“I had been mama’s boy. Do not misinterpret me, I was not the only child of my parents neither was I the only son. I had four siblings and no, I was not the last child of the family if you are beginning to think that. I was the third child of my parents but my mother had treated me in a more special manner than she had treated my other siblings. Sure enough it got me into trouble with my elder siblings and envy had been written clearly on their faces when I got preferential treatment from our mother.
I must have been six years old or less when mum had dealt brutally with Bisi our house help who had beaten me earlier during the day for taking just one bite of the full chicken she left in the kitchen. Mother had queried Bisi while rewarding the girl with slaps and knocks that could cause skin crisis to an albino. Why would a maid hit her favourite son because he had taken one bite of a mere turkey? What if he had developed headaches or body pain? Would the cost of medical treatment be equivalent to a bite of turkey?
Those were the questions mother had asked Bisi while her hands performed wonders on Bisi’s dark coloured skin.
There was also this time; I must have been in JSS3 when I returned from school to see a bundle of one hundred naira notes placed on the table in the sitting room. The rumbling in my stomach and the fatigue that screamed from my bones were the driving force that had prompted me to take one of the notes which called at my attention. That money had gotten me a plate of the local beans popularly known as ewa agonyin and a small sized loaf of bread. I never knew that my younger sister had seen me take the money.
Well like you can rightly guess, she reported to my mother and unfortunately for me father had been present when she laid the complaint. Father had rebuked me severely while asking me to kneel with my eyes closed as a punishment. I cannot say if my tears that day were out of remorse or hurt. I had no idea if I had cried because I was sorry for my actions or if I had cried because I felt hurt that mother could not come to my rescue. It was mother’s money after all and I had no doubts that were it not for father I would not have been punished.
Father died when I was fifteen, I still miss him but then the liberty I got with mother was sweet, the next thirteen years of my life after father’s death had been splendid, at least that was what I thought. There had been series of ‘just ones’.
Yes! Just one snatch of a neighbour’s jean dried on the washing line. Just one fill of a roommate’s provision. Just one pick of a colleague’s money. Just one piece of so many things which I took without permission and the thing was I felt no remorse. The difference however was that as compared to my childhood days, this time I took these things without getting caught.
My undergraduate days had been the height. Just one kiss with the scantily dressed bimbo at the hostel park while my friends cheered me on. Just one visit to the night club, just one stealing operation, just one puff of cigarette, just one sip of vodka.
That one kiss had graduated to series of rape incidents involving me as one of the perpetrators or in some cases as the only perpetrator. One visit to the night club had transformed into so many. One stealing operation with an unarmed gang had turned to several robbery operations. One puff of cigarette had escalated to weed smoking and so many incessant sniffs of cocaine. I look back and I only wish mother had not hit Bisi for correcting me. I wish mother had reprimanded me like father did, I wish father did not have to die. I also wish I had never taken just one piece of so many unnecessary things.
I wish I had listened to Kola my coursemate who was always keen to talk to me about Jesus and the need to change my lifestyle. Probably if I had, I do not know how things would have turned out but I know it would certainly be different.”
Leke let out a breath he did not realise he had been holding when he finished reading the note he had just received. This man had not even written his full name but had simply left his initials. He knew A.A.A would probably say more if they spoke in person but the man had refused to talk ever since the church had been evangelising to the prisoners.
Leke recalled that the prison wardens had said that A.A.A was mentally retarded but Leke had persisted and A.A.A had simply handed him the note after his visit today. There had been no discussion, no talks, no reply to Leke’s greeting but there had been just this one note.
A note which made Leke realise that A.A.A was not as mentally retarded as the dreads he wore made him seem. He was simply a broken and wounded man who needed to find Christ.
Leke had replied the note being as brief as possible but filled with words of hope and had sent it through one of the prison wardens. And to his surprise A.A.A had replied, it had then become a series of letters and notes which had started with just one piece.
Months later Leke had led Adebayo Akintunde Alao, his new pen pal to Christ.
Although Adebayo was still in prison but this was a different A.A.A. This A.A.A was now a member of the body of Christ. The dreads were gone, and the A.A.A who kept to himself and played mute was gone. Here was an evangelist who was spreading the revival of the gospel to his fellow inmates. The screams of ‘pastor’ both by other prisoners and prison wardens when he was around testified to the change in his life.
It was a new birth which had started with just one note.