News of my predicament hadn’t spread so people weren’t really trying to reach me. Ajuna shielded me effectively, keeping everyone physically away and screening my calls.
In the two days that had followed my discharge from the hospital, I stayed put at home getting lots of rest like the doctors instructed, but it was like sitting quietly while your own house burned down around you. My calm didn’t last.
On the third day, I had Ajuna take me in to the office to do some proper damage control. It took less than half an hour in behind my desk to realize I was completely ruined.
On the surface, my business looked fine, but underneath all the money was gone. All the accounts were empty, even my personal accounts, Estella had taken it all and most of that money wasn’t even mine.
Months ago, when I started drastic expansions of my business, I had acquired large loans from a bank with the hidden agenda of laundering money from my secret accounts overseas to repay them. Six hundred million naira in loans and only about fifty percent of that had been used, it had gone into completing a large new warehouse for my importation company here in Lagos, increasing the assets of my Palm Oil Company in the eastern part of the country, laying foundations for a new
transportation company and other lesser investments. The rest of that money had been lying idle in my business accounts, ready for my business trip overseas to buy up goods, which never happened because my beloved wife and confidant had poisoned me just five days to my departure date and disappeared with everything while I fought for life on a hospital bed.
Estella had carted away an approximate total of four hundred million naira plus every valuable item in our home, she hadn’t even overlooked my expensive gold wristwatch. As a direct result of the poison she’d given me, my health was in jeopardy and parts of my memory had been wiped away; blanked out completely like an erased videotape. I just couldn’t remember certain things now and top on that list were access information to my secret bank accounts and investments overseas where millions of dollars lay hidden. I knew they were there somewhere but just couldn’t remember where. I couldn’t remember the banks in question, not even the countries in which they could be. Thinking hard about it only gave me terrible headaches.
I stared in horror at the information displayed on the monitor of my desktop computer. I was in debt to multiple parties for the better part of a billion naira!
“God almighty!” I breathed suddenly beginning to sweat despite the powerful air-conditioning.
All the checks I had written out the day before Estella poisoned me had bounced so I owed employee wages for two months, and then there were the contractors of the main warehouse here in Lagos, the other contractors renovating the Palm Oil proceeding factory and its warehouse back east, and then the ones doing another housing project in Port Harcourt. But these were nothing compared to what I owed the bank! I owed the bank about seven hundred million naira now and if I couldn’t pay in four months’ time, they would strip me to the bone without mercy.
God Almighty in heaven!
My hands shook uncontrollably as I went through all the documents and files on the computer, looking for anything and everything useful, but there were none.
I possessed an above average memory capacity to which I had committed a lot of important business information. My memory was still fine, but there were minor blanks I just couldn’t access or remember, memory gaps that couldn’t be filled, and incredibly enough, all of it was vital business information I just couldn’t do without. In the areas related to the legitimate aspect of my business, there were documents and reliable assistance to fall back on, but with the illegitimate aspect which lay hidden overseas, it was different. The keys to my illegitimate wealth were mostly locked away by codes that existed only in my memory and they were completely gone now. I couldn’t remember any key information related to the numbered bank accounts and investments overseas nor could I even remember where I had hidden away the expensive steel briefcase that was my secret safe and stock portfolio.
The illegitimate aspect of my wealth, that was about the only secret I had withheld from Estella. I never talked to anyone about the origins of my money, that part of my past was sealed tight.
Borrowing a billion naira now or even half of that was totally out of the question. I didn’t have the assets behind me anymore, the bank had it all.
Only a miracle could save me from this huge disaster, I thought bitterly. A huge miracle that would fill up the blank patches in my memory right away so I could remember everything again.
Yes, a miracle and miracles were church business. But which church? I couldn’t afford the hanky-panky of fake churches right now. Yes, yes, my former church was a good enough place to start. Prophet Okafor was a genuine man of God with unique powers I had witnessed first-hand for several years.
I had been an ardent member of The Holy Ghost Prayer and Healing ministries for over four years. First as a poor teacher before moving to Abuja then continued after returning to Lagos in wealth, but I hadn’t gone there in almost a year now because I got married to Estella and she dragged me off to a rich people’s church in Victoria Island.
Prophet Okafor’s phone number wasn’t on my phone anymore so I looked it up on my online backup database and dialed.
“Hello,” he answered right off.
“Good afternoon, sir.”
“Who is this, please?”
“It’s me, Larry, sir.”
“Eh, Larry Nzeribe?” he asked disbelievingly.
“Yes, sir, it’s me.”
“Oh, may our God be praised! It has been so long! We have been so worried about you here recently.”
“Really, how so?” I asked surprised,
“We have been getting troubling revelations about you and our prayers have been ceaseless, but all our endeavors to reach you and warn you have been fruitless. You changed your phone number and no one knew your new place in Festac Town, prayer was our only option. How are you doing? How is your wife?”
I sighed. “That’s why I’m calling. I want to come and see you. Everything has been turned upside down in my life and that woman is responsible for all of it.”
There was a moment’s silence.
“When do you want to come?” asked the Prophet.
“Early tomorrow morning if there isn’t any service. I don’t want to meet people.”
“There isn’t any service or meeting tomorrow, so no one will be here from eight o’clock on. Do you remember our new site? We have moved the church there now.”
“Yes, I remember it.”
“I will not go anywhere throughout tomorrow. I will be waiting for you.”
“Thank you, sir. I will definitely be there.”
“May God be with you.”
“Amen. Thank you again, sir.”
I left the office a while later at three o’clock and Ajuna took me home for the day.
By eight o’clock the next morning, Wednesday, we were racing down the Badagry Expressway in the Murano Jeep. Ajuna drove while I sat next to him in the front passenger seat. Traffic was bad in places so we didn’t make it to the Ajamgbadi -Shibiri area where the church was until about ten o’clock.
The new site of the Holy Ghost Prayer and Healing Ministries was nothing like the two square plots of bushland I last saw a year ago when the church acquired it. It was also a far cry from the smaller structure that was the old site located just a few streets away. The new church was an incomplete large building in the design of a warehouse, enclosed by a high-walled fence with a pair of nice gates opening out onto a street full of residential buildings. There were well-maintained flower beds all around, both outside and inside the neat grounds.
As Ajuna pulled in through the open gates, I saw clearly that the building was very far from complete. The unfinished walls of the church auditorium were less than halfway up to the large high red roof resting on long iron pole, the spaces for windows and doors were still vacant so the entire structure still had an open-air look to it. An incomplete low building, obviously a personage, was behind the auditorium, further back in the compound. The Prophet’s tan Toyota Camry car was parked close to the personage.
Ajuna pulled up next to the auditorium, I got out of the jeep and went in.
The place was big and from the number of neatly arranged white plastic chairs, the population had multiplied greatly. There was no ongoing service so everywhere was deserted and very quiet.
The Prophet was waiting with Senior Pastor Peter. Both men, dressed simply in shirt sleeves and trousers, sat in chairs directly in front of the well-furnished and decorated altar which was the only complete part of the whole church. The back wall of the altar reached to the roof and a door to one side obviously led to offices beyond. The two Men of God gave me a prodigal son’s welcome and we sat down to talk, a chair was already there for me.
Both men were older than I was and their serious-minded nature hadn’t changed a bit. They themselves hadn’t changed at all. Prophet Benjamin Okafor was a well-fed man of average build with slightly graying hair and beard. He was in his late fifties with all the imposing personalities of the general overseer and founder of a successful church. He had a university degree in theology and was a gifted spiritualist and preacher. Senior Pastor Peter, the most senior of the four pastors in the church, second only to the Prophet himself, was well-built too, above average height and in his mid-forties. He had Prophetic powers too, but minor compared to that of the Prophet which was like a high performing scanner that detected all hidden problems and secrets with ease. I liked and respected both men greatly, particularly the Prophet.
“What kept you away from us all this time?” asked the Prophet, looking very pleased to see me.
“Business mostly, sir,” I replied. “Everything has grown and it keeps me very busy. I travel very often now.”
“It has been almost a year now, surely you could have found time to visit us at least once or twice even if briefly,” the Prophet insisted and Pastor Peter nodded in quick agreement. “You’re still a prospective Elder of this church, you know, implying that you no longer have time for God, but only business is very upsetting.”
I sighed. “To tell you the truth, sir, I have been attending a new church in Victoria Island, my wife’s church, but that’s all over with now. I will be worshipping here again from now on.”
Both men nodded with approval, but neither seemed surprised.
The Prophet sat forward in his chair. “About this issue you want to discuss with me, I have asked Peter to be present with us for a reason that will become very clear soon, but if you want us to talk alone…”
“No, sir, he can stay,” I said quickly. “I would actually like that.”
The Prophet nodded, motioned for me to speak and he sat back.
I poured out everything and before I was done, both men were half out of their chairs in shock and anger.
“May the Lord God almighty never cease to protect his children in this evil world.” exclaimed the Prophet snapping his fingers in horror. “What kind of food did she use to feed you the poison?”
“Jollof rice,” I replied. “I always take breakfast at home each morning because I’m usually too busy at the office to go out to lunch. We had a cook that normally takes care of meals particularly my breakfast because my wife is a very late riser. She’s the type that can stay in bed till afternoon, but that morning was one of the rare occasions she was up and doing. She woke me up to get ready for work herself and said she was going to prepare rice for my breakfast. Rice is my favorite food so I was delighted, to say the least. I got ready for work, came readily to the dining table and ate every last grain of the delicious Jollof rice she put before me.”
Pastor Peter shuddered in horror and snapped his fingers, but the Prophet, more controlled in manner, didn’t react.
“Did you people quarrel in any way before this?” asked the Prophet.
I shook my head and spread my hands innocently. “We never quarrel, we were very happy together and everything was wonderful. There wasn’t a hint of what she was planning until the very day she did it.”
“How did she get complete access to all your bank accounts?” he asked.
“I think she got the access codes from watching me access the accounts online regularly with my laptop and phone. You see, she’s a trained accountant and, as I quickly discovered, quite smart too so I was discussing certain business issues with her and getting shrewd professional advice on a regular basis, which is why it was soon after we got married that I acquired the bank loans and started expanding my business. Everything was going so fine and by the end of November, most of my projects were complete. My wife put to bed smoothly in the second week of December, six weeks ahead of schedule and I accelerated my traveling plans, she was to go and stay with her parents once I traveled overseas. The final part of the loans was released to me on schedule and everything was ready, even the buyers of the goods I was to import were ready. I’m telling you, sir, everything was fine and I was getting the full support of a good wife right until she poisoned me just five days to my departure date and disappeared with all the money.” I sighed dejectedly. “The doctors are saying I’m barely lucky to be alive considering how lethal the poison was. They say I have common salt to thank for saving my life.”
“Yes,” agreed the Prophet with a nod. “Salt is a very powerful remedy for poisons provided it is taken in time.”
“The little amount of the poison that managed to get through into my system was enough to put me in a coma for three days. When I regained consciousness, they told me all the checks I had issued the very day before the whole nightmare began had bounced. I checked right away and the accounts were all empty, all the money had disappeared along with my wife, all her belongings and every valuable item in our house were gone. No one seems to know her whereabouts till now, not even her parents, but I think they’re lying because they are not exactly crazy with worry like they should be. When the doctors told me that the poison was one of the deadliest they had ever seen, all doubts in my mind cleared and I realized I’d been married to a lie for a whole year.”
I sighed heavily feeling the crushing misery.
“I keep asking myself what I could have done wrong to cause a doting wife to suddenly turn against me so much that she wants me dead, but no explanation makes sense in my mind. The expansion of my business would have made me even richer than I was, my wife knows that very clearly, we talked and planned all of it together, yet she chose to run away with all the capital and leave me half dead. I just can’t understand any of it. All the money that woman took from me is about five hundred million naira, but because of it, I’m in debt for almost nine hundred million and most of that belongs to the bank. Come the month of June, if I can’t repay the money, the bank will take away all my assets, everything I have worked and sweated so hard for, including my home, I will be completely ruined.”
“God will never allow such a thing come to pass,” said the Prophet with finality. “What solutions have you in mind right now?”
I sat forward at once. “There is only one way I can repay this kind of money and that’s by accessing some old bank accounts and investments I have overseas. The problem is, I can no longer remember the required information to access them. You see, the poison had the strangest effect of attacking my brain and wiping out the specific parts of my memory that have to do with my business. Consequently, my memory seems whole in general, but I can no longer remember certain important business information. I have records and competent employees to help me out in most aspects of my business here in Nigeria, but in the areas of my passive investments overseas and the associating bank accounts, all the necessary information was committed solely to my memory.”
I tapped my head for emphasis.
“And now you can’t remember anything about it?” asked the Prophet.
“Precisely, sir. I can’t remember any of the required access information, not even the name of the banks or the countries in which they are, but I clearly remember making and saving up all the money years ago. You understand numbered account system of advanced banking oversee? No document trails or signatures just numbers and codes without which you can never access the accounts.”
The Prophet nodded. “I’ve heard of them. How are you sure your wife hasn’t gotten her hands on all those investments and accounts as well?”
“Firstly, sir, I technically buried those accounts three years ago and forgot about them completely. Since then, I have not need, not touched and not accessed them in any manner. Secondly, I am a man who likes to keep his most personal financial affairs very private, I do not discuss such matters with anyone however closely related. Thirdly, I got married too quickly and to a very beautiful woman I didn’t quite know completely, I’m no fool, I had my reservations. I kept certain key information about my wealth well hidden from her. She never even knew these accounts and investments existed and no one else does except me. It’s in my head somewhere and sometimes when I think hard, the information I need seems just below the surface of my mind like a mirage, but once I reach out, it vanishes and there are only painful headaches left.”
“What do the doctors say?” asked the Prophet.
I shrugged. “There isn’t much they can do about it and they’re highly qualified doctors trained in the US and Britain. They say the problem is not permanent, but the only option is for my brain to heal by itself with time. None of them can say exactly how much time, but they all agree it could be weeks, months or even years. I have, but four months to find a billion naira or get stripped to the bone. It’s as simple as that. Modern medicine obviously can’t help me so I’ve come seeking healing from God who is the creator of all human beings and the worker of impossibilities. He alone can put my brain back in order and cause my memories to return in time for me to solve my problems walk free. That, sir, is exactly my mission here today.”
I sat back in my chair, finished.
“Yes,” said the Prophet with deep satisfaction, sitting up. “God is a great God indeed and you will surely find what you came looking for in his house. But for solutions to prevail, answers must be given to every question, every important angle must be covered so that lessons learned will be clearly understood and such mistakes never repeated.” He gestured to Pastor Peter. “Peter go and bring the prayer band register and show him his section.”
Pastor Peter got up at once and hurried over to get a thick register from the big table at the altar. He shifted quickly through the pages then passed me the open register, pointing.
“All of this page and these other pages are especially for you,” he explained standing by me. “They are divine revelations and prayer points on your behalf. These are the dates and these ones marked with red ink are the prayers we have already completed.”
“Take your time,” said the Prophet, relaxing in his chair. Pastor Peter went to sit down in his too.
In all, five full pages had been dedicated to me and each one had been written through, front and back. I started to read quickly through the first page then stopped and started again, carefully this time.
I read through all five pages, and then, stunned, reread them. It took several minutes, but the two men waited patiently for me to get through.
Combined, the prophesies, dating back several months, predicted my present circumstance clearly and to precision – impending dangers to my life and business, evil dwelling in my life, looking to destroy me. One even mentioned ‘prayers for my deliverance from the evil powers my wife was using to bind me to her will’. The first recorded prophecy was seven months ago, and the last one, directing fervent prayers against ‘the evil plans of my wife to bring me sudden death’ was dated just two, three months ago in December – it covered the period Estella poisoned me and my subsequent hospitalization!
The pages didn’t look new at all, but well used, there was no way they could have been rigged. Totally stunned, I looked up at the Prophet and he spread his hands innocently.
“These divine messages started coming soon after you got married and stopped coming here. As they got stronger, I directed Peter and the prayer band to begin strong prayers on your behalf since all our attempts to reach you were in vain. When I first got the revelation in November of your wife’s plans to poison you, I tried yet again to reach you through some contacts at the Alaba Electronics International market, but then I had a strange dream in which I saw myself holding a letter, looking for a way to get it to you when suddenly your sister appeared and took it from me to take to you. I saw her give you the letter, you opened it, but once you tried to read, your wife who was standing right behind you in spirit form, covered your eyes with her hands, preventing you from doing so and after a while, you gave up completely and threw the letter away. The dream was quite clear to me; your sister had been trying to tell you exactly what I wanted to tell you, but the evil hold your wife had on you was too strong. Your sister was never on good terms with your wife, is that not so?”
“Yes,” I replied with a bitter taste in my mouth. “She kept saying something about the Pastor of her church wanting me to come with her for special prayers because my wife was using witchcraft on me, but I didn’t believe her at all. I just thought it was a ploy to get me on her side against my wife, they hated each other from first sight.”
The Prophet spread his hands innocently at me again. “See now what I’m saying? After I had that dream, I stopped trying to reach you completely. Fervent prayers against what that woman was doing to you was the only solution and we really did our best fighting for you spiritually for such a long time. At first, it was just my wife and I, and then the whole prayer warriors group, led by Peter here, joined in, it’s why I wanted him here with us now, he already knew your problem very well. We all prayed so hard for God to preserve your life and now here you are today, a living testimony that God answered all those prayers, eh, Peter?”
“The Lord is truly great,” agreed the Pastor waving his hands heavenward in praise.
I passed the register back to him and bowed my head in silence, full of bitterness and regret.
“Larry, it is always good to consult God in whatever life-changing decisions one plans to make. You can never go wrong that way. If you had come to me to inquire of God before getting married, all these things never would have happened,” the man of God slammed his palm down on the arm of his wooden chair with a sharp sound. “NEVER!”
Prophet Okafor had the righteous anger of a shepherd whose prized sheep had stupidly allowed itself be stolen by the wolf.
He abruptly got to his feet. “Kneel down let us pray.”
I knelt before him at once and both men stood over me in prayer. The prayer was long and powerful and right after it, Pastor Peter opened up with divine revelations for me. He stood, eyes closed, Bible in hand, speaking with the firm authoritative voice of the spirit of prophecy while the Prophet and I, having resumed our seats, listened attentively.
“As you walked into the church, I saw that you were dressed from head to feet in a tattered black cloth, but during the prayers, the clothes were removed from your body and a new white robe was put on you. Give thanks to God for He has, this day, given you a new life.” He paused a long moment then continued. “The woman you married, she was not the one God planned for you. The woman you made wife is the human form of an evil spiritual being from the marine kingdom, who brings problems and poverty to any house she dwells in. Her mind was never one with yours nor was it ever with you in any manner, it was with another man. Her plan was to kill you and enjoy your wealth with that man, but God intervened on your behalf. I see a very beautiful woman with long hair that is not hers, dressed in a red cloth, standing at a shrine by a river. This woman is your wife and she holds your picture in one hand and a calabash bowl of ritual sacrifice in the other hand. You must pray hard for God to destroy and deliver you completely from whatever evil has been done against you in that shrine. Give private offering with a four-legged livestock and the Man of God will pray for you with the bell for seven days to set you free.” He paused briefly again. “There is a great blessing which God is sending your way soon. Pray very hard for God to make it completely yours so that it will not pass you by and got to someone else, for it is by this blessing that your life will be put in order again, and then you will know the true meaning of happiness and joy.”
Pastor Peter stood silent a long moment as if listening to something before continuing.
“There is a certain covenant you made very privately before God some time ago, but never kept. This is the cause of all the problems you are going through in life right now. You may not remember this covenant now due to your condition, but God will surely heal you completely and put things right again in your life so that everything will be even better than it was before. When this happens, you must not fail to keep all your promises to God so that more blessings will be added to your life and not removed from it…. Halleluiah!”
“Halleluiah!” chorused the Prophet and I together.
Finished now, Pastor Peter started to sit down.
“Leave us, Peter,” said the Prophet with a wave of his hand.
Pastor Peter obeyed at once with a respectful bow. He headed for the far side of the altar. well out of earshot and the Prophet sat forward with a very solemn expression on his face.
“Larry, do you remember a certain vision I gave you in private about womanizing?”
I remembered at once and shame made me lower my eyes from his.
“Has it not come to pass now? Have you not now married a woman that wasn’t meant for you and destabilized your life?” the Prophet stared hard at me and I still couldn’t meet his eyes. “You just heard the vision from Peter, now listen to mine,” his voice and entire manner changed at once and became forceful as he switched effortlessly into full prophetic mode. “…That woman you married is of the water demons. She is half human and half serpent with a powerful spiritual husband that destroys the prosperity and peace of any house she comes to dwell in. This is so too with any man whose life she enters; his wealth is soon drained or it just wastes away. You would never have prospered with her in your life even if you borrowed money from all the banks in this world one after the other, you still would have been systematically reduced to a beggar within a short time, and then she would have left you for another man. This is exactly her path in life and there have been other men before you. She spiritually binds successful men to her will, enslaving and using them until they are finished then she abandons them and moves on to another. You weren’t in that marriage with open eyes and that which you thought was happiness was, but a demonic illusion that would have continued till now except that God brought things to a halt in a very strange way, a certain man from her past whom she liked so much more than any other was brought back into her life and you became a problem. There is a connection between you and this man that is not very clear to me now, but God himself will surely make everything clearly known to you and very soon. They planned to kill you and enjoy your wealth together, but God had his own plans. He saved you and exposed their evil deeds so that they ran away and left you alone. They are together now in a foreign country very far away from here, but mark my words, this day, neither their unity nor the money they stole from you will last.” His tone andmanner suddenly relaxed. “I will pray for you for seven days and bless holy water for you to drink and bath with so as to destroy all the evil things that your wife has done against you spiritually. You must also pray hard for God to destroy any evil spirit from her shrine that has marked you for death within the next three months.”
The Prophet closed his eyes and bowed his head for a long moment as if listening to an unseen being and I watched him, shocked to my bone marrows at the things I had just heard.
He abruptly looked at me again and spoke in a hard, spiritual voice “An oath, covenant or promise made before God and in His holy name is most sacred and can never be broken without consequences, for the Lord is not mortal man. This is the root of all your present problems, a solemn oath you made to God with a heavy heart and in a holy place some time ago, but never kept. That oath renewed your life, bringing God’s purpose into it. That divine purpose was why God preserved your wealth and now your life which He is already planning, even now, to put right again. Your problem is, but a small one before God and He will heal you completely in such a way that your entire body will become as good as new. Your memory will return suddenly and in a single moment and you will remember all. When this happens, you must think deeply and honor every single unfulfilled oath you have made in your life both to man and to God otherwise the consequence will be far worse than it is now, for God was not happy with you and so allowed these things befall you in other to teach you a lesson. You will observe a day’s fasting and prayer here in the church for the forgiveness of sins, I will join you in that prayer and when we close it, you will go out and share money to beggars before any food or water passes your lips. After this is done to appease Him, God will begin to put your life in order again and things will become even better than it was before. Yes, mark my words, you will be far richer in life than anything you planned. You will have lots of children, properties, and wealth far beyond your dreams. You will surely know the true joy and happiness that only God gives, so don’t be angry or worried about your present condition, it is only temporary. Also, you must forgive completely, this great wrong that woman has done you so that her evil will not become an obstacle in your life.” The prophet suddenly sat up straight. “Yes! God is planning to send a great blessing into your life very soon and it will enter in a very strange way, through a back door. You must be very careful and prayerful so as not to throw away that which God plans to use in putting your life in order again. This blessing is very near and things will begin to change immediately it steps a foot in your life. The Lord God Almighty will pour out his blessings abundantly upon you from then on because it so pleases him and you will be amazed at the things he will do.”
The Prophet sat back in his chair and relaxed.
The prophecy was over.
“You must keep coming to church very regularly so I will be praying for you,” he said now in a normal tone of voice. “All your problems will surely be solved in Jesus name.”
“Amen,” I said enthusiastically.
We had a long talk before I left, feeling lighter of heart.
That night, for the first time in almost a year, I knelt by my bedside and prayed to God Almighty in heaven before going to sleep.