Please note that this series contains some sexually explicit content, violence and offensive language. It is not appropriate for children nor an immature and sensitive audience.
THE CHURCH GIRL
Copyright © Ufuomaee
The story first leaked in one Oluwatoyin's Blog with the headline: "Another Pastor Caught In Sex Scandal!" By the end of the day, it was the most popular post on Nigerian Blogs like Linda Ikeji and Bella Naija, and the hashtag #BolajiSexScandal went viral across the Internet.
By the next day, the print media had picked up on the story and were reporting with various headlines. "Pastor Bolaji Akinwumi To Face Trial On Sex Assault Charges." "Pregnant Corper Claims Pastor Bolaji Assaulted Her For Six Years!" "Vessels Of Honour Fellowship Refuses To Comment On Pastor Akinwumi's Sex Scandal."
Within a matter of days, three more allegations were made by two former members and one current member of the Vessels of Honour Fellowship of child sexual abuse, rape and indecent assault by Pastor Bolaji. According to one of the two ex-members of the Fellowship, now in her mid-twenties, she was only 14 years old when the abuse began. The other, who claimed to have worked for him as his house-help, accused him of raping her. She had left the job and the Church, and had been afraid to say anything because she thought she would not be believed. 16 year old, Shade Olubunmi, alleged that he sexually assaulted her over a year ago, but they continued to have relations because, in her words, "he buys me nice things". There was a public outcry as the Church was pressed to make a statement.
Mary was surprised with how quickly the story spread. She was however not surprised to read the headlines that were less favourable towards her. "The New Ashawo: Sex for Education" was the title of one such blog post. "GOLD DIGGER WATCH: Mary Uwanna Seeks Child Support From Pastor Alleged of Sexual Assault!" was another. Some of her old friends were calling her up to confirm the story, but Mary refused to give a statement, knowing how easily her words would be turned against her.
Ifeanyi did not escape getting mentioned in all of the scandal. One featured article, with the title "Who's Baby Is It?", revealed: "Mary Uwanna's ex-boyfriend is none other than notorious womanizer, Ifeanyi Chukweke, first son of Chief and Mrs Chinedu Chukweke. Of course he dumped her the moment he learnt of her pregnancy"! As he read the post, Ifeanyi wondered who was feeding them all this information, that only had traces of truth to them. Fortunately for Mary and Ifeanyi, they had each other and the truth to help them get through the ordeal.
Pastor Bolaji had no such comfort, however. His wife had kicked him out of their bed, and he was to face an inquiry at the Church, where they were sure to find out that he had been stealing from the Church treasury to support his many extra-marital relations. The truth, rather than convicting him, tormented him day and night.
Mrs Akinwumi's screech was heard out on the streets by some paparazzi that had camped outside her family home, one fateful Saturday in August.
The children ran to their mother's side to see what was the matter, and began to wail when they saw the corpse of their father, hanging from the ceiling, with a noose around his neck. The eldest of the three children, sixteen year old Femi, tried to console his mother, who had become hysterical.
When the police made it to the late Pastor's house, they searched for a note, but none was found. However, in the study where he hung, on his office table, his Bible was opened to Luke 17, and verses 1 and 2 had been highlighted in yellow. The words "I'm sorry" were scribbled on the page with the same highlighter. The passage read:
"Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones."
The Bible was taken in as evidence, and the case of the sexual assault of Mary Uwanna by Pastor Bolaji Akinwumi was solved. The Pastor had hung himself by reason of guilt.
Pictures of the late Pastor hanging were soon to spread through the media, and even to appear on the evening news of NTA. When Mary watched and saw that her abuser was dead, she felt the first kick of her baby as her stomach churned. Instantly, she threw up.
When asked to give a statement about the death of her abuser, Mary made this press release:
"What I have learnt from this horrible ordeal that resulted in the suicide of my former Pastor, is that my oppressor was a coward, unable to face the consequences of his actions. All these years, I lived in fear of him and believed his lies, but I see now that I was a contributor to my own bondage.
"When I think about the fact that I could have come out with the truth long ago, and saved myself a whole lot of trauma and heartbreak, instead of now being pregnant for a man I despised, I feel like a complete fool. I am also troubled and saddened as I consider the many other young girls and women who might have been spared his assault, if I had said something. If only I had been bold enough to stand for the truth, rather than live in fear and in compromise. I sincerely apologise to his family for the anguish I have caused them through the part I played in this scandal.
"I want to implore every victim of abuse to speak up! Your voice is a gift you can give the world. The truth is what will set you free, so do not ever believe your oppressor when he or she says that no one will believe you or that no one else will help you. With every last ounce of your strength, speak up, before it is too late!"
When Mary finished speaking, she was filled with an overwhelming surge of joy and passion for a new cause. Her experience had given her a gift she could give to a world plagued by injustice. She realised her new calling, and became committed to speaking against all forms of abuse against humanity. She started her own blog, "Speak Now For Freedom", which grew in following and influence, and also became an additional source of revenue to her through advertising and donations. In time, she would become a highly acclaimed human rights activist, working under the banner of Browne Law Firm, helping victims to speak out and bringing perpetrators of abuse to justice.
The investigation into the late Pastor Bolaji's abuse of power and of Church's funds revealed that the late Pastor was indebted by many millions of Naira to Vessels of Honour Fellowship. Some of the funds were retrieved from off-shore accounts, and the others were retrieved by sale of his properties. As a mercy to his widowed wife and three children, the Church permitted the family to retain their home. However, no inheritance nor support was available for late Pastor Bolaji's unborn child.
In the wake of the scandal, Mr and Mrs Chukweke called Ifeanyi into their quarters. They were sitting out at the balcony enjoying the ocean breeze, when Ifeanyi joined them. Ifeanyi pulled up a seat across from them.
Mrs Chukweke spoke first. "Ife, are you still seeing that Mary girl?" she asked.
"Yes, Mom. Why?" Ifeanyi asked.
Mrs Chukweke shook her head. "So after everything she has put you through, you are determined to ruin your life for this girl?"
Ifeanyi was shocked. What was this about? "Mom, I know what she did was wrong and foolish, but she's not a bad person. I know she loves me, and I love her."
"Shut-up-your-mouth! What do you know about love? You have never settled down long enough to love somebody, and it is this one that you want to marry?"
"No one has said anything about marriage, Mom."
Mrs Chukweke laughed. "Na wa oh! So you think she is just playing? You think you can have your fun and move on? Tell me, if you don't plan on marrying this girl, why are you wasting your time?"
"Well, marriage is not out of the question...it's just not on the cards now. I don't want to complicate things."
"See me see trouble oh!" Mrs Chukweke said, spreading her arms dramatically to an imaginary audience. "You don't want to complicate things? How much more complicated can it get? And now she has dragged our family name into her dirty sex scandal!"
Ifeanyi looked at his father for support, but he was simply petting his wife to calm her down. "I don't know what to say Mom. This is between me and Mary. If we decide to get married..."
"God forbid bad thing!" Mrs Chukweke interrupted, getting more emotional by the minute. "What can that girl offer you, except somebody else's baby and three other children to look after? No, I will not accept. In fact, I forbid it!"
"You will do no such thing," Mr Chukweke interjected. "There's no need to be so dramatic. You know, you were no angel yourself when we were dating."
"Ah, at least I was not a whore!" Mrs Chukweke shot back.
"That is debatable..." Mr Chukweke replied. "But I loved you then, and I love you now."
Mrs Chukweke sat downfounded, and sulked.
"Look, son, what your mother and I are trying to tell you is that you should not continue this relationship with this girl, unless you plan to marry her. It will not be fair to you or her, or the baby, if you decide to walk away later. We just want you to think about what you are getting yourself into, because you are a bright, young, handsome, well to do man, with a lot of prospects, and we believe you deserve better. But if you really love her, you can make it work."
"Thank you Dad, and Mom," Ifeanyi said, offering his mother a smile. "I will think about what you have said. And I hope, if and when I decide to choose a wife, you will support my decision."
"It is well," Mr Chukweke said. "May God help you to make the right decision."
Ifeanyi stood up and thanked his parents again, before leaving them. He had some thinking to do. As someone who had never been good living up to other people's demands and expectations on him, he had to really consider what he wanted for himself. He didn't want to live to regret his decision nor resent his wife. He would take it to God in prayer.
Mary noticed that Ifeanyi had been a little distant of late. She wondered what might be troubling him. They were supposed to go to see a movie tonight, but he had cancelled it for a dinner date instead. He had said those dreaded words: "We need to talk," that filled her body with a chill.
She was now five months pregnant and her stomach had blown up in the space of just two months. She couldn't find anything attractive to wear, so she went for comfortable instead. She wore a long floral gown that showed off her bump, and a simple pair of slippers.
Ifeanyi smiled when he saw her, which calmed down her nerves. "Beautiful as always," he said.
They dined at a new Chinese restaurant in Surulere. At six O'Clock, they were the only ones there. Mary looked at Ifeanyi, as he shifted on his seat. "Are you ok?" she finally asked.
He nodded. "I want to ask you something, but I don't know how?"
"Just ask me," she said nervously.
"This is a scenario... Let's say my parents forbade us to marry. Sshhh," Ifeanyi said, putting his finger to his lips upon seeing Mary's reaction. "It's just a scenario. And if I married you, I would be disinherited. Would you elope with me?"
"This is just a scenario?" Mary confirmed. Ifeanyi nodded. "I guess I would want to...but I wouldn't marry you without your parents' blessing. It wouldn't be right. So, I guess my answer would be no."
"So I understand, why wouldn't it be right? It's our lives after all, and we love each other. Isn't that enough?"
"If you do not honour your parents, how can you honour me as your wife? If I marry you, I marry your family. I can never come between you and your family. A marriage built on such a rebellion doesn't have much chance for success. I'd rather pray and wait on their blessing," Mary said, looking at him intently.
Ifeanyi sighed deeply and smiled. "You are right."
Mary nodded, and looked down at her hands.
"That's why I want to marry you," Ifeanyi said to her, as he got on one knee and revealed a 24 carat diamond ring with a white gold band.
Mary looked up and saw the ring and gasped. "No way!"
"Is that your answer?" Ifeanyi asked, amused by her reaction.
"Of course not. Yes! Yes! I want for nothing more," Mary said, accepting his ring and his proposal.
He stood up and pulled her into his arms. They shared a passionate kiss to the applause of the waiters.
To be continued...
Photo credit: www.stanfellerman.com