Shrieks. Sweat. Tears. More sweat. More tears. Even more sweat, in spite of the chilly breeze. It was the far side of 9.00pm and the prayer session had dragged on for over five hours, and of course the flesh was weak, but a willing spirit would prevail this time. There was something in the atmosphere, something which they could not explain, which spurred them on to continue with prayer point after prayer point. There was the collective feeling that they would finally get answers that day.
Yes, it felt like Salvation Day for all the corps members who had been assigned to this remote local government area, in this part of Western Nigeria where cocoa was once a major export commodity, and where the natives were reputed for their prowess in the metaphysical. A lot had been going on in the two lodges reserved for corps members, particularly the one accommodating those assigned to teach in the only secondary school that existed in the local government area, and it was only right that the lodge more seriously affected served as the venue for the prayer session. A good number of the corps members in “School Lodge” had only been here for about three months, but they had experienced enough to last for a whole year.
Chika wept silently as she stayed rooted to her kneeling position. It had been months since she appeared this solemn. Of course she had to; she had received her fair share of trouble in this lodge. It was her whose Blackberry Z10 had mysteriously disappeared on the very first week of her arrival, and after days of repeated dialling and interrogating of her fellow corps members, heard a strange voice at the other end of the line speaking in the state’s indigenous language. Upon interpretation by a friend, she realised that the thief was actually asking for the password of the phone. There had also been days when she had returned to her room from the day’s teaching duty, only to find that her cosmetics and beverage tins were littered outside the room, never mind that she had fastened the locks before stepping out earlier in the day.
Henry was in no mood for jokes or recess as he screamed in prayer to the heavens. He needed answers too, as these past few months had been anything but blissful. A graduate of Business Administration, he had to cope with stubborn students who were not exactly bright, and for each stroke of the lash he administered in disciplining them, he received six more at night from unknown sources. He woke up with whip marks on his back and legs every other morning, not to mention the “pressing” at night twice weekly, and on this day, he decided that he had seen enough.
Efe was practically ROTFW (rolling on the floor weeping) as he prayed in tongues. Efe had been raised in a strong Christian background, and from his demeanour and lifestyle, there was no gainsaying who would be in charge of the local government branch of the NCCF (Nigerian Christian Corpers’ Fellowship). His faith had however not left him unscathed from the happenings in the lodge. It was he who on three consecutive nights had slept with his laptop beside his head, only to find it outside his flat each following day. He had also not forgotten the day he came back from trying (in vain) to impact Chemistry to students who were probably within his age grade anyways, only to see the pot of Okro soup, which he had made the evening before, turned upside down, even with the room securely locked and devoid of rodents.
A collective gasp rent the air as they put their supplications on hold, in obedience to the Pastor whom Efe had invited from the nearby town to conduct the prayers. George, the C.L.O (Corpers’ Liaison Officer), whose only prayer point had been for God to return the fifty thousand naira that mysteriously disappeared from his room (where Lilian spent more time than in her own room), lay semi-conscious on the floor. Pastor Greg suddenly broke into a cacophony of strange languages which lasted for over fifteen minutes, while they shut their eyes and remained silent in line with his instruction. Their faces brightened up when after a spell of awkward silence, he cleared his throat and shouted: “All of you, come closer! The Holy Spirit has revealed something to me tonight!”
It was at that point that they got to find out the root cause of their travails over the past couple of months, for which police reports and complaints to the Local Government Inspector had proved to be vain attempts at finding a solution. A corps member (whose name the Holy Spirit didn’t deem fit to disclose) from four previous NYSC batches had got himself romantically involved with one of the locals while he had been on national assignment. The relationship took a twist, as promises and intercourse-driven covenants came into the fray, and when he ended the romance a day after his Passing Out Parade, she felt bitter about her being jilted, and decided to vent her spleen via supernatural means, hence the cumulative troubles.
HELL HATH NO FURY THAN A WOMAN SCORNED!
What the Pastor said next surprised them. Not like they didn’t expect it, but at least, not from a man of God.
“Please if you must go downtown, make sure you mingle with one another. Stay away from these natives”, he said.
“Ah , Oga Pastor” was their collective response. He laughed and, after sharing the grace in fellowship, bade them good night and drove off in his Honda Pilot. As they retired to their rooms, the exhausted but relieved corps members couldn’t help but break into small discussion groups and (ultimately) gossip sessions.
“It’s people like Fred that Pastor was talking about”, said Chika to George. “He won’t leave that dirty Folake girl alone”. Folake was one of two SS2 female students who usually came around to see Fred so he could treat them to private lessons in Additional Mathematics, lessons than often ran late into the night.
“Yes o, na so all these village girls dey do”, Alfie cut in. (Alfie had been assigned to the local government council secretariat.) “That time when we dey camp, I kon hear say e get one Yoruba corper wey be lawyer, wey give girl belle for Akwa Ibom o. I hear say the guy kon redeploy go Abuja based on long leg, but the guy life don cast finish.”
“How?” Chika asked, firm wrinkles taking shape on her forehead.
“I hear say the guy just dey sick anyhow o”, Alfie continued. “Malaria today, typhoid tomorrow, measles kon enter the matter sef.”
“You sure say that girl nor give am H…..”
“Chika, you wan know whether the boy don carry? Na Google you go ask that one o. Nor be from my mouth dem go hear say Ogbanje go Heaven”.
“And ehen, Alfie, I think say Efe na spirikoko before o. Why Holy Spirit nor reveal this thing give am since na? Abi the Spirit don dey get grade?”
“Chika, I don tell you before, Google is your friend.”
If the corps members thought their woes were behind them, they found out otherwise in a matter of hours. There was loud hooting from within the trees all through the night, strange noises sounding like horse gallops were heard in the ceilings of each flat, and Efe woke up with whip marks of his own. After ten days which involved series of complaints to the Principal of the school and the local government Schedule Officer , they moved into an alternative (and less convenient) accommodation provided by the local government authority, but not before collectively vowing to warn corps members of subsequent batches to completely stay away from the locals.