It all started with a sermon, long before Arinze swiped his phone to his mother’s unsettling WhatsApp thread. Ninety-four words, Five hundred and twenty-three characters. That was all, a mother’s text to her son:
If you are reading this letter, my dear, the deed is done. Thanks for finally making your mum happy – a to-be grandmother. I don’t think it was the best of choices given that she has flipped past the pages of youth, but that’s life – it sucks sometimes. The most important thing is that you’re happy. Please come home immediately after work on Friday so that we’ll have ample time to prepare for the big day. I also need a chat with you, mother to son, before your father catches the wind.

Nnnenne wasn’t the church-going type. But, here she was seated at the front row, beside her friend, Lotem, who invited her. It was the last service of the day. Five days after New Year’s Day, a week-long retreat tagged – “After the Crossover” was coming to a close. It was an annual ritual. A convention meant to psych up adherents of Christ Assembly Christian Church to set goals for the New Year and to be unwavering at prosecuting their plans for the year. The last symposium focused on spinsters. The convener cunningly coined the caption of his closing talk: “Marriage Compliant Singles”.

With all the glitz and glamour associated with such highly-sought functions. It was well-attended by many faithful and those hoping for a turn-around in their fortunes – women, men, and couples, both old and young, friends, neighbours, and family members. In the crowd were: politicians, business owners, civil servants, and those at the top of their professions. Dressed in a crisp, white button-down Oxford shirt and dark blue blazer, Okechukwu Anele, the officiating pastor known as the ‘Healing Hands’, was at ease and poised. Throwing out facts like a university don at a lecture hall before a class of students, postulating hypotheses, and pressing on his view on any subject that came his way, he mesmerized the audience. He was a perfect example of how best to transform a personal brand through consistent rebranding. It was readily apparent – the way he spoke with authority and clear conviction. He often added a grain of humour to his sermon.

“Today is the fifth day of January – the beginning of another year,” he began. “Now is as good a time as any for any right-thinking single lady to settle down. That is, I’m assuming there are single ladies seated here who the Holy Spirit is going to visit with divine gifts of marriage this year.”
“Can someone say Amen to that!”
“Ameeeeeen! Ameeeeeeen!”
The crowd, many of whom were expectant, gave him a standing ovation. The shouts of “Amen” from the packed auditorium were like a thundering clash of a thousand waterfalls. Such whoops of delight went up several decibels that were unhealthy for the ear.

“A bigger Amen; Brothers and Sisters! He again cajoled his congregation while gesturing with his feet and hands like an Abriba warrior in spirit with the drumbeats of Ohafia war dance. One could have mistaken the wireless microphone in his right hand for a dancer’s short cutlass were it not for the sparkling white tiles of the podium and his Gucci jacket.

“There is no point waiting for things to fall into place all on their own because they won’t unless you guide them. Getting a man to say – “I do” these days requires a lot of petting, manoeuvring, and even a few underhand tactics. Ask your friends who just got married, and they’d tell you they tried even blood-letting before their bobo agreed to make honest women of them. Even some of our born-again brethren had to be encouraged with such Bible verses as “Whoever has laid his hands on the plough and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God” and “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favour from the Lord.” So, any lady serious about becoming a ‘Mrs.’ this year has to design a well-laid-out hooking plan.”

He went on further: “A lady should go into only marriage-compliant relations. What’s the sense in dating a married man? Do you intend on becoming a second or third wife? Your scale of preference should reflect your goal, which you must attain religiously. It is time to start petting the man in your life. If he’s pussy-footing about introducing you to his parents, you have to make him see reason. Of course, he’s going to tell you that he can’t at the moment afford to foot a wedding bill. You’d better tell him a wedding ceremony is as big as the couple wants it to be. You could go to the registry in the morning, just two of you, and return home to entertain a few friends. You could combine the wedding reception with the engagement ceremony, thus cutting down on expenses. Whatever you agree on, just don’t let him marry you on credit or improperly. Don’t agree to any meet-me-at-my-station arrangement.
Don’t you know? Anything the hawk gives birth to will not fail to carry off chickens.”

He paused.

© Ugo Nkwoala | Spilledwords.org | 2021 | All rights reserved.

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