Papa has a bible passage for everything. I’ve always wondered how they roll off his tongue so easily but when it comes to his account number, or GSM line, it’s like he swallowed hot akara. It became my assignment to call them out when he has to give out either one; the former, however, more frequent than the latter. Papa’s favourite passages are: Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16 and Malachi 1:6. And as his first son, I’ve had to blend into his shadow or walk the path he points out.
One hot afternoon, Papa runs home singing, “His are miracle working God”. Me, Mama, my six brothers and two sisters all run out of our cramped room to join him, “His are howfar and omega”. We clap our hands trying to match his off-key rhythm not knowing the good news. But it doesn’t matter because it’s either that or a deliverance from the Devil that sealed your mouth from praising Master Jesus.
We form a circle round him and as he turns, inspecting us one at a time, he nods as if congratulating himself for fulfilling God’s instruction in Genesis 1:28. He summons me to stand in front of him and starts another chorus, “Up, up Jesus, down, down Satan”. After the third time, he pulls me closer to him and says, “My son, the book of Exodus, chapter 20 verse 12 says, honour your father so that your days may be long on this earth”.
Still wondering what I’ve to do this time, he continues “The Lord revealed to me, last week in a dream, that you, Chukwuduzie will go to Europe”. For once, papa’s news fills me with so much joy that I want to scream, at last! but his next words twist my heart so tightly that I fall down screaming like a woman in labour. “You’ll go through the desert and get to Libya and from there; it’s just a boat to Europe. You will go and meet one of our church member whose brother called last week that he has made it to Italy”.
Papa presses a piece of paper containing a foreign address into my weak hands. I try to protest but he reminds me of Colossians 3:20. I’ve been evicted from the only place I feel at home, cast away from the people I know to make a better life for my father, my family, but at what cost to my own life? Papa says he will declare fasting and prayer because he knows that I’ll get to my destination since God’s promises are yes and amen.
Two days later, I’m on this boat carrying me to my supposed promise land. I turn to take one final look, wondering if my case will be like Moses. As I try to remember the pieces of my home, all I can hear are papa’s story about Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt in Genesis 19:26.