Stations and Churches
Written by Di MadWriter
We all sat with our eyes glued to his lips as my friend recounted his encounter from the previous night.
He was on his way to a party by 10 pm when a police van pulled over next to him and three heavily armed officers jumped down, circling him like hyenas closing in on their prey. It was soon discovered that they weren’t even the police but the anti-kidnapping squad. He just stood there, scared and clueless.
They said he broke curfew. We didn’t even know there was a curfew at the time. He tried to show them his ID, but they clearly weren’t interested. One of them searched his wallet first and found just ₦2,000 in it. It went in his back pocket at once. They also took his phone and forced him to unlock it. Next was to go through his messages for his bank alerts. What they found there made them smile a cunning smile; they had succeeded in catching a big fish.
“Oboy, we’ll carry you to the station, and your family would have to bail you out with the sum of ₦150,000.” My friend pleaded with them to let him go. He tried to explain that he was just a student and that he didn’t know about the curfew. It was like explaining to a crocodile that has its jaws around your legs that human meat is not as sweet as chicken— a fruitless endeavor.
“The only thing that can save you from going to the station with us right now is if you can transfer ₦50,000 to us immediately. That is paying a third of your bail money and escaping a night in the station. It’s the only way we can help you right now.”
My friend had reached his daily limit for mobile transfers so they offered to drive him to the ATM machine, stand behind him with their guns, watch him withdraw the money, and give to them before they let him go.
I said to myself: “You won’t catch me breaking curfew if I don’t move around looking for parties by past 10 pm.” But I did go to church a lot.
Months later, we had this three-day program in the church. The first day, the minister spoke on the need to make sacrifices and opened the floor to whoever had it in their hearts to sacrifice to God. (Monetary sacrifices mostly).
The second day, the other minister gave us testimonies of freedom from financial and spiritual bondage (most of them sounded made up, no kidding). After the testimonies, we started praying. He said it was revealed to him that God wanted to bless 100 people, but they would have to bring the sum of ₦20,000 to the alter first. He kept counting and trying to convince us that he could clearly see the number 100 in the spirit realm.
Before we knew it, over 200 people went forward. Apparently, his ‘god’ had been mistaken. The minister then proceeded to say that God had improved the plan for twenty of them, if only they would make it up to a million. I mean if 200 people showed up instead of 100, they could as well just go premium.
Anyway, those who didn’t have it at the time were given the account details to make the transfer within 24 hours. Twenty-five people stepped forward to give a million each. Again, a miscalculation but let me just continue my story.
It was not my first time witnessing this so it was no surprise. I am well aware of how this works and to my expectation, I watched them go from a million to 500k to 200k and all the way down to ‘whatever you have’. They said anyone who sat back was disregarding God’s word which they were convinced was ringing in our hearts at the time. The session ended.
On our way back, my cousin who was visiting asked me, “why do you people have to always pay for sermons in the church?” It was the same question I had asked myself countless times before.
And the answer is simply because they can.
People do not need reasons to act. They do things just because they can. There’s the power of the state which enables the security agents to extort civilians without cause. Then there’s the power of religion which enables religious leaders to extort the masses whenever they feel like. As someone once said: “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.” People can do whatever when they have power.
It doesn’t matter to them if it’s right or wrong. They could do it without any implication or punishment of any sort, so they did and still do. There’s hardly any hope of peace for the widow who only has two small copper coins in the church today.
Oh, and the third day? I didn’t go. It was too much. So many things weren’t making sense. I needed a break. That wasn’t me giving up on religion, it was me giving myself a fighting chance. If I had continued taking in all that, I’d have lost it.
Our people normally say, “na who fight run de live to fight another day.” When translated, it means: It is those who fight and run that live to fight another day.
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