Read Beautiful Surrender here
One Saturday afternoon, I decided to go to Oshodi market to get a few items. I had just alighted from the stuffy bus at Oshodi under bridge when I noticed that a crowd had gathered few meters ahead of me. I wondered what was happening but as you see me like this, I am not an amebo. Lagos has plenty wahala, so sometimes, the best thing to do is to just mind your business and waka pass. I turned in the opposite direction and started heading towards the market gate but instantly, my heart was drawn to the crowd. I felt very disturbed all of a sudden. As I walked further away, the restlessness in my heart increased so I turned back and, quite unlike me, I started heading towards the crowd scene.
As an experienced Lagos girl, I jejely put my phone in my bag, zipped it and held it tight under my armpit. I didn’t want stories that touch the heart at the end of the day. As I drew closer, I saw that the crowd was excited. There were so many voices that I couldn’t make out what anyone was saying. I tried pushing my way through to the front to see what was happening but nobody gave me the space. Slightly irritated, I tapped the woman in front of me.
“Please what is happening?”
She looked at me and hissed. “It’s one young lady o. She’s fighting with the okada man that dropped her. They said he refused to give her change.”
“Fine lady like this,” the man beside her added. “If you see the thing wey dey commot from her mouth ehn. She no dey talk like woman at all. At the end, man go put this one for house, call am wife. Olorun maje.” He hissed out loud.
I became very curious. What would make a lady fight with a man in public, not minding the scene they had caused? People were even making videos of them and laughing.
I gathered all my strength and pushed myself to the front, almost tripping. As I steadied my feet, I looked up and I was astonished. The lady, whose back was turned to me held a man by his shirt with her left hand and was hitting his head with her right. The man in return was wagging his finger furiously in her face, warning her not to slap him again. I looked around the fight scene. Her beautiful wig was strewn on the ground across, obviously displaced during the ‘mortal combat’. Her handbag was a few meters away, with its content scattered on the floor. Slippers, which I guess belonged to the man were flung to the other side of the road.
I shook my head in disappointment. Nobody even bothered to separate them as everyone was obviously enjoying the exchange. There wasn’t much I could do anyway, so I turned to leave. Just then, the lady turned her face in my direction and I froze in shock. Almost immediately, the man pushed her and she fell with a groan. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“Chinaza!” I screamed. I moved close to where she now lay, struggling to stand up. Chinaza was my good friend from the university. Back in school, we both loved and served the Lord together with great fervency. We didn’t see very often now due to the nature of our jobs, but we always kept in touch.
“Chinaza!” I called out again. This time, she looked around and when her eyes fell on me, they widened in utter dismay. She opened her mouth to say something but nothing came out. I went closer to her, a thousand and one questions in my eyes.
“Useless girl,” her opponent spat, still spoiling for a fight. “I pity the man that marries you. You think say you get power? Oya come and fight na…” He flexed his muscles, while moving towards the direction of his parked motorcycle.
It seemed that my presence had dissolved every of her willpower. Shamefacedly, she crawled towards her wig, picked it up and dusted it. I helped her pick up her handbag with its contents. By now, the crowd saw that their entertainment was over so they started dispersing with murmurs and snickers.
I pulled her up, dusted her skirt and adjusted her shirt. One button was already missing. Chinaza couldn’t look me in the eyes, she kept her head low as we crossed to the other side of the road. Even when we were safely out of the curious view of passersby, she still kept her head low.
I didn’t say a word to her until we got to my apartment. As soon as I opened the door, she burst into tears. I ignored her even though my heart boiled within me. I showed her the bathroom and she took her bath in silence.
As soon as she drank the water I offered her, she said
“I didn’t mean to fight with him. He caused it.”
I looked at her in disbelief. “How?”
“Can you imagine?” she started. “We agreed on Two Hundred Naira and by the time we got to my destination, he refused to give me my change, saying that he didn’t have any change. I was in a hurry so I told him to find me my change. The next thing I knew, he called me an ashawo. Me! A whole me! He opened his uncircumcised mouth to call me a prostitute. Tochi, that was when I lost it o.”
“And you choose to start a fight?”
“He started the fight. He pushed me and pulled off my wig. As a correct Lagos girl, I had to show him that I’m not a fool,” she finished.
I looked at her, amused. “A correct Lagos girl, or a proper Jesus girl. Which one are you now?”
She bit her lower lip.
I frowned slightly. “Chinaza, I am not impressed at all. This is not the Chinaza I knew back in university. The Chinaza I knew followed peace with all men. That Chinaza would never fight to prove a point. That Chinaza never took offences to heart because she wanted to make heaven. She wanted to remain rapturable. What happened?”
A tear slid off her cheek. “Tochi, being a Christian in Lagos is difficult. Too difficult. I try, but each day comes with its own drama.”
“Really?” I said in mild surprise. “So where do you think its easy? In Canada? Or Kano?”
“That’s not what I’m saying,” she interrupted, wiping her cheek. “Do you think I am happy with what happened this afternoon? I feel so ashamed of myself.” She sniffed and I stood up to get her tissue.
“I’ve lost myself,” she cried. “I was not like this when I came into Lagos two years ago. Back then, I valued my walk with God more than anything. I tried my best to live at peace with everyone around me. But they took me for a fool. A big fool. Tochi, they laughed at me behind my back.”
“Who laughed at you?”
“My neighbors. They said I was behaving like heaven was created for only me. They said if I didn’t wise up, Lagos would swallow me.”
“And this is how to wise up? By fighting on the road in broad daylight?”
She was silent. I took her hand.
“Chinaza, if I tell you that offences won’t come to you as a believer, I would be lying. The critical thing is how you handle them when they come. As daughters of God, we do not let circumstances and situations snuff out the light in us. We do not let the seeming wisdom of this world render us tasteless and ineffective. We do not permit the world to dictate the tune for us to dance. We remain rooted in the word of God, irrespective of what the world says or thinks.”
I squeezed her hand, “Now that you have fought publicly with that man, do you feel at peace?”
She shook her head slowly.
“Do you feel justified?”
She shook her head again.
“If you meet him again tomorrow, will you be bold enough to preach Jesus to him?”
She looked on with pain in her eyes, but she was listening with rapt attention.
“The Bible urges us to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel. The Bible also encourages us to avoid strife, contentions and arguments. Instead, we should follow peace with all men.”
I crossed my legs and leaned forward.
Why are you perturbed that people see you as a fool? Wasn’t Apostle Paul a fool for Christ’s sake?
She smiled. I smiled too.
“To the world, you are a fool because you choose to love the Lord and walk in His ways but to God, you are His precious beloved, the apple of His eyes. Our commendation doesn’t come from man, it comes from God. Never forget that.”
Her lips thinned, and I could see she was fighting back tears.
I’m so ashamed of myself,” she muttered. “I have embarrassed God. I disappointed him. All because of Two Hundred Naira!”
I stood up and patted her shoulders, “Remember what 1 John 1:9 says we should do in a situation like this?
“Then let’s do what it says.”
Together, we knelt on the floor to pray. I closed my eyes but felt her hands around me as she buried her face in my neck.
“Thank you, Tochi.” She said in a muffled tone. “You’re a genuine friend.”
I hugged her in return. “Glory to God.”
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14 (NIV)
Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12 (NLT)
Waka pass- Walk past
Olorun maje- God forbid