Cladded in my NYSC uniform, I alighted from the AKTC shuttle bus that I boarded from Aba to Uyo. The journey has been an unnecessary long one because of the terrible state of the express road. A journey that ordinarily would have taken forty five minutes ended up gulping three and a half hour of my time
Azumili axis was simply impassable! The road had turned into a dirty brown muddy lake at a spot stretching over the length of six poles. This is the only link road between Abia and Akwa Ibom states. It is a Trunk ‘A’ road, A federal road, so it is the responsibility of FERMA to repair it.
Some states with similar road situations have long fixed theirs using the state allocation from the federal government and have been reimbursed by the federal government. Those Governors have the people’s interest at heart. They are smart governors as the road helped improve economic activities between their states while keeping her Citizens alive and safe as well. We had to be veering into villages in and out as we forged towards Uyo. Many of the locals have erected illegal road blocks and were collecting Tolls from motorists for passing through their Villages. Even though economic activities have boosted in these villages as Children and mothers with babies strapped behind rush at vehicles with wares for sale. Fruits and snacks were on display. Yet the youth were still collecting Tolls from the drivers amidst harassment and threats. The consequence of not paying up is the puncture of your tyres or the breakage of your side mirror.
Our driver paid two hundred naira each at about nine road blocks before we got to Uyo Park.
I entered another municipal bus headed for Nkanafot in Ikot Abasi LGA. My Fiancée has invited me over. We are both youth Corpers serving the nation, having graduated together as class mates form UNIZIK Awka. She said I needed to come and witness something strange happening in the Village where is carrying out her primary assignment. She refused to tell me the details on phone. It is better witnessed than told, she had said. So I decided to visit her on a Saturday. My own primary assignment is at NB Plc Aba. I do not work on weekends.
She was waiting for me at the park when the bus stopped and I got down. The conductor closed the door and the bus was moving when I remembered.
Hey! Where my change? I ran after the bus hitting the door with my hands. The bus stopped.
You no go give me my change? I asked the conductor, I was already panting.
Is that why you are hitting the motor like that? The Driver fired from behind the wheels.
Give me my change biko! If I hit the motor nko? Na you hand go pain or na me? Or the motor complain? Give me my change biko!
Ol boy give am him change nah! The driver fired at the conductor who was searching through rustled naira notes he brought out from his pocket.
Do quick nah! The angry driver charged at the conductor! I go go o!
Go where? I challenged as I grabbed the conductor by the collar of his shirt, the Bus began to roll forward and I jugged along.
Bia! Driver! No wound me o! No wound me o! If I wound, I no go gree o!
The conductor threw a note at me and I let go of his shirt and the driver zoomed off. I picked the two hundred naira note on the floor and went back to meet Nneoma.
I slung my nap sack behind my back and pocketed my balance. Nneoma was putting on a light blue tight jeans and a pink blouse. It’s been four months we saw each other last. That was when we went to collect our NYSC call up letter at school. She looked a little pale and slimmer. She looked more mature though, those puffy cheeks of hers are deflated and her eyes have lost its sheen. I could tell she was not happy here.
Nne kedu k’ime? I asked as we hugged. She simply buried her face on my chest and held me tight. She began to sob quietly.
I can’t continue this NYSC here! She said over and over. I am losing my mind, I think I am going crazy!
Hian! Ngwa lets go to your house and talk it over. O? We shall talk when we get there. So I pulled out my handkerchief and wiped her tears, then we held hands as she led the way to the school compound. The school where she teaches has a quarter for youth corps teachers.As we trudged along, there were calls of Aunty! Aunty! Corper! Corper! From every corner of the village by her students and their parents while she acknowledged their greetings waving and greeting.
It is a female secondary school, only the Corps members live within the premise that is fenced with twelve feet high brick walled fence with barb wire. The entrance gate is a see through manned day and night by an ex-soldier, a queer character that salutes “Morning sir” in the day or night. He walks about with a hockey stick soliloquizing and sometimes shooting at imaginary enemies with his hockey stick.
He interrogated me in the military pattern and then Nneoma told him I was her husband.
Sai! Aunty so you don marry sef? You for don tell me since na! Sorry sir! He saluted. Welcome to our town, hope say you bring better come o! Because for this we village, we no dey see bread chop!
No wahala sir, I said. After come for house come collect am nah!
Shun sir! I trust Aunty Husband! I believe you sir!
Kakakakaka! Kikikikiki! Advance party! Advance party! Fire! Fire! He screams intermittently docking and running. When he is exhausted, he begins to laugh as he dusts himself up with his hands.
Sai! Mma Abasi! War no be better thing o! He would say with a heavy Ibibio accent. Most People avoided him, and then he started marching and singing ‘I remember when I was a soldier’. That is Oga Okon’s preoccupation in the day,
At exactly 8.00PM when Nneoma and I were set to eat dinner, Oga Okon visited. Nneoma served him a plate of steaming jollof rice with chicken.
Sai! This na fowl meat o! Aunty you no get 404 meat for your pot? He asked as he gnawed at the chicken lap hungrily.
Oga Okon! You don start o! Return my chicken if you no want I beg! Nneoma countered. How many times I go tell you say I no dey eat dog meat!
Sai! Mm’Abasi! Aunty you dey miss p! If you begin chop 404 ehn? Your bodi go begin dey fresh like mami water own!
Ehn leave me! I like my body as e be! You, wey dey chop dog, why your bodi no fresh like mami water own? Nneoma asked
Na because I be man nah! I be papi water! Papi water no dey fresh, na strong e dey strong!
I could not control my laughter. I had been suppressing it but when I heard him say Papi water, I let go! I laughed uncontrollably.
Uncle, what of you? You dey chop 404? Oga Okon asked
No o! I no day chop dog o! I replied
Sai! Mbok! Make una repent o! Make una repent! He dug into the food and gnawed away humming as he ate.
Oga Okon did not leave Nneoma’s house until after 11,00PM. We were outside the veranda talking, Nneoma left us and went to sleep at 9.00PM. I did not know how to disengage Oga Okon as one story naturally led to another, I later realized I was the cause. I was showing interest and asking questions. He was telling stories of his escapades during the Nigerian civil war of 1967 to 1970.
Uncle go sleep! Good night! I opened my eyes to see Oga Okon walking away eventually. That was 11.45PM.
I sprang up and looked outside the window, I t was still dark outside. I picked up my phone from the floor, it was after 4.00AM. I dropped the phone. It must have been a dream. As I was drifting back to sleep, another shrieking sound pierced through the silent dark. I sat up in bed, the screams continued, it belonged to different voices, surely not adult voices but children or teenagers.
Wake up! Nne wake up! I tapped Nneoma.
Daddy go back to sleep! She said as she pulled me backwards
Go back to which sleep? I asked. I was terrified. Did you not hear those screams Nneoma? Nne wake up nah! Something is happening around here!
Then I heard sound of something being pounded coupled with shrieks.
Nne what is happening? I asked.
Tomorrow is Sunday; you will use your eyes to see what I have been trying to tell you all this while. You have only heard screams, she said. Don’t worry you will soon see screams.
But I am scared Nne, I can’t sleep like this.
My dear sleep o! Not after your stressful journey from Aba and your lecture with Oga Okon!
Okay, what is making that noise? I asked.
Behind the school fence is a Ministry headed by one Prophet Akpangbo. He cast out demons from witches and wizards. Don’t worry dear, sleep. When the day is bright, you will attend morning service there.
Me? What about you? I asked.
You know I am a catholic, I don’t worship in other churches.
Muwa kwanu? Am I not a catholic? I asked
I just want you to there and see what is happening in this community the Government sent me to. She said.
She fell asleep afterwards but I could not sleep any longer. The screams and sound of torture continued. I could not even touch Nneoma when it was 6.00AM. it’s been four moths that we saw each other, I had rehearsed how I would devour her when I get to Nkanafor but I was exhausted and I thought maybe after a little rest, I would make my move. Oga Okon came with his own wahala. Now after resting reasonably, this screaming thing has come up. How can I mount my woman with Children voices screaming in the back ground? Quite unimaginable.
I started to sleep at about 7.00AM. Nneoma woke me up and it was after 9.00AM by my phone.
Daddy wake up! Eat your food and freshen up. I have put water for you in the bath room and your food is on the reading table. I am going to church to be back before twelve.
Ngwa nu! Pray for us o! I said.
Twenty minutes after, I got up from the bed and picked up my phone. It was 10.30AM. I cannot describe the noise that filled the air. Sounds of local drumming, gongs clanging and bells ringing. Creams of Jesus! Jesus! Rented the air! The cries of people in pain, Kids voices. The voices I was hearing were definitely those of Children so I got into my NYSC trouser and put on my NYSC Polo shirt. I hurriedly brushed my teeth in the bathroom and splashed water on my face. I slipped into Nneoma’s slippers, feminine though but who cares as I proceeded to the school gate.
Oga Okon was absent from his post so the gate was locked but the pedestrian gate was simply closed. I opened the gate and followed the sound as it took me round the school fence.
The church is situated on a hectare of land. The concrete block fence is just four blocks high and the building is situated at the center of the vast land, as I approached the entrance I saw some men closing up a hole, a hole like a shallow grave that has just been used to bury something as I could see some form of clothing materials sprouting out of the hole as they yanked sands into it. I was staring at them until they stopped their activity and started looking at me curiously.
Na wetin? One of them asked. You no go mind your business dey go where you dey go?
I looked forward, towards the building and continued my movement so they continued their work, about three meters away from them; two men with spades were digging a hole.
The noise increased as I approached the church building, I entered the make shift caricature of a gate. The gate was not necessary as anyone could simply climb over the low fence into the premises. The gate should be for those who came with cars.
As I got inside I deduced that it was not really a proper church as I had envisioned. As I entered through the back door, I saw about twenty white plastic chairs, ten aside left and right flanks with a walk way at the middle. After the arranged chairs the floor is open and spacious before getting to a raised platform that should be the Alter because of the marble design and the pulpit. High on the wall is a huge portrait of our lord Jesus Christ on a cross. His feet and palms bleeding as he looked down on us with thorns as crown on his head. The portrait was graphic and looked so surreal.
Written in bold red letters beneath the huge portrait is the inscription “Suffer not a witch to live” The Pulpit is adorned with red and white ribbons and the walls around the Alter is designed with same colours. Then on a door that is closed and painted white is written “Holies of Holies” in bold red letters and beneath this inscription is a sticker of the danger insignia. A skull with two bones.
Prophet Akpamgbo is robbed in pure white satin sultane with red girdle, he holds a staff that is four feet long. He is ably assisted by two men who wore white sultane also but with blue girdles. The trio is heavily bearded that you would not see their lips. On the spacious floor before the Alter are children below the age of ten, about seventy children sprawled on the floor with chains on their legs. All their heads were clean shaven exposing deep cuts from sharp objects. Some cuts were healing but most are still oozing fresh blood while some looked visibly infected. I took an empty seat at the front row of chairs and sat with my chest thumping.
I heard faint sounds from afar, as the sound drew nearer I could decipher NNeoma’s voice distinctively from others. I felt giddy as in a sub conscious state so I tried to mentally articulate my environment. The air smelled of ethanol like in a clinic so I willed myself to wake up. As I opened my eyes I saw nurses roaming about in their resplendent white gowns.
He’s back! He’s back! Hey! Corper go back! I heard a nurse say as they hover around me opening my eyes and pointing miniature lighting device to my eyes.
Daddy! Daddy! Clement! It was Nneoma calling me.
Ogini? I asked. Kedu ebe nno? Where am I please?
I no na hospital! She replied above the heads of the nurses. Uni-Uyo teaching hospital k’ ino!
Maka gini zi? I asked.
The Doctor came and examined me, he checked my eyes my pulse.
I think I am okay! I said. Kedu ka m si ru ebe a? I asked no one in particular.
Nneoma came closer and held my hand. When I returned from the church I did not see you at home, I saw that you had not even eaten the food that I prepared for you so I went to Oga Okon to enquire of your where about. He said he had not seen you but that someone had left the gate open.
I guessed you might have gone to unravel the mystery behind the noise of the night as that was typical of you so I told Oga Okon to go and check for you at the ministry.
Barely ten minutes that he left, he came back with you lying at the back seat of the prophet’s car, they said you fainted! They said they revived you by pouring water on your head and you woke up but as you lay your eyes on the Prophets face again you screamed and fainted again, that was when Oga Okon entered the church and he insisted that they took you to a hospital. Today is your second day here now, Daddy what happened biko?
The memory came flooding back! I screamed again as I held my head, I felt for a hole at the centre of my head but there was none. But I started hearing the sound of hammer hitting a nail. I had to cover my ears with both hand, I pulled the sheets on the bed over my head as I cringed away to the edge of the bed. My head! My head!
I ended up spending one month at the psychiatric wing of the hospital. The colours white and red affected me whenever I saw them. It was after a month without progress that a Doctor suggested that they took me to his private clinic in Calabar where I would be shielded from seeing such colours until I was fully sane again.