He looked me squarely in the eyes.
The beer suds crested on his healthy mustache.
Then his baritone boomed.
“You will die!”
I was calm.
My response was measured as I responded.
“I don’t believe you.”
“Jude, aren’t you an African? Why are you behaving like a white man? I am telling you, if you pick the money and you don’t return it in three days, you will fall sick, sickness that no doctor can diagnose and no treatment can save you. Trust me, in fourteen days you will be dead.”
I kept smiling.
He leaned forward and took off his sunglasses.
“Sit there and be smiling, this is our culture, whether you believe it or not, doesn’t affect the truth of its existence. What I am telling you is something I witnessed with my two eyes. My very own uncle. Bloody rich but died suddenly at Seventy. It was when he died that the truth came out.”
“But you said you witnessed it yourself.”
“Yes, I did. I saw the room myself. Room that no one was allowed to enter while he was alive.”
“What was in the room?”
“A carving of a naked lady, kneeling in front of a calabash. There were bowls of blood in a triangle around it. All over the room was money. Mint condition. Hot.”
“You saw these?”
He licked his right forefinger and pointed up at the white ceiling.
“I swear to God!”
Then he lowered his hand and continued.
“My uncle was a poor man until he was 50 and a billionaire after that until he was 70. The thing gave him 20 years and he lived it to the fullest.”
“Haba, I have told you na. The Osole Gbigbona. Correct Iwure Itaja.”
“Osole Gbigbona is hot juju. It is a money ritual. You will be as rich as you want but it will give you a certain amount of years to enjoy the wealth and right on the appointed day you will die. After that everything you used that money to acquire or build will just rot and waste away.”
“What is the sense in that? Why would anyone do that when they know that nothing priceless will outlive them.”
“Isn’t it if they want something to outlive them? Some people are only concerned with what they can enjoy while they are on earth, all those leaving inheritance behind does not interest them.”
“But what of their children, or their wife, how would….”
“Well take my Uncle for instance, he will say to his kids and wife while he was alive – You people go and find how you will make your own money o, because as you see me so, not one kobo of my money will touch your hands when I die. But they didn’t believe him, if you see them now, you will pity them. Suffer!”
“So who actually told you these things, it is not like the stature explained it to you.”
“The family went to consult na. They had to investigate. It was then we found out that he had acquired the juju to make money. Every year for that ten years, he had to bring a human life to that goddess for it to keep giving it money.”
“You didn’t say you saw dead bodies in the room.”
“Come on, Jude, not physically bring the people to the room.”
“Then how did he do it?”
“It is called spiritual harvest. Your body will die somewhere but your spirit will appear in that room for the goddess to consume it.”
“How is that possible?”
He laughed, took a long swallow from his cold glass of beer and unbuttoned the two top bottons of his starched white shirt before he continued.
“That Juju is called lost and found. It is you that will use it to kill yourself. Like self condemnation.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Okay, this is what most people do. They will drop a huge amount of money and hope that someone steals it. The in house slang for it is called ‘tempting.” The way the juju works is this. The person using it will keep money somewhere and if you take it and you do not return it to them in three days, you will start falling ill and in 14 days you will die.”
“That’s what he did?”
“Yes. He will leave the money in the car. A bag filled with millions. If the driver sees it and takes off with it, then he is finished. Three weeks and they are dead. If they return it, good for them.”
“So his drivers fell for it?”
“Enough of them died. I personally knew 5 that just disappeared.”
“No one suspected their deaths?”
“No one knew why they even took off, because my uncle would not announce that his money was stolen. He will just say that all the new drivers in Lagos have no loyalty, then he will get a new one. But remember it is just one person a year. So no one suspected. Sometimes sef he will go to hotels and leave money in the room. Most of the cleaners stole it and as expected died days later, while my uncle grew richer and richer.”
It was intriguing.
“None of his children stole the money?”
“That is what I am saying. It was only his staff he did ‘temptiing’ to. Infact he forbade his family from riding in his personal car.”
I thought for a moment.
“Why don’t we suggest it to the government. Let them do the gbigbona juju, so that all these politicians, civil servants and law enforcement simply die and free the Nation.”
“It does not work like that. It has to be a person’s number not a countries money.”
“But government money is actually the people’s money.”
“The juju needs the money to come out directly from a person’s pocket for it to work.”
“But you said he tempts them with huge sums of money. How does he manage to put all that in his pocket?”
He stared at me and frowned.
“Jude, you are making fun of me right?”
Then fell silent as he stared at me, unsmiling.
Most people who had come to the restaurant for their work day lunch were leaving.
He sighed loudly and spoke.
“You guys keep thinking that juju uses common sense to work, you will be interogating it but when they tell you that Jonah lived in the stomach of a fish for three days and three nights and came out alive, you will believe, you see your lives. All of you are still religious and cultural slaves.”
I asked him as he finished speaking.
“Why haven’t you done this Osole Gbigbona juju?”
He asked the question with sincere incredulity and some beads of sweat appeared on his forehead in solidarity.
It was sudden and mocking.
“What do I need all that money for? Me? Just put constant fuel in my car and gen at home. Pay my children’s school fees. Give me small money to feed them and clothe them and join some flex money to that, so that I can be taking the wife out from time to time, buying gifts for her and beer for me. If you do all that, I am satisfied. Me I cannot tame the demon of money, so let me jejely be managing myself with the small coins I have.”
Then he pushed the bottle of beer away from him in my direction as though exorcising his self of all sins and passing it over to me. He leaned back in his chair and spoke in a warm conciliatory tone.
” All I was doing was telling you that there is strong juju in this world. I was not saying that I will do it, after all, It is not because shit was once food that you will eat it.”