I am honoured to have you come. Though I thought you’d be here with your family: your brothers. Your father, the bishop – or is he an archbishop now? Your sister, the nun – and how’s your cousin, the pastor? I’m glad they are all okay, and I trust you’ll take back a lobe of the kola I present you as our custom demands, to show you were indeed here. Therein they can chew and taste the message for which I requested your presence.
And indeed it is not too much of a reason that compelled me to make you come all the way. So bear with me if, when I’m done, you feel like the toad that ran a course during the day for no reason.
I have summoned you here for a very simple inquiry: What is wrong with you?
Please pardon that tone of voice which my blithering tongue has found adequate to use on a whole anointed you, but trust that it is a better tone than those used in discussing you in other places. Maybe you should enter the market incognito and hear for yourself. I’ll make sure to have an ambulance close by should what you hear cause you a heart attack.
So I ask again, what is wrong with you? In case you have not noticed, there are many changes with you and your befrocked kinsmen up there at the sanctuary, changes as recent to us as androids, and those of us outside the altar have grown so concerned.
Back in the days, the good old days before this current wind of change happened on us, and Nigeria became Naija, and a skin-flashing lady became no longer a repulsive sight, we lived in awe of you. I remember waking up those early hours when the spirits of night were just giving way for day, just so I could get a front seat at Mass from where I’d watch you perform those transcendental solemnities. It was hard to believe you were like us in any other way save your corporealness, but that also was almost always decked in sacred vestments. Man of God!. . .you were.
Thus enchanted, you can imagine my youthful rage when I woke up one morning and our moviemakers had made the movie, “The Pope Must Hear This.” I thought it was sacrilegious and blatant. How could they? As I watched the movie, I imagined you living the kind of double life portrayed therein and when I was done with it, I summed it up as fiction well-made.
But then I grew up and the scales of befuddlement fell off my eyes like the Bartimaeus I have heard you preach of on many occasions.
While the wind of change blew through the course of the years – girls throwing virginity away and hanging on poles, boys wearing their pants down below the cheeks of their buttocks and killing themselves for corrupt politicians – we did not expect it to blow on to your highly exalted echelon. Sadly it did and now we have seen that father wears trousers too.
We did not really think it was the incipient sign of that wind when we heard the rumours about you and some choir girls, nor did we when one morning we arrived in church and were told there would be a second collection.
It could not possibly be that something as secular as avarice has seeped into the House of God, but then we did not know what to make of it when it became a tradition and offerings were made according to the European football clubs congregants’ support.
Our eyeballs popped when rich men’s funeral Masses turned into money campaign events; these are burials which are almost always officiated by your father, the bishop, but he would send a representative to the burial of a poor, long-serving choirmaster.
We also did not see the altering power of the wind when, not too long ago, we began seeing you in one posh car after another. We understood that the missionary-days dated Volkswagen and Peugeot 504 had to give way to some modernity. But is a customised plate number used by one of your brothers who served at a Catholic parish somewhere in Ogba, Ikeja in Lagos State modernity too? Your cousin, the pastor even started acquiring private jets, possessions we thought were for the likes of Dangote and his Hollywood counterparts.
It dawned on us how long a thing we were in for.
Business empires now grow out of churches and thrive, what with the world-class academic institutions you and your cousin own with tuitions that scream ‘NOT FOR THE POOR!’ And that’s a lot more than we can say for the God/soul empire.
Just recently, one of your fathers, aptly dubbed The Bishop of Bling, was in the news for using a staggering N26million to renovate his residence and for flying first-class to visit the poor.
You allow our churches to be used as campaign grounds for decadent politicians who ensure we have soap in our eyes even when we are in a stream, because after the show a huge something goes into father’s boot.
These days we rarely see any of your sisters walking in the line of one of their forebears, the compassionate Mother Theresa, who won the Nobel for peace because she walked the streets of India feeding the hungry and nursing the sick irrespective of race and faith.
Yes we have understood that you’re like us in more ways than we thought, having a third leg with blood running in your veins, not holy water, but were we disillusioned to think there would be even a strand of difference?
Understand that all these have resulted in a decline of our reverence for you and your family, and my outrage comes from the knowledge that you let it. I expected that now the cataclysmic wind has gathered even more momentum, you would stand unaffected and guide us on how best to navigate through it without being blinded. It is sad that you have your eyes filled with sand as well.
Once I knew a priest, one we revered and looked up to and got inspiration from. Now I look at you and a stranger stares back at me. So, if you could just answer my question: What is wrong with you?
Written by Martin Chinagorom