Hol’ up… Before you read the finale, catch up on all the previous episodes.
We moved to Grace’s after the fire incident with the little we were able to recover from the ruins. One thing I was grateful for was the fireproof safe Femi purchased some years back when he travelled abroad. At the time I thought it was an unnecessary waste of money, but now I know better. It saved my certificate and all other important documents from being reduced to ashes. But I lost all my shoes to the fire, I lost everything else… Oh, I didn’t lose my jewelries. Thanks to Sylvia, my jewelry plug, for providing quality. My jewelries weathered through the fire and came out shining. When I dug them up from the smoky rubble and found them winking at me, I felt, albeit for a moment, pride slosh around my tummy. My babies made it through.
Just like you will, I could hear the Lord whisper to me. You will come out of this fire shining… Like Shedrack, Meshak and Abednego, your hair won’t be singed neither will you smell of smoke. You will look nothing like what you’ve been through. You are my bride; I will groom you into the glorious picture I have in mind. You are my vine, I am your vinedresser, I will tend you and prune you and make you.
The superfluous outpour of affirmations and precious promises from God soothed my broken heart. I dropped to my knees, not minding the dirt and cried. I let out a soft gasp as I felt the sweet twinge of pain caused by the kicking of the fetus in my uterus. I laughed, drawing the attention of those around me, neighbors and sympathizers who offered to help retrieve what was left of my house. One even came with a metal detector. They all had the same quizzical look. Was I losing my mind?
Tears stood in the path of my vision. “My baby kicked.” I announced.
I nodded. “God is good.”
The quizzical look returned to their eyes.
I chuckled. “Even in a bad situation, God is still good.”
A woman sighed. “Mummy Yemi, your faith has challenged me,” she confessed. “I’ve not been through half of what you’ve gone through, you’ve lost your husband and now, your home, yet, at every turn of the way I question God and his nature. How are you able to still hold fast unto your faith?”
The man with the metal detector let it drop as he turned his attention to me. “When I lost my job, I stopped going to church. I stopped praying. Because I felt there was no point serving God if he let bad things happen to those who were loyal to him.”
I smiled. “I must say that I understand where you are coming from. I’ve been there myself. After my husband’s death, I was filled with rage and I let anger lead me, but I came to realize that the key to victory is faith and that is what the Devil always seeks to attack. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. First John five verse four.” I paused, taking in their expressions; they were following. “Our faith in God’s nature and God’s word is what keeps us anchored in storms. We don’t derive our faith in God from our experiences, no. If we do, then, we’ll have a reason to doubt him every time things don’t go as we planned. Instead, we base our trust in God on his infallible word and the track record he has. Moreover, if only we could see what God is doing in the background for us, if only we could see his plan, we’d realize that there’s no reason to doubt.”
King, one of the youths in the area, clapped dramatically. “Preach mama! Aunty Sola just took us to church.”
I laughed, shaking my head. The joy in me was ineffable.
Deyemi, Sandra and Kunle made a nice clique, just like their mothers and Tola. Watching them play around the house was cute until it wasn’t. They could get really violet sometimes and at times Grace had to mete out punishments in order to deter bad behavior. One of the worst ways to punish them was to separate them and once we realized this, we used it often. Order Kunle to stay in the living room, ask Deyemi to stay in the boy’s room and Sandra to her room. They’ll cry and plead and make vows to not ‘do it again.’ A vow they always forgot as soon as they were released. I smiled. The day I told them that my baby will soon be arriving they started making ‘preparations’ for the baby. Each of them wrote a list of names for the baby. Only Sandra wrote twenty names… ten male names and ten female names depending on the gender of the baby. I had a good laugh. If you’re searching for names for your baby, don’t hesitate to contact me. I later found out that the names my darling daughter brought were the names of her classmates.
I knew I was having a boy, not from an ultrasound result, but by the Spirit. From scriptures, I had learned that the name given to children is important especially to God. It’s not uncommon to find God visiting parents before they conceived children of destiny in scriptures with a specific name for the child. From Samson to John to Jesus. And so, I decided to pray about what name to give my child. I wanted to name the child Itunu because the child was a comfort to me. As I sought God’s face about the child’s name, I received Acts 4:36. My baby was a boy and he was a son of encouragement. Barnabas. I smiled. Barnabas Itunu.
The day Moses came back to their home, we thought our prayers were finally answered. That day, Grace and I went to Tola’s to just hang out. We were in the kitchen whipping up something for lunch when Moses walked in.
“Hey, Moses.” I smiled.
“I wasn’t expecting to meet Tola with female company.”
Tola swallowed, absorbing the wisecrack. “Are you going to join us for lunch? It wi-”
Moses cut her off by slamming a brown envelope on the granite counter. “When I come back, I want the papers signed.”
Tola pressed her lips together. I could see tears welling up in her eyes. Moses walked away. He stopped and turned back to us.
“I’m taking Christiana for a DNA test…”
“You know she’s yours.” Tola muttered amidst tears.
“Do I? If she’s truly mine, I’m fighting for custody!”
“Moses…” Tola’s voice was a whisper. It was evident that her spirit was crushed.
“Your lover is on the run… But tell him I’ll fish him out of whichever rat hole he’s hiding and make him pay for my friend’s death.”
“You don’t have to bother…” I piped in.
“I’m not doing this for you,” Moses rounded on me, hostile. “I’m doing this for my friend.”
I bit my tongue and looked away, a failed attempt at hiding my hurt.
Tola took a step forward. “I’m going to fight for my daughter.”
Moses looked her over, making no effort to conceal his disgust. “Have some shame, whore.”
Tola clenched her jaw. She opened her mouth; I knew she was about to say something she’d regret. I held her hand. She looked at me and the angry resolve in her eyes thawed into a glass of tears. She rubbed her eyes vigorously.
“I want to take Christy for the DNA test now.”
Tola’s eyes stayed on Moses for some seconds and then she snatched the envelope from the counter. She tore it open, brought the divorce papers out and tore them over and again till it was whittled down to smithereens.
Moses laughed. “How ironic. The hope of our marriage surviving is just as great as those pieces coming back together.” He jabbed an irate finger at her. “You can’t bend my will. Not with your manipulative tears, not by refusing to sign the papers and definitely not by going through Sola. I’m coming back for my baby and the next time I come with divorce papers, you better sign them.”
“Don’t you need a DNA test any longer?” Tola remarked sarcastically.
Moses shrugged. “I know she’s mine and I’m not leaving you a chance to keep my daughter from me!”
He walked out. Tola waited to hear the sound of Moses car exit the compound before she broke down.
Grace’s face was turned to the wall. “God, there’s nothing you can’t do. Father restore this family. Don’t let my friend go through what I’ve been through.”
Tola crashed into Grace’s arms.
Jesus, what Grace said. I don’t know how you’ll do it, but I don’t even need to.
After four hours of grueling labour, my son finally made his grand appearance. He didn’t cry and in response to the nurse’s spanking he laughed.
When the baby was given to me, I howled. Femi’s aquiline nose was too striking on the baby’s face. I hugged him tight and wept. It was the closest I felt to my dead husband. So, I understood why Mama called the boy Babajide. He was born two days before Femi’s birthday; he looked like Femi and came after his death. But as a believer, I knew that the name Babajide had its root embedded in reincarnation culture and that was at loggerheads with the faith.
How do I caution Mama without creating a scene?
Dosunmu walked to my bed side. He had been taken to Offa and after weeks of undergoing rituals, his sanity was restored.
“Mama has a name for her grandchild.” His eyes still held animosity.
I grunted, thinking that Mama had some guts to think she could step up to give names to my child after all she had done.
“Babajide Owolabi Morris is what the child will be called.”
I looked up at Dosunmu. He didn’t even congratulate me on my safe delivery. Mama didn’t even give more so much as a glance and yet he was giving me orders on what to name my child. His effrontery shocked me.
Dosunmu didn’t wait for my response before he walked away. That told me he didn’t think my opinion matter on what name my child will bear. Anger was back with a force. These people! I wanted to scream, but the Holy Spirit promptly restrained me.
Grace walked in and met Dosunmu at the door. Dosunmu seized her up with shrewd eyes. Could he discern her spiritual fervor? I wondered.
“What did he have to say?” Grace asked as she settled beside me.
“He came to inform me on what names my child will bear. He and his mum might as well have done the christening ceremony for all I know.”
Grace shook her head. “Which kind of Pharaoh coconut head spirit is worrying these people?”
“I think it’s the same one controlling those wicked people in government offices.”
Grace looked at the baby and smiled. “I remember when I had Kunle. I opted for a caesarean section from the get go,” She chuckled. “I didn’t want any part in the pain of labour, moreover, my doctor told me that Kunle was in breech position.”
I chuckled. “I dread surgeries.”
“CS has become a lot safer in this day and age, also minimally invasive.”
“I need to be discharged ASAP so I can shop the fabric I’ll wear for the naming ceremony.”
“I could help with that.” Grace offered.
I waved her off. “Trust me, I’ll frustrate you with my indecision.”
“I insist. I’ll send pictures via WhatsApp and bear through your vacillation. If you wait to be discharged before getting the fabric you want, when will you give it to your tailor?”
I nodded, seeing her point. “Thank you. I’ll use your help.”
Judge me vain if you want, but I was excited about the naming ceremony not just because my baby will be named, but also because my tailor had come through with a smashing coral two-piece outfit and I couldn’t wait to rock it. I stood before the bathroom mirror and observed my body, determining right there to get rid of the baby fat as quickly as I could. The scripture I studied earlier that morning during my quiet time drifted into my mind. I frowned. When I was reading the scripture, I didn’t think much of it in relation to my current circumstances, but now, it struck me that I had read the story of deaf and dumb Zechariah, Elizabeth and the squabble at John’s naming ceremony on the day of my child’s naming. My frown deepened as I remembered the fact that my in-laws already had names picked for the child, contrary to the name I had for the boy.
As I pondered on the scripture and what happened at the hospital, I sensed that something was coming. The Holy Spirit had come to forewarn me.
“Holy Spirit, take charge of the event today.”
I shared my concerns with Grace and we said a quick word of prayer while the children rehearsed their special rendition for the baby. I almost choked on laughter the first time I heard them sing the original song. The lines of the song were crammed with too many words; its rhythm irregular. But I had to bite back my laughter and consider the thoughtfulness that spurred them to do what they were doing. I didn’t want to quench their spirits by mocking them. However, I made up my mind to make a video of the rendition and back it up on my hard drive which was dedicated to my children’s escapades and milestone achievements right from when they were born. It had been Femi’s idea. He always looked forward to the day when we will seat as a family, with the children grown enough to be embarrassed by their silly acts, to watch those clips and have a good laugh. A wistful smile danced on my lips. I blinked back tears.
Femi, my love.
I stepped out to the exterior of Grace’s compound where a tent was set up for the ceremony. Everywhere was buzzing with chit-chats. People came to greet me.
“Please don’t kiss the baby. Please don’t touch his face.” I cautioned well-wishers. Some took it well, others said with their eyes that I wasn’t the first to have a child. I didn’t care. All that mattered to me was that my baby will be kept safe. Mama approached me. I knew at once that her flamboyant smile was a cloak of evil. I involuntarily held on tightly to the child. She prised him out of my grip and went on to smother him with pecks. It was an intentional affront. I balled my hands into fists, striving to maintain calm. She passed the child to Gbemi who eyeballed me before she took the baby like he was just a burden. I swallowed. The baby started crying. I’m not sure I succeeded in hiding my smile. I took the child from Gbemi.
Gbemi hissed. “You better don’t be like your mother.” She said to the child.
“So, whose mother should he be like?” I fired back before I could think better of it. And drew closer and added in a low, firm tone, “yours?”
I saw Gbemi’s eyes widen. I wasn’t done.
“I never got to speak to you about that foolish thing you did at Jumoke’s burial. If you have no sense to respect those older than you, I’ll suggest that at least for the sake of your deceased elder brother, you show me some amount of respect. You are a married woman now, whatever seed you sow here, you’ll reap from your in-laws.” I turned away from her, satisfied. I was expecting the Holy Spirit to chide me for speaking to Gbemi like I did. He didn’t.
I ended the video recording on my phone and clapped my hands as Deyemi, Kunle and Sandra ended their rendition. Laughter poured out from the depth of my heart. The MC called me up to speak before the pastor will be called up for the declaration of the child’s names and blessings. The names of the child had already been printed and shared to all the guests.
When I took the microphone from the MC, a song of worship came spontaneously. I know people usually don’t like testifiers who sing instead of go right on to testify, but they’ll have to pardon me. I got a little teary too, but for the sake of my make up, I quickly dabbed the tears off. I shared my testimony in few words and encouraged those in the audience. As I was about handing over the microphone back to the MC, I received a word of knowledge for someone in the congregation.
“Sorry, this is for someone,” I quickly said. “The Lord said he knows your fears, he says you should trust him. He said you too will carry your own babies.” I was about to hand the microphone over when I received another instruction from the Holy Spirit. This time it was a little odd but I heard learned to obey the Lord promptly.
“Very quickly, I want to just say the names of the child.” I could see the MC narrow his eyes. The pastor waved him over. I could see them conferring, with heads leaned close to each other. “As you can see in the pamphlet in your hand, the baby’s name is Barnabas Itunu.” There was a murmur from the crowd. I was nervous. The MC came back to me. He leaned close.
“The pastor is the one meant to do the declaration of names. And those are not the names of the child!”
I drew back, confused. He handed over the pamphlet of the child’s names to me.
‘Babajide Owolabi child of the Morris family’ stared at me. It didn’t take long for my eyes to meet Mama’s. She had fire in those eyes.
“Call me the usher.” I said to the MC. “Now!”
While he went to get the usher, I harrumphed into the mic to get everyone’s attention.
“There has been a little mix up. The wrong set of names have been shared.” People were even more confused. But I had to stand my ground. “Like I said before, my son’s name is Barnabas Itunu not Babajide Owolabi!”
The MC returned with the chief usher. She explained that Mr. Dosunmu gave her the pamphlets to distribute to the guests as the updated version of the child’s names. This she whispered in a shaky voice, knowing that the event planner would surely take this up with her.
I smiled, maintaining my calm. “It was all just a mistake. The ushers will immediately share the right pamphlet of Barnabas’ names. Pardon this little hitch.”
Mama sprang to her feet. “You either give him the names we have chosen for him or drop our surname!”
This was quite a show now. What was I meant to do?
Holy Spirit! Help! I cried out in my heart while I dabbed beads of sweat off my forehead.
I drew a deep breath. “Alright then. Ushers, keep sharing the pamphlets. My child’s name shall be Barnanbas Itunu Oluwafemi.”
I made up my mind to legally change my surname and the surnames of all my children to Oluwafemi.
Femi, you will never be forgotten.
Mama looked like she had been slapped across the face. She walked out of the compound with Dosunmu. Gbemi did not follow her. I returned to my seat. Peace soughed over my heart.
It feels great to be out of the Morris’ quagmire.
The Holy Spirit halted that thought by reminding me of my assignment to the family.
After the ceremony, Gbemi walked up to me. She was sober and tearful, that surprised me. She apologized and told me the word of knowledge I had delivered was just for her. Even though she had only been married for a little over two years, she had been living under the burden of fear. She feared that she might never conceive. I smiled, as a rush of love coursed through my heart for this soul. I ministered the gospel to her and got her saved. The joy I felt as I welcomed her into the family of God was refreshing.
A week after the naming ceremony, I heard a knock on the door of Grace’s apartment by 10pm. I asked Grace if she was expecting a guest and she shook her head. Fear gripped me. Grace went to get the door, I followed her, my steps guarded.
I saw Frances and her sisters at the door, face awash in tears. I gasped.
“What are you doing out here this late?”
“Dad has taken to the streets.” Was all Frances could manage.
Much later, she explained that Dosunmu had relapsed terribly and he was out now on the streets, butt naked. The charm of the herbalist in Offa only served for a while, I thought. Frances went on to tell me that she witnessed what actually happened the night her mother died.
“Dad’s madness started since…” Her eyes were fixed absently on the wall, free of any emotion. “it came upon him like spells. He’ll break things, cut himself and chant ‘Aje l’ola ori’ whatever that means…”
Aje l’ola ori?… Ori Aje?
“Mummy will quickly get a bowl of palm oil and force him to gobble it down. And then, he’ll become normal again.”
My jaw fell.
“Whenever he’s about to have those spells I usually know. I would sense a presence. A dark, horrible presence… I don’t even know how to explain it.”
“You don’t need to, I felt it in my house after my husband’s death.”
“That night I woke up at midnight to perceive the presence of the… the thing. I wanted to rush to tell Mummy to get palm oil ready as I usually did. But when I got to the entrance of their room, I could hear Mummy calling Daddy’s name, she sounded strained and distant. I opened their door a little and I could see Daddy straddling Mummy and strangling her. He twisted her neck brutally…” She squeezed her eyes shut. “I heard the snap.”
Just like I did in my dream.
I hugged Frances knowing that this was yet another soul to be liberated from the shackles of the Devil.
Tola sighed. “I’m giving Moses the divorce he wants.”
“You’re giving up on your home?” Grace chimed in.
Tola shook her head. “Holding back the divorce won’t save our marriage. God has been speaking to me especially from 1 Corinthians 7:15. I’ll give him the divorce he wants for the sake of peace. But I won’t stop hoping that someday God will restore us.”
I sighed. We had been praying for Moses without ceasing, yet things hadn’t fallen in line like we expected. It had been almost a year since Moses left Tola and true to his words, he hadn’t looked back.
“I’m sorry, Tola.”
Tola nodded. “I miss Moses. I wish things hadn’t gone sour but then again, I don’t want him back for all the wrong reasons like before…”
Grace nodded, smiling. “Not because of what people will say… Not because of society… Not because you think your completeness is in him.”
“You’ll be fine.” Grace said. “I’m one to tell.”
We laughed and then we went ahead to pray for Moses and Tola, joining hands.
“I sense Moses is in danger.” Tola said.
We continued praying for him until Tola said the burden had let up. We had dinner while seeing a movie that Tuesday evening.
The day Moses returned to their home, all three of us were there. Tola brought the envelope containing the divorce papers.
“I’ve signed it. I’m willing to let go even though I wish with everything in me that I don’t have to.”
Moses stared at her for what seemed like minutes, unblinking.
“You don’t have to.” He said finally.
Silence stretched in the room as each of us tried to come to terms with what that statement meant. Tola’s smile grew across her face slowly and climaxed with spurts of laughter and tears.
Moses sighed and looked at me. “I don’t know what Sola did to you, but I know you’re not the same woman who broke me.”
“How do you mean?” Grace uttered, shifting her weight on her seat.
“I’ve had Tola followed the whole time, her movements have been between her office, church and Christy’s daycare and then last week Tuesday on my way back from work, I got pulled over by the infamous SARS officers. They held me at gun point and drove me to the ATM. The ATM swallowed all three of my cards at different machines. I could hear Tola’s voice clearly praying for me. I thought I was the only one who could hear it until one of the officers said he could hear something… but they were hearing something different. They were hearing the sound of machine guns releasing bullets at high speed and approaching them. They fled.” He didn’t wipe his tears. “I’ve never seen anything like that in my life. I’ve never witnessed the power of God in such a dimension before. And my wife was praying for me…” He shook his head.
I had tears in my eyes too. “Moses, I did nothing to Tola. It was Jesus. It was all Jesus.”
“Then I owe Jesus big thanks for gifting me such an asset as my dear wife.”
Tola was shaking with sobs.
“You owe him more than thanks, Moses, you owe him your life. He died for you. He loves you. He loves us. He saved me; he wants to save you too.” Tola said as she walked across the room to Moses.
Moses ran to her and picked her from the ground like she weighed no more than an empty sac. The way he held her close was so affectionate that I had to look away. Staring felt akin to voyeurism. I could hear the both of them release an effusive gush of sobs, affirmations and apologies. Goosebumps raised my hackles. Barnabas started crying in the bassinet Christy had outgrown.
“Barnabas, don’t be such a spoil sport.” I muttered and everyone laughed.
Moses took the file from Tola. He brought out the divorce papers and tore them up, methodically. His eyes never left Tola. The tenderness in his eyes made Tola shy, it was apparent.
God, is there anything beyond your power? Nothing. Nothing at all. Even so I am assured that the state of Nigeria is not beyond your power. Nigeria will rise again.
To women out there who have had to raise families alone for one reason or the other, you are strong beyond measure. God loves you and he’s your aid.
For Nigeria, God has a plan for you. We won’t stop believing. We won’t stop praying. We won’t stop crying. We won’t stop until we see your righteousness goes forth as brightness, and your salvation as a lamp that burns.
For Zion’s sake I will not hold my peace,
And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness,
And her salvation as a lamp that burns.