I boarded the big bus at Oshodi. It was one of those very hot evenings when one wondered whether the sun would go down. As usual, the bus was crammed with commuters who could not or did not wish to pay the higher fares demanded by the smaller buses. I was in the second category. As the seats filled up fast, the conductors began to call for passengers who would have to stand on the aisle between the seats. Standing passengers would pay an even lesser fare. More people rushed in till there was hardly any space in the bus to move and the nauseating smell of dirty, sweaty human bodies filled the air. It was a sorry situation, but we were used to “suffering and smiling” as Fela Anikulapo Kuti put it. The bus began its journey to Mile 2.
A short while into the journey, I expected an individual to stand and begin reeling off the benefits of some herbal concoction or some all-healing drug to encourage the rest of us to buy, but I was mildly surprised when a young man, who looked like he was in his late 20’s to early 30’s stood up and with a loud baritone voice shouted, “Somebody praise the Lord!”
No one responded with the usual “Hallelujah.”
He tried again,”If you know God has been good to you, shout a big hallelujah!” This time, few people responded. This seemed like motivation enough for him because he continued, “My brothers and sisters in this bus, I am here to tell you to repent for the kingdom of God is at hand. Where will you spend your eternity? Heaven is real and hell is real! Amend your ways now and forsake sin. Give your life to Christ and it shall be well with you…” On and on he went, admonishing the people to repent. He began to describe specific sins, “If you are into armed robbery, fornication and adultery, repent now! If you know you visit babalawo, doing charms here and there, hell fire is waiting for you. If you are into smoking and drinking, amend your ways. If you are a lady and you are wearing trouser, putting make up, doing attachment, don’t you know that the devil is using you? Repent and forsake those things now! Remember eternity is near.”
His last statement sparked hushed conversations among some passengers. Some giggled, while others tried to analyse what he had just said. The man sitting next to me was obviously upset about something because he kept murmuring incomprehensible jargon and fuming, inhaling and exhaling deeply. I pretended not to notice.
The preacher kept up his preaching, painting scary pictures of “hell fire” perhaps in a bid to scare people into repentance. It amazed me how he never once mentioned how people can actually repent. He kept hammering on the need for it but never spoke about how to do it. I would have been puzzled if I was seeking repentance at that point because I would not know how to get it. When he felt he had reached the climax of his preaching, he said “Now, my brothers and sisters, some of you know me. I preach in the bus like this everyday, my route is Oshodi to Mile 2 to Orile. My work is to spread the gospel. This is my assignment. If you are led to contribute to the spreading of the gospel, please hand me your offering and I will pray for you. As you give to this ministry, God will never forget you.”
As some people were starting to give the preacher “offering”, the man next to me seemed about to explode. I knew something interesting was about to happen and I was not disappointed. He sprang up from his seat and pointed a finger at the preacher. “You are a useless man!” He shouted. The bus became very quiet. The man next to me continued, “You have no shame, disguising yourself as a preacher and using God’s name to beg. You are nothing but a fake and a sham!” Looking around at the passengers he continued, “Anyone who gives him money is a big fool! This man is not a man of God. A true man of God will never beg.”
“A labourer deserves his wages! So says the Bible!” The preacher shouted back. “You are nothing but an agent of Satan.”
The man did not back down, “You are the one who is an agent of Satan. Did Jesus send you to preach the gospel and collect money for doing so? When he sent his disciples out didn’t he charge them not to collect money for the good they do? You are here deceiving people, saying all sort of nonsense and calling it gospel. Where in the bible was it said that wearing trousers or make up is a sin? Where?”
“Rabashaba rabashaba rede, rede!” The preacher suddenly burst out in tongues. “Ororoshandei! Scatter! Scatter! Icantomaya roboscatter! Yeketeke.” This caused laughter to erupt from the rest of the passengers but the preacher was not fazed. He continued to pray, “Father, you said there will be tribulations! Let this agent of Satan and enemy of the gospel burn forever in hell fire!”
The furious man spoke up, “You will be the one to rot in hell you thief! People like you are a menace, looking for gullible people to exploit. Preaching nonsense instead of preaching love, salvation and forgiveness of sins. Once we get out of this bus I will give you the beating of your life. Next time, you will not try this rubbish.”
“You can do nothing! Touch not my anointed and do my prophet no harm, says the Lord!”
“Hahahahahahahahaha! Anointed abi? Let me see how anointed you are when we get off this bus.”
At that point the conductors who were enjoying the entire spectacle yelled, “Gbogbo ero, bo le! Everyboby come down. Na Mile 2 be this.” I quickly made my way out of the bus. A commotion was brewing as passengers begged the furious man to pardon the preacher, while others took sides with the preacher and were ready to defend him against the man. I walked as fast as my legs could carry me away from that scene, shaking my head and muttering to myself, “Another day in Lagos!”