Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
She was aware of his presence in the kitchen but pretended not to notice. His imposing frame threw a shadow at the entrance, taking away some of the sunlight coming in from the door.
She set her concentration on the meal she was packaging. A food basket lay on the table before her. She placed the packaged meal in it and angled her head in his direction.
He was just returning from his morning run. Sweat-soaked, he struck a pose that made her think immodest thoughts.
“You should shower before the sweat dries on your body,” she said to him.
“You want to shower with me?”
“Jeremiah…” she chided with a playful smile.
He walked towards her. “We’re feeding the poor now?” he asked, referring to the basket of food.
“It’s for Papa.”
Leye displayed an unsightly expression. “You know he cooks his own meals, right?”
“I know. This is just me kissing his ass. Big Mommy told me he’s not been known to turn down peppery and really soggy yam porridge.”
Leye wasn’t listening; he was doing his characteristic thing of adoring her with his eyes. She felt the caress of his gaze beneath the shirt and shorts she was wearing.
“Can we take one more month off for an extended honeymoon?” he requested in puppy-like eyes.
She touched his nose before going on tiptoe to kiss it. “No.”
“Then, let’s go and see a doctor to have a more reliable contraceptive like an IUD inserted. I don’t trust the pills you’re taking.”
“They work just fine, Leye.”
“I don’t want you getting pregnant soon.”
“I won’t,” she replied with shifty eyes.
He snatched her waist. She moved away but he drew her to him.
“You’re sweaty and sticky,” she complained.
“You didn’t seem to have a problem with that last night.” He prodded her side with a finger and began kissing her. She released a moan, kissing back in a slow and sensuous manner. His hand slipped beneath her shirt, and at that moment, Najib happened in. But he withdrew, keeping his stare away from them.
Leye stopped. “Come in, Najib.”
Love pulled her shirt down and fell into her serious demeanor.
“Good morning, sir,” Najib greeted.
“Good morning,” Leye responded. “I’ll leave you two.”
Najib moved away from the entrance to let him through.
“Good morning, mama.”
Her eyes fell on a bulky folder he was carrying. “Let’s take this in the office.”
She led the way to what was once Papa’s study. While she was away on her honeymoon, Najib and Mina had transformed the place into a friendlier, more engaging space for her, adorned with dark shades of blue and tinges of brown. The outcome was a warm setting. White linen curtains with blue and gold stripes hung over the windows. There was a wide glass door leading out to the backyard of the house, which when opened, presented an expanse of an obsessively-cultivated lawn, stretching out over a space that was reserved for a children’s playground.
Love opened the glass doors before taking her seat. She stared out for a bit, fixing her eyes on grey clouds that were coming together in the sky. “What do you have for me, NJ?” she inquired as she walked to the desk to take her seat.
“Dirt.” Najib limped towards her and extracted files from the folder he had with him. He dumped the files on the desk. Using just one hand, he separated them into two collections. One was bulkier than the other.
“All the church leaders. Everything you need to know about them,” he explained, hand resting on the bulkier collection.
“And this?” Love asked as she shifted her eyes to the smaller stack.
“These are clean. No dirt. No secrets. Straight as the narrow road that leads to heaven.”
“You have one more file in there.” Love pointed to the folder which Najib was holding to his chest.
“Who’s in there?”
Love tightened her stare on him. “Why on earth did go digging dirt on him, NJ?”
“Because…” NJ pulled a chair. His walking stick made a scrabbling sound on the floor as he sat. “The old man controls everything around here. Without his permission, nothing happens.”
“You do realize he’s my father-in-law, right?”
“I realize that.”
“He is not an obstacle, Najib. Not now. Not ever. He is family and I am highly disappointed that you’d do such a thing without asking my permission first. You know already that he and I are not best of friends. I don’t want to worsen things by making an enemy of him.”
“I understand, mama, but please, have a look at what I found.”
Najib placed the folder on the desk.
“Don’t do this again. I’m an Omotosho, and every single member of this family is now part of my family. Do you understand?”
“You may leave.”
Najib pulled his weight off the chair and began out.
He obeyed and turned. Love’s eyes danced between him and the folder. “Come and take it.”
He returned to her. When his hand touched the folder, she stopped him.
“Very quickly, tell me what you found.”
An unobtrusive smile came to Najib’s lips before he blurted, “Papa has a secret love child from an affair.”
Love’s eyes left the folder to meet Najib’s. Her brows deepened in curiosity.
“But first, I want you to know that Big Mommy was also had out of wedlock. Papa was sixteen then. However, the only mother she’s ever known is Papa’s late wife, so technically, daddy is his first child from a legal marriage…”
“Najib, you’re giving me a headache with what I already know.”
“I was just laying the foundation for the main story.”
“Go ahead with it.”
“Okay, so, back in Abeokuta, there had been a lady. A choir member from their former church. Her elder sister was also a lay member of that church but today, she’s a respected leader in the senate at BCC and also the church’s treasurer. Well, Papa was seeing her younger sister who got pregnant for him. He rented out an apartment for her and continued with the relationship until she was almost due. Unfortunately, she got complications in the eighth month of the pregnancy and almost lost her life. She was operated upon and the baby delivered. She survived shortly after but was told that her baby had died and was already buried. Devastated, she moved on with her life, refusing to join her sister in Papa’s growing church. She joined a much larger ministry and is today a minister herself. Still unmarried.”
Love pulled the folder towards her. “When did this happen?”
“A little more than twenty-three years ago.”
“About the same time they left the church and came here.”
“But that’s not all,” Najib continued. “The old man has had other affairs since then. At least I was able to find out about two other women. One before his wife died and another after her. Neither of the ladies got pregnant for him, though.”
There was evidence to Najib’s claims contained in the folder. Hacked text messages and emails, including photos of the women and detailed background information on them. Love turned her eyes on Najib.
“How on earth did you…?”
He smiled. She sighed. Najib was a self-acclaimed computer programmer, who also enjoyed seeing himself as a private detective, just for pleasure. He loved computers and IT related endeavors. After Akonte died, Love paid expensively for him to do an IT course online. She wasn’t surprised that he was now enjoying his pastime a little too much.
“Please, don’t tell me you peeped into my husband’s personal life too.”
Najib shook his head. “I’ll never do that to you.”
“You’d better not.”
She gestured him away. When he was gone, she shut the folder, thinking about all Najib had just revealed to her. She was neither surprised nor disappointed in Papa. Love was not the judgmental type. Papa, even with the distance between them, was more of a father to her than her real father. She was determined to love him no matter what, for the reason that she was certain that what Najib had discovered was just one side of the story. In counseling people, she had learned that behind their dark secrets lay human hearts that were by nature, defective and prone to make mistakes.
However, there was Alice to consider. Was she Papa’s latest conquest? Did she need to be saved from him?
Love directed her attention to the office door on which someone was knocking. She asked the person in. Mina entered in her noisy manner, greeting, remarking about the weather and talking about social media at the same time. While she did all that, Love gathered the files back into the folder and locked them in one of her drawers.
“People can’t still stop talking about daddy’s bible study topic yesterday. The whole submission in marriage thing’s got them arguing on Facebook and Twitter.”
“What is the general consensus?”
“Many of them are not buying the mutual submission teaching he gave. They’re questioning his Christianity and blaming you for twisting his mind.”
Mina brought her phone to view. “See this tweet that has over two hundred retweets and nearly five hundred replies. It says, ‘Pastor Leye’s new wife seems to be the head of his home. That’s why he submits to her. Hashtag woman wrapper’.”
Love was unbothered. “They don’t even know my name.”
“Oh, they do. One of them replied to the tweet and said, ‘The wife’s name is Love. Makes sense that she’ll be the man in the house. His name must be submission’.”
Love laughed and said, “That’s quite dry.”
Mina laughed also. “But mommy, daddy is a teacher! Damn! Yesterday was fire! How does one teach like that? I felt like I was listening to Jesus himself.”
“Mama, daddy is fire. He brought the house down!”
There was a proud smile on Love’s lips that was not allowed to show. She alone enjoyed the pride she felt over her husband’s gift. She had been against the topic he had chosen to tutor on but he had insisted on it, reminding her how equality, feminism and submission in marriage as regards to Christianity had been the trending topics on social media for almost a year.
“Our congregation has a good number of young people that have opinions about these things, and they are also quite vocal about them online. We need to let them know what the bible says about gender equality,” he had told her.
“And what does the bible say?” she had asked.
“Come to church with a pen and paper, madam,” he had replied.
Love respected Leye’s dedication. There was an absolute devotion for the things of God. Not even being jetlagged from their honeymoon had been able to stop him from doing his work. And true to Mina’s words, when he took to the stage the night before and got into that zone where he often flowed in step with the Holy Spirit, he set the house on fire.
‘Revolutionary’, a leading Christian blog had called him. ‘It seems someone went to stir the same spirit that fired up the Apostles from the early church. Jesus we know, Paul we know, but who on earth is Omoleye Omotosho?’
“Perception,” Love had explained to Najib behind closed doors on the eve of her white wedding. “We have to change the perception people have of him from Daddy’s little boy to a man of his own standing. Do this before we get back from our honeymoon.”
“Mama, I’m not Christ. I can’t work miracles.”
Love had looked away from Najib as she replied. “I’m not asking you to work miracles. I’m asking you to tell the truth.”
Ergo, in her absence, Najib let truths out about Leye and caused a stir on the internet. With just an opinion piece published on one of the top blogs in Nigeria, Leye became more popular than he already was.
Love had read the piece on the fourth night of their honeymoon. Leye was beside her, stroking her lower back as she read out loud, both of them laughing at pauses. When he had gone to sleep, she dialed Najib and gave more instructions.
“Sex appeal. He slays with his fashion taste. Ladies love that sort of thing. Young guys want to dress like him. Have a blogger do a post about his impeccable style. Get top quality pictures from the photographer at the church. He should have shots that show different angles of him while preaching. Pick the best. Avoid the ones in which he posed for the camera. Those types always come out too contrived.”
“He’s a Mai Atafo fan. Ensure that there’s a post on a top fashion blog spotlighting the times he rocked a Mai Atafo.”
“Yes, mama,” Najib had responded. “But how about you? Don’t you want the spotlight too?”
“Just do as you’re told, NJ.”
She had hung up. She knew Najib was not particularly pleased with the idea of putting Leye first, following the pain and humiliation she had endured in Abeokuta after Akonte’s passing. His idea of her being Leye’s wife was to bring her out to the spotlight, to make her shine, to restore the years Akonte had taken from her.
But Love was a different type of influential woman. She believed her impact was as strong behind closed doors as it was in the open. She didn’t feel the need to have the public’s eyes on her. There was still time for that. For now, her man needed to secure his place of authority. Once that was done, she would emerge as queen.
Love took her eyes off her desk and looked at Mina.
“I was asking if you wanted me to go ahead and plan your day.”
“My day? I don’t have much to do…”
“Except visit the orphanage that is owned by the church.”
“Oh. I forgot that.”
“They are expecting us by twelve. And you also have lunch with daddy by two. Overlooking the lagoon.”
Love raised her brows.
“His words. Not mine.”
“Senate leadership meeting by 5pm. Mama, why do they call themselves the senate? It’s so…political. BCC should do better. I hope you get to change the name to…something more Christianish, like…”
“Mina?” Love stood up.
“Lock those doors and find something engaging to do.”
“Yes, ma.” Mina curtsied.
Love went upstairs.
Both panting, Alice and Adindu threw their sweaty bodies on their seats. They stared at each other with amusement in their eyes and then went off in laughter.
Adindu cackled. “Phew!”
“I should be crying, Adi. I can’t believe I’m finding this funny.”
They erupted in laughter again, Adindu wiping sweat off his forehead.
“He literally chased us with a machete, Alice. A machete.”
Alice shook her head. “I saw my life flash before my eyes.”
“Me nko? The first swing was in my direction. If I hadn’t been fast on my feet…”
There was more laughter which soon died down with deep sighs as Adindu turned on the engine of his car.
“Sometimes, I think we risk our lives too much as clergy,” Alice murmured as she rubbed sweat off her chin with the back of her hand. “The last thing I expected today was to be chased with a machete by a man whose wife invited me to pray for him.”
“What on earth is this Holy Ghost school that is sweeping across Nigeria and stealing people from their churches?”
“I seriously don’t know. My neighbor joined too, and she’s losing her mind fast. She keeps inviting Tara and I for their meetings. Non-denominational, she claims. I wonder what goes on in there.”
“Maybe they give them machetes.”
“Let’s be going jor,” Alice said, laughing.
“I was thinking we’d do lunch.”
“I was thinking we’d better not.”
“Alice…” Adindu became serious. Alice sensed what was coming. “Are you ever going to date anyone? Or even get married?”
“Because marriage is the best thing that can happen to me?”
“Because you’re too much of an amazing woman to remain single. I know that what happened between you and your ex scarred you…”
“I’ve told you never to bring that guy up in any discussion. Ever.”
“I’m sorry. It’s just that you need a man to erase all that pain. Alice, make me your husband…”
“I’m already spoken for, Adindu,” she uttered and regretted it immediately.
Adindu showed confusion with a frown. “You…have a man?”
“I was just joking. Forget I said it.”
“Who is he, Allie?”
“I was just joking nau. Why would I have a man and keep it a secret?”
“There are people waiting for me in the office, Adi. Let’s go.”
Adindu put the car in motion. “I’m heartbroken.”
Alice made no response. There was little conversation between them as they journeyed to Bethel Covenant Center. When Adi stopped his car in the parking lot, he turned to Alice.
“Is it Papa?”
Alice smiled, opened the door and stepped out. When she entered the admin wing of the church, she was greeted by a woman who had come to see her with her teenage daughter. Alice invited the woman to her office.
“I’m in a hurry, Pastor Alice,” she said when she was offered a seat. “I’ll make this fast.”
Alice sat in her chair and gave audience to her guest who was a manager heading one of the busy branches of a leading bank. Her husband was also a bank manager, but of higher status. They were parents to three teens, and were also respected members of the church. Every month, they gave generously for the advancement of church projects, and to the needy. The husband believed it was his calling to particularly cater to Papa and Leye’s wardrobe needs. Alice remembered Leye telling her that he couldn’t recall the last time he walked into a store and picked a pair of shoes. The man always sent designers and boutique owners to him.
Hence, the man and his wife were considered ‘high priority’ members.
“Pastor Alice, my second daughter, the one that’s back there in the reception has been acting quite strangely of late. She’s the noisiest amongst her sisters but she became quiet and withdrawn recently. Of course, I didn’t notice this because of my busy schedule but I took a short leave for two days and picked out the changes. I have questioned her to tell me what is going on with her but she is not responding. I suspect it has something to do with her boyfriend. I have done everything to keep them away from boys but I’ve failed. I’m even tired sef. Please, Pastor Alice, talk to the girl for me. I don’t have time or energy. I’m too busy for teenage drama.”
“Okay, ma. I’ll see what I can do.”
Holding on to a Chanel handbag, she moved towards Alice and dropped an envelope on her desk. “The Lord laid it on my heart to give you this.”
“Oh,” Alice murmured in surprise. “Thank you. I appreciate the Lord’s goodness.”
The woman chortled as she hurried out. Alice opened the envelope and found clean hundred dollar notes. Seven of them. She put them away just as the teenage girl was making her way into the office.
“Sit down, dear.”
“Can I get a drink of water, please?”
Alice recalled walking past a functional water dispenser in the reception as she was making her way in. Did the girl miss it or was she just being insolent like her elder sister whom Alice had also counseled and almost cast out demons from when she confessed to her that she had had a threesome on her first day in university?
Alice rang the receptionist and asked for a glass of water.
“So, talk to me, dear. Why did your mom bring you to me?”
The teen shrugged and adjusted one end of a falling faux eyelash. Alice watched in silence, wondering what right-thinking parent allowed their sixteen-year-old daughter use heavy makeup.
She grunted quietly and prepared herself for a long afternoon. It began with little cooperation from the girl but because Alice was skilled in speaking to and getting young adults to open up, she was patient enough to carry on with the session until the girl became cooperative more than an hour later.
The story was that she was four months pregnant and was scared to tell her parents because they were going to be mad at her and cut off certain privileges. Alice was taken aback at the confession because there were no outwards signs that the girl was with child. She only believed her when she lifted her dress and exposed a bump that could pass for being a sign of having had too much to eat.
At that point, Alice became drained.
“Daddy’s going to send me to grandma’s. And grandma doesn’t let us watch TV. She’s Deeper Life. She’ll make me go to church every day.” She began to cry.
“You’re not bothered about being pregnant at sixteen?”
“I am but mommy will take me to her friend who’s a nurse and she’ll have it taken care of, just like she did with my sister’s. I’m scared of an abortion, though. I heard it hurts like period cramps.”
It was then it occurred to Alice that the ministry was doing little to engage its teenagers in active pursuits. If they were involved in distracting activities, there would be little time for sexual misdemeanors.
Alice passed over a tissue to her. She didn’t know what else to tell her, as she was overwhelmed by the girl’s blasé attitude over her situation. “I will speak to your mom and we’ll schedule another counseling session so we can talk properly. What you have done is not right. And your attitude towards it is shameful. What about your boyfriend?”
“He’s gone back to the UK.”
“He’s a member of BCC too?”
“No. And he’s not my boyfriend. We just sort of did it a few times. But don’t tell my mom that, please.”
Alice ended the session. She was out of words, still reeling from all she had heard. She escorted the girl out, phoned her mom and broke the news to her. She was silent as the woman cried over the phone.
“Where have I gone wrong with these girls, Pastor Alice? What didn’t I give them?”
“Maybe you gave them too much of everything, ma.”
“I just wanted them to have what I didn’t have, and instead of them to be grateful, they go about getting pregnant?”
Alice said nothing.
“Please, give me time to process this and I’ll come over with her father, so we can talk properly. I just can’t think clearly now, and I’m supposed to have a meeting in a few minutes. Thank you so much, Pastor Alice.”
“Please, can you not tell anyone about the pregnancy?”
“Ma, it’s my job to…”
“I know what your job is, Alice. But my baby…she’s a little girl. Imagine the shame and humiliation… The stigma. The way it will taint the family name. Please, keep it to yourself.”
Alice cussed in her head. On days like this, she hated her job.
“But what were you planning to do?” Leye asked her some minutes later as she brought the matter to him in his office. “You want to go and tell the leaders, so that they’ll slut-shame a teenage girl?”
“Is she not a slut?”
“You judge too easily, Mono.”
“We’re supposed to keep quiet?” Alice slumped on her favorite couch. “The woman will take the girl for an abortion.”
“Their life. Their choice. We do not condone it, though.”
“But we know it’s going to happen.”
“Because the girl told you. What if she isn’t even pregnant?”
“Alice, there are very tricky situations you’ll find yourself in as a pastor. You have to apply wisdom or sometimes, apply the simple act of unlooking. It’s different if the girl came to you to ask what should be done. You could then advise her to get into our young mothers program where we take care of her until she births the baby and she either gives it up for adoption or we help her adjust to her new life as a mother. But in this case, you have no proof of pregnancy. Only a disturbed teen. It is now your job to ensure that she doesn’t get herself into that mess again. Since you feel so disturbed about her and her siblings, get another dedicated sister in the church and two of you should begin a mentoring process with them. And you must speak to her parents about the young mothers program. I doubt that it’ll be an option for them, though.”
Alice threw her weight back on the couch. “I’ve had such a terrible day.”
Alice related to Leye the story of the man with the machete and they had a good laugh over it.
“I’m glad that we’re talking again like we used to,” he said, showing a calm smile. She smiled back. Her anger at him had long been taken over by the affection she was receiving from his father. Her relationship with Papa was deepening each day. There was hardly any physical contact between them. He kissed her less but would spend hours with her, engaged in discussion and other activities. His reason was that he was blisteringly attracted to her and was careful not to do anything that would get them both in trouble.
“So how was your honeymoon?” Alice asked Leye, clearing thoughts of Papa off her head. It was easy to get lost at random intervals, thinking about him. She felt like one on whom a spell was cast and it was pleasurable. Falling in love, in her opinion, had to be magical and dreamy. Papa wooed her in a way that was enchanting. No man had ever courted her in that manner.
“Love and I had fun,” Leye replied to her question. “I wish it didn’t have to end.”
“And while you were there enjoying yourselves, the blogs and media houses back here were set on fire over you. The article about you and mama was something else. Membership increased after it was published.”
Leye flashed a smile. “We may have to expand the building soon.”
“Or just do double services.”
“Sounds like a plan. We’ll look into it,” he replied, staring into the face of his watch.
She took that as a cue to leave. As much as the beef between them had been done away with, she found that it had left a rift in their friendship.
“But you’re doing okay, though?” he inquired.
“I still worry about you, Alice. I don’t want you getting hurt.”
“Sure? No strange men in your life, twisting your head?” he asked in low laughter but she knew he was serious.
“No strange men.”
She sprang to her feet. “I should be going.”
The door opened and Love strode into the office. She brought in her domineering air which made Alice feel small. But Alice blamed it on the combination of green pants and matching cream top she wore that gave her a stately appearance. Alice was dressed down in a churchy pencil skirt, chiffon top and flat heels with cheap jewelry.
“Good afternoon, mama”
“Hello Alice. How are you doing?”
“Good, mama. Welcome back.”
Alice turned to Leye. “Pastor Leye, what do you think about an Easter camp for teenagers? It’s to get them to socialize in a healthy environment, engage them in activities and have experts come to talk to them about dating and relationships and sexual abstinence.”
Leye looked at his wife. “What do you think of that?”
“Sounds like a lovely plan.”
“Great, Alice. Put together a plan and forward it to Pastor Love. She is now in charge of things around here.”
Love walked to where her husband stood and Alice watched Leye give her a kiss that made no attempt at being modest. Her phone rang at the moment and in relief, she apologized for being taken away, dashing out as fast as she could.
Her caller was Tara’s fiancé, Morris.
“Hi Moore,” she greeted.
“Good day, Alice. I am in your office, waiting.”
“Oh. I forgot about our appointment. I’m in the building. Give me a bit.”
Alice hurried back to her office. Morris was waiting, hands in his pocket, eyes on a board on which Alice had pinned photos of the work she did with teenagers, single mothers and spinsters in the church.
“Hey, Moore,” she greeted. “I apologize for not remembering we were supposed to meet.”
They hugged. He was a short man. Fetching and charming, with a generous heart. He was from a wealthy family but had chosen to make a living on his own as a field engineer for a telecoms company. He had been with Tara for three years.
“Please, sit,” Alice offered. “Can I get you something to drink?”
“No, I’m fine.” Moore sat.
“So, talk to me, Moore.” Alice took her chair, kicking out of her shoes.
Moore cleared his throat, scratched at his beard and revealed to Alice that Tara had called off their engagement and broken up with him. The news left Alice weak.
“When did this happen?”
“About a week ago?”
“Moore, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know. She didn’t tell me. Things have been normal in the house and at the salon. What happened between you guys?”
Morris explained that he had no idea. Tara had suddenly become distant and soon asked for space, which she was given. But a few days after, she ended the relationship.
“And one of the pastors in this church is responsible.”
“One of the pastors? Who?”
“Reverend Aloysius Adonijah.”
Alice frowned. The accused was the longest standing clergy in the church. He had followed Papa from their former place of worship in Abeokuta and helped him establish BCC. He was highly respected and no one questioned his actions in the church. No one dared. He always had Papa’s backing, no matter the situation. It was rumored that he was behind many of the major decisions the senate took. But the senate itself was divided in two groups. One group was faithful to Leye; the other was sold to Papa, headed by Adonijah who always had his way.
“He told Tara that God revealed to him that I was not her husband. That if we got married, our marriage won’t last and it will end terribly.”
“Wow. He said that and Tara didn’t tell me?”
Alice listened to Morris speak about his pain and confusion. He begged her to communicate with Tara.
“You know how much I love her.”
Alice nodded. He bore his pain in his voice. It came out terse and broken but he remained the calm, smiling man she had grown to love like family.
When he left, she sent Wemimo a message.
-Want to sleep over at mine? I have gist, pizza and peppered gizzard.
-Pizza and gizzard… Jesus loves me, this I know.
It was past 9pm when Loveth stepped out of the office complex. She found Papa standing outside his car in thought. She wasn’t sure about his mood. He had his glasses on and a face that seemed not to want company. But Love walked to where he stood.
He turned. She found herself being stared down at in a way that made her feel unimportant.
“Is the meeting over?” he asked.
“No. I just…left. They’re still arguing. I’ll wait for Leye in the car… Goodnight, Papa.”
“Don’t go yet.”
She put a halt to her already moving feet.
“Well-played,” he remarked. There was a dark smile on his lips.
“Everything that is happening in that conference room right now was orchestrated by you.”
“Understand?” he completed. “I knew you’d feign ignorance. But you can’t fool me.”
He shut the driver’s door of his car and leaned on it. “Well-calculated. Subtly-executed. You’re a genius.”
Love didn’t smile. She kept an innocent expression on. The man was accusing her of being responsible for a faction of the senate asking him to step down from his position as General Overseer to let Leye take his place.
The leadership meeting had begun three hours ago without any incident. Loveth was formally introduced to the senate, and she received a warm welcome, or so it would seem. As the meeting progressed, a few matters were brought to the fore and handled. Some were thrashed, and new ideas were put forward. And just when everyone was thinking to call it a night, one of the elders, who was known to be outspoken and a devotee to no one, threw in the submission that Papa be asked to vacate his position for Leye.
The man’s reasons bounded on the fact that the public now viewed Leye as the face of the church. He also brought forward documented proof showing that Leye’s tenure since he took over from Papa had fetched more income to the church by the way of the caliber of men and women who were drawn to his teachings.
Asides being a dynamic teacher, Leye was a lecturer at the Lagos Business School. There was hardly any month that went by that he wasn’t invited to speak about business-related matters in seminars within and outside the country. His circle of acquaintances consisted of CEOs and wealthy businessmen of growing and established companies. Leye had somehow drawn them to the ministry. He had also attracted the youth which made for an increase in membership.
The elder felt Leye had earned his stripes and Papa’s era was now ended. Love was certain that the article published online while they were away at their honeymoon was responsible for the man’s proposition. But just as she was doing with Papa presently, she had kept a reactionless comportment and remained silent at the meeting, even when Leye’s loyalists agreed to the suggestion, setting off strong opposition from Camp Papa.
“I wonder how the press managed to get details of what happens in this church,” Papa said to Love who maintained her cluelessness.
She was also curious as to how Najib got the information. As far as she knew, he was hardly acquainted with anyone in the church.
“Papa, are you insinuating something here?” Love asked.
“My dear, I don’t insinuate. I’m putting it to you that you are behind that article and the sudden public interest in Leye, which have now led to the mess we’re having in that conference room presently.”
“Papa, with all due respect, you accuse me wrongly. I was away on my honeymoon when that article and the others were published.”
“Oh, shut it. This was all your plan and your husband’s. And like I said, well-played.” He smiled again. Darker, this time. “You’re a dangerous woman. I should watch out for you.”
His eyes shifted to the entrance of the office complex. Love turned and saw Leye emerging from it. He was in a mood, stomping hard as he walked past them to his car.
“I have to go, Papa.”
“I do hope that you never get to experience the pain and humiliation I faced in there today. It’s not the easiest thing to wake up and find out that you’re no longer needed, that what you have built with your sweat and blood can be taken away from you in a blink. I pray you and Omoleye never experience that.”
“Papa, Leye supports you. You know that. He showed displeasure when the matter was brought up. You saw him support you…”
It was the first time Papa was raising his voice at her. She bent her head in respect.
“Nonetheless, tell him I am behind him,” he said in a lowered tone. “He will take my place. I will ordain him myself. All for the good of the ministry.”
“We’ll discuss more on it. You and I. Come over tomorrow morning. I’ll make breakfast.”
Love headed to Leye’s car. As they drove home, she gave him details of the discussion she just had with Papa.
“He wants to crawl up into your head and use you to manipulate me,” Leye hypothesized. “Don’t fall for it.”
Love rested her hand on her husband’s thigh to calm him. This was the first time she was seeing him upset. His anger at the leaders who were clamoring for him to be the new G. O. was genuine. He nursed no desire to take his father’s position. He was comfortable where he was. But Love wasn’t. She was desperate for him to take what she felt rightly belonged to him.
And as if reading her thoughts, he added, “The mantel of spiritual leadership should not be passed on as an inheritance. Let everyone be guided.”
Love began to massage his thigh. She would change his mind. She would make him see reason soon.