The dinner table at the Omotoshos was graced with the presence of couples whose lives were dedicated to God’s work.
The dinner hosts, Omoleye and Loveth Omotosho, were senior pastors at Bethel Christian Center (BCC), one of the fastest growing churches in Lagos. Both in their forties, their marriage was a second chance at love for them. Businesswise, they were successful and boasted of a joint net worth of over six hundred million naira. They were blessed with a four-year-old daughter and had another baby on the way.
The Omotoshos lived in a well-appointed house that was surrounded by green life. They spent all their holidays outside the country. To many of their flock at BCC, they were couple goals.
George Adekunle Omotosho and his wife, Pastor Alice, were the next couple. George was Omoleye’s father, and he was the founder of BCC. Although he was retired from running the ministry, he still graced the pulpit now and then. In his day, he had been a firebrand preacher with a calling to prophetic ministration. ‘Papa’, fondly called so by his flock, was adored to the point of fanaticism. Alice, on the other hand, still had to earn her place beside him. Filling the shoes of his late wife had been no easy achievement, especially since Alice was thirty-three years younger than he was and considered a gold-digger. But she loved God as much as he did. She was a senior pastor at the church, a favorite amongst the single sisters. The couple presently lived down the street from the junior Omotoshos and spent most of their weekends trying out new recipes from Papa’s soon-to-be-published cookbook.
The third couple was Ishi Eresoyen and Obialunanma Soludo. They were also a favorite amongst the Christian community, having influence that defied the restrictions of denominations. Pastor Oby was a doctor wo had chosen to serve God as a music minister. She had over ten million followers on her social media accounts, combined. She had shared the stage with some of the top gospel singers in the world, making her a highly sought-after artist. Her husband, Pastor Ishi, tried his best to stay away from the limelight whenever he wasn’t preaching. He had a day job as an architect and enjoyed spending his spare time with his daughters. Oby and Ishi’s combined net worth was valued between a hundred-and-fifty-five to two hundred billion naira, with the bulk of their wealth coming from inheritance money. They were presently in-between churches, as Ishi had plans to leave the ministry in which he had served for eighteen years. He believed that God was calling him to Bethel Christian Center.
This evening, however, he shelved thoughts of work and ministry and told himself that he would get to know the Omotoshos better. Most of what he had heard about them came from tabloids and gossips.
His first personal encounter with Papa was a year ago. He received a call one morning and was shocked that the voice over the phone was the man he had secretly admired since the inception of his own ministry.
Papa didn’t waste time with pleasantries, as he went straight to the reason he called.
“I had a dream,” he said. “I’ve had it thrice now, Eresoyen. God is going to shake the foundation on which you stand. Have no fears. He will move you from your present location to a better place. He will bring you to BCC.”
Papa was known to be a prophet whose divinations were few but often accurate. If he said it would happen, it would happen—and Ishi could understand him to a large degree because he was blessed with the same gift. Hence, after speaking to Papa that morning, he asked only one thing of God.
“Let it happen, if you will it.”
Four months later, his boss at the church was indicted for what was presently termed the biggest fraud scandal to ever rock a religious institution in Nigeria. The financial crimes commission was out for blood and had slammed the man with twenty-three counts of money laundering and wire fraud. Currently, he was in detention and his wife of thirty-one years was planning to split the church in two and take most of the members with her to start another ministry. She had approached Ishi with an offer to work with her, but Ishi was not interested in continuing with either her or her husband.
God had shown him the signs that Papa told him would come. All that was left was the paperwork that would formally welcome him to Bethel Christian Center. Pastor Love had already sent him an offer letter, following two lengthy sessions of prayers and discussions with Papa. On his own, Ishi had fasted and prayed for a month before turning in his resignation at his former church. He was more than certain now that God wanted him to be in Bethel Christian Center, but he was yet to hear from God directly. For some reason, the Almighty was being silent.
“We want you to be general overseer.”
Ishi looked up from his dish of fried rice at the dinner table and fixed widened eyes on Papa.
Oby had prompted this response, having asked Papa, unexpectedly, what position Ishi would occupy if they joined BCC. She had mentioned that his offer letter only stated that he’d be a senior pastor.
“Of what capacity?” she asked.
“Of the highest capacity,” Pastor Love answered.
“General overseer,” Papa added.
Oby dropped her spoon and looked at her husband whose eyes were still on Papa. “I don’t understand,” Ishi said.
“What’s there not to understand, Eresoyen? God is calling you to a high position of servitude.”
“Sir, there are pastors of higher standing and experience in the church. Pastor Leye is one of them,” Ishi stated, looking at Leye. “I also know of Pastor Obinna and Apostle Ayoola. Why me? Why a total stranger?”
“Because God has willed it.”
Ishi looked at the other Omotoshos. “And you’re fine with this?”
Leye smiled. “We’ve had talks about it, and we’ve prayed. We are sure that God wants you to serve us.”
“Have you spoken to the other leaders in the church?” Oby asked and silence followed her question.
Love cleared her throat. “There’s too much politics behind the scenes, and this is robbing us of our duties as ministers and leaders. This was why we decided to look outside for someone God was guiding us to. Someone we are certain would handle his position with fear and trembling.”
“I am trembling right now,” Ishi said as he pushed his glasses to rest better on his face.
“If it’s something you need to pray about and seek God’s face some more…” Alice said.
“We will do that,” Oby answered. “Because this is a…lot. Let’s not even get into the fact that the moment he steps into BCC and takes that seat, he automatically attracts enemies from the leadership.”
“We don’t intend to coronate him immediately,” Love explained. “People have to get used to him for a bit. Then, we gradually ease their minds to the reality that he would become their GO.”
“As you already know,” Omoleye cut in, “the church has been without a GO for five years. We had dealt with a lot since then, but we’re back on track and growing at an amazing rate. We need a young pastor who is anointed and loved by many to lead us. But please, pray on it.”
“You can be sure we will.”
Oby had scarcely finished speaking when a hunky, light-skin man barged into the dining area from the living room. He was dressed in a sports outfit that appeared to be stained with blood. He looked distressed and lost.
“Pastor Obinna?” Alice called.
“Obi?” Omoleye got off his chair. “What happened?”
“I killed her,” Obinna muttered, staring at his hands, as if just seeing them for the first time. “I strangled… I…”
“Calm down.” Leye dashed towards him but kept his distance. “Obi, breathe.”
“I killed…Glory. I killed her with these hands… I…”
“Come, let’s talk.”
Leye tried to take him away, but he pushed his hand off. “Blessing is…dead.”
“Who’s Blessing?” Oby whispered.
“His wife,” Love answered. “Glory is his wife’s sister.”
“Blessing is dead,” Obinna repeated. “She’s dead. She’s…”
He rested a hand on the wall beside him while the other hand held his side.
“He’s bleeding on his arm,” Oby noted.
“Obi, are you hurt?” Leye touched him and he flinched.
“Let him come and sit,” Oby instructed. “Do you have a First Aid box, Pastor Love?”
“Yes.” Love made to stand, but Alice stopped her.
“Let me get it. Where’s it?”
“In the kitchen. Top cabinet on the left. Someone in there will show you.”
Alice dashed into the kitchen as Leye guided Obinna to sit on a chair. Oby moved toward him and observed his bleeding arm.
“What happened to you, Pastor Obinna?” she asked.
He looked at her before responding. “She stabbed me… Glory stabbed me.”
“Did she stab you anywhere else?”
“This is a deep cut. I’ll clean it up, but you’ll have to go to the hospital for stitches.”
Alice returned with the First Aid box. Oby slipped her hands into a pair of gloves and began attending to Obinna’s wound.
“Son, you care to tell us what happened?” Papa asked.
“Glory came to the house,” Obinna began. “I wasn’t happy about it ‘cause of all she had done to Blessing, to us… But Blessing had been talking about reconciling with her. She said it was five years too long, and Glory was asking for forgiveness, and she was her only sister…”
Obinna’s eyes looked ahead of him.
“I should have said no. I should have…” His voice faded, his eyes clouded up with tears.
“Go on,” Papa urged.
“When Glory came, I was… I was too angry to be in the same room with her, so, I decided to go for a jog. But my spirit was restless. Very restless. So, I turned back…” He exhaled. “I entered the house and…” He exhaled again, shaking his head. “That woman is evil. She just… She was stabbing Blessing, right there on the couch…”
He stopped as tears bathed his face.
“I’m so sorry, Pastor Obi,” Alice said.
“Blessing was lying there. She was not moving.” He sobbed. “She wasn’t moving. My baby wasn’t moving. Oh God!”
“And Glory?” Papa asked.
“I grabbed her and she turned around and stabbed me.” He sniffled as his face went stony. “But she was too small for me. I started punching her. I… I’ve never hit anyone in my life like that before. The only reason I stopped was because it occurred to me that Blessing might still be alive. But when I checked her…” He shook his head a second time. “There was blood everywhere, Papa. Coming out from everywhere. Her nose, her mouth…”
“Stay still, sir,” Oby instructed.
“That’s when I went back to Glory. She was trying to get up, but I grabbed her neck and…”
“I think that’s enough now,” Papa said.
“I didn’t stop until I was sure she wasn’t breathing.”
“I was holding her neck and hitting her head on the floor at the same time. I just wanted her to die. She had to die!”
Oby pulled back slowly, glaring at his face.
“And if I have the chance again, I will kill—”
Obinna stopped. “Papa, I do not regret what I did.”
“What you did was self-defense.”
Oby looked at Papa.
“Yes, she stabbed you after killing your wife,” Pastor Love stated, “and you defended yourself. She had a weapon, but you were unarmed.”
“I was not the victim, Pastor Love. Blessing is…” He shut his eyes. “Was.”
“I know, Obi. I know. And I’m so sorry.”
“Where are the children right now?” Leye asked.
“With my sister. I took them to hers yesterday. They’ll be there till the end of the week…” He sniffled. “What do I tell them, Leye? What do I say happened to their mother?”
Covering his face, he broke down again. The room was silent as they allowed him a moment to himself. Papa and Love, seated close to each other, were speaking in low tones. When Obinna took a break from his tears, Love spoke up.
“Pastor Obi, please, listen to me. I need you to go to the parlor and sit. We will handle the rest.”
“Just trust me, okay? Please, give us some time to come up with something.”
Obinna nodded like a zombie. He got on his feet, but just as he was about to turn away, Love stopped him with a question.
“The hidden Wi-Fi camera in your parlor, is it still there?”
Love said nothing more. Obinna continued toward the living room with Leye tailing him.
Pastor Love picked up her phone from the table and dialed a number. “Najib, I need you right now.” After the call, she looked at Ishi and Oby. “I’m really sorry you had to witness all of this.”
“It is…a lot,” Oby said.
“But life always shocks us,” Ishi added. “You never know what’s around the bend. I…think it’s time we took our leave. It’s been a long evening.”
“It has.” Love smiled. Ishi stood and held Oby’s hand.
“Thank you so much for the delicious dinner,” Oby said.
They bade farewell to the Omotoshos and left the house.
On their way home, the Eresoyens were silent in their car. When they came to a traffic stop, Oby looked at Ishi.
“You haven’t said anything about what happened in that house.”
“There’s nothing to say. A man just lost his wife. I do not have an opinion on how he reacted to her murder.”
“How about how they want to handle the case?”
“How do you think they want to handle it?”
Oby looked out the window. A couple of policemen were harassing a young man by the sidewalk. A short distance from them was a multistory building with tinkering Christmas lights. The entire street was already in the Christmas spirit, although it was just the first week of December.
“Are you sure you want to be in bed with these people?” Oby asked.
“It’s not being in bed, Oby. It’s ministry.”
“Are you sure?”
Ishi looked at his wife, just as the light turned green. “We now share a secret. I guess I can call them family.”
The car behind them honked and Ishi moved forward.
Back in the Omotosho residence, they had just finished watching the chilling footage of the deaths of Pastor Blessing Kanayo and Glory Okonkwo. The recording had been retrieved from a cloud storage, to which Obinna gave them access.
There was silence in the living room, where they were all now seated. Obinna was with them, his head bowed, eyes cast to the floor. What they had watched corroborated Obinna’s account of the incident.
“That footage has to go,” Love stated.
“I agree,” said a man, named Najib. He was standing beside Love, resting the bulk of his weight on a single crutch. He was a little above average height, and he bore a fresh face that made him appear younger than he was. Najib was Pastor Love’s fixer. He managed her problems and tackled complicated and surreptitious matters on her behalf. Love trusted him with her life. The Omotoshos had also come to accept him as family. Najib was always dependable.
“I am more concerned about what narrative we’re going with,” Papa said. “If we do not handle this well, Obinna is going to be in big trouble. Not forgetting what this could mean to us as a family and the church, in extension.”
“We have three options.” Najib moved a few paces toward the center of the living room. “First is that we get rid of all that happened in that house by burning it down and blaming it on a gas explosion—”
“Come on, NJ,” Love interrupted. “Can’t we be original?”
She was referring to the past, when her late husband and his gay lover were murdered by the lover’s wife. Love had covered up the murder by setting the house on fire and blaming it on a gas explosion.
“Second option. We get rid of Glory’s body and claim that she absconded after taking Pastor Blessing’s life. That way, Pastor Obinna is free from any legal issues—”
“Is there any option you can come up with that involves us telling the truth, Najib?” Papa asked.
“The third one. We go with the truth. However, that footage must not see the light of day or it would be hard convincing anyone that Pastor Obinna is innocent.”
“I am ready to face the law,” Obinna muttered.
“Obi, I hope you know what this means, right?” Leye asked.
“I do. And I understand its impact on everyone here and the church. I apologize for—”
“Don’t apologize,” Papa stopped him. “Don’t.”
Love faced Obinna. “You have to go back home. Leye will go with you but in his own car. What happened was that you went for a walk and left your wife in the company of her sister. You returned to see said sister stabbing your wife. You tried to defend your wife, but the deranged woman stabbed you. You then defended yourself by strangling her. It hadn’t been your intention to kill her. You were blinded by rage.”
“Yes, I was, but I was very aware of what I did, Pastor Love.”
“Are you going to tell that to the police?”
Obinna was silent.
“Anyway, that would be Leye’s story to the EMTs when they arrive.” Love looked at her husband. “Babe, on your way, you’ll call 112 and tell them that your friend’s wife was stabbed, and you don’t think she’s breathing. You’ll say nothing about Glory. When they arrive, they’ll find out themselves that she’s dead. Then, you can tell the full story. Obinna, you are not to utter a single word to them. Just go home and disable that camera from wherever it’s hidden. It never existed. Do you understand, sir?”
“I’ll call my editor friend at The Sentinel, and let them break the news first. That’s the best way to control whatever narrative we want the tabloids to hear or they’ll run wild with different versions and paint you out to be a murderer. Of course, by the time they dig into your past and Blessing’s and see that there had been issues between you guys and Glory, they’ll come for you and all of us. You must not waver in your account of what happened.”
“I will reach out to my friend, the police commissioner,” Papa added. “We need this unfortunate and tragic incident to go away as quickly and as quietly as possible. I’ll do my best to make sure you do not spend one single night in jail, although I can’t make any promises.”
“I understand, Papa.”
“I am deeply sorry for your loss. No one deserves what you’ve just gone through. I’m so sorry.” Papa looked at everyone else. “A dark hour is about to come upon us again. Are you all ready?”
©Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages