Saturday, 6 February 2016

This Christian Race: A Memoir (Episode Five)

Greetings again my kith and kin, friends and fans. Welcome to Episode 5 of the weekly serialised memoir, ‘This Christian Race'. For a whole quarter I will be running thirteen episodes of it. Feel free to read, share, like and comment as the interesting novella reads on. Thank you and I love you.

Episode Five – Ojere, Here I Come!
Honestly, I saw it as a suicide mission. They smiled at me and tried to explain. But that explanation never ‘entered into my head'. Considering my background, you should not expect anything different.
The white garment church I hailed from did not have much to offer me with respect to voluntary fasting. Not that I was not engaged in fasting then. In fact, I had been fasting right from my primary school days. But that would be seven days of “non-marathon” fasting. Hold that thought! Before you heroicise me I need to quickly add that it was a once-a-year annual ritual. Those seven days are the last seven days of the forty-day Lenten fasting annually observed across Christendom to “relive” Jesus’ forty-day ministerial fasting. My church believed, like the Catholics, that the concept of Lent is all about suffering with Jesus. Clearly, we have been doing that all through the year by walking bare-footed to every nook and cranny in our flowing “sutana”. So, somehow, anyhow, we arrived at this elimination by substitution method of solving the Lent equation: the quantity of our bare-foot suffering per year equals to thirty three days of Lent fasting. Invariably, our Lent is a seven-day Lent. Quite easily done, QED! My information source? Mama Sho. I never cared to verify. As far as I was concerned, Mum was an impeccable and unimpeachable source in matters relating to the church. And at that tender age I wanted to be faithful to our shortened version of Lent. Unsurprisingly, Mama Sho was always there to encourage me. She supported me in both material and non-material ways. 
Mum was teaching in School 1; I was learning in School 2. It was in a two-in-one primary school called Lisabi Primary School situated in Ijoko, Abeokuta. So, during the long break, I would come to her, get myself to a corner in her classroom, kneel down and pray for a few minutes, the farthest my attention span could carry. Ask me what were the contents of the prayer then. Honestly, a wisp of it never crossed my neurones now. You still care to know? Permit me to answer you like Ezekiel, “Only God knowest”. But one thing was sure, I prayed. After the now-lost-treasure prayer session, it was high time I dug into the table Mama Sho had prepared before me in presence of my ... I tell you, always a full (running over, I mean) course meal: from the appetiser, various fruits; through the main course, the teacher-specially-loaded food package from the school food vendor; to local dessert, complete in itself as roast groundnut and popcorn slug it out in a coned paper, garnished with balls or blocks of “tanfiri” (roast corn, ground and sweetened). I bet if the spirit would not lead you to fast, the gourmet lunch would tempt you to. That was all I knew about fasting, I mean the voluntary one. The other type of fasting I was familiar with was involuntary, the spirit-assisted one. 
When the spirit spontaneously takes possession of one of our prophets, a “mountain” experience, like that of Moses, results. (I’ve heard of one prophetess that was turning her food on fire when the spiritual arrest came; she got to church holding the ladle in her hand.) Such a one will remain in that spiritual altitude for days, usually three, seven, fourteen or twenty one days which almost always comes with the concomitant spirit-assisted fasting. When Mama Sho (remember I said she was a prophetess of repute in the church) went on such spiritual pilgrimage for twenty one long days, that became the longest marathon fasting I ever witnessed. Though she claimed some spirit beings brought her food in the spirit realm on which she was sustained, we neither saw the beings nor ever caught a glimpse of some food crumbs around her mouth throughout the period. The claim to eating the angelic manna notwithstanding, she emaciated so grossly that you would think a walking skeleton was around the corner. She should definitely be; the body needed visible food, you can feed the spirit to the full  with spiritual food for all it cares. Despite knowing she would not eat them, every now and then, church members still brought fruits, surrounding her with so many of them as she lay flat in a front corner of the church altar, that is, when she was not delivering one heavenly message or the other to some people at the seated position. 
Fruits, fruits, fruits! That was the fringe benefit for us the young ones, most especially, the reigning prophetess’s own children,  in a time like this. I would eat fruits like no man’s business. Who no like awoof! My favourite fruit was banana. Between me and the monkey, getting the greater lover of banana might prove a bit difficult.
In no time, my time in Eweje ran out. It was time I reported to Ojere for my OND in Science Laboratory Technology. But then, I had just spent few months in Disciples of Christ Bible Church, Eweje, my spiritual cocoon. Ah! It is glaring I need a complete metamorphosis, not an incomplete one, else I would leave a larva. Something must be done. Hey presto, God came to my rescue. He dropped a brilliant idea in my upstairs white-and-grey matter. And Pastor Tunji welcomed it. I would be coming to Eweje  every weekend, from Saturday to Sunday, to render my service to the church, nay, to bring myself under God's hatchery for the spiritual making process. And not only did the church buy the idea, they took a step further to encourage me: they would sponsor the “to” while I should busy myself only with funding the “fro”. It was okay by me. What they were offering was a sacrifice. The church was not that of a buoyant economy, in the first place.
So, my journey to the campus of a tertiary institution began, God having taken care to provide a strong spiritual background for me. Sometimes, I feel as if I am the one God loved most in all the world. Just a thought, no offence intended. 
Therefore, as I landed in Ojere, no one needed to catch me young, I was already in a strong fishing net of a beloved fisher of men called Adetunji Badejo.
But, honestly, I need to take a detour to hint at how I arrived at the choice of Ogun State Polytechnic out of all the institutions on “PolyJAMB” (Monotechnics, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education Matriculation Examination) brochure, and that of the course Science Laboratory Technology.
My heart was never in PolyJAMB and its outcome even as I obtained the form for the exam. We had our mind set on UniJAMB (Universities Matriculation Examination). What do you expect:
University ni mo fe (I want university)
Nibe lomo mi yoo lo (That’s where my child would go)
Nibi t'awon omowe wa (Where eggheads abound)
Ori gb'omo mi de'be o (Destiny, route my child's path through it).
What, I say, do you expect, when that was the song sung to our partially formed ears while still in the womb. Whether we have psychomotor, cognitive or affective personality is immaterial. Our educational fortune has been pre-fixed and we only come to fill the mould. So, the PolyJAMB form was nothing better than a pool coupon to me. I did a thorough “Baba Ijebu” work on it. It was a thorough gambling job. Perming number one: I simply asked myself which of the courses in the brochure will have me write maths and biology, my two favourite subjects, together with the compulsory and general Use of English paper as its JAMB subjects. My criterion defined, I set to search the brochure. Not too long I came across a course for the first time in my life: Science Laboratory Technology. And that became the course I put in for, caring less about its nature or prospect. I was brilliant, I would not need PolyJAMB anyway, I thought to myself. The institution choice was an easier permutation. I just went for the institution within the territory where I was born, bred and “buttered”. 
When the result of UniJAMB exams came out it was a mixed fortune. I passed but fell some few points below first choice, UI's medicine, cut-off mark. But surely it was good enough for my second choice OSU’s medicine and pharmacy. Alas, false assurance from a paper-weight connection source to UI's admission which made me set my eyes like a flint towards the premier university, and our stark ignorance about how to stroll into the second choice open door which merit and indigene policy abundantly qualified me for combined forces to rub me of a university admission that year.
Like the proverbial visitor that has greeted, “Good night”, I had to make a U-turn and wake up the already settled household with, “Good evening, please is anybody still awake!” It was now time to settle down for the no bread. It was originally half bread. I unwittingly gambled it down to no bread. 
Get me right here, I beseech. The course, like every other course, was good. But, I stumbled at it and picked it blindfolded. I cared nothing about its meeting point with my configuration and calling. A big mess of it I made when I came face to face with that golden opportunity of choosing a life career through the form then. That came back to haunt me. 

See you next week for episode 6 – My Condition Helped Me

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