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Tired of the noise blaring from the TV, I jumped off the sofa, marched to the round center table, and picked up the remote control. Two quick slaps to its heavily taped back panel brought on the red indicator light that showed it was ready for errands, and I pressed the button for Supersport 10. An old FA Cup match between Chelsea and Crystal Palace was on, a better option than the ‘Miracle Half Hour’, which had been threatening my sanity since it started some fourteen minutes ago. I was about to resume my seat when Mum’s voice came for me.

‘Ogbeni, tune that thing back to where you met it, now!’


‘I thought you were busy,’ I grumbled as I reluctantly obeyed, and then reduced the TV’s volume. ‘It was making too much noise.’

‘Let it make noise, my dear,’ she fired back. She was outside in the compound breaking Egusi, but I could hear her clearly through the window. The rest of the compound could probably hear her too.

‘It is not noisy when you watch football, is it? It is not noisy when you shout, ‘Mercy!’ ‘Konado!’ up and down. I don’t know what kind of devil now lives inside you that won’t allow you to hear the word of God. That Satan will die soon l’agbara Jesu.’

It was a struggle to keep my laughter quiet.

My family have always been staunch members of The Apostolic Church. Two years before, Mum was ordained as a deaconess, and if you know the church very well, you will know how spirit-filled and sanctified you must be before you can be ordained as a deaconess. My Mum could out-pray the most dedicated prayer warrior in our parish, and she expected that her children should follow in her steps.

Sunkanmi, my younger brother, always made her proud. A popular member of the choir, he also assisted the janitor in cleaning the church every Saturday and was a prominent member of the Evangelical team. I, on the other hand, had never really been interested in religion even though I had no choice in the matter.

When I gained admission into the University of Abuja, I stopped attending church with the rest of the family. First, I complained that the Apostolic church service bored me to death after all the glamour of campus fellowships. Mum would admonish that church was not meant to be for entertainment, then she would complain bitterly to Dad anytime he was home. My father worked with a tractor manufacturing company in Funtua and only visited us for short periods every other month. Tired of being asked to make me see reason time and time again, he finally brokered a compromise to which Mum reluctantly agreed. I could worship at the Loveworld Fellowship a couple of streets away from the house any time I was home, but I still had to attend conventions and other special programs. I’m sure the man just wanted to spend his time off work in peace, especially as the many ASUU strikes kept me at home a lot. That uneasy compromise between his wife and first son, however, fell apart in my second year.

The year I stopped attending church altogether, it led to a full-blown war. Mum could simply not understand that I wasn’t interested in worshipping God. Not hers, not any other one. Whenever I was home on holiday, she would give me hell throughout my stay. Unfortunately, I had no other place to go and had to bear the endless stream of religious literature about ‘finding God’, which she dumped on me. She even brought her Area and District pastors to help me realign my path, but nothing changed. All her fasts and prayers did not move my faith needle one inch.



What again?

‘You didn’t hear me?’

‘No ma, I didn’t. What did you say?’ Of course, I did.

‘Adeolu,’ she called again. ‘Adeolu! Adeolu, how many times did I call you? Do not try me this afternoon. I want to hear you say amen.’

See me see trouble.

‘Amen? To what ma?’

There is a way my Mum’s voice vibrates when she is praying in high gear, or when someone is working her last nerve.

‘I said God’s wrath will drive out the demons in your chest very soon and I didn’t hear you say amen. The God of Apostle Babalola will bring you back into the fold in Jesus’ name.’

I need to de-escalate this matter soon before it becomes full-blown.

‘Amen,’ I responded tamely.

‘Speak up…’

‘AMEN! AMIN,’ I shouted, properly pissed.

I will soon leave this house for good!

‘Yes. Good. That’s how a good Christian child responds to prayer.’

I was tired of the drama and needed to cool off, so I went to my room, changed my shirt, and headed to Chuka’s place.


After youth service, I got a place of my own and left the trouble at home behind. All I could manage from my meager salary as a supervisor in a soap-making company was a small room and parlour in Somolu, but at least the place was free of nagging. I hadn’t been to church in years, in fact, I could comfortably pass for an atheist with the way my heart was at the time. However, any time I heard a word of prayer, I would remember Mum’s haranguing and say ‘amen’ with a chuckle.

God will not begrudge this prodigal son an occasional joke, would He?

Fashoro Street, where I lived, was certifiably bipolar. During the dry season, the unpaved street was a dust bowl. Meanwhile, a battered signpost beside the entry gate announced the award of a contract by the State Government to pave the road and install proper drainage, with a project duration of 16 weeks. Nobody knew exactly how long that sign had been there, probably more than 16 years, judging by the state of the road’s disrepair. We, the residents, regularly had to sweep out copious amounts of dust from our homes. Luckily for us, the street had many gullies, which severely limited motorized traffic, else we would have choked to death.

With the coming of the rains, Fashoro street would transform. The makeshift drainage channel was very shallow, and the lightest showers would cause an overflow of muddy water into the million-and-one craters lining the road. Many of them formed pools of brown, which eventually turned green after a few days, creating free housing for noisy frogs and colonies of mosquitoes for months until the rains receded. The pools overflowed when an occasional motorist, usually a visitor, decided to brave the odds and drive through them. The smell was usually terrible. Except for some abandoned carcasses, none of the residents of Fashoro Street owned a working vehicle, although a few had motorcycles.

Number 23, my building, sat a few houses to the end of the L-shaped street. Decades of exposure to harsh weather had sandpapered the building so much it was difficult to tell what colour it had originally been painted. The house was a 16-room bungalow, eight rooms on both sides, with a central passage running straight down the middle from front to back door. Its rooms were small and dark, with terrible ventilation, and the walls were paper-thin. Two communal bathrooms and toilets stood alone on the left side of the backyard, while the kitchen occupied prime position on the right. Despite repeated warnings by Daddy Peter, the caretaker, a few tenants sometimes used the central passage as a makeshift kitchen.

Despite its infirmities, house number 23 was home.

Unable to sleep, I turned on my back in bed. PHCN was out and the heat was bad, but more annoying than that, my neighbors were fighting again. When my middle-aged co-tenants, Papa and Mama John, did battle as was their regular pastime, I had a ringside seat whether I liked it or not, because we shared a wall. I would have moved my bed to my other room to avoid their constant bickering, but that one opened to the veranda outside, where tenants trying to escape their stuffy rooms gathered to catch some air until much later in the night. On their part, Papa and Mama John had only one room. Nobody on the street had ever asked about John.

‘Na this small money your mates dey drop for soup, ba?’ Mama John asked her husband.

Ah ha! Today’s brouhaha is about money.

‘Na wetin I get be that,’ Papa John replied. ‘If e nor reach to manage, make you return am.’

‘Useless man. Only useless man na im go drop one tausan for soup, come dey expect plenty obstacle inside.’

‘Long throat woman,’ he countered. ‘Na woman wey nor dey satisfy na im no fit manage one tausan for dis Buhari economy.’

‘Gerraway,’ she hissed.

‘You sef, gerraway.’

‘Go and die, yeye man.’

‘Winch. So that you go fit inherit my property, abi? Odeshi, you don fail.’

‘Which property? Tear tear jeans? Akube slippers? Radio wey no fit comot for one station? Abeegi. Go and die biko, make space dey for better people.’

Silence fell after that. I imagined Papa John had decided to cease fire. Some minutes later, their door opened and closed, and I heard footsteps going down the corridor.

Smart guy. Give her some space. There’s work in the morning, I need to sleep.

‘Mscheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew. Stupid and stingy man,’ Mama John fired her last shot at the closed door. ‘God go punish you. Just go and die!’


At least I could try to sleep.


The next day, I went to lunch with a colleague, Oyinda. We arrived at our usual joint to a shouting match between the service girl and a customer, one of the many okada riders who frequented the place in search of cheap food just like us. The man claimed he had already paid for his food and was due some change, while Risi claimed his bill, which he was yet to pay came to a thousand and two hundred naira. Risi was a favorite of mine, and when the situation looked like it was not going to get resolved any time soon, I stepped in and offered to pay the amount in contention. The owner, Madam Chop One Chop Two, didn’t play with her money and the poor girl would have had to cough the sum from her earnings at the end of the day.

‘Thank you, Oga Ade,’ Risi curtseyed as she brought our order after the guy had gone. ‘That guy na thief. E no pay me that money, he just dey use bold face.’

‘That’s okay, Risi,’ I responded, adjusting the table to receive the plate of steaming Amala, which she placed in front of me.

‘E pain me sha, but I pray say my God go catch am. Soon sef.’

‘Amen’ slipped out before I could help myself.

Oyinda’s cocked eyebrow said everything. Everybody in my office was aware of my stand on God and religion.

‘Calm down,’ I laughed. ‘It’s a joke, a personal one. I’m not about to become one of you gullible guys who believe in one Almighty deity that lives in the sky.’

‘Is that so?’


‘Personally, I think you’re just dodging the inevitable. Your heart is searching for answers. You need to give God…’

‘Please, don’t start. The only thing I need right now is to dig into this plate of premium Amala.’

I knew Oyinda worshipped at Winners Chapel because she had tried to invite me to her church several times in the past. If not for the fact that I was sweet on her, I would have cut her off for her Christian leanings. To prevent her from pursuing the topic, I washed my hands and started to eat.

We were rounding up almost thirty minutes later when another motorcyclist parked opposite the joint, walked in and called on Risi. After asking for a chilled bottle of Star, he started to regale her with some gist about a Task Force raid he just escaped from.

Risi skipped over to our table with a wide grin on her face.

‘Oga Ade, I no talk am?’

‘What?’ I asked, before I mopped up some ewedu with my last ball of Amala.

‘Task force don carry dat okada man wey no gree pay my money. My God, no dey sleep.’

Back in the office, Oyinda tried to resuscitate the conversation about my spirituality.

‘You know, Ade, God loves you. Give him a chance in your life…’

‘Oyinda, drop this matter. See, my mother has done everything you can think of and more to sway me. Guess what? I’m still here, heart harder than Pharaoh’s. There’s nothing you can say that will change my mind.’


‘Yes, really. Now, can we move on?’

Olu, the third occupant of the office who had been quiet during our exchange, noticed the change in my mood and signaled for her to stop. I nodded my appreciation and for a while, we continued working in silence.

‘What if He shows you a sign? Would you give Him a chance?’

I pretended not to hear.

‘Oyinda! What’s with you? The guy said to leave him alone…’ Olu snapped.

‘Hang on, Olu.’ I interjected, suddenly interested in the chance to prove to her once and for all that such things as miracles were just mere gimmicks by unscrupulous men that made for great television but did not apply in reality.

‘What do you mean by a sign?’

She almost jumped down my throat in her eagerness.

‘Well, what if something miraculous happened to you? Something totally unbelievable. Would you reconsider your stand?’

I pushed my seat back and grinned.

‘Something like what? Like my gas cylinder remaining perpetually full because of a holy sticker on it, or like driving my car from Lagos to Ibadan on an empty tank?’

Olu caught the joke and started laughing.

‘Yes, now. She said sign. Right?’ I continued, ‘Or, maybe I mistakenly heal somebody who has been blind from birth, or…’

‘Or you pray that God will help my Liverpool beat Barcelona tonight,’ Olu finished.

‘Amen to that, brother!’ I hooted, imitating a popular television evangelist.

We both burst into another round of laughter. Liverpool had lost the first leg of their Champions League clash with Barcelona by four goals to one a fortnight before, and their elimination from the competition was as assured as death and taxes.

An embarrassed Oyinda left us and returned to her computer.


After work, we watched the game in the office waiting room with some other members of staff. Liverpool won by four goals to nil, and a deliriously happy Olu would have kissed me if not for my preemptively balled fist.

Later that night, I got back home to meet a crowd gathered in front of House Number 23.

‘What happened,’ I asked no one in particular. Somebody I could not see was wailing.

‘Uncle Adeolu, welcome.’ Aunty Alice, the fat middle-aged madam who ran a beer parlor opposite my place was the one that stepped away from the throng and answered. Her badly bleached skin always reminded me of faded kampala, which was why I usually avoided her, that, and the whispers I’d heard that she liked boy toys. The only reason I knew her name was because it was boldly written on the front of her shop, and it was a surprise she knew mine.

‘Na Papa John.’

Doesn’t this man get tired of fighting with his wife?

‘Papa John, e don beat im wife again? She get injury?’

I remembered seeing him heading toward the bathroom as I locked my door on my way out earlier in the day.

‘Papa John don die,’ she said, shaking her head.

Abiodun Awodele

Abiodun Awodele

Abiodun Awodele likes to think of himself as a mix of many unlikely parts which somehow fit together into one body. The Maskuraid, as he is known, writes both prose and poetry and currently calls Sheffield, UK, home.