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A bruised snake is a dangerous snake. When Chairman heard that his arch-enemy Pastor Job was contesting with him, he went after him like a bruised snake. This time, he did not try to bribe Pastor Job. Instead, he asked Sergeant Slaughter and the area boys to step up their harassment of the man of God.

Slaughter detained Pastor Job on trumped up charges ten times in one week. He was arrested for drunk driving even though he never drank alcohol. He was arrested for wandering, even though Slaughter came to his house to arrest him. So, how could Pastor Job have been "wandering"? Other trumped up charges for which the pastor was arrested included dangerous driving, over-taking at a corner, non-possession of a fire-extinguisher in his car, smoking in public and possession of seditious materials.

In one week. Pastor Job knew the inside of most police cells In Lagos. But each time, Baba Ijesa's lawyer managed to get him out after he had spent only a few hours in detention. This frustrated Slaughter. What really annoyed the irreverent policeman was that Pastor Job usually left each cell with a string of converts. Soon, Sergeant Slaughter began to suspect that the pastor was using "juju". He suggested to Chairman that pastor should be "completely broken inside Underground". Chairman knew the political implications of such an action. To him, it would be political suicide. So, he asked Slaughter to back off, while he tried another strategy to discourage Pastor Job.

The real reason why Chairman asked Sergeant Slaughter to back off was that each time Pastor Job was arrested, his popularly soared. Code Six always managed to locate his detention cell within minutes and would arrange for large crowds to keep vigil in front of the police station. So, Pastor Job always proceeded from cell to campaign ground and his arrest by the agents of evil made him more popular. Chairman realised that that particular strategy had boomeranged. It was no longer aiding his own campaign; rather, it had made a national hero out of Pastor Job as many newspapers faithfully chronicled his numerous brushes with the police. They even labelled these brushes "political harassment".

One night, Pastor Ojoge came to see Chairman at home. He advised Chairman to bribe the two sleeping Golden Hats in the Church Council to accuse Pastor Job of anti-Christian activities for engaging in partisan politics. He said there was an old convention of Christ Torch Cathedral which banned practising pastors from active politics. The convention had been dormant and had been overtaken by events. But it had never been repealed because nobody remembered that it still existed. Chairman did not waste time in contacting his men in the Church Council. The following day, the two men raised the allegation at the weekly meeting of the Council. A hot debate ensued over the propriety of applying the outmoded convention now.

Pastor Job was once again carpeted by the Council. He was asked to explain why he was openly and flagrantly violating the rusty convention. He confessed that he thought it had been repealed. The archbishop then asked him if he was ready to withdraw from the political race. Pastor Job said it was too late. He told the Council that if he withdrew now, people would assume that he had sold out to Chairman who would then be re-elected unopposed. That allegation, according to him, would not only spoil his personal name, but would also tarnish the integrity of Christ Torch Cathedral. Some of the Council men reasoned along with him.

He was then asked to wait outside while the Council went into another stormy session. The two sleeping Golden Hats called for the outright dismissal of Pastor Job as stipulated in the old convention. But majority of the Council felt it was too harsh a punishment and that Pastor Job should be allowed to contest. They pointed out that if he won, he would be a powerful tool in the hand of the church. With a pastor of the church in the slate house, the church would become the state church.

But the two sleeping Hats were adamant. To break the impasse Archbishop Ayuba suggested a compromise. Pastor Job should be suspended from his pastoral duties until he won or lost the coming election. This compromise was acceptable to all. So, the pastor-was called in and informed accordingly. He was ordered lo vacate the vicarage and hand over all church property in his possession to Pastor Ojoge,

Pastor Job took the setback with equanimity. He and his wife moved to a bungalow belonging to Baba Ijesa. The bungalow was situated at Ige Close. At the same time, Pastor Ojoge and his wife quickly moved into the vicarage. Deaconess Jane wept with joy as they moved in. She vowed not to vacate the place for the Jobs. Her husband must secure Job's job by hook or crook.

When Chairman learnt that Pastor Job had been suspended from his post, he was more than pleased. He danced round and round his campaign headquarters and ordered food and drinks for anyone who wanted to eat. He took out full-page advertisements in many national newspapers to publicise the "removal" of the thorn in his flesh. He also ensured that radio and television stations carried the news within minutes of the Council's decision. Many islanders were surprised at the strange turn of events, most especially the Council men who wondered how the radio and television stations got wind of their decision barely ten minutes after they informed Pastor Job. They did not know that they had two serpents in their midst.

Henceforth at campaign rallies, Chairman hammered away at Pastor Job, asking people not to vote for a man who had been "dismissed and rejected by his church for un-Christianly activities. Such a man could do anything”.

But if Chairman had hoped to score cheap political points by ensuring the pastor's suspension from his office, he was soon disillusioned. Code Six rose to the occasion and distributed leaflets alleging that Pastor Job was being victimised for his political ambition. They hinted darkly that Chairman spent ten million naira of his stolen local government money lo bribe the Church Council to suspend Pastor Job. The pamphlet which was circulated mostly among youths called for steadfastness and wisdom to avoid "voting a serpent into office once again".

Within twenty-four hours, Chairman began to feel the heat. Many youths refused to attend his campaign rallies. Those who went did so to collect his money and then left, cursing him. Code Six later challenged some of these youths, but they retorted: "Chairman is spending our money and we have a right to get our share of it!"

Chairman's local mobilisers alerted him to the new threat and he raged like a caged lion. Once again, his evil schemes had only succeeded in boosting his opponent's popularity. All things bad and good seemed to be working together for the political good of Pastor Job.

Pastor Ojoge also felt the blowback of Pastor Job's suspension. Many church members noted the haste with which he and his family moved into the "vicarage". It was openly touted that Pastor Ojogc had a hand in Pastor Job's undoing.

"He's just a green snake under green grass," said some youths at a church meeting.

Resentment against Pastor Ojoge welled up leading to a sharp decline in attendance at mid-week fellowships and Sunday service. It culminated in a graffito etched with red paint on the walls of the children's church.

"Who is a pastor? A green serpent under green grass!”

The day-guard alerted Pastor Qjoge to the graffito and he immediately caught the message. He did not panic. He coldly reasoned out his next move. First, he ordered the graffito to be painted over. Then he called an emergency meeting of the leadership. At that meeting, he expressed his commitment to Pastor Job’s political ambition. He said the Holy Spirit told him that the church must show more commitment to Pastor Job’s political ambition than before. He sought their co-operation in doing what the Holy Spirit commanded him to do.

Many leaders were pleasantly surprised. A lot of them had nursed the suspicion that Pastor Ojoge wanted to displace their beloved Pastor Job. His initial stout defence of Chairman had not endeared him to many of them. There was also no doubt that Pastor Qjoge had been a beneficiary of Pastor Job's misfortunes. What many leaders could not say was whether Pastor OJoge had a hand in the suspension of Pastor Job.

But now, they were prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. They all promised to co-operate with him in furthering Pastor Job's political ambition and restoration to his former post. The leaders dispersed that day on a very happy note.

Pastor Ojoge, too, was vastly relieved. He knew he had made a favourable impression on the leadership. Still, he did not rest on his oars but followed up his initial success with another public relations coup. The following Sunday, he announced that the Holy Spirit had instructed him to call for a three-day fast for the success of Pastor Job’s political ambition and safe return to the parish. Also, he announced that a vigil would be held the following day to pray for the success of Pastor Job. A thunderous applause followed his announcements. Pastor Ojogc did as he announced. Afterwards, all suspicions were erased from the congregation's mind. Pastor Ojoge's personal popularity also shot up.

But at home, he faced stiff opposition from his wife. Pastor Ojoge had carefully concealed his secret plans and actions from his wife. He knew her to be a gossip and feared to entrust his innermost secrets to her. He knew his wife had never hidden her desire to snatch Pastor Job's rich parish from him, but he pretended not to care. Consequently, his wife regarded him as a born fool. His latest decision to call for a general fast and to hold a night vigil to ensure Pastor Job's victory was to her the height of stupidity. She told her husband later:

“When the Lord puts the neck of your enemies in your hand, he expects you to break it. Instead, you are kissing and caressing it! Now more than ever am I convinced that you are not only a fool but the grandfather of all fools!'

Pastor Qjoge did not respond; he pretended to be engrossed in the scriptures.

Two days later, Pastor Ojoge met Kafaru Ahmed in Ibadan. He had travelled down to Ibadan to purchase a fairly used Volvo station wagon. The car was in a mechanic's workshop at Molete. Pastor Ojoge went there straight, hoping to conclude the transactions that day and drive the car home to surprise his wife. On his earlier visits, he had struck the bargain price of one hundred thousand naira. Pastor Ojoge's annual income was eighty-five thousand naira. But thanks to Chairman's generous handouts, Pastor Ojoge could easily afford the mechanic's asking price.

He arrived al (he workshop at 3 p.m., inspected the car and liked what he saw. It was shining all over like new. It had been repainted and repaired. Unless told, it would be taken as brand new. Even the tyres had been changed to brand new ones.

Pastor Ojoge gave the mechanic the balance of his money and asked for the keys. He was asked to be patient because the keys were with the rewire expert who last worked on the car. An apprentice ran lo call the rewire man whose name was Kafaru Ahmed. When Ojoge saw him, he was stunned. He nearly jumped out of the window in panic! He moved backwards until his back hit the wall. Had there been an entrance there, he would have run out through it.

"How did Pastor Job find me out?” he thought in panic.

"Are you alright, Oga?" asked the mechanic and Kafaru simultaneously.

"What. What... are you doing here, pastor?" croaked Pastor Ojoge.

"1 no he pastor o, Oga," responded Kafaru. '"Me I be rewire, not pastor."

"Incredible!" shouted Ojoge, realising that he was not looking al Pastor Job. “Unbelievable."

He moved closer lo Kafaru. staring at him in disbelief. Kafaru was visibly embarrassed.

"Oga, why you dey look me so?"

“My friend, you look exactly like my senior pastor."

"No be me. I be total Muslim o. Who be your Oga pastor?"

"Never mind.”

Kafaru was more than Pastor Job s lookalike physically. He was more of a carbon copy of the pastor or his monozygotic twin brother. He resembled Pastor Job from the crown of his head to the soles of is feet. Same height, same complexion, same even set of teeth, same handsome cherubic face, same not-so-flat nose, same artistic fingers and athletic figure. The only differences were in the clothing and Kafaru's obvious low level of education. Once he began to speak, it was obvious that he was not Pastor Job. He spoke nothing but Yoruba or pidgin English, and unlike the pastor's rich baritone Kafaru's voice was raspy like the sound of sand-paper rubbing on hard wood.

Immediately he saw Kafaru, Pastor Ojoge began to assess the possibility of using him against his enemy, the real Pastor Job. He struck a secret deal with Kafaru. For a sum of ten thousand naira Kafaru was to come to Lagos with him to do a special work for a few days only. Pastor Ojoge pare him one thousand naira in advance to whet Kafaru’s appetite. Kafaru grabbed the offer with joy and praised God for his divine good fortune. He packed his few belongings and left for Lagos in Pastor Ojoge's new car. He did not bother to inform his family simply because he had none. Kafaru was a bachelor

Pastor Ojoge lodged him in a back wood but comfortable hotel near Sango Ota. He paid for his accommodation and feeding for two weeks in advance. Afterwards, he told him that all be wanted from him was to dress like a pastor and go about Lagos doing evil things in public. Pastor Ojogo's strategy was to use Kafaru to spoil the name and reputation of Pastor Job.

In a pastor's cassock and collar, people would mistake Kafaru for Pastor Job. And when they found him doing things not expected of him, he would gradually lose his popularity. By this strategy, Pastor Ojoge hoped to kill two birds with a stone. He would wreck Pastor Job's political career and his pastoral calling. The Church Council had always been jealous of its image as portrayed by its pastors. Archbishop Ayuba was very strict about pastors’ propriety. If any breath of scandal attached to Pastor Job's name, Archbishop Ayuba would not hesitate to convert his suspension to outright dismissal.

The election drew nearer. Pastor Job and Chairman spent most of their time at campaign rallies. While Chairman tried to buy votes with wads of naira, pastor's charisma and transparent honesty drew multitudes to him. He also owed a lot of his popularity to Code Six and John. Code Six successfully mobilised the youths in support of the pastor, while John, the campaign manager, did an excellent job with the media. John became more attached to Pastor Job and even took up permanent residence at Ige Close.

Chairman seemed to have given up all hope of scaring Pastor Job out of the race. He gave Sergeant Slaughter thirty thousand naira for services rendered and dismissed him. He now concentrated on wooing voters with wads of naira notes.

Pastor Job and Chairman tried to avoid open confrontation with each other Each candidate gave his supporters strict instructions not to provoke an attack, physical attack that is. Nevertheless, they had a big clash which showed how tenuous their holds on their supporters really were.

It happened at Ita Faji. Pastor's supporters were on house-lo-house campaign in the area. They were led by John, but pastor himself was absent. Some thugs belonging to Chairman heard about it and decided to scatter them. They alleged that Pastor Job's supporters had trespassed by coming to campaign at lta Faji, Chairman's home base.

So, they went and evoked Eyo masquerade even though it was well past the season for the eyo masquerade to come out. The eyos, numbering about forty suddenly swooped on John and Code Six and began lo beat them with their tough sticks known as opambata. John and his fellow campaigners took to their heels. Many jumped into their campaign vehicles and fled.

But John was trapped in a cul-de-sac. He had been chased into the corner by an eyo. He ran there thinking there was a way out to the adjoining street. He was already deep into the cul-de-sac before he realised that he had entered into a blind alley. He turned back sharply but the eyo blocked his way. The eyo attacked, striking John all over his body with his stick.

John was a cool-headed person most limes, but that did not make him a coward. Moreover, the tension of the heated campaign trail had strained his temper to breaking point. Suddenly it snapped. Even though it was a taboo to touch an eyo, John was too angry to care. He closed in on the masquerade and dealt him two straight jabs in the mouth. Two teeth broke loose in the latter's mouth and blood began to spurt. The masquerade screamed in pain, holding his bleeding mouth.

Before he could recover from the shock John sank a punch in his stomach and the eyo collapsed. The "spirit” writhed in pain as he bellowed for help and forgot to speak in the guttural tones of the spirits. Instead, he screamed in plain human voice.

“Help! Help! E don kill me o! John don kill me o!”

John jumped over the writhing "spirit" and made fast his escape. He ran straight home and told Pastor Job what had happened. Pastor Job was highly distressed at the incident but he did not have time to blame anybody before the police arrived and arrested John They took him to Adeniji-Adele Police Station and charged him with battery and assault of one Mr. Osiyemi, a resident of Ita Faji.

The police were surprised al John is vigorous denial of the crime. Even the pastor was amazed. Osiyemi was also present and displayed to all and sundry his two missing teeth. Once again, he narrated how he trapped John inside a cul-de-sac and how John dealt him two "heavy blows" in the mouth, thereby removing his two molars.

"It's a lie!" shouted John, to the surprise of his own people who knew what had happened.

“You mean you did not beat up this man?" asked the desk Sergeant. “There are witnesses, you know?"

"I've never seen him all my life," insisted John. ''I know 1 fought with an eyo masquerade at Ita Faji...”

"Hear... hear him o" cut in Osiyemi.

"... but how can I fight with a spirit and a human being reported lo the police? Let the eyo spirit who fought with me charge me to the spirit court if he is aggrieved''

Everybody, policemen and all, burst out laughing. Osiyemi, the man who wore the eyo mask that day was so ashamed of himself that he ran out of the station, his hands still cupping his mouth. With the exit of the complainant, the police tore the case file and released John. He was, however, charged to behave respectfully henceforth, most especially towards spirits!

Pastor Job's popularity started to dip when Kafaru went into action. At Pastor Ojoge's instruction, he dressed like Pastor Job and began lo misbehave openly all over Lagos Island. He frequented bars and brothels. He got drunk and got into brawls and unnecessary scrapes. He even slept with a prostitute and refused to pay for services rendered. Clad only in pants and bras, the prostitute chased him and tore his cassock in two

Soon, people started to complain about Pastor Job's strange and immoral behaviour. It started as a rumour, but soon, some members of Code Six had encounters with Kafaru who was so clever he never said too many words in public. So, it was difficult to catch him out

Eventually, a member of Code Six confronted Pastor Job with the allegations. He had witnessed the fight between Kafaru and the prostitutes and came straight to the campaign headquarters to complain. He was shocked to find him in the middle of a meeting and was assured that Pastor Job had not left the building since the meeting started two hours before he arrived. The Code Six member was totally confused and decided to drop the matter altogether.

The second day, Kafaru paid some area boys to attack the pastor's home. Pastor Job, his wife and Anenih the maiguard were the only ones around. The area boys beat up Pastor Job and Anenih. They also pushed Shade around. They left after shattering some windows panes and burning his Mercedes. They threatened to kill Pastor Job if he did not withdraw from the chairmanship race.

When Code Six learnt about the incident, they wanted to hit back at Chairman. They thought the incident was the handiwork of Chairman and his irate mob. It took all of Pastor Job's eloquence lo restrain them from retaliating. Instead, a report was lodged with the police who swung into action immediately. The assistant commissioner of police in charge of Lagos Island knew he had to act fast to avert political violence. So, he ordered the immediate arrest of Chairman.

But on getting to Chairman's house, they found him completely laid up with fever. At first, they thought he was faking. They ordered him out of his bed and into their patrol van. But half-way to Adeniji-Adele Police Station Chairman vomited a blackish substance and then fainted. The police had to rush him to a nearby private hospital.

When the police reported the latest developments to their boss, he did not believe them. He insisted on seeing Chairman himself. He took along Pastor Job and some of his supporters. At the private hospital, they found Chairman surrounded by his relations and political associates. His two wives and Victoria were weeping and cursing "our enemies who want [o kill our daddy in order to become chairman”. If not for the presence of the police. Pastor Job would have been attacked. He and his supporters left the hospital in confusion. Who could be responsible for the attack on Pastor Job? they wondered. At their campaign headquarters, they decided to be more vigilant and to repel any attack on Pastor Job’s family. A roster was drawn up to take full effect from the following night. Pastor and John arrived home every late.

At home they met another calamity. Shade who had never supported her husband's political ambition had packed out of the house. She left a note saying she had moved to her father-in-law's house to look after her child. She did not indicate when she would be back. Also, Anenih the maiguard had vanished without trace. He did not leave any note because he was illiterate

Pastor Job did not let his wife’s desertion affect him unduly. He was content to know her destination. He and John had their meal and prepared for their usual Friday night vigil. For a while, Pastor Job read the Bible while John watched the television. Pastor Job noted that John was restless, but dismissed it as one of those things. Of course, John wanted to go and see Victoria who had returned recently from a trip to London. Around 10 p.m., John lied that he had to deliver a message from his father to someone in Obalende.

“Can't it wail till tomorrow?" asked the pastor.

"No, pastor, I have… have to deliver it tonight or it will he too late."

Pastor Job felt that John was hiding something but was too pre-occupied with his own thoughts to probe deeper. John left soon afterwards, patting Bingo on the head as he went out. The puppy wagged his tail and bit his shoes playfully.

At the hospital,. Chairman miraculously recovered from his sudden sickness. In fact, no sooner had the police left than he got up without receiving any real medical attention. His family and associates were happy at his miraculous recovery. After taking his blood and urine samples to conduct wider tests Chairman was discharged at 8 p.m. He got home around 9 p.m. and went straight !o bed

That night, Kafaru dressed like Pastor Job climbed into Chairman's compound and set his car ablaze. He waited long enough to be identified before running away. He even knocked down Chairman's police orderly on his way out of the compound.

At 1 a.m. later that night, Sergeant Slaughter came to arrest Pastor Job for arson and attempted murder. He was subsequently thrown inside Underground, where he was tortured on Octave one.

 

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Abiodun Adeniji

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