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I think that the Chickwizz can save our country.

Stay with me here.

Imagine getting all our leaders together, and having them sit down with a nice chicken sandwich before each of them. Of course, the sandwich would need to be poisoned for the plan to work, but I feel the Chickwizz is integral here, first and foremost.

These were thoughts that played around my head as my friend, Renua and I sat in her foyer and I gave her the opportunity to eat her first ever Chickwizz — a monumental experience. Your first Chickwizz, like your first orgasm or high, is undeniably the best. And while with the latter, it’s a downhill slope of bad decisions and let downs, the Chickwizz just keeps going up.

Renua’s house is a pagan’s nightmare. On her door, a sign boldly says “Do You Have Jesus?” which to me sounded more like an interrogation than a harmless question.

In her foyer were posters and pictures and paintings from the bible and her house itself was filled with more paintings and more pictures of scenes, some I knew, most I didn’t.

Do You Have Jesus?

I was raised Catholic. And Catholicism is really nice because it’s not so in your face about the whole thing. The most exciting thing to happen at mass was maybe the Priest coughing while he gave the homily. I don’t know what it was, though, but the teachings never caught my heart like they did for everyone else. Not really.

When my mother prayed, you could that she was connecting to something bigger than herself. But when I prayed, it felt like I was a fraud and that shame followed me, and still follows me. I felt like a wolf, somersaulting in sheep’s clothing.

It was maybe 2013, or earlier, on a night when things went too far, I guess, when I cried on the floor and I begged God to take me out of it.

The whole thing.

I didn’t want to be in this situation anymore, I didn’t want to feel this hurt. I wanted to be happy. And I prayed and I cried, and when I opened my eyes, I was still there, kneeling on the ground. Still a child, wishing on the stars, no miracle in sight.

It was a slow and, yet, sudden change that had been building up for years: I stopped going to church, I tore all my Christian books — they were nice books by authors who had illustrated bible heroes, I liked them — and I tore my bible, the one my mother had bought me when I was little.

I had prayed to God time and time again and it felt like I was talking to a parent who wasn’t listening to me. And I already had Nigerian parents, I thought, so why did I have to suffer twice?

To stop going to church in a Nigerian home is an invitation to civil war, and my mother and I fought a long, hard battle. But after I started taking two-hour walks during service, she realised that this wasn’t a war she could win, not really, not truly. But mine was a bitter-sweet victory.

Renua bit into her first Chickwizz — she loved it — and I continued eating mine, thinking about the sign on the door as we talked.

Do You Have Jesus?

It stuck in my head for some reason, that question.

What did it mean to ‘have’ Jesus? I had never known that.

When my father threw me into Covenant, I was in tears again, begging another father figure to take me out of the bad place I was in. And again, there was no response.

Covenant is a place that tests your faith, Christian or not, as you get suspended, or expelled for not going to church or walking without a tie. It’s a place that’s ranked top three in my torture chamber list, right after hell and Lagos traffic.

That was the place I lost all the faith I had secretly been saving up for a rainy day, it was the place I let it all go into the wind along with the faded leaves of yesterday.

I was in one of the compulsory services when the music barged its way into my heart in a way it never had. And even before I felt the tears well up in my eyes, I knew I was going to cry.

I had felt this burden in my chest for so long, and I could feel it lifting then.

I tapped my foot, and I swayed with the music. I could feel my spirit being lifted and my problems fading away into the background.

The chaplain stopped the music then, and he asked for an altar call.

“Anyone who has a problem,” he said, his voice stretching to every corner of the chapel. “I can see you, and the Spirit has led me to you. Come and let your burden be lifted. Come, and He will give you rest.”

I had heard that same altar call dozens of times, but that day, it really hit home. It really felt that maybe this could be it for me, maybe I could become new, born again. Maybe I could have that Christian happiness that people talked about, maybe I could love myself, and forgive all that had happened and the tears would stop and my days would be bright again. I took a deep breath and wondered what would happen if I accepted God back into my life. And I smiled, the future, it looked bright.

I stood up and took a step out of my seat, towards the altar.

“It’s…” Renua was saying, “nice, I guess.”

I looked at her, the other half of my sandwich already gone. “Nice?” I asked, shooting her a look.

“Okay,” she said, “it’s great. And she used her superpower (she rolled her eyes).

After we ate, we went to the living room, but that sign, it followed me, and still follows me. It’s a question, simply asked, boldly written, plainly, no tricks, no gimmicks.

Do You Have Jesus?

I understood then why the question had bothered me, why it still bothers me. It’s for the same reason I never made it to the altar that day.

You see, there are questions we hold deep within us, questions that demand answers. And then, there are questions we ask ourselves, that we already have the answers to. And finally, there are questions that don’t have answers at all, that we live with, day in and day out. Questions that wake with us in the morning, and lay with us at night, that whisper to us, softly, about a future that could have been, but wasn’t and never will be.

Anthony Azekwoh is a Nigerian-based author and artist. He has written five books so far, and is now working on the sequel to his fourth book Ṣàngó, Oya.

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