RELIGIOUS MERCANTILISM FROM COLONIAL GARMENTS
Book: The Pastor’s Prostitute
Author: Yemi Adebiyi
Publisher: Xlibris, United Kingdom
Reviewer: Adjekpagbon Blessed Mudiaga
Yemi Adebiyi’s latest novel, “The Pastor’s Prostitute”, is a historical novel cooked with electrifying mysticism. Hence, with expression such as, “The gossip was that the white woman employed witchcraft on Pa Oyok Edem. Ledum remembered he was too young to understand the motive behind his dad’s sudden interest in the woman after initial rebuffs and cold shoulder receptions,” the story unfolds with oceanic mysteries and social commentaries on several societal ills.
Woven with traditional diplomatic intelligence and western enlightenment, the eleven chapters’ book runs through 297 pages about clashes between Christianity and traditional African beliefs, values and practices, coupled with the sufferings Niger Deltans have been going through since the discovery of crude oil at Oloibiri, Bayelsa State. Characters like Eta Edem, Rumuola Danda Ogidi, Ken Gokana and Dakas Tonye are portrayed as heroes of the Niger Delta ethnic minorities struggles, symbolized by late Isaac Boro, Kenule Saro Wiwa and others who died as martyrs for emancipation of the region from both internal and external neocolonial agents hiding under the cloak of western education and foreign religions to exploit the people. Based on this, the author is surprised why the people speak with dissenting opinions as they are handicapped by religious differences to confront the ecological problems being caused by oil companies in the area. Deceit and insincerity in religions organizations are also castigated in different ways in the story line.
In his commendable style of conjuring intriguing pantopragmatic subplots, Adebiyi weaves the plot and setting of the story from Niger Delta region from the first chapter to encompass Lagos and Ibadan cities in chapter two. The plot expands with tentacles from chapter two, beaming flashback lights on the events that shaped the political history of Nigeria before and after independence to the end of the civil war through the diary of a feminine character, Didi Edem, who was Dakas Tonye’s lover but later became Danda Ogidi’s wife. In this chapter, the author weaves the story around a lady known as Francisca Abraham, grand-daughter to Didi Edem, who reads her grand-mothers diary delivered to her mysteriously. From the diary, she discovers details of her family background. Spiritual and medical problems and temptations being faced by many ladies that force them to become regular customers of churches and health centres come to the fore.
From this point, the central character of the story, Francisca Abraham is unveiled in a dramatic irony style. Through rumour mongering and suspicion of having an illicit sexual relationship with one Pastor Joda, sister Francisca is badly treated and wrongly accused of fornication. This is clearly highlighted by Elder Ekanem’s statement during his conversation with the Pastor thus: “Don’t explain anything to me, Pastor. I don’t want you to have domestic problem more than you already have. In my personal opinion, you are too close to Sister Francisca. It could make your wife jealous if more attention is given to your interpreter cum lover.” The irony of the suspected love affair between the Pastor and the lady is that, it is his own wife who introduced Francisca to him as a multitalented lady in the church, and he started referring to her (Francisca) as his source of happiness openly, to his wife’s hearing. But the lady being rumoured as the Pastor’s prostitute is a stenographer helping him to type the manuscript of his upcoming book entitled “ln the Name of God,” which brought her very close to him. This makes the church members christen her the “Pastor’s Prostitute.” This is the subject matter of chapter three which fully brings the reader into the heat of the story.
Chapter four gives credence to the saying that “a horse does not know the value of its tail until it is cut off.” This axiom comes to reality when Francisca deserts Pastor Joda’s church for another one. The import of this is made glaring by the Chairman of Joda’s church, Sir Tolu Babanboni, who offers that, “You can see we are all guilty, guilty of rumour mongering, guilty of conspiracy, guilty of silence when we should speak up. Yes, we are all guilty of conspiracy of silence.”
However, chapter five takes swipe at corruption in the society where unqualified people are given employment due to what can be referred to as “man know man.”
Through Donatus and Fred, two jobless characters in the chapter, the author berates many self-styled Pastors who claim to have heard the voice of God calling them to establish religious ministries. In this wise, Donatus asks Fred, “How many preachers, pastors and prophets in the present generation heard the call Fred? . . . None has come out to confess that they took to the pulpit without receiving the call.” The fraudulent attitude of some pastors using God’s name to drain the pockets of their congregation seems to be the author’s focus in this chapter.
Other issues raised in the chapter include the perennial problems of wife battering and barrenness. This reminds the reader about similar subject matter in Buchi Emecheta’s “Joys of Motherhood,” and Asare Konadu’s “A woman in her prime,” where barrenness and the stigmas associated with it are thoroughly discussed. Here, the author seems to advice Christians facing difficult challenges that are beyond their understanding after exhausting all avenues of prayer and fasting in churches, to go the traditional way. This is highlighted through Mrs. Christiana Okondo and Fred Samson’s discussion about her childlessness. Fred advises her thus, “. . . though I am a Christian, I have witnessed some extraordinary performances by the traditional leaders.”
One other noticeable feature in Adebiyi’s narrative style is his way of using flashback here and there by recalling seemingly lost memorable events to garnish issues with concurrent relevance. Employing wheels of flashback, the author condemns bad leadership system in Nigeria through a statement by a character named Donatus in the story line, who says “. . . if you want to make it fast like many Nigerian commercial politicians, all you need is to maintain this dove-like nature, a pious gentleman on the surface covering the greedy heart of a frog.”
From chapter six through to eleven to the novel’s epilogue, the author dances the reader’s mind with various twists and turns of romantic and mystical occurrences. In view of this, Adebiyi, shows class in descriptive canvas, narrative eloquence and magical nuances that are uncommon among not only Nigerian writers but the global family of creative writers. One of such sceneries is this excerpt at page 211 thus: “She felt the build up underneath her left breast where the lump had always been. The growth and its movement made her think again of a third hyper-sensitive nipple. She smiled as she thought of the growth to be a chest clitoris because of the frequency of its quivering that replicates that appendage’s movement beneath her pubis whenever her body touched Fred’s.”
Further, the author entertains the reader with romantic coloration such as: “Francisca was jolted at his rare knowledge of her body. ‘You know about the lump?’ She looked at him incredibly. ‘What’s there again to hide?’ She decided she will undress for him completely.” After this, Fred responds: “Yes, it is a foreign body below your nipple, which I need to examine. It must have reacted to my touch yesterday. It has been destroyed. It is a mystic charm that has continued to make you unavailable to all men.” Thereafter, she slowly removed her bra, the only dress remaining on her naked body. However, the rumoured Pastor’s prostitute is later discovered a virgin when she finally got married to a God-sent stranger in the same church she has been persecuted.
In peroration, Adebiyi has distinguished himself as a great story teller though he is a Biochemist. His style of writing has semblance with James Baldwin’s “Go tell it on the Mountain.” Nonetheless, as entertaining, informative and engaging as “The Pastor’s Prostitute” is, some quotation and punctuation mark errors need to be corrected before re-impression. The book is well packaged according to international standards of publishing. The entire text is very clear in all the pages. This makes reading it enjoyable without having pains of mechanical or psychological noise commonly found in various books locally published in Nigeria. Despite the aforementioned errors, it is a novel all religious organizations and individuals should read to borrow how to manage crisis situations at any particular period.