The NCDC continued to roll out the figures at about midnight every day. No one knew why they did that but it worked to the effect that Nigerians woke up every morning to further evidence that the COVID 19 pandemic was real and had taken firm root on their soil. Now the infection rate had crossed the one thousand mark and thirty-five people had died. As stark as those figures were, considering that they were official figures (six hundred people died in one week in Kano from unknown causes), people still grappled with the hunger/disease conundrum which made the whole lockdown panacea of the Federal government laughable. In places like Alimosho and Lekki/Epe in Lagos, you would have thought that they did not see the news or that people there were already inoculated with a vaccine no one knew about. It was almost business as usual.
When they were able to talk about it at number 225 Katakata Street, Josiah chose to heap the blame on the mega pastors of the republic.
“They told us church was everything. They preferred to build their monuments rather than factories and hospitals. They made us pay tithe rather than get health insurance. How dare they now donate ventilators and medical equipment to the government to fight the coronavirus?”
“But ventilators and medical equipment are good things,” Ndifreke said. “Don’t forget that this is also a government that never took healthcare seriously. They did not build or equip any hospitals. Even the famed Aso Rock clinic did not even have paracetamol because they and their families could easily hop on a plane and fly abroad if they farted more times than they normally did in a day. The pastors donating these things have tried.”
“No, you miss the point,” Josiah opined. “These men told us that so long as we invested in the church that we did not need to worry about anything. They bragged weekly of miracles they performed. They beat their chest that they spoke with God every morning and evening. Pastor Adeboye famously claimed to have even drunk tea with God in Illorin. How can people like that now be donating ventilators? Please understand me: ventilators and relief materials and medical equipment are good, but we have been conditioned in the last few decades to believe that those were the kind of things we would never need to worry about if we were faithful in church. We in turn also believed that our daddies had the ears of God and so we would never see a time when we would be so helpless that the gates of the church would be closed and tithe payers would be out of work. I pay my tithe despite everything Cosmas has been telling us but now I do not have work and I may die of coronavirus because we cannot even practice social distancing here. That was not supposed to be in the script!”
“My people, the book of Revelations must come to pass. The world is old. It is coming to an end,” Mr. Zubi said.
“Okay, so it is now the book of Revelations and no longer Malachi 3?”
“The least they can do is to go to the isolation centers and heal everybody and storm the mortuaries and graves of those thirty-five dead people and raise them,” Achike said.
“You know that will never happen.”
“Alright everyone,” Mr. Cosmas intervened.
You could hear a pin drop now.
“Let us not be hysterical. This is not the time to trade blame. If you allow men to deceive you, that is your own fault. Christ admonished us to seek the Truth and assured us that if we did we would find it. Paul told us to always go back and search the scriptures when we were taught so as to confirm that we were being taught the truth. That is because, at the end of the day, your salvation is your responsibility. If you have been fooled, it is only because of your spiritual indolence and love of ease. You want to buy salvation? Good luck with that.
“But let me say this as far as what is happening in the world right now is concerned. We know from the scriptures that the Lord often sent plagues and pestilence to deal with his own people, or put in another way, He allowed those things to take place to draw His own to Himself. Everything happens according to his will, His will now being the Law of reciprocal action weaved into the fabric of the Universe from the very beginning. There are no chance happenings in nature. Purification of the earth is taking place.
“But the question now is, how do we find peace and protection in the midst of this storm?
“Turn to the Lord folks. Wash your hands and also your hearts. Now that you have seen that your tithe is not doing much for you, focus on your eternity, and not on earth. Stop worrying and pray to God for answers. Pray this beautiful prayer of Solomon’s “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:1.
Going back to Exodus: “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.”
“Mr. Cosmas the Pastors are now saying the same thing online.”
“They do not lie.”
“But why now?”
“That is the word for now.”
“I swear after now if I hear all those other nonsense they preach…”
“Build your treasures in heaven, my friends. Know what is important and what is not. We are just passing through the earth. You came with nothing and you leave with nothing. Do not pursue earthly comfort at the detriment of your eternity. What you do in your churches mostly these days is idolatry. Idolatry today revolves around money. Christ said “You cannot serve two masters: God and money. For you will hate one and love the other, or else the other way around.” As my good sister, Esther will say: Repent!”
Before all of the above however, Inspector Akpan had been violated almost as soon as he moved into number 225 and he just shot at his assailant. Achike had good reason to believe that his younger brother had gotten naughty with his mother-in-law while he slept and that did not make him a happy man. He eavesdropped on the final moments of Inspector Akpan’s assault much to his horror as they reopened old wounds. Maya had returned to number 225 not quite sure what she wanted from Ndifreke. Funbi was now the rave of the moment and Irikefe was desperate to matchmake her with Ndifreke to fend off Maya. Castro was worried that Mama Akunna’s ghost had returned for him. Katakata street largely carried on as if the coronavirus did not concern them.
Evae called her mother into her bedroom when Achike stepped out. They looked each other deep in the eyes for about a minute and began to speak from their souls:
“What are you doing with him Mama?”
“Don’t say that. I know what is going on.”
“If you do, then you will know that what is happening has nothing to do with me.”
“He lusts after you.”
“And you are encouraging him.”
“I am not. He is chasing me.”
“I know my husband lusts after you too.”
“You also know that I won’t touch him.”
“I know that.”
“I also won’t have Chisco unless…”
“Unless what Mama?”
“You know what we are my daughter. No ordinary man enters us and remains the same.”
“Not true Mama. I have Achike and he is still the same.”
“Haha. He will never be able to sleep with another woman.”
“He is not supposed to sleep with another woman as long as I live.”
“All men want to. When he tries and discovers that he cannot be with another he will ask questions and he will know it is because of you. Things could go bad from there. Your father thought about that too when he opposed your marriage to him.”
“I will never let that happen. I will make love to him every day till I have my baby and I will resume right after. He will never have the need for another woman.”
“Men do not go to other women because they are not having enough sex. Very few stick to one woman.”
“Then I will make him one of the very few.”
“But he wants me. That tells you already that he is not one of those very few.”
“That is because you live here with us and he sees you every day.”
“Then I should leave.”
“No. I know you will not let him. And I will have my baby soon and I will need you.
“The hawk will do what needs to be done for me.”
“He is wasting time. Soon your baby will grow pubic hair in your womb. This marriage was a mistake daughter.”
“You are supposed to be on my side, Mama.”
“I am. But I must also tell you the truth.”
“I trust the hawk. He will do it.”
“I hope so.”
“Stay away from Chisco Mama.”
“He is not my type daughter. I cannot be with a man that has only two eyes. But I can make him have more.”
“Please don’t mama.”
“I don’t know how long I can fend him off. I touched him. I like what I felt.”
“But he has to be like us to have me. That is the standard for me.”
“You can’t make him be like us Mama.”
“If he persists I will be left with no choice.”
“Daughter, if Chisco becomes a wizard, it will be because of the choice he has made. He had the beautiful nurse but that was not enough for him. His brother gave him a place of his own to live, intends to set him up in business so that he has a good life but he insists it is my bottom he wants. I am like a garden egg. If you want to eat me, you must have all of me. Seeds and all. I want a man I can sleep with and then go up to the rooftop with the same night. Simple. I heard your counsel and I was ready to start a new life. But you know we can’t change what we are, and Chisco is pressing the wrong buttons. I will do what is natural to me if I am pushed. As for him, what is that they say about a stubborn fly? If he ends up in the grave, it is because that is where he wants to be.”
“Mama we are not sure what will happen to him if you give him the fruit. No one knows how anyone will turn out.”
“If he turns out well, he may enjoy the life. But if he turns out bad, especially if his blood radiation is not fitting, or if he is from a culture that roasts witches and wizards for breakfast every day, then he will perish. Either way, he gets what he wants.”
Jide Falomo saw the nozzle of the gun in time. It was pure survival instincts that saved him. He dived to the floor towards the door quickly enough for the slug to miss its target. He was out of the door before the Inspector could gather his wits.
Inspector Akpan was too distressed to fire another shot. He dropped the gun and cried out in pain.
Achike totally froze when he saw the man that came out of the room.
Chisco was the first one to the scene. He met his brother rooted to the spot and foaming in the mouth. He scooped Achike off his feet and carried him to the backyard and lay him on the ground beside the well and quickly groped his body for blood. There was none. Only perspiration and phlegm from a convulsion. Chisco drew water from the well and poured it on his brother. Achike began to come to.
Over in the corridor, everyone had gathered in front of the inspector’s room. No one was sure of what to do until Papa Efe arrived at the scene.
“What happen here?” He asked no one in particular.
Everyone looked at each other. They were mostly in various stages of undress as inhabitants of the compound mostly slept unclad because of the paucity of air in their dense surroundings.
Everyone murmured in confusion at the same time. Papa Efe pushed towards the door.
“You have to be careful,” Mr. Zubi said to him. “We don’t know for sure but there may be a dead body in there.”
“Haa!” the neighbors cried in unison as many placed their hands on their heads and woman started to wail.
“So maybe we should go to the police first.”
“We have to see what has happened so we know what to report,” Mr. Cosmas said.
So Messers Zubi, Cosmas and Papa Efe opened the door and entered at the same time.
The room was illuminated so they could see.
“Jesus of Nazareth” Mr. Zubi cried.
“Lock the door,” he said to Mr. Cosmas who immediately obliged.
The new tenant was writhing in blood, faeces, and perspiration. He was crying for help.
“What in the name of God happened here?”
“I don’t know,” he gasped. Please help me.”
“Who fired the gun and why?”
“I shot at him. I wanted to kill the bastard but he got away,” The Inspector said.
“I don’t know who he is. Please help me.”
“Okay, we need to get you to the hospital.”
“I don’t want anyone to see me like this.”
“No problem. We will disperse the crowd. But we don’t have any vehicles and it is 3 o’clock in the morning. Can you walk?”
“I don’t think so. But I can call the division and they will come with a patrol van.”
“Do so then, while we calm everybody down.”
“Please help me to stand.”
Mr. Zubi and Cosmas each hooked a shoulder and helped the inspector upright. It broke their hearts to see an able-bodied man like that become so helpless.
Papa Efe unlocked the door and stepped out carefully so that the people outside could not get a glimpse of the room.
“What is happening oga caretaker?” Someone asked as soon as he came out of the room.
“No be something serious. Make you all go back to una rooms.”
“We heard a gunshot and you say nothing serious happened?”
“Na accidental discharge.”
“The man be officer. Him get gun. Him dey clean him gun the thing come fire.”
“Okay so where is he? Is he alive?”
“He is alive. We dey handle the situation.”
They knew Papa Efe was hiding something. But they could sense also that things were not as bad as they feared. One thing was sure in number 225 Katakata Street: there were no secrets there. Whatever happened in that room, they would all get to know.
So one by one they went back to their rooms.
Inspector Akpan managed to call for help. He requested that his neighbours helped him to pack a bag with his vital belongings. The men wrapped him in a blanket and helped him into the police vehicle where he lay face down in the back seat of the double cabin truck.
The three men met in Papa Efe’s room after the police vehicle drove off.
“That is exactly what happened to Achike,” Mr. Zubi said.
“And he said he did not see who did it.”
“He said he did not know the person.”
“But there was surely an assailant which was why he shot at him.
“How did the person enter the compound and his room if it was not somebody he knew? We are talking about a police officer here.”
“If it was somebody he knew, why did he want to kill the person. And why will he say he did not know the person?”
“This is happening the same night we all heard the dead Mama Akunna cooking in this compound. Is anyone thinking what I am thinking?”
“You think say na Agbonyibo?”
“This has his handwriting all over it. We know that the dead of number 225 Katakata street do not stay dead, I believe Agbonyibo accompanied Mama Akunna and came and raped the policeman.”
“Agbonyibo does not have the monopoly of rape Mr. Zubi. Besides, dead people cannot physically rape anyone.”
“Cosmas, can dead people pound with a mortar?”
“I don’t want an explanation, please. We have already seen one dead person’s activity in this compound. We cannot rule out another.”
“But how are we sure Agbonyibo is dead? No one saw his body and no one attended his burial.”
“His wife said he was dead. She would not lie.”
“E no possible for him to survive,” Papa Efe said “I know that one for sure.”
“Then someone we don’t know did it. Come on, this is number 225 Katakata Street. Even Papa Efe does not know everyone that comes in here and we do not have a watchman and we never stop anyone that enters this compound. The man may have come in early, hid under the bed and then came out to do his deed when the policeman had retired to bed.”
“I want to believe that Cosmas. That makes more sense than a dead Agbonyibo doing this. That will be too much for us to live with.”
“What a nightmare,” Mr. Cosmas mused.
“We have to call a meeting tomorrow and discuss security. We all have to be on the lookout.”
“But please let us keep what we know to ourselves. We will only tell neighbours to be watchful of intruders. This is Lagos and people are hungry at this time so we don’t have to explain much. But the details of what happened to the inspector is not suitable for everyone’s consumption.”
“So we meet again in the morning. Call for the meeting on the group chat Papa Efe.”
“I will do.”
“Again, let’s keep our mouths shut gentlemen.”
But Irikefe sleeping in the adjoining room heard everything.
Achike opened his eyes and focused as his brother slowly steadied in his line of vision.
“Did you fuck her?”
“It was Agbonyibo.”
“I heard the voice. I know what he can do?”
“Brother you dey make me fear.”
“You fuck her?’
“See brother, I no wan carry you go room make your wife see you like this. Small time people go come here. I beg you, get up make we waka go room like say nothing happen.”
“Did you fuck… Agbonyibo!” He screeched and Chisco covered his mouth with his hands.
“Okay brother, I no fuck am. But you dey make me fear for this Agbonyibo wey you dey call.”
“I saw him. The new man. He is Agbonyibo.”
Chisco needed help urgently. It was acute malaria that made people begin to hallucinate and call dead people. The only person he could think of was Nurse Josephine. He knew that the nurse usually kept injections and some drugs in the house for the side gig all nurses did. But how was he going to handle Achike now? That was out of his hands pretty quickly as he lifted up his head and Eyonyam was standing there.
“He no well. Him faint,” Chisco said.
“Carry am make we go inside,” Eyonyam said.
Eyonyam and her daughter had smelt her husband’s essence waft through as soon as he left the lawyer. They feard that Achike may have somehow encountered the ghost of their patriarch hence Eyonyam going in search of him.
Chisco did not understand how the two women managed to be so calm. Evae nodded towards her mother as soon as they were inside and left them alone and went into the bedroom.
Eyonyam sat on the floor and stretched out her legs and asked Chisco to lie his brother down and place his head on her thighs. Achike fell asleep as soon as his head touched Eyonyam.
“I wan go meet nurse to come give am injection,” Chisco said. “Na malaria dey do am.”
“Okay,” Eyonyam said.
As soon as Chisco left the room she began to rub Achike’s forehead with her open palm and coo in his ears.
“What did you see?” Eyonyam said.
“Agbonyibo” Achike said weakly.
“Nothing,” Eyonyam said. “Repeat, nothing.”
“Nothing,” Achike said.
“What did you see?”
“Nothing,” Achike said dreamily.
Then to Eyonyam’s consternation, Achike said:
“Did you fuck him?”
“I like you.”
“I like you too.”
Then more bafflingly to Eyonyam, the half hypnotized Achike immediately had an erection.
“What will we do about you lot, men.” Eyonyam chuckled to herself.
Then she asked him one more time: “What did you see?”
TO BE CONTINUED.