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When David pulled behind the ambulance parked in front of the clinic, he turned to his wife who was restless in the back seat and fear gripped his heart again. He got out of the car and ran into the clinic.
He returned with a young doctor, two nurses and a stretcher. Nike was lifted to the stretcher and taken into the clinic. The doctor quickly gave orders while David headed straight for Dr Afolabi’s office. It was locked.
He had been assured that the delivery would go well but still he didn’t want to take chances. How could he leave Nike in the hands of a doctor who barely had enough experience. How old was he? Twenty one? Twenty-five? Wasn’t it on the news few weeks ago that a wrong prescription had killed the wife of a soldier? Besides, Dr Afolabi was aware of Nike’s history. She alone understood the measure of carefulness required to see through the safety of mother and child.
After Nike had been rolled into the labour ward, David rushed to Dr Afolabi’s house, a bungalow built behind the clinic. He knocked but there was no answer. He knocked again. He dialed her number. It was switched off.
‘Hey! Stop. Get away from that door!’
David turned to find a man hurrying towards him, holding a torchlight. The frontage of Dr Afolabi’s bungalow was so dark he could not make out the face of the man marching towards him.
‘What are you looking for there? Leave that place!’
The man was close now. David stepped away from the door but remained standing until the man reached him. He squinted when he pointed the torchlight to his face.
‘Please, I’m looking for Dr Afolabi. This is urgent.’
The man froze. His eyes went from David’s bare chest to his boxers. He prostrated on the floor.
‘Pastor, Ekaro o. This is Baba Peju.’
‘Ah! Baba Peju.’ David almost laughed. Baba Peju had been picked up somewhere in the bush one evening when David was returning with his wife and some of the church members from an evangelistic outreach. He was sprawled out on the floor drunk. They had taken him to the church immediately.
After feeding him and ministering the Word to him, Baba Peju led them to his hut where his pregnant wife and five daughters were sitting outside waiting for the man of the house to bring home some money for food. His wife was crying when they arrived. She looked malnourished and Nike was drawn with compassion for her.
The church welfare team quickly went into action, supplying food for the family and putting them up in a two-bedroom flat. Two of the daughters were enrolled in the vocation Center while the other three were placed in primary schools. The couple became active members of the church. Dr Afolabi offered him a job as her night guard while his wife became the church typist. They signed up for family planning shortly after their son was born.
‘Where is Dr Afolabi?’
‘She travelled to ile-ife yesterday evening.’
David clenched his fist. ‘Oh no! Why would she travel?’
He rushed back to the clinic. Jide and his wife Bose were at the reception looking for him. Bose’s jaw dropped when she saw the Pastor heading towards them with hairy chest and thin legs. His friend quickly whisked him into an empty room and handed him a shirt and trouser.
‘How is she?’
The trouser swallowed David’s legs. Jide chuckled. ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t have the time to search for something smaller.’
The shirt was bigger. He buttoned up and folded the sleeves and then stooped down to roll up the trousers. ‘Jide, Dr Afolabi is not in town. I’m afraid I’m going to lose my wife.’
‘Don’t speak like that. Nike is not going to die. She will not die.’
David left the room and returned to the labour ward. The doctor was coming out of the room his wife had been taken into when David approached him. ‘Doctor what’s going on?’
‘Everything is fine.’
‘Don’t tell me everything is fine when there are complications. Do you know exactly what you are doing?’
From inside the room, he heard soft groaning and the fear returned. Beads of sweat covered his face. He heard other voices talking in low tones.
‘Please tell me the situation of things.’
‘I said everything is fine.’
‘Everything cannot be fine. How sure am I that you can handle this. If this is beyond your expertise, tell us so we can move her to the teaching hospital in Ife.’
Jide intervened. ‘David, relax.’ He turned to the doctor. ‘Please go on with your work. Just let us know if anything goes wrong.’
The doctor nodded and walked down the corridor to his office. Jide led David back to the reception and settled beside his wife who was curious to know about Nike’s situation. When none of the men said anything, she leaned forward to give David a word of encouragement but he was up on his feet, pacing the hall. Daylight was gradually flooding in and the reception was getting filled up with patients. He tried Dr Afolabi’s line again. Her phone rang. David eyes lit up.
‘Her phone is ringing.’ He whispered to Jide and his wife.
‘Dr Afolabi, I am at the clinic with my wife. Can you please run down here from wherever you are?’
‘What’s wrong with Sis Nike?’
‘She is in the labour room. I think there are complications and your doctor isn’t saying anything. Please come.
‘Oh my God! I am on my way now.’
When David ended the call, he let out a quick breath. ‘Bose, please can you gather the church members together. Let them pray for the Pastor’s wife..’ He slumped back in his seat. Bose raced out of the clinic to carry out David’s instruction.
Jide placed his hand on his friend’s knee. ‘What did Dr Afolabi say?’
David sighed and bowed his head. All he could think of was the last incident that nearly killed his wife. Tears stung his eyes. Jide passed a handkerchief to him. He wiped the tears and blew into it. This was no time to be weak. A good Pastor was expected to practice what he preached but here he was whimpering instead of trusting God to see him through this.
‘Lord Jesus, use me. You gave me your righteousness and took all of my sins away. Oh Lord, I want to be a great tool for your glory. Open my eyes to know you more. Reveal yourself to me again.’ Iya Abeke was kneeling on the floor of her living room, her bible spread out in front of her. She raised her hand and moved her head from side to side, groaning in prayers and speaking in tongues. She broke into a song.
The knock on her door stopped her singing midway. She opened her eyes and looked at the time. 6:30a.m. Who could that be? She ignored the intruder and continued to pray but whoever was at the door wasn’t about to give up.
‘Who is that?’ she was clearly irritated by the interruption.
‘Iya Abeke, open the door.’
She stood up and moved towards the window. She pulled the curtain aside. There were women from her church standing outside. Some of them were crying. She darted towards the door and unlocked it.
‘Iya Abeke, we are all heading for the church. Iyawo Pastor will soon die.’ One of the women said. The others turned to her.
‘Ahh! That was not what Sister Bose said. She said Iyawo Pastor is in the hospital and needs our prayers.’
‘What’s the difference?’
‘But she didn’t tell us Iyawo Pastor was going to die. Don’t say what you did not hear.’
Iya Abeke didn’t wait for their arguments to end before rushing back into the house to pick her bell and bible. They sang all the way from Iya Abeke’s house to the church.
Onisegun nla wa nihin
Oro re mu ni lára da
Agbo ohu ti Jesu
Iro didun lorin Seraf
Oruko didun n’nu enia
Orin tó dun julo ni
Jesu, Jesu, Jesu
Segun’s elder brother flew into Nigeria from Kenya for a conference and Segun made plans to travel down to Lagos with his wife to see him. They left Ipetumodu at 5:30 a.m and were almost approaching Ibadan when Segun felt his pockets for his phone but couldn’t find it.
‘Dear, is my phone with you?’ Tolani was fast asleep and didn’t respond. He tapped her. She stirred in her sleep but still didn’t respond.
He tapped her again. ‘Please check your bag for my phone.’
She stretched out her legs and sat up. ‘Did you put it in my bag?’
She rummaged through her bag. ‘It’s not here.’ She reached for her phone. ‘Let me flash it.’
‘It’s switched off. The battery is flat.’
‘Honey, but we turned on the generator last night. Why didn’t you charge it?’
‘Sincerely, I forgot. It was dead by the time I woke up this morning. Please help me check the back seat.’
Tolani’s eyes were glued to her phone. ‘Bose has been calling me. 20 missed calls. I hope everything is fine.’
She dialed Bose’s number. ‘Bose, I’m sorry I missed your calls.’
‘Tolani, I’m on my way to the church as I speak. I’m mobilizing the members for a prayer session. Nike is in the hospital as I speak. I’m so scared. Please pray for her. Nike must not die.’ Bose said in one breath.
Tolani ‘s face paled as she turned to her husband and broke the news. ‘Nike has been rushed to the clinic. I think something is wrong.’
Segun turned the car around and drove back to Ipetumodu.
‘Stop saying what you don’t know. The doctor never said there was any complication. Don’t let the devil use you. He may be young but that’s not sufficient to judge his competence. I don’t think Dr Afolabi will employ someone who does not know the job.’ Jide said to David as they stood beside David’s car. The Pastor rested his hands on the boot, his head faced downward.
‘Oh Lord, forgive me. Take this fear away. Please Lord.’
Jide pulled his friend’s hands. ‘Come, Let’s go into the reception to pray.’
As they walked back into the building, a red Toyota sped into the compound and stopped in front of them. Dr Afolabi jumped down from the car. Relief swept over David. She didn’t stop to exchange pleasantries with them as she hurried into the clinic. The men followed suit.
As they entered the reception, a nurse ran down the corridor to the reception. ‘Iyawo Pastor ti bi mo o. A baby boy has arrived!’
David froze. Was that really possible?
The nurses and some of the patients who were members of the church clapped and shouted in excitement. The doctor was smiling broadly as he greeted Doctor Afolabi and followed her back to the labour ward.
‘What about my wife?’ David asked, walking briskly behind the doctors.
‘Mother and Son are doing great.’
‘Was there any complications or something we should take note of?’ Dr Afolabi asked, before she entered the room.
‘None. It went perfectly well.’
David couldn’t hold the excitement any longer. ‘Please, can I see her?’
Bose was still going from house to house, calling for prayers. She had asked Iya Abeke to go ahead with the prayers with the members already assembled in the church.
Iya Abeke stood on the altar of the newly completed church auditorium. She rang the bell thrice. ‘We are going to be praying for our Pastor’s Wife. She will not die.’
‘Amen!’ the congregation chorused.
‘I will be reading from James chapter five verse sixteen and seventeen. Please listen as I read.’
The nosie from the back of the church reached the altar. The members gave way for a woman who was running towards the front, panting. ‘Praise the Lord! Iyawo Pastor has a baby.’
‘Our mother in Israel and our baby are doing fine. Praise the Lord!’
A man raised a song and the others joined in, dancing. They took the dance to the streets.
David kissed his wife’s forehead. She shifted her gaze away from her son to her husband. He was giggling like a small boy who had just been given a new car toy.
‘I was so scared Nike.’
She smiled. ‘Come here.’ With a finger under his chin, she pulled him close and planted a light kiss on his lips. ‘We’ll be here together for a long time.’
He couldn’t take his eyes away from her.
Bose cleared her throat and tried to hide a smile. ‘It is time for his bath.’ She took the baby away from his mother and left for the bathroom. Tolani burst into the room holding a basket, she was followed by Dr Afolabi who had been laughing as she moved from one ward to another ever since Nike put to bed. Her employees had stared at her shocked, whispering and asking themselves what had happened to their Oga.
‘The whole village is outside the clinic.’ Tolani said as she began to serve hot pap into a bowl. Her husband had left that morning without her. He understood when she said she needed to stay back to take care of her friend.
‘I’ve already told the security not to let them in.’ Dr Afolabi said without looking up from Nike’s file. She wrote something down on a page. She raised her head. ‘She’ll be discharged tomorrow morning.’ She winked at the new mother and left the room.
‘Can anyone ever understand Dr Afolabi?’ Tolani said as soon as the doctor left the room. The door opened and the doctor shot her head in.
A nurse informed Nike that two women who claimed to be related to her were outside. David went out with the nurse and returned with Nike’s mother and sister. Nike screamed in excitement when they entered. Her mother began to dance at the center of the room.
E wa wo ohun to’luwa se funmi
E wa wo ohun to’luwa se funmi
‘God is faithful!’ she hugged her daughter and took her wet grandson from Bose. She lifted the boy with so much ease that Nike almost screamed.
‘Mummy be careful with the way you hold him.’ Everyone in the room roared with laughter. Nike couldn’t help but laugh herself. Nike’s mother wrapped the boy in a shawl with so much swiftness that Nike almost stood up to take her son from her.
Nike’s sister chuckled. ‘I felt the same way when mummy first carried my daughter. Relax, mum got this.’
The dedication service for Baby Samuel took place at the church the following month. On that day, the church auditorium was crowded. There were more even more people outside the building. When Nike stepped out of the Pastor’s Office with her husband who held their son, Iya Abeke was right there in front of the office ready to lead the couple into the church for the service. The Senior Pastor had come from Lagos and was already standing at the altar waiting for them.
‘Iyawo Pastor ti jade o. She has come out!’ A woman shouted, gesturing to a group of elderly women sitting at a corner, laughing and making small talks.
The drummers went into action. Iya Abeke still had her enchanting dancing moves in place. This was deja vu for Nike. Only that this time Mary was not standing beside Nike, telling her to stay away from Iya Abeke.
As Nike danced to the altar, she saw the women God had helped her to reach. They danced alongside with her. She grinned at the ones she had led to Christ. She saw those whose homes she has helped to restored, she smiled when her gaze shifted to the women who had found purpose and were passionately pursuing it. At the back of the hall, Ronke stood and waved at her. The young girl who had been abused sexually for many years stood looked radiant in a beautiful purple gown. Ronke’s mother stood right beside her daughter blowing kisses at Nike. She returned the gesture. Her eyes caught Mary, somewhere in the middle row, folding her hands and staring at her. She still remembered that few weeks before she gave birth, Mary called her, asking the same question Nike couldn’t give an answer to.
‘Nike, what exactly killed my husband?’
When David and Segun forced their way into one of the rooms in Mary’s house, they had seen Joshua on the floor, dead. That was the only answer she had given her friend. She couldn’t bring herself to share the dream her husband had told her the morning Pastor Joshua died. She also never told Mary that Iya Abeke had been helping Joshua to send arrows that would make her husband insane and that while she was at it, something had struck her leg, leaving her paralyzed.
Mary left her seat and found her way to the aisle already packed full with people. She found a space behind Nike as they continued their dance to the altar. Nike almost screamed in excitement when she saw Clara and some of the corps members who had been very active in the church during their service year. Clara had sent her a mail asking for permission to set up a website and a Youtube channel for the Center after the completion of the building. She couldn’t wait for the service to be over so they could talk about the new ideas.
They were now in front of the altar. The Senior Pastor stretched out his hands to receive the baby. David held his wife’s hands as they bowed their heads for prayers. For no particular reason, Nike opened her eyes and turned her head to the congregation, her gaze searching out her women amidst the crowd. She saw more people she didn’t expect to come on a short notice. Feranmi, Gloria and Yemisi were somewhere in the front. Dami and some of her former colleagues from Linus’ law firm were present. Some of the women didn’t close their eyes. They were waving and smiling warmly at her. Nike’s eyes welled up with tears. This time, they were tears of joy of a fulfilled life. She return their smiles and focused on the prayers by the Senior Pastor. She bowed her head.
Then she remembered a page from her journal.
January 15, 2004.
This morning, as if in a trance, I entered a room full of sick women. Some were bandaged, others were crying and there were those who stared into space. They were all excited to see me and tried reaching out to me even in their pain. I don’t understand this. But I noticed I was so happy to be with them and didn’t want to leave.
‘Thank you Jesus.’ Nike muttered and again concentrated on the Pastor’s prayers
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