BETWEEN GOD AND CAESAR

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A POOR CLASSROOM TEACHER IS FACED WITH THE DILEMMA OF EITHER GIVING A BRIBE OR FACING THE CONSEQUENCE, IF HE REFUSES TO GIVE.

Submitted: July 19, 2012

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Submitted: July 19, 2012

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BETWEEN CAESAR AND GOD

Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.

Ever witnessed the non-stop beating of a gangan drum? That was the pattern the voice in my ears took. That was how I kept on hearing it, repeating those words, like the monotonous drum beating of a mad man, or the incessant nagging of a troublesome wife.

I tried to sleep, but like Macbeth, I had murdered sleep. My eye would close but sleep would refuse to come. I asked myself of why I should be so bothered by that singular statement, that was made  by the garlic-smelling, goro-chewing, cigarette addict; M.J.

My mind was filled up with the images of him. At times, I would picture him seated; opening his mouth wide to tell me to give unto Caesar what belongs to him. In other instances, I would see him standing, handing a dismissal letter to me. God forbid! I would quickly say, not at this point in my life. Although the job I do is nothing to write home about in terms of remuneration, but half bread is better than none. As my wife would say, a bird in hand is worth two in the bush.

Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s.

Why do people always link there selfish and inhumane acts to God? Or the devil, as the case may be. Like a man who was caught stealing meat from his neighbor’s pot of soup. He shamefacedly begged and gave an excuse that it was the devil that led him to commit the act. I wished I was not so pissed off with that singular act, or his disgusting statement. I would have asked him if it was the devil that made him to leave his room and move into his neighbor’s room, to open her pot of soup. Was it the devil that made him pick the biggest chunk of meat? Why didn’t he push him when the woman was still in the kitchen? Why must he wait till when she had gone to have her bath?

I live in a face me- I face you apartment; that is what I could afford with the meager salary of a classroom teacher.  I believe every residential apartment has its own peculiarity, and ours is not an exception. The rooms were built in a unique and funny way, as if the builder’s expectation was that, the house would be inhabited by rats and not humans. I often wonder if the intention of the landlord was to mock, and make our poverty-ridden life more glaring, with the crooked building he calls a house.

If the house looked funny, the people in our yard are funnier, odd-behaving lots. With Baba-ibejiand his razor-mouthed,  pof-pof seller wife, Chibuzor; the tug, Mallam Shehu and his three wives and ten children, myself and my wife and of course, Gilimo; the ex-soldier  and meat-stealing man, and a host of others, our yard is indeed a peculiar place.

I woke up today with a very gay spirit. Being a contract teacher in a community secondary school, my three year contract appointment was about to expire. I had prepared a letter to request for a renewal. My happiness lied in the fact that, contract renewal means promotion to a new grade level, which will result in an increase in my salary.

I had gotten to the school and M.J.; the administrative officer had given me a great blow. I went to his office to submit my application after intimating him of the desire to renew my contract appointment. As a non-indigene in my state of residence I am not entitled to a permanent appointment; that is a story for another day. M.J.  collected the letter and looked at me straight in the face. I was about to plead with him to work on it speedily, when he cut into my thought.

‘It is pipty tousan naira,’ he said.

‘Fifty thousand?’ I asked, in confusion.

He responded to my question automatically, as if he had programmed himself to do that. I later learnt that it was his usual statement to all contract officers, who go to him for renewal. He responded in his accent-distorted English.

‘Yau repusal to fay will keep yau pile in my oppice po long. Yau moni… is wot will serve as the pehincle to transport yau pile to the oppices it has to go. And don’t tell me it is against the loo. Gip unto Caesar wot is Caesar’s, and gip unto God wot is God’s’.

I the statement. I wanted to ask if he had a legal backing in relation to the money he requested for; can he put it in writing that he asked for such a huge sum from me? Would he issue a receipt at the end of the transaction? I knew M.J. was echoing the voice of so many Nigerians. Corruption has eaten deep into the fabrics of our being that, it has become a second skin.  No one dares do anything for you free, most will always ask for a return.

But what M.J. did not know is this, that in demanding for money that amounts to my two months’ salary put together, he had put me in a dilemma. For if I yield to his request, if I decide to obey the tax collector he had turned himself into, not only will I suffer for it, but I would be creating a conflict between him and God. As a good Christian, God demands that I pay a tenth of my income, which I religiously do on monthly basis. But what do I do now, that Caesar has decided to eat God’s portion?

Friends and colleagues have given various advises, most borders on the fact that bribery has become a part and parcel of the Nigerian society. From the presidency to the judiciary, even the legislative is not left out. They made me see what will be the consequence of my refusal to give, of what will become of me and my family. They made so many noise that left me wondering, if there’s a single Nigerian, that has not been bitten by this bug.

 


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