As told to Mariam
I travelled to Ilorin for an exam last week and on the bus, I rode in, I met Yoma*. Somehow the conversation of faith came up, and she told me she didn’t subscribe to the Christianity practised in churches. When I asked why, this is what she told me:
I grew up in a polygamous home — my mum was my father’s fourth and last wife. It wasn’t the kind of family where we talked to each other. There was jealousy among the wives and children. As I grew older, I realised that there was no difference between them and the families in Africa Magic movies, so I started looking forward to leaving home.
In 2015, I got admission to study psychology at the University of Lagos*, and I moved from Abuja there. The first few years were fun. I met people like me. I got to write poetry and perform my poems in front of an audience, but then I also found drugs.
I went to a party and someone offered me weed. I liked how it felt, and he suggested that I try it with codeine. That felt nice as well, so when he offered me molly another time, I didn’t object. Soon enough, Rohypnol and Ecstasy became a part of my routine. I also tried Tramadol, but my body didn’t like it — every time I took it, I threw up.
By 2018, smoking and taking drugs became my only personality trait. I would smoke every day, take pills instead of food and codeine instead of water. I spent my school fees and my house rent on drugs. I got the money back, but I spent it again. I would wake up and the first thing I wanted to do was call my dealer. Sometimes, he would be the one to wake me up with a refill. I was also missing classes and tests because I was either too tired to meet up or simply didn’t give a fuck.
One day, I woke up and realised I had not eaten for three days. At that point, I knew I had a problem so I reached out to a friend who linked me up with a psychiatrist. I met with him once, and he advised me to stop taking hard drugs. He prescribed drugs to stop the addiction and combat dependence. I also spoke to my pastor about it, and he prayed with me. I stopped smoking and focused on the medications the doctor prescribed but within two weeks, I was back to smoking and taking pills.
During this time, I was in my third year of University, and I had not paid my school fees. My school reopened the school fees portal for late payments but the deadline was in three weeks and they had increased the fees. I realised I would not be able to raise the money on my own so I went home.
I opened up to my sister-in-law about my addiction to drugs and how I needed money to pay my school fees because I had spent it all. She gave me the money and paid the fees. One day, after I returned home for the holidays, my brother came to the house with a pastor. They called me to join them in the parlour with my mum, which I did. As we all sat there, my brother broke the news to my mother that I was an addict.
The first question my mother asked was, “She takes drugs or she sells them?” They asked me how I started taking drugs, who introduced me, how does it make me feel, and many other questions. I answered their questions, but I didn’t understand why they needed to know these details. My brother started shouting at me. He said, “You don’t even have any remorse.” It was the longest family meeting ever. Everybody was shouting at me, including the pastor and my sister-in-law. I regretted telling them about it. I kept thinking I came out about my addiction — they didn’t catch me even though I had smoked in the house a number of times. There was no iota of care towards me or my well-being, just that I was hurting the idea of what a good daughter in their family should look like.
They wanted me to go to a rehab centre in Abuja because, but I declined. I thought it was a waste of money because I could go to rehab and continue smoking. I decided to try on my own. Somehow, I was able to stay away from drugs and smoking for about five months. One day, I rolled myself a joint because I needed an appetite to eat. I continued smoking but this time, instead of back to back joints, I would smoke once in three to five days. It was a system that worked. I went back to attending my classes and taking notes.
Early 2019, my pastor saw a vision about me. My mum called me one day and told me to call him as soon as possible. When I did, he said, “I just came down from the mountain. Up there, I had a disturbing vision about you. They want to kill you. You need to come home for prayers and fasting.” Coincidentally, I was already thinking of going home because school had been quite stressful. I took a bus to Abuja the next day and went to see him. He said, “You have to fast for one week. You will come to church every day for these seven days. There is a prophetess who will pray with you. She will take you to a river where she will bathe you.”
I started the prayer plan the following day. Whenever the prophetess prayed with me, she would ask me if I saw a snake in my dream the night before. She did this for the first three days. I had to tell her I don’t even dream so she could stop asking. She would rub my head with oil before I left the prayer house every day. After one week of non-stop praying and fasting, I reached out to my pastor and told him I had to go back to school. He said, ‘You can’t go back now. The way I am seeing it, if you go back to school, it’s your dead body they will bring home.” So, I spent another week in Abuja, fasting and praying.
He eventually let me go to school after I had missed a lot of classes and tests. Before I left, he made me get salt and olive oil that I would use to bathe every day. He said he was going to send some scriptures and prayer points that I would use to activate the salt and olive oil. When I got back to school, I was very anxious. I would go out and imagine that a car would hit me or something. When my friends cooked, I wouldn’t eat because I was scared they could poison me even though they had been my roommates since my first year in school. I kept calling my pastor to send the scriptures, but he wasn’t picking up. After a week, I gave up, and he didn’t call me for about two months.
Then one morning, he called me. He asked how I was doing. I responded that I was well and then he asked, “Do you have anything to tell me?” I said, “I should be asking you if you have something to tell me. You were supposed to send some scriptures. What if I died?” He laughed and said a lot of things happened that he had to take care of, then he asked, “When was the last time you smoked?” I said last night, and he started yelling at me. “Do you think we make these things up? Do you want to kill yourself?” After shouting for some minutes, he asked me to promise him I will stop smoking. I told him it would be a lie if I did. He started shouting again, and I asked him to stop. I said, “It’s not like you saw me smoking in the vision — I was the one that opened up to you. I can’t just stop — it doesn’t work like that. If you think it’s that easy, why don’t you just pray for me to quit from your end?” He got upset and hung up.
I didn’t hear from him till August. I travelled to Lagos with my friends for the Salah holiday. There I got sick — I was purging and vomiting. I had a severe abdominal pain. I got worried and called my mum. I told her my symptoms and her solution was to call the pastor. When he called me, he asked, “What exactly is wrong with you?” I was describing the stomach ache for him when he asked, “Did you just have an abortion?”
I was angry. I asked him why that was the first thing he thought about me. I said I wasn’t pregnant. He went on to ask if I was with a man or woman. I told him I was at my best friend’s family house for the holidays and then he started saying that I won’t kill myself in Jesus’ name. I was so confused. He said I should get a scan done to find out what is wrong with me. I told him I was waiting on some cash before heading to the lab. He said he was going to send me money — he never did.
I took some tests and it turned out I had food poisoning. I went to see a doctor who placed me on medications and I went home to rest. That evening, the pastor called me to ask if I did the scan. I said yes, but I didn’t get any money from him. He asked if I was sure. I told him every credit alert that entered my phone came with the name of the person who credited me. He changed the topic and asked me to come home for prayer and fasting. I was pissed because I had told him how weak I was and how I couldn’t keep food in my stomach yet he wanted me to make a 10-hour trip to Abuja. I said, “In the bible, Jesus said just speak the word and it will come to pass, so why do I have to come home for my miracle to happen?” He hung up on me and didn’t call back.
A month later, I saw a job vacancy at a radio station for an on-air personality. I have always been a vocal person so I applied and I got it. Even though they don’t give newbies shows until after the first three months, I was asked to anchor a program within my first month there. I continued even after school resumed and I have learned so much on the job.
When Christmas came and I didn’t go home, my mum became worried, but I knew that if I did I would be forced to go to the prayer house. She called to beg me to come and when that didn’t work, she asked my siblings to call me. Eventually, my pastor called. The first thing he said was, “I am led in my spirit to pray for you.” I said, “Sir, let your spirit lead you somewhere else.” His voice rose, “Do you understand you are talking to a man of God?” I said, “Yes and God understands that I’m trying to protect my peace. If you are led to pray for me, you can just say the prayer wherever you are without involving me.” He was shocked. He said maybe it’s the mood I am in, that he will call me back later. I said, “If you call me, you will realise that I have already blocked your number.” He said okay and hung up.
In early 2020, my mother told me she received calls from different relatives who said they had seen a vision where someone killed me. One time, she forwarded a message to me saying, “Pray against the spirit of death, using your last daughter as a point of contact.” That day, I sat down wondering why anyone would want to kill me. I have never used an iPhone in my life. My hair is always low so I never bothered about buying expensive wigs. If I can’t afford designer products, I am fine wearing plains forever. I have an extra year at school so I know I am not the brightest in my class. I wasn’t in a relationship so no one could say I snatched their partner so what exactly did I do to anyone that they would want to kill me. And people were jealous of that. I wasn’t in a relationship where someone would say I stole his or her partner or something. So what did I do to deserve death from somebody? Why did no one ever see good visions where I won a million dollars or travelled abroad. I did nothing about it.
In May, my father died. He had been sick for a really long time, but I wondered why nobody saw his death coming in a vision. The pastor officiated the service of songs. After the ceremony, he asked the children of the deceased to come for prayers. In his office, he laid his hands on my brother and said, “You will lead well. You will travel and nothing will happen to you.” To my sister, he said, “God will grant you your heart desires.” When it got to my turn, he said, “May the Lord redirect your steps.” I could hear my mother’s loud amen. In my head I was thinking, this path that I have chosen is the one for me. I have a good job and I am doing better at school. I have never felt better in my life.
After the prayers, he walked up to me and said, “Don’t you think we should end our fight?” I said I wasn’t fighting with him, but he shouldn’t consider me as his friend. He said I shouldn’t talk like that and asked me to come and see him after the burial. I told him I didn’t want to see him and walked away.
I haven’t gone home since then. At my job, they increased my pay and I was able to find another job as a social media manager of a bookstore on the side. I take online courses to help me get better at my job. I am currently working on my final year project and most of it has been approved. I now practice Christianity away from the church. I pray and read my bible on my own. I no longer take drugs and I have never felt the urge since I stopped. I have never felt better in my whole 22 years on earth, and I look forward to a calmer life.