I am on the way to one of those nameless places that faceless people go, in pursuit of something we are not quite sure of. It is a crazy pace in this city that never sleeps, but which is ready to put you to sleep, permanently, for as little a crime as passing under Ojuelegba Bridge. Or maybe the crime is not from you, the crime is the government not fixing the bridge, or not making an alternative route for the trailers, harbingers of death and destruction, to pass. But alas, today is not the day we talk about death and destruction at ojuelegba, that day will come, but it is not today.
So I am heading to Berger bus stop, and I am looking for a bus to take me to the next step on my three-bus-two-bike journey to somewhere that…wait, wait, this part does not concern you.
Down from bike one, Berger bus stop, and you wonder if those who spell it beggar bus stop are not somehow more correct than you, who spell it as the name of a construction company. Who is Julius, anyway? The sheer number of mendicants is alarming, from those who sit on the roadside and make gestures asking for something to eat, to those who walk up to you shaking rattles and muttering prayers with outstretched arms for alms. But none of those snags my attention this morning. I traverse the Ogun-Lagos route a lot, so perhaps this is par for the course. I see them so much I do not notice them.
My attention, instead, is riveted on this woman standing near the bus stop, preaching from a wooden podium, and gesticulating wildly. If a standing fan had just one fan blade, I suspect it would move something like the way her hand was moving. The woman is screeching, making loud noises that are worsened by the dilapidated sound system which is supposed to be amplifying her voice. I shake my head as I walk past. Who are the style icons of these preachers? Do they not see men of God that dress, and look at least, presentable, if not extravagant?
How does this woman, dressing like modern-day John the Baptist, hope to convince anyone of the goodness of her god? And if I were to judge from her size, locusts and wild honey are a very good food indeed.
She should weigh nothing short of a hundred and twenty kilos, stacked on her frame, little wonder she is sweating, even though the morning still has a mild chill to it. But somehow, the impressive swinging of the non-mike holding arm fails to impress her audience, as everyone in and around the junction/park is going about their various businesses.
She changes tack.
“All these other religions you are doing, they are all dead gods, Jesus is the only Living God,” and straight away she starts a tirade of name calling.
“Amadioha” she intones, fist clenched for emphasis, “is a dead god.”
On and on she goes, calling the names of every deity from traditional mythology. After she exhausts the Igbo pantheon, she switches to the Yoruba and continues to rain abuses on other gods, calling them dead and useless, calling their worshippers fools.
I cannot help noticing, even as commuters entered the bus and sat, that the predominantly Muslim Hausa men who deal in foreign currency and gold around the bus stop are beginning to give her a little more interest. The irritated frowns of the Olokun women who shake rattles and mutter prayers as she called Olokun a dead, useless, and evil marine spirit are not enough to put brakes on her massive roller-coaster of a ride. She is on a roll now, swinging her hand left and right, occasionally lifting a face towel to dab at her streaming face, and then resume the tirade.
At length, either from limited knowledge or from having exhausted the list, she turns to other organized belief systems. Amorc. Eckankar. Buddhism. Of course, being Igbo, it comes out as “Budizin”. My mind tells me she will soon get to Islam, and then she will find out if those money changers have anything to say about her ceaseless chanting. But thankfully my bus fills, and off we go.
I honestly would have liked to hear the rest of her sermon, if we can call it that, and it is painful that she is not unique or exceptional. A lot of times (and this is common in Christendom, which is where I am coming from), sermons and exhortations consist entirely of screamed prayers and prayer points, testimonies of one General Superintendent or the other, and proclamations that Christians like to refer to as “prophetic words”
It is a thing of dismay, really, that we are also guilty of this religious intolerance that we all complain about is also saddening that people are not able to talk about the greatness of whatever supernatural being they serve, without trying to discredit all the others. It shows how far we have to develop, as individuals, as a nation, and even as religious people.
This is not to be misinterpreted as post bashing Christians. I experienced something I would call hate speech, but again that is a story for another day.