July 16, 2018

My people, childlessnèss is not a disease – Peju Akande

My people, childlessnèss is not a disease – Peju Akande

Years back, I heard this story about a childless couple, who had gone to every specialist you could name, for a child and yet to no avail. They had done all kinds of tests, visited all kinds of prophets, subjected themselves to all kinds of discipline, for a child…nothing happened.

It was very worrying, to hear over and over again that though there was nothing wrong with both of them, they still couldn’t bear children. The husband was teased relentlessly and the wife mocked viciously…by so called well meaning people.

‘You are not doing ‘it’ regularly, fire her like mad’ (even when the sex is everyday and by the way, is she a machine? )

‘Try taking other people’s kids’ (especially when they need you to pay their children’s fees because you have none of yours yet)

‘It’s not every party they invite you to that you attend, try and hide yourself a little’ (even when you hardly go out)

This couple, as I heard, are Christians. They are the type that speak in tongues and bring forth fire simply by praying. The way I heard it, they had done all kinds of vigils, chanted in all kinds of tongues and it just seemed things wouldn’t budge for them.

It even began to seem like they were a mockery to Christianity. I mean, how would they claim God could do anything if He couldn’t even give them an ordinary child that any school girl could birth with eyes closed and while eating lollipop?

So, one day, it entered into the heart of one of the woman’s friends to introduce this ‘scorned woman’ to a priest she patronises. This so called well respected lady, as the story was told, is the boss of some big business we all know somewhere on Allen Avenue.

As the story was told, the woman convinced her husband to follow her to this priest and maybe he didn’t even need much persuasion; maybe he wanted to be the father of somebody, maybe after so many years, he was tired of the constant nagging of his mother and friends who wanted him to ‘do something.’

And so, at midnight, at the priest’s place,  the couple were instructed to close their eyes and begin to chant some words…I don’t know the words, but you can let your imaginations ride here. They began to chant, they chanted, over and over again…

(I am also guessing here that they would have stripped to some white clothes as we see in Nollywood films…or maybe not)

‘Do not open your eyes!’ The priest warned again.

And they didn’t, until their chants seemed to elicit a reaction from around them; some animal, some beast perhaps, was groaning and moaning and beating slowly around as their chants wore on. The woman was said to have felt the hairs at the back of her neck rise; her heart raced faster. She sensed evil.

Like many of us, the woman, soon cracked.

She wanted to be sure she could find an escape route should there be a need to suddenly run for dear life. You never know with these things, being in the bush, half-naked, chanting to God knows what, hearing the bushes rustling, an animal growling…you just got to be careful.

She asked herself a thousand questions:

‘Have we brought themselves here to be murdered by an illiterate priest?’

‘Would he use us for rituals?’

Being childless suddenly wasn’t such a terrible idea after all. There were many childless couples like them who were happy with their lives.

Why die because one is childless? Why let people mock them to an early grave?

So, she did what many of us would do, she opened her eyes, just a wee bit… just to find an exit to run through, should the noise be from a spiteful being.

She saw it! It was a huge blur at first, so she opened her eyes a bit more!

What she saw made her bones melt as fear pumped her blood.

Fear drew from the pits of her being, fiery words and tongues beyond her capacity as a mortal. Suddenly, without warning, she broke from her soul, tongues of fire. It rolled off her lips as her eyes widened at the size of a serpent too terrifying to define.

‘It was huge’, she was said to have recounted later. ‘It had different colours’, she repeated to a few close friends who repeated same to me.

In that instant, as the story goes, her husband, frightened by the sudden burst of tongues from his wife, joined her and the two, in words foreign to the priest, in a language strange to their environment, poured ‘fire’ on the serpent as it looked wildly around for escape routes.

But their tongues as I heard, their words, as I was told, caused the serpent to begin a twist and turn of painful spasms…until it became limp.

Mind you, they had no idea they were slaying anything or exorcising the devil or any such thing, as Christians are wont to explain this kind of thing, they were simply two frightened people whose tongues had effectively put the priest out of business. And he was angry, as any self-respecting priest should be. He was said to have asked them one question though before dismissing them: ‘You have this kind of power and yet came here for a child?’

This story I have just recounted hasn’t been verified, as in, I haven’t confronted the couple to confirm it. And by the way, they have two children today; everyone says they saw the woman get pregnant and birth them.

True or not,  it’s a story I can relate to after seeing how childless couples are treated in our society. In churches, the assumption is that the couple must have sinned, at mosques; they aren’t giving enough sadakaa’; in the office place-‘they must have aborted loads of foetuses while single’, among family members -like plagues.

It shows the length to which people will go, just to have something to prove to society they are normal and deserve some respect; it also shows a society reckless in its expectations of people who have no way of helping themselves.

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