Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Ow! (01/07/10)
TITLE: And He Departed
By Oni Mustapha Abu Bakar
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With fear of a kind pressing my hands tight around my Yoruba bible, I struggled hard to repress the two-lettered word that was echoing against my throat- Ow. If only the adamant birds that had continued chirping could hear the drumming of my heart created by the persistent blending of my fright with the inner screaming of my regret, they would have shut their beaks up and joined the congregation of silent mourners that circled Papa’s coffin at the Ijebu Ode gravesite.
“Ow,” I muttered. “Papa is no more, Papa, Ota”
Papa’s death might have brought sorrows into our household but it retied me with my mother. Sobbing and staring at the coffin of Papa, flashbacks of my horrible past rebooted my dying memory as if it were a slideshow. I nearly recalled every stage of Papa’s deadly play just to stop me from tasting Christianity.
I remembered the very first day he had confronted me, diplomatically.
“Bamidele, this thing they call Christianity is the white man’s religion aimed at killing our own deity, Odùduwà. I do not want you to follow that path.”
Then I was expecting admission into the Lagos State University, LASU. I was a teenager that believed in self-sufficiency. I strongly believed in the good message I had received through my friends in our high school’s FCS. I was becoming a different person in my family. My overnight metamorphosis from an obedient cat to a stubborn lion, as Papa had referred to me, was the concern of the family. He was scared I would loose the foundation of our family; Odùduwà. Immediately, the debate had started in our family, Mama was scared. She was sure the family was going to loose somebody because I was just like Papa; I always wanted things done my way.
After Papa had confronted me using family diplomacy, he switched to aggression. He threatened not to sponsor my education if I continued going to fellowship. As expected of any teenager, I was scared but fortunately, in those difficult days, I came across inspiring stories in the Holy book that fuelled my passion for my newfound religion. Papa raised his bar of hardship on me; he ceased my bible and prayer books. I held steadfast to my faith and ignored the family on days we had to visit the Odùduwà Shrine. Angry at my stubbornness and scared of the shame I would bring to the family, Papa shooed my Christian brothers away and worse of all, when my admission came, he stopped me from going to school. Within a span of eight months, I became the dark horse of the family.
With the love for my religion as intact as myself, I was obsessed with my education. Fully aware that time was not on my side, I vanished from the house on one of the days the family had visited the shrine. I never came back until now.
Man proposes; God disposes. I had planned to return immediately after my study in the University, which the Living Faith Church was sponsoring. My plan had failed me. Reading the letter my sister had written to me last Saturday, I felt I was the biggest betrayer on earth. There were rumours that my absence had killed Papa. I felt I was a murderer. I should have contacted him early enough to tell him of my welfare. I never did until his death killed my plans at the middle of my study. His death had turned a boat that sailed me home like a returning prisoner of war.
Even in the middle of all the mourners, some loving and some cold, I wrapped my palms tight around my bible praying for forgiveness. I had sinned but I would not mind going all over the episode again, if my faith would be the theme of this tragic tale.
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