Chapter10: Hope dims, battle rages…


How God showed up in the dying minutes of Johnbull’s life

Two years! And Johnbull would be out of active service-retired.  Without warning, his legs sagged and he sat down abruptly, cold sweat breaking out from his forehead. To retire without a house of his own, no good car, and an empty bank account! This was too much for Johnbull. It looked like the end of the road! His body was now drenched in sweat. As fear gripped him, his heartbeat increased rapidly, and fear gripped him. What was happening? Johnbull was bound to ask because he had just spent the better part of his life hanging and things were crawling; in apparent confusion, he got up and walked around without any direction. This is not right, he told himself.

Outside was hot; Johnbull had just returned from another day of hard tasks. He felt there was a conspiracy to undo and deny him from shining. And rightly so, because while his fortune plummets, those of his friends soared. It was like something wedged him to the ground stifling all movement. He could tell by the way he struggled for things that never came anyway. All around him was development, but for him to remain a tenant is evidence of his backwardness.  His life had become all motion and no movement!  He worked hard, no doubt, but they were profitless ventures.   At times, Johnbull shivered at the way he worked—as though he was in a crucible.

He would plan a meeting for 3 pm, for example, but something always popped up to disrupt the meeting, especially those that could have fetched him returns. He had read so many things in the bible and tried them out. One of them was the act of taking what belongs to you by force; that is, pray violently until something gives.  Johnbull took prayers seriously and worshipped were ever possible. He had vowed that if he could figure out exactly what to do to wrestle these powers from disturbing him, he would do it. But, that’s where the problem is; they always tell him to pray, fast, and watch! Now, time was running out and his hope of striking gold was fading out.

As the battle raged, Johnbull decided not to give up; he said as far as he was alive, he would do anything right to win this unseen enemy. In a dramatic twist, he attended a church program where the preacher announced to the house some favorite options he deployed when in serious trouble; one of them was to give sacrificially to force God’s hands. Taking a cue from that, Johnbull gave out one of his cars, a Volkswagen golf 4, air-conditioners, etc.  He also sowed lots of money and donated Generators to help promote God’s programs. Anything to beat his 13 years of snail speed in the civil service was worth it. Afterall, all things are from God—and to Him, we all belong. However, a crucial advantage for Johnbull is his amazing health status. He rarely fell sick. On this, he had no complaints; remarkably, nothing like hypertension, High Blood Pressure; he did his exercises regularly and ate well.

The only snag was having that much-desired financial breakthrough. One day, he met a friend who introduced him to a Man of God whose church was in Lugbe, Abuja. The man of God was smallish, a fast talker, and agile. He preached and sang so well that Johnbull was swept off. They call him several names; one of them was the ‘Oracle of God’; the other was ‘Holy Spirit Bazooka’. When he is prophesying, you usually hear shouts of ‘go deeper!’ The man of God would look at you and tell you that he is in your village and would go on to describe some specific area; he tells you that ‘you can doubt his prophecies but the outcome you cannot!’’. With that, he won the hearts of hundreds of converts and his church blossomed. Johnbull fell victim to these dramatics and got bitten.

Soon, he began to express himself by way of gift, hoping to please God. He bought several big Ox fans for the church and some other useful items. In the end, the man of God successfully scammed him of a huge amount of money which resulted in a tug of war. That strange experience left a sour taste in his mouth. As a result, his confidence in the men of God tumbled and for months he was in a state of depression. Damn it! he screamed at himself. You can’t be a sucker all your life, and with that, he pulled himself up and struggled with the man of God asking for a refund of his money.

The matter soon deteriorated into a bitter war, to the extent that instead of going to worship on Sundays, Johnbull was actually going to ‘drag’ debt! That’s how badly some unscrupulous men have dragged the name of God! It was indeed a frustrating experience. Johnbull actually heard from a mole that when his ‘pledge’ of three figures was received by the man of God, he immediately ‘squashed’ the money on frivolous ventures boasting that his ‘tithe’ was enough to pay back! Meaning that from the onset, the man of God was lying in the name of God!  Out of desperation, Johnbull traveled to Ile-Ife where the renowned prophet Ayo Babalola was said to have prayed his way to victory in the 1930s. There, in Arakiji, Johnbull and his friend locked themselves in a rented room for 3 days fasting and praying. They drank only water and ate nothing.

While there, he remembered some of the terrible experiences he had encountered. One was when he was traveling to Ibadan for a business deal. He never got there with his vehicle—a Mercedes, 1982 model, the one they call ‘straight engine’. Halfway to Ibadan, the car knocked engine and was abandoned for 3 months before it was repaired. Another, was when he was traveling to Benin with his new wife—the first having absconded without any quarrel; the car also broke down in Shagamu. They spent 6 hours fixing it; in the end, they arrived in Benin late in the night. He also remembered one night in Lagos when he was attacked by armed robbers. He had parked in front of his church around 7 pm in the evening, along Adeniyi Jones street in Ikeja, waiting for the gate to be opened, when the daredevils struck.

They squeezed themselves into the front seat, took over the steering, and drove off. But a few kilometers from the scene, the car suddenly developed some strategic fault and stopped. The robbers tried to act fast but the car refused to respond. The robbers then commanded Johnbull to lie flat in the gutter and moments later, they vanished into the darkness. Swiftly, Johnbull got up, and tried starting the car; mysteriously, it started and he thankfully drove off. Another strike by the men of the underworld took place at the Ojota bridge. It was 8 pm, and once again, Johnbull was returning from the church. The car developed a mechanical fault at the top of the road and from the blues came 7 street urchins who attacked wielding cutlasses and clubs. Johnbull escaped without injuries. Now, here they are at Arakeji-praying to solve the same mystery—many years after!

So you understand why Johnbull was desperate for results. He feared God and wouldn’t want to join cults to prove anything.  At the back of his mind, he knew that God performed all things, and if He could help others in his mold, he too must reap the same reward. He was mindful of that. That’s why he relied on the efficacy of prayers and the Bible. Because men of God had disappointed him, that’s part of the reason he resorted to self-help. They often preached vociferously about such things that promote their interest; things as first fruits, vows, pledges, building offerings, and so on and so forth. Johnbull considered it a shame for these things to happen.  He felt that the worship of God has been turned into a commercial activity where the pastor shines like hell and the converts wallow in abject poverty.

The one he finds particularly amusing is the contrast in blessing. Whereas pastors demanded physical cash and materials from their subjects claiming such to be their due, they, in exchange, commanded a ‘spiritual’ blessing for their converts, saying— ‘go and be blessed’. They end up waiting for months and years, if not endlessly-with nothing to show. When you complain, they will tell you that you are not doing the will of God, and that is why blessing eludes you! Holy Moses!  Such is the dilemma of the honest church faithful. As if that is not enough, programs are fixed almost on a daily basis and you are expected to compulsorily be in all services! Failure to come would attract a sharp rebuke: ‘wait until you are sacked from that office and you will know how to run to church!’ With that in mind, the church faithful is now caught between the devil and the deep blue sea! Where to run to becomes a problem. But Johnbull would not be drawn into any of that mess.

He would continue his search for God the right way—not under any compunction. Arakeji was the destination and helped a lot. When he returned, he got a morale booster. The grounds softened up for him and he began to ‘reap’ the fruits of prayers. He got a few ‘deals’ sorted out, but not any that turned his life appreciably. One night, he isolated himself in a quiet mountain resort in Karshi and continued with his prayers, asking God Why He continued to allow him to go through tough times; Johnbull told God that his suffering was too much to bear. He prayed fervently that his body shook. At one point, the only thing that he remembered was the cool breeze that caressed his nerves. No house, no worthy car, and worse, no bread! Why wouldn’t fear creep in? Yet his expenses and commitments doubled and kept piling.

He looked at heaven and wished that they heard his voice. 13 years of service! This can’t be the life he dreamt about. This was oppression! His case was like that of someone who worked like an Elephant and ate like an ant! Johnbull did not know whether coming from a polygamous background affected him. He did what was right before God, he worshipped regularly, gave his offering, and paid his tithe as when due. He did not now know if not paying his first fruits affected him. But his fears persisted-so did his pains. On the eve of his retirement, he got a break when a job that was supposed to wipe his financial tears was awarded to him. The job, a whopping twenty-something million ended up seized! Disaster again! They said the contract was not paid because a new government was in place. The seized payment finally convinced Johnbull that his case was iron cast. He has had enough and the next step was to join the society—any cult that would give him power! Stagnation! Not anymore.

The drastic prayer session at both Arakeji and the mountain was to force the hands of God. Did they not say that if you can pray, there is a God to answer? Whatever happened to all the ‘prophesies’ he received from the church? Were they speaking from their mouth? None has come to pass.  Johnbull wanted to stop attending churches altogether because of his ordeals. Then he took a drastic decision to attend a bible school to get to the root of the matter. The Bible school lasted for 6 months and it was very fulfilling. That period turned out peaceful and blessed for him; suddenly he met his financial commitment and even enough to ‘dash’ out.  Somehow, as if by magic he would receive calls to come to handle ‘jobs’, and from there little payment would ‘drop’ into his pocket. He slept well and had no more bad dreams which almost crippled him. In those days, Johnbull would dream of seeing himself flying in the skies, the destination, no one knows; other times he would dream of seeing himself at crossroads or that his vehicle had been stolen in the spiritual realm! These were terrible dreams.

Luckily for him, he was spared the agony of dreaming about being pursued by a masquerade. The Bible school ‘enlightened’ him and he became rich in God’s words, quoting them at random. He no longer thought of joining the cultists and also forgot about running to the herbalists. With what he learned from the Bible school, Johnbull became strengthened in ‘faith’ and worked towards actualizing it. 6 months before his retirement, in the dying minutes, when all hopes seem to be lost, something miraculous happened. Johnbull got a call that produced for him those things he thought were impossible–a car and a new lease of life.