There has been a rainbow-display picture trend going on in the internet in support of the legalizing of same-sex marriage in the United States. There has also being a great uproar amongst Nigerians regarding the issue, because we don’t have any other problems worth our attention. Personally, I am deeply concerned and troubled, so I would like to say how I feel about the matter. My feelings can be summed up in one sentence: Tomatoes have become way too expensive. This is a matter of national importance. People are now reverting to rice and pepper-soup, or rice with a few lone slices of blood-bought tomatoes. Things are really getting out of hand.
That is why pastors are now smarter. I am not talking about the ones who have made it. No, not those pastors with houses and cars that rival those owned by big oil-company employees, not at all. Those ones have arrived. They sit in their air-conditioned offices and offer pay-by-the-hour prayers. Visions cost a little more, depending on what you want them to see in your future.
Vision of you in a Toyota Camry – N20, 000
Vision of you in a Range Rover – N100, 000
I am talking about the ones that are yet to arrive. These ones are still at the stage of praying in bus parks for 500 – 800 naira per bus. Now, this is not a lot of money as you may think, considering that there are several pastors working the same park and not many buses are travelling long distances. The truth is, you can’t pray for people travelling short distances, because even though they are also likely to die, they are less likely to have money to give as offering. So the pastors limit their prayers to long distance travelers, who are more afraid and more likely to pay. So let’s say on the average, you get two buses daily, 1000 – 1,600 naira is not much; you have to pay the people that own the park a percentage daily.
So this pastor I met last week on my journey from Port Harcourt to Owerri decided to be a little creative. A true entrepreneur at heart. As the bus was loading up, he placed his bag on the seat beside me in the universal gesture of possession and then stood beside the bus outside as other people got their seats. A female pastor – easily recognizable by the scarf on her head, which was roughly the size of two bed sheets sewn together – approached the bus. Mr Pastor intercepted her and motioned her to a corner. I turned my head to watch. The argument was heated; I could tell by the vicious gestures stabbing the air and head shaking. After sometime, he left her and returned to stand by the bus. I smiled to myself; the souls in the bus must be worth a lot, for two pastors to nearly come to fists over who would pray for us. Then, the bus filled. Pastor got in. And the journey started.
Two minutes into the journey, he started preaching. He went on for about fifteen minutes. Then he announced that he wasn’t actually going to Owerri.
“The spirit of God (meaning the rising cost of tomatoes) just moved me to enter this bus. I will soon stop, but first I want four people to pay back my transport, only five hundred naira, not more than four people please.”
I stared in shock as four hands holding five hundred naira each shot into the air. Pastor launched into prayers, and then he paused.
“The spirit says more people want to give, but they don’t have five hundred naira. If you want to give to the Lord, (and to my pot of stew) raise your hand with what you have!”
This time, I was not shocked to see the rest of the passengers, except me of course, raise their hands. I could see two hundred naira notes peeking from several hands. Pastor collected everything, and then alighted at the next bus stop.
Rough calculation? At least four thousand five hundred naira, and the park owners wouldn’t be seeing a dime. And if he should repeat the same routine on a bus heading back to Port Harcourt, then his troubles would be over. And for this, I pity the other female hustler – erm, pastor. She should have insisted on praying for us. Shouldn’t the Lord’s vineyard be big enough for two?
Written by Chika Jones, tweets at @chika_jones