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Pastor Job slept late into the morning after his release on "suspended bail". He woke up around 11 a.m. much refreshed than when he had gone to bed the previous evening He took his bath, a long bath as if determined to scrub away not only the dirt on his body but the harrowing memory of his torture at Underground. As he bathed, he whistled happily, singing:

"God will make a way

Where there seems to be no way"

Shade heard her husband whistling happily in the bathroom and wondered if he was sane at all. “How could somebody who had just passed through Underground be so happy? What had such a person got to thank God for?''

Shade was prepared to see her husband raging as he woke up. She had primed herself to expect a volcanic eruption from the pastor as he pondered the injustice and indignities that had been heaped on him in the last twenty four-hours. In fact, she had steeled herself to receive part of the emotional eruption for deserting him.

She knew her husband went to bed in a kind of trauma and was likely to wake up raving. All through the night, Shade had woken up intermittently to check if her husband was all right. She had expected him to sleep fitfully, his slumber punctuated by nightmares and horror. She had expected him to wake up screaming like he did the night he returned from America. But Pastor Job slept like a baby, a well-fed and contented baby.

Shade had woken up early to prepare her husband’s favourite breakfast of yam and fried eggs. By nine o’clock, she had served her husband, John and the policemen Left to her, she would joyfully starve the policemen to death. She would have thrown her left-over to dogs instead of feeding the policemen. To her, policemen were worse than dogs. Dogs were loyal, like brave Bingo who gave his life to save her husband. But policemen had no such loyalty. They obeyed the highest bidder.

At a few minutes to twelve, Pastor Job sat at the table to eat He greeted his wife and John cheerfully. As he ate, he hummed like a man who had gone to bed after winning a million naira .jackpot. John and Shade looked at each other and shook their heads,

"By the way, darling, have you been told my new initials and titles?"

"I 1… never knew that they gave titles in detention," Shade responded, pouring tea into her husband's cup.

"Of course, they do!"

"So. what's your new title, darling?"

"Henceforth, I'm to be known and addressed as Pastor U.G. Job!

"Meaning?”

"Pastor Underground Graduate Job!"

Pastor roared with laughter. John and Shade looked at each other again and shook their heads. They did not catch the joke. So the pastor narrated the story of U.G Bassey and how every living graduate of Underground must bear the title of U.G. before his name.

"It's like passing out of the Nigerian Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru. Just as NIPSS graduates put M. N.I. after their names, the survivors of Underground put U G. before their names. It is a mark of honour, like being a Member of the Order of Niger!"

Pastor Job laughed again at his own joke, but John and Shade found nothing funny in his remarks. To them, it was a sick Joke, After his meal, the pastor sat down to read the dailies, while his wife went out to buy foodstuff at the market.

"Good morning o, madam, and thank you," the policemen at the gate saluted Shade as she passed. Shade ignored them.

Pastor Job read till past noon while John paced up and down all the time. It was obvious something was bugging him.

"What's the matter with you, John?" the pastor asked eventually.

"Why… why did you do it, pastor?"

"Do what?"

"I mean why… why…. did you set Chairman's house on fire?"

"Are you drunk, John? I did nothing of the sort. Didn't you leave me in this house that night?" "Look, pastor, there are only two of us here. So, you can open up to me; 1 won't tell anybody.”

"I think you must be sick, John, but 1 assure you that I did not commit any crime! It's all a fabrication of Chairman to get even with me and disqualify me from Saturday's polls. Chairman is behind it all.”

"That’s not true, pastor. You did it and I saw you with my own eyes!"

"You must have been hallucinating!"

"I was not hallucinating, pastor. I saw you do it with my own eyes. And I was not alone. Vic... em... another person was with me who saw you, too.”

"I wasn't the one you saw. I assure you most sincerely that I didn't burn down Chairman's house!"

John was confused. He was certain that he had seen Pastor Job commit arson that night. Yet, he found it hard to disbelieve his mentor. There was something plain honest m the pastor's tone that brooked no controversy. It was the tone of someone with a rock-solid assurance of his own innocence. John was totally confused.

"And what were you doing at Chairman's house at midnight?" asked the pastor, looking up from the dailies. "I thought you said that you had a message to deliver to your father at Obalende. So, what were you doing at Ikoyi at midnight'''

"I... I.. " stammered John, caught in trap,

"Speak up. John! Or were you in secret league with Chairman, feeding him information about me?"

"No! No! Certainly not, Pastor."

"So what were you doing at his house at midnight on the night of the arson?"

"I.,,er, I went to see Victoria?”

“Who is Victoria?"

"Chairman's daughter?"

"Incredible! You mean you live with me and still associate with Chairman's daughter?"

"It's... it’s... not what you think, pastor! I'm no traitor!"

"Then explain yourself. What's between you and Victoria, Chairman's pregnant daughter?"

"Well.. er... I... l am responsible, I mean, I impregnated her!"

“What! So, so you were the one, eh? You! You, John! I can't believe this!"

"It's not as you think, pastor. Let me explain, please!"

"Okay. Go ahead!"

In sheer agony, John slowly explained how he and Victoria fell in love, how they decided that the only way out was for him to impregnate her. Barring that their feuding fathers would not allow the union, He added that he would have confessed to him earlier, but Victoria and his mother prevailed on him to be patient until the pregnancy had advanced beyond the possibility of abortion. Then they would present their feuding fathers with a fait accompli. By that time, both fathers would be forced to bury the hatchet in the interest of their children.

John finished his narration and expected Pastor Job to explode. He fixed his eyes on the floor, not daring to look the pastor in the eyes. But the pastor's reaction surprised him. The latter put his hand on his shoulder and said quite gently:

"I admire your courage, both of you. You two risked everything, including salvation and disinheritance for the sake of love. You're two brave though misguided youths. You probably expected me to condemn you, but I won't. I will only say to you what Christ said to the woman caught in adultery by the Jewish leaders. Go and sin no more."

"Thank you, pastor!" said John with joyful relief.

"Well. we must find ways of breaking the good news to your fathers. What a great fire it will kindle when both realise that they must be in-laws!"

Pastor Job burst out laughing and John joined him. Just then, Sergeant Hassan entered, closely followed by Victoria.

"Victoria!" shouted John.

"John!"

Both lovers embraced and kissed passionately. Pastor Job smiled benignly, but Sergeant Hassan looked out of the window in embarrassment. He was not used to such outward demonstration of love. He coughed loudly.

"Excuse me, Miss Victoria. Make you deliver your message quick o."

Victoria and John separated. There were tears in Victoria's eyes. She knelt down before the pastor, begging him.

"That's okay, Victoria. John has just explained everything to me. We shall settle it eventually."

"Thank you, pastor, but that's not what I meant. I have come to ask you for a favour, a difficult one." She broke into racking sobs. John and the pastor were alarmed. Both tried to console her but did not know the cause.

"Na her father," explained Sergeant Hassan.”

"What's wrong with him?" asked the pastor.

"He dey die!"

"Him! He was hale and hearty in court yesterday."

"Me sef no understand o, pastor. I nefer see that kind sickness all my life. One moment Chairman dey drink and joke, the next moment he fall down begin vomit black blood. We don carry am go hospital and den don try dem best. But everything done fail o. The man go die any moment from now!”

"So what do you want me to do about it?" asked Pastor Job, a part of him pitying Chairman and another part relieved that God was punishing him for the injustice he had done to him recently, Victoria fell on her knees before the pastor and pleaded.

“Please, pastor, come and lay your hand on my father, pray for him and he will be healed. Please, I beg you."

Pastor Job was stunned. He turned his back to the others as he struggled with his emotions. Lay his hands on his enemy? Pray for Chairman to get healed? The man who inflicted the worst kind of indignities and horror on him, the man who broke up his career and almost shattered his home; the man who had his Mercedes car burnt and himself beaten up by policemen and thugs; the man who had him detained illegally several times. Lay hands on Chairman!

Pastor Job's emotions whirled. Like a film in fast motion, all the unjust punishments Chairman inflicted on him rolled before his inner eyes. So, his human spirit baulked at the idea of going to pray for Chairman. No, he decided he would rather Chairman died of his strange disease and go to the hell he so richly deserved

"Moreover," whispered the devil," his death would mean that you will be elected unopposed. Praise God!"

Pastor Job was thrilled by the prospect, but just then he looked up. On the wall hung an oil portrait of Jesus on the cross, blood and water oozing out of the gashes in his sides, blood dripping from holes made by the crown of thorns on his head. Below it was a scripture which says: "Forgive them. Father, for they know not «hat they do."

Shame flooded Pastor Job's soul. If Jesus could pray for those who crucified him unjustly, why should be refuse to pray for Chairman who only had him detained and tortured but not killed? “Please, come, pastor. Come and pray for my father. Forgive all he had done to you. Please come!"

"Okay, let’s go."

Victoria embraced pastor in gratitude.

“But I must warn you that I am only a transmitting station. It is only God who heals."

"Just come and lay hands on my father and God will heal him."

"Okay, let’s go now before it is too late."

Sergeant Slaughter was amazed. He had been skeptical all along. He was convinced that Pastor Job would boot them out of his house. Any man in his shoes would behave like that. Ordinary people would have baulked at the idea of helping Chairman in his hour of distress. Not after suffering the kind of things inflicted on the pastor by Chairman. If it were Hassan, he would have kicked Victoria out. But contrary to Hassan's expectations, Pastor Job agreed to go pray for his enemy. For the second time in his life, Sergeant Hassan is greatly mortified.

As they drove to "God's Blessing Hospital" he pondered about Pastor Job's unorthodox attitude to life and concluded that his faith had a lot to do with it. It obviously set him apart from the rest. As the vehicle rolled down the street, his own sordid life rolled past in his mind. He saw all the bribes he had ever taken, all the illegal executions he had done for money, his material acquisition which had brought him no joy or peace. Compared to the simple but unshakable faith of Pastor Job all that Sergeant Hassan had and used to hold dear suddenly seemed cheap and vain. He looked at the pastor through the mirror and a scintillating light seemed to dance all round him, enveloping his body in unspeakable glory. He looked at himself in the same mirror and shuddered at the image of greed and corruption that stared back at him. Indeed, he had gained the world but lost his soul. He sighed deeply, thinking:

"How I wish I fit be Christian like Pastor Job!"

At the hospital, they were taken straight to a third-floor private ward where they found Chairman groaning and dying. He was surrounded by his wives, relations, and political associates. The pastor asked Hassan to send out all other people except the wives, Victoria and John. When they had all been turned out, Pastor John turned towards his former tormentor.

He looked at Chairman and pity welled up in him. The man had shrunk to a skeletal frame. His usually rosy skin had changed to a deathly pallor. He was delirious and could not recognize anyone. He was obviously at death's door.

Pastor Job commanded everyone to begin to pray aloud. They all obeyed, including Sergeant Hassan who was born a Muslim. Pastor Job too prayed in tongues for a while, and then he laid his hand on Chairman's head and said:

"Brother Akilapa, be healed in Jesus’ name!"

At once, the strange disease left Chairman and he was made whole.

* * *

Kafaru had one great weakness, alcohol. When Kafaru got drunk, he often misbehaved. After setting Chairman's house on fire, Kafaru drank beer all day the following day. The day after, he went after Pastor Ojoge to demand for his balance. Ojoge was alone in the silting-room when he arrived. Pastoe Ojoge was amazed to see Kafaru and tried to hustle him out of the vicarage before his wife returned from the kitchen. Kafaru, however, refused to budge until he got his balance

Pastor Qioge explained that the money was not at home, but Kafaru was too drunk to reason with. He got angry and began to slap Pastor Ojoge around. He held the pastor by his throat and was strangling him to death when Deaconess Jane entered.

She screamed: “Help! Help! Pastor Job is killing my husband! Help! Somebody help!"

The gardener, the maiguards and other people ran in to help. They freed Pastor Ojoge from Kafaru’s death grip and dragged him to the police station.

Sergeant Hassan was driving Pastor Job home from the hospital and decided to stop over briefly at his station. Just then, Kafaru was dragged in. Pastor Job and Kafaru met face to face for the first time. All were shocked at the uncanny resemblance. Kafaru had sobered up and now confessed all his crimes, narrating how Pastor Ojoge had recruited him to spoil Pastor Job's name by doing evil deeds all over Lagos Island. Many people were shocked at Pastor Ojoge's deviousness, most especially his wife. She wept with shame. She could not believe that her husband who she had thought of as a born fool had been a serpent all along. On his part, Pastor Ojoge confessed his guilt and asked Pastor Job to forgive him.

"It is the work of the devil," he pleaded weakly. Pastor Job was too shocked to respond. The police clamped Pastor Ojoge and Kafaru in detention and tore up the case against Pastor Job. Pastor Job, Victoria and John were overjoyed at the way God resolved the mystery and set his servant free.

Sergeant Hassan was also happy. At the same lime, he felt ashamed for having sent an innocent man Underground. He went to his tiny office and hung his head. A short while later, Pastor Job came in to tell him that they were ready to go home. Sergeant Hassan got up but as Pastor Job was about go out of the office Sergeant Hassan said:

"Pastor, I want to apologise for all I do you. Please forgive me."

"I forgive you, Sergeant. And all is well.”

Pastor headed for the door.

"Excuse me, Pastor! There’ something I be wan ask you."

“Yes?' Pastor Job asked almost impatiently. He wanted to rush home and tell Shade the good news.

"Pastor… how… how….. can I be born again like you?"

Pastor Job stood perfectly still, hardly believing his ears.

"You… you mean you want to give your life to Christ?"

“If Christ go accept a sinner tike me!”

“Of course, he will!” cried Pastor Job as he flung his arms around Sergeant Hassan and both wept with joy.

That night, the federal military government cancelled the proposed elections and appointed military administrators to run all local governments in the country!

 

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Abiodun Adeniji

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