By Sunmola Olowookere
It was a scorching afternoon and the sun was at its relentless best. I got off the taxi I boarded from Oba Adesida road at the road adjacent to our Office headquarters in Ijapo estate, Akure. As I crossed the expressway, a man in a green Toyota Camry car who was observing me, beckoned to me. I took a few steps towards his car believing that he had probably lost his way and needed directions.
As soon as I was within hearing range, I cautiously halted and enquired politely how I could be of help. He looked at me, while assessing my mood and said “please, do not be offended with my words. I have been observing you as you crossed the highway and the spirit led me to tell you that you should pack some sachets of salt and distribute it to people around you so that this blessing coming your way can quickly locate you”.
I was momentarily taken aback before I quickly controlled my expression. These people have come again. 419ner in a Camry, car? I was quietly amused. Things are really looking up for those in the business. I looked at him with a new alertness and observed the big cross and a chain dangling on his dashboard.
He probably thought that I might not have come in contact with that false line before. But unknown to him, I have had such encounters before with young men who would be on motorcycles. They would halt briefly beside you and tell you to give out salt as a sort of sacrifice. However, it was the first time I would have such an experience with a car owner.
Despite the awareness of what he was, I decided not to be rude in deference to his age and put him off as civilly as possible. I nodded shortly and politely told him that I would do just that.
Rather than cutting him off, he seemed to become emboldened by my quick and unquestioning acquiescence.
He asked me again “who is looking unto the Lord for the fruit of the womb around you or among people you know? The Lord wants to favour her through you.”
I sighed silently as I felt my thinly-veiled patience evaporating with his persistence. I was standing in the sun while he was sitting in the cool confines of his car. I decided to test him to see how far he would go. Hence putting on act, and with a crestfallen face, I told him I was the one who was looking unto the Lord for the fruit of the womb.
I heard someone shudder audibly and for the first time, I noticed the guy seated in the passenger’s seat beside the ‘prophet’. He shook his head. I could not tell whether it was in pity for me or in awe of his superior.
In response to the guy’s reaction, he too muttered some gibberish which he assumed passed off as speaking in tongues.
He spoke to me “madam, today, you have received favour from God. To seal the breakthrough being offered to you, quickly go and get assorted fruits while I wait for you here in order to bless them for you”.
There and then, I decided that I have had enough so I mumbled something about doing it later and seeking him out as I had memorised his plate number. Though, he tried to reply me, I did not wait for his answer as I walked away.
This incidence got me thinking. Why are these fraudsters currently fixated on salt? Many innocent people have fallen prey to these criminals. The current run in with the fake ‘prophet’ reminded me of my own experience 18 years ago at a time when I was still a ‘rookie’ looking for a way to make ends meet.
It was along Oba Adesida road. A guy accosted me looking for the way to Royal estate. Unknown to me then, it was one of the gimmicks used to open conversation with unsuspecting ladies. Of course, there was no estate known as Royal Estate in the town then.
The conversation got rolling and he told me that he was from C’otonue and he was trying to locate the person he brought some goods for who lived at the fictitious ‘royal estate’. I could not help being sympathetic as I naively believed all his words then.
I told him I was interested in helping him to market those goods if he could not locate the person he had come to supply. I was very happy and satisfied that I had made a good business contact as he took me to a place where he purportedly kept the goods. Then his story changed.
He had another business proposition. He had run away with his master’s money. He described the boss as a wicked master and a miser. The stolen money, according to him, was about 4 million naira. However there was a charm placed on the money inside the bag which hinders anyone from taking out of it.
We went to a prophet on of us who could remove the charm. He told us things about ourselves that he couldn’t have known ordinarily. His room looked like a shrine. There was a mound of burnt-out candles. As he was speaking to each of us, he was gazing into a bowl of water with coins at the bottom. The atmosphere was dark and scary. It was an experience that I had not forgotten even till today.
He eventually asked for 50 thousand naira. The guy who brought the money promised to share the stolen loot with those of us who would contribute money for him.
About four of us brainstormed on how to raise the money. They asked me to bring 10 thousand naira. I told them I was jobless and penniless. They suggested that I stole my mother’s jewelry and I regrettably told them that she does not use any as her faith does not permit such. I began to think furiously on how to raise the money. My effort was visible to them and the leader even appreciated my concern.
Before we left there that day, we swore never to discuss it with any other person for fear of armed robbery attack. We all or rank from a sachet of water. I made all attempts to raise the ten thousand naira but all my efforts were futile.
After two weeks, I decided that I was no longer interested in the deal as I realized there was no way I could raise the money and I told them so at our next meeting.
All hell was let loose when I learnt of what I must do in order to break free of the oath we purportedly took. They told me that I would have to ‘mix blood with one of them’ to release myself from the oath. I was confused so I asked them what mixing blood meant. The leader then said that I would have to have sex with one of them. I blatantly refused . Then they threatened me that I would have to comply or else my tummy will swell and later burst.
Then I was a young lady whose ‘pot had not yet been broken’. I was both afraid, angry and embarrassed with the suggestion. I tried reasoning with them but I was not successful. I grew reckless and threw a very huge scene. I screamed at them that I will leak their secret to my colleagues and will tell my family of what transpired. I no longer care as the situation was getting out of hand. They eventually calmed me down and assured me nothing would happen to me.
The ‘prophet’ among us told me to read psalm 24 inside water and drink it. I actually did it and also did three days fasting to make it more effective.
Then I really believed all their threats and assertions. I thanked my stars for getting off so easily. It was only recently that I realized that most of the show then had been part of a scam to defraud me or use me for rituals.
Now that these ‘dregs of the society’ abounds around us, we need to be careful as most young girls have fallen prey to the likes of my ‘business partners’.