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Chairman was so sure of victory that he declared a feast for all comers after the committee departed. He phoned some of his Ogboni friends and together they celebrated his victory over the forces of evil. He thanked his stars for making him executive chairman of the richest local government in the country, a post which had given him access to unlimited government funds. He was certain that money had contributed immensely to the perceptible non-hostile attitude of the committee to him. Said he to Judge Murphy:

"The words of our fathers are words of wisdom. Verily, verily I say unto you, Judge, a man who throws water before him will always step on cool ground!"

Judge Murphy smiled thoughtfully into his glass of Champagne. Throughout the night and into the dawn of the following day, Chairman was in a bubbling, vibrant mood. He was so happy he over-paid his laundryman by two thousand naira and did not notice it.

But later that night, Pastor Ojoge's report deflated his ego. As soon as he saw the pastor's wooden face. Chairman knew that his enemies had sown tares among his wheat.

"What's wrong, pastor?"

Pastor Ojoge sighed heavily as he dropped into a sofa. He did not respond, increasing Chairman's anxiety,

"Pastor! Your face is a wet blanket! What's the verdict?"

Pastor Ojoge sought ways of softening the blow.

"It's not as we expected," he began gently.

"Your countenance already told me that. How bad is the verdict? Tell me the verdict before I lose my mind!"

"Your title is to be revoked!"

"What!"

"The revocation is to be given wide publicity in the church, in newspapers and on the radio and television."

"Impossible!"

"Finally, you're to be interdicted and expelled from the church for un-Christianly conducts and cult membership."

"I don't believe you!"

"You better believe me, Chairman. It's the truth!" Chairman leapt to his feet, speaking furiously.

"So...so... all my efforts and money went down the drain. I should have suspected it when Quadri's daughters did not report for work at the council and Nduku did not show up to collect the cheque. And that good-for-nothing sinner, Baba Ijesa, now has the last laugh, eh. I personally delivered the three million naira owed him by the council to him in cash. I even prostrated to the idiot. He collected the money; he collected my prostration, too. All the while, he was laughing at me in his mind. He collected my money; he collected mv prostration; and now, he will collect my Seriki title without spending a kobo. I gave it all to him on a platter of gold the way Herod gave the head of John the Baptist to Herodias. Ha! It will never be cool for Baba Ijesa! He will die like a dog before his time! If he walks in the street a trailer will knock him down! If he boards a train, his train will derail! If he boards a ship, it will sink! If he boards a plane, it will crash land! By the special grace of God, Baba Ijesa will not live through to December. And even in death, the ground will not be soft for him!"

"Take it easy, Chairman!"

"Shut up! Useless pastor! Did I pay you so much money only to bring me bad news? What were you doing in that committee while the likes of Baba Ijesa were shattering my life ambition?"

"Take it easy, Chairman. All is not lost yet.” Chairman strode to the bar, opened a bottle of cold beer and downed it straight from the bottle. Pastor Ojoge allowed him to cool down a little before outlining his plan.

"The committee's report is not final."

"Meaning what?"

"Pastor Job has the final say on the verdicts."

"You mean he can overturn the verdicts?" asked Chairman, eagerly clutching at straws,

"Exactly, Chairman. The final verdict is that of Pastor Job. He takes the final decision. He can uphold or annul or amend the verdicts. I suggest you see him personally."

"You mean I should try and...and... offer him something? He's a committed born again Christian now, you know?”

“And who told you born again Christians don't like the good things of life, too? Why did he bring a Mercedes instead of a Volkswagen Beetle? Don't be fooled by his new born again talk! We pastors know ourselves. Even born again pastors pay rent, pay for electricity, pay school lees for their children and also pay bank charges! What's more, bush meat is also sweet in the mouth of born again pastors!"

Chairman laughed and laughed.

"I never knew that born again pastors also cherish egunje!" he said in between guffaws.

Both conspirators laughed again at his last remark. Afterwards, Pastor Ojoge advised Chairman not to waste time but to proceed that very night to see Pastor Job in his official residence. He also hit on a blackmail plot to ensure that Pastor Job did not renege on his promise later. He advised Chairman to hide a micro-tape recorder in his clothes and record all that transpired between them.

* * *

A civil war had been going on in Pastor Job's house since he inaugurated the committee. Sister Shade had never supported her husband's strong medicine and did not hide her feelings. She had told him that the committee was going to dig his grave, and mounted pressure on him daily until life became unbearable for Pastor Job. He consequently sought an escape in his office, where he hid himself and meditated on God's words.

When Sister Shade learnt of the committee's recommendation, she fought tooth and nail to get it incinerated. Pastor Job, however, resisted her. Next, she mounted pressure on him through his ageing parents. Alaba the Carpenter, Pastor Job's father, was a disciplinarian who suffered no fool gladly, if at all. Pastor Job no doubt inherited his no-nonsense, straight-laced toughness from him. All along, Alaba had expressed full support for his son's campaign against corruption in his church. But when his daughter-in-law ran to tell him that Pastor Job's tough stance might endanger the life of his grandchild, Alaba the Carpenter was greatly alarmed. For the first time in his life, he followed the women to appeal to his son to soft-pedal on the issue. Anything he could accept, but not a threat to his son's or grandchild's life. Pastor Job was an only child.

Pastor Job knew that the storm that had brewing was about to make a landfall on his head when his father entered with his mother and his wife. In his characteristic bluntness the old man launched into the attack immediately.

"We see through tears o. Even madness has its melody, you hear. Corruption is ugly and must be stamped out. But what sense is in a man who loses his head to save his finger nail?"

"Papa, I'm only doing what Jesus has called me to do."

"Did he ask you to commit suicide, too? Look, if you commit suicide, you will go to hell with your cassock and your collar!"

“But I'm not trying to commit suicide, Papa. I'm only trying to clean up the body of Christ."

"And who made you the washer man of the body of Christ? Don't you have any pity for us your ageing parents? Don't you know that death will be the end-result of this campaign?"

"Papa! You're exaggerating!"

"Exaggeration, you say! I think you're the one over-reacting to this issue, my son. If a man scratches himself according to the sharpness of a mosquito bite, he will scratch himself to the bones o!"

"Papa! I'm shocked. You brought me up to be upright and firm."

"1 did not bring you up to commit suicide! A tsetse fly alights on your groin and you take a sledge-hammer to kill it! Haba! You may as well grab a life wire or drink Gamalin 20!"

Pastor Job knew there was no stopping his father once he mounted his hobby horse. So, he fled to his office. There he rested a while, allowing the air conditioner to cool down his jumping nerves. As usual in these times of tribulation, Pastor Job turned to the Bible and took solace in Jesus's admonition to the disciples to expect persecution in the world. He also took courage from Jesus's assurance that he has overcome the world. For a while he prayed silently for strength and godly wisdom.

Afterwards, he took out the committee’s report and pondered on it once again. Should he or should he not adopt the recommendations? If he did, he would be stepping on the toes of many important personalities in the church and society. If he did not, he would have ridiculed the committee and given tacit support to the corruption in the church. What should he do now? A knock on his door prevented a hasty decision. Wondering who it was, Pastor Job went to unlock it. He was surprised to find Chairman standing at the door.

"Good evening, Pastor! May I come in?"

"Yes, of course."

Pastor Job shut the door after Chairman. He asked him to take the chair in front of his desk while he himself went to sit at his place. As he waited for Chairman to state his mission, the Spirit told him to be careful of whatever he said. Chairman cleared his throat.

"I will not waste your precious time, Pastor Job, because you and I are adults. I am here to appeal against the report of Baba Ijesa's committee."

"Well, I don't know how you got wind of the report, but I can assure you that I will use my initiative in taking the final decisions."

"In doing so, Pastor, I want you to take cognisance of my various financial and material contributions to the well-being of this church. I bought all the wall clocks in the church. I single handedly rugged the church. I contributed three quarters of the amount used to buy the pipe-organ. I donated the Toyota Cruiser bus and also roofed the children's church. Please, consider all these good words before taking your final decisions."

"I will, Chairman, but you must agree that your conducts clearly negates your good works. How could you, a Christian title holder, take a cult title? How could you snatch a Christian brother's wife?"

"Pastor, I'm sorry I did those things. But the solution is not in de-robing me in public."

"You say you're sorry but you are not ready to purge yourself of your evil deeds. Repentance should go with restitution. The Bible says no child of God continues to sin. But you are not ready to renounce your cult title nor divorce your new wife. In other words, you want to live in sin while hoping for the grace of God to abound toward you."

"Pastor, you know that that is immaterial. You know as well as I do that a man cannot have a father's house without having a mother's side. Christianity should not divorce a man from his cultural roots. You use a Mercedes as well as I do. So, you are a man of the world, too. I'm sure you will appreciate a house on Lekki Peninsula. Take!"

Chairman dropped the key and plans of a bungalow on the coveted Lagoon front millionaire resort on the table. Alarm bells jangled inside pastor's head and he refused to touch the keys and document. Chairman continued to pressure him to accept the gift, but the pastor shook his head. He did not utter a word. Chairman eventually left in frustration, vowing to deal with Pastor Job if he disgraced him publicly. He did not forget to take the keys and document along with him.

After Chairman had gone, Pastor Job began to pray fervently for wisdom, knowledge, understanding and strength to do God's perfect will in the situation no matter whose ox may be gored. He was spiritually strengthened and became more determined to deal firmly with Chairman and to use him as an example to others who thought God's grace could be bought.

As he was preparing to return home, Pastor Ojoge entered. Ojoge had met secretly with Chairman and learnt the outcome of the latter's meeting with Pastor Job. To ward off suspicion from himself, Pastor Ojoge came to express solidarity with Pastor Job's effort. He advised Pastor Job not to relent in his war against corruption. He said Job should be firm and decisive and should execute the committee’s report without minding whose ox was gored.

"That's your duty, pastor, and you must not shy away from it. Everyone is equal before the eyes of God. We as pastors should not discriminate on the basis of wealth or material possession or titles. Whatever punishment is good for the goose is also good for the gander. In the church, all birds are equal. That is the essence of James chapter two. Our duty as pastors is to ensure equal rights and justice, especially in the church. It is only then we can say that we have done the will of God and can criticise the secular government for not establishing equal rights and justice in the society''.

Pastor Ojoge added that Pastor Job should not spare Chairman at all. He apologised for causing the present confusion by hastily making Chairman a title holder in the church without studying the kind of person he really was. He said had he known Chairman intimately, he would not have offered him the title of the Chief Church Sweeper! He left soon after, assuring Pastor Job of his "unflinching loyalty and dedicated support in your war to clean up the body of Christ!"

For the first time in recent times, Pastor Job felt a big relief. He had always doubted his deputy's loyalty, but those doubts vanished that night. He reasoned that Pastor Ojoge could not urge him to be ruthless with Chairman if he had any skeleton in his cupboard.

"The man is loyal and clean!" soliloquised Pastor Job as he headed home. It was well past midnight and he was sure his parents must have left. But he was wrong. They were dozing in the sitting-room when he arrived home.

Pastor Job knew he had to act fast if he wanted to achieve anything. The pressures on him had increased ten-fold. At home, Shade and his parents gave him no peace. Outside, many notable people including a bishop and a traditional ruler had pleaded with him not to implement the committee’s report.

Three days later, Pastor Job called an extra-ordinary meeting of the Leadership to announce the verdicts recommended by the committee.

"First and foremost, I must thank Baba Ijesa and his committee for a job well done. They did an excellent job. They were fair to all and brought accusers before the accused brethren. They did not depend on hearsay. I thank them and prayed that God's grace will abound toward them. After careful and prayerful considerations, I have come to the following tentative conclusions which are subject to your amendment or ratification. Firstly, I commend Mrs. Abdullahi, the lyalode, for her faithfulness, honesty and diligence. She was falsely accused of embezzling one hundred thousand naira belonging to the Single Ladies Association. She did not take offence, but proved her innocence. She is a good example of what a leader should be, honest and God-fearing. I recommend that a certificate of commendation be awarded her. Also, I'm contemplating honouring her with the title of a deaconess. As the Bible says, the fruitful servant will receive more honours, while the unfaithful servant will have even the little he has taken from him."

The leadership clapped in appreciation. Many of them also shook hands with Mrs. Abdullahi, the only accused present at the meeting. By virtue of their titles, Chairman and Brother Andoni also belonged to the leadership, but both chose to be absent at that meeting for obvious reasons.

"The committee found brothers Andoni and Akilapa guilty as charged. It also recorded that Brother Andoni freely admitted his misdeeds and begged for leniency. But Brother Akilapa refused to admit his faults despite glaring evidence. For both, the committee has recommended the following punishments. Firstly, the titles of Baba Ewe and Seriki be withdrawn from them immediately. Secondly, the revocation of the titles should be given wide publicity in the newspapers and the electronic media. Thirdly, both should be interdicted and expelled from the church. But after careful and prayerful considerations, I hereby recommend the following. Firstly, the titles of both brothers should be revoked at once. But because God empowers us to correct in love and not in anger, I hereby recommend the cancellation of all other punishments. So, both are free to attend our services and if they turn over a new leaf, they can rise to any office in the church."

A loud applause greeted the announcements. The leadership immediately voted overwhelmingly in support of Pastor Job's recommendations.

When Chairman heard the verdicts, he hit the roof in anger. He raved all over his house like a wounded bull and his wives and servants gave him a wide berth. Later, he met Ojoge in secret and the latter advised him to appeal to the Church Council. He reminded Chairman that the Council of Seven had two sleeping Golden Hats who were sure to support his appeal.

The following day, Chairman did so and asked for expedited consideration. With the support of the two sleeping Golden Hats in the Council, an emergency meeting of the Church Council was convened. Archbishop Ayuba himself chaired the extraordinary meeting. Pastor Job of Christ Torch Cathedral, Campus Square, was summoned to appear before the Council to explain his decisions to de-robe some chiefs in his church.

Pastor Job went along with the Committee’s report and the leadership vote file. After giving a succinct summary of the events leading to his decisions, he submitted the two files and left.

Thereafter, the Council went into a long, wearisome session. There were divided opinions on whether to uphold Pastor Job's decision or overturn it. The two sleeping Hats pushed for the nullification of the decisions, but others opposed them. Passions became heated and to resolve the issue Archbishop Ayuba called for a vote. Pastor Job won by five to two. So, the Church Council upheld the decision of Pastor Job and the leadership. Chairman and Brother Andoni were subsequently stripped of their titles.

But Chairman challenged the Council's verdict in court. Joined in the suit were Pastor Job, Baba Ijesa and his committee, the Leadership of Christ Torch Cathedral, Campus Square, Archbishop Ayuba and the Church Council. He prayed the court to declare the purported revocation of his title of Seriki of Christ Torch Cathedral illegal, null and void. He also asked for an injunction setting aside the purported revocation until the case before the court had been disposed of.

The registrar of Lagos High Court was a Golden Hat. So, it was easy to have the case assigned to Judge Murphy, another Golden Hat. Two days later. Judge Murphy adjourned further hearing on the matter for a month. In the meantime, he ordered all matters relating to the case to return to the status quo ante. In other words, Chairman was to retain his title until the case was finally disposed off by the court. Judge Murphy later assured Chairman that he would continue to adjourn the case until "these stupid men of God see reason".

Chairman did not stop at that. He decided to teach Pastor Job "the lessons he did not learn in the public school". He gave Sergeant Slaughter, a trusted ally, ten thousand naira to harass Pastor Job and make life completely uncomfortable for him and his family.

The day after the court session, Pastor Job and his family were returning from the Sunday service. Along the marina, he was accosted by a patrol team led by Sergeant Slaughter. Slaughter demanded for his vehicle particulars and Pastor Job gave him the Photostat copies. Slaughter nonchalantly tore it to bits and threw it in the ocean.

Pastor Job protested vehemently, but Slaughter ignored his protests. He accused the pastor of "driving a stolen car" and ordered his boys to arrest the man of God. Pastor Job was bundled into the patrol van. His wife and child were dragged down from the Mercedes. A policeman got behind the wheel and drove the vehicle to the Alausa Police station behind the patrol van. Shade and her child wailed and wailed.

John did not go to church that Sunday. The events in the church and his father's role in it had disgusted him so much that he vowed not to step inside any church for the rest of his life. What piqued John most was the forceful flight of his lover to London. She had gone for about a week now, but to John, it seemed like a year. John missed her terribly and had come to the ocean side to meditate instead of going to church. From his post, he had watched the arrest of Pastor Job on trumped up charges. He watched the police drive off with the pastor's car. Then he took Shade and her son home in his newly revived Volkswagen jalopy.

Afterwards, he ran to tell his father what had happened. Baba Ijesa got in touch with his lawyer, a Christian brother, and both headed for Adeniji Adele Police station. They were told that Pastor Job was not there. They went to several police stations with the same result. It was late in the evening when they finally traced Pastor Job to a cell in Alausa Police Station, Ikeja. He had been detained among criminals, one of whom was a quarter-crazy ex-armed robber called U.G. Bassey. It was he who had told Pastor Job about the Underground at Alapere Station.

In spite of the lawyer's effort, Pastor Job spent the night in the cell. The next day, Sergeant Slaughter suddenly discovered that he made a mistake. Pastor Job was therefore released unconditionally. The lawyer threatened to sue the police for illegal detention, battery and assault, but the pastor asked him to forget the matter. He drove home in his car.

The following day, Sergeant Slaughter stormed his residence with several policemen. He came with a warrant of search to look for hard drugs. The policemen arrived at 1 a.m., long after the family had retired to bed. Pastor Job and his family were rudely awakened and waited while Sergeant Slaughter and his boys turned their home upside down. They finally "found" a satchel of heroin under Pastor Job's pillow. Once again, the pastor was hauled into detention. This time, Sergeant Slaughter arranged for him to be detained at a secluded police station in Ijanikin, a suburb of Lagos. It took the lawyer and his family three days to locate him.

After some legal fireworks, he was granted police bail but with a warning to report to S. I.1. B Alapere every day. Funded by Baba Ijesa, the lawyer challenged the arrest in court. The police were forced to take the pastor to court, but mysteriously withdrew the case the day it was called for hearing. The judge freed Pastor Job and awarded him ten thousand naira for illegal detention.

Chairman decided to shift gear to another level. He paid some area boys to shatter the windscreen of Pastor Job's Mercedes as the latter was going to church the Sunday after his release from S.l.I.B. Alapere. The following day, Chairman came to remove the clocks in the church, the carpets and the Toyota bus. He brought along receipts to show that they belonged to him. He said he donated them to the church when the church was loyal to him. Now that he has been declared a pariah, he has to take everything back. Pastor Job watched him calmly as he carted everything away. He threatened to come back the following day to remove the roof of the children's church. But that night the federal military government dissolved all the local government councils in the country and called for fresh elections. Chairman was caught unawares. He forgot his threat and began to mobilise for a re-election.

 

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Abiodun Adeniji

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