan’s contract with Oriaje. The man to take up this seat was to be chosen according to Oriaje’s desire.
Dosunmu took a sip of red wine and ignored the plate of basmati rice that was growing cold before him. “Femi was chosen but he thought he was too civil for such practices.” Dosunmu scoffed and shook his head. “After enjoying and eating of Oriaje’s wealth, Femi thought he could turn his back on his demands. Oriaje hates being compromised. He takes it from no one!”
Looking into Dosunmu’s dark, menacing eyes, I could no longer deny the effect he had on me. My innards were literally quaking with fear. But something nagged at me.
“Surely, Oriaje or whatever he’s called didn’t hire an assassin to kill Femi. It would have sounded more in character if Femi died in accident, or if he slumped suddenly or convulsed to death. But a demon hiring an assassin sounds ridiculous to me.” The audacity in my voice shocked me.
“It’s Oriaje’s way,” Dosunmu drawled, eyes never tearing off me. “Owo t’ogede ba gbe a fi na ara e ni.” He said in Yoruba.
I sat still as the meaning of his proverb settled over my heart. I shook my head and muttered, ‘no’ as I struggled with what was becoming apparent to me. Dosunmu smiled and nodded, clearly reveling in the moment.
“I did what I had to do.”
“You ordered the death of your brother?” My hands were trembling now. I grabbed a wine glass by the stem and smashed it against the table. “You were the one responsible for my husband’s death?” I sprang up to my feet and charged at him.
He didn’t even bat a lid, he just sat there staring at me. His calmness made me feel foolish, it made me feel like a child throwing a tantrum. I looked around and saw people looking at me just like it happened at the funeral. I sat down, embarrassed.
He chortled. “Now listen very carefully, Sola,” He leaned closer. “If Deyemi doesn’t do what is required of him, there will be hell to pay!”
I leaned closer to Dosunmu too, palms flat on the veneered top of the table. “You too, listen. Go and tell your little demons that I and my children are inaccessible. Our lives are hid with Christ in God!”
He leaned back, shaking his head. “Surely, you’ve learned nothing from all that has happened.” He waved a waiter over and footed the bill. He stood up and watched the waiter leave before he turned back to me. “You could either step out of the way and let Yemi fulfil his destiny, or watch us take him.” He paused for effect. “And then again, you might not be there to watch.”
He picked his glasses from the table and walked out of the restaurant. I watched him walk out of the door, down the premise to the parking lot, I watched him enter his car and zoom off. Long after he was gone, I sat there staring, the fire of anger burning and bubbling within me.
These people killed my husband! Mama had the nerve to come to my home to continue with their evil plan under the guise of helping me through my grief! She had the guts to be priming my son for initiation right under my roof! Dosunmu is so confident to throw the fact that he killed my husband in my face! He’s coming at me nose to nose! The effrontery! And Femi! Femi! Damn you, Femi! You lied to me! You hid so much from me! How dare you! how dare you die and leave me a legacy of battles!
The more I ruminated on those thoughts, the faster my heart pounded, the wilder the conflagration in me. I screamed, grabbing the edge of the table. The table toppled over. Ceramics and glasses crashed to the ground. More eyes on me. More shame. More anger.