(Continued from Prophetess Hannah III)
Hannah smiles as she swivels on her chair. She is in her spacious office on the first floor of her church building. This building was constructed just last year, as her fame and fortune grew. Before that, her congregants had been worshipping in a mabati structure. Life has been good to her so far. She has attained things that she would only have dreamed of before. She is now a respected pastor with a sizeable congregation and an income that guarantees her a comfortable life. And she is a married woman with one child, and possibly another on the way. What more can she ask for?
The ninth of Mzee Jakubu’s twenty-one children, Hannah grew up in abject poverty. Mzee Jakubu has four wives, and Hannah is the third child of the second wife. Jakubu’s first wife already had three children before the old man married Hannah’s mother. Hannah’s mother got her firstborn, and shortly afterwards the first wife got her fourthborn. Two years later, the two women delivered their second and fifth children respectively. Around that time, Mzee Jakubu married his third wife, and she delivered his eighth child a year later. Hannah was born as the old man’s ninth child and her mother’s third shortly afterward.
In total, Jakubu’s first wife Jennifer has seven children. She probably could have gotten more, but the entry of the third wife slowly saw her start falling out of favor. Hannah’s mother Agnes has eight and the third wife Leah has five; they both fell out of favor when Jakubu married his fourth and last wife Ruth. Ruth has one child, even though the old man permanently moved to her bed and abandoned his other wives. She is the old man’s favorite, and it is said that the reason she has only one child is because she is wise in the ways of the world, and knows how to use contraceptives.
The old man had eight acres of ancestral land but it was hardly enough for such a large family. What he did, to ease pressure from his shoulders was to subdivide the land into four parts. He gave each wife an equal part. But that equality is disputed. Each wife has two acres, but Jennifer, Agnes, and Leah, who have five or more children each, cannot be compared to Ruth who has only one. Ruth was favored. In addition to building her an inequitably larger share of the ancestral land, the old man also built a wooden house for her. The house has a tiled floor and has a plywood ceiling and inner walls that are painted cream. It also has piped water and electricity. This is where the old man lives, while his other wives struggle in their mudwalled huts. Ruth’s son, Lucas, went to a private academy while the other twenty children ran barefoot to the local public primary school every morning.
It is claimed that Ruth was a commercial sex worker before Jakubu brought her home. That is why, the rumor goes, she knows how to use contraceptives and how to manipulate the old man. The villagers say that because she started commercial sex work as a teenager, she was very experienced by the time Jakubu met her, and that is why he lost interest in his other wives. They say she didn’t want children because giving birth would ruin her body, and that getting pregnant might tempt the old man to start looking for sexual satisfaction elsewhere. But she was smart enough to know that she needed at least one child to anchor herself in the old man’s life. Others argued that she was using charms and love portions to keep the old man fixated on her.
Whether it was true or not, the truth remained that Ruth was the old man’s favorite wife and that she had successfully managed to isolate the other wives. Ruth did not farm. Old Jakubu always paid workers to tend to her two acres, while the other women used their children as unpaid workers. Because of privilege, Lucas is the only one of Jakubu’s twenty-one children who got a post-secondary education. Since he went to a private academy and was unburdened by domestic chores, his grades were always good and he made it to university where he studied medicine and surgery.
The other three women had no problem with each other, and their children interacted freely. But they channeled their collective hatred towards Ruth and her son Lucas. They taught their children to hate them. Hannah and her siblings (and step-siblings) were taught that Ruth and Lucas were the source of all evil in the family and the village at large.
But Hannah secretly admired Ruth. Ruth appeared to know what she wanted in life and knew exactly how to get it. Ruth was always smartly dressed and her son went to a private school. Hannah’s mother and stepmothers said she was the reason they were wallowing in poverty, but Ruth wouldn’t care less. While she was hated by everyone in the village, she didn’t seem to care as long as she got what she wanted, which was a good life. Hannah wanted that kind of life for herself and swore that she would emulate her stepmother when she grew up.
When the old man died, Hannah was in form three. Her older brothers and step-brothers tried to kick Ruth out of “their father’s land” but Ruth called the police and got them arrested. As it turned out, Old Jakubu had transferred the two acres of land to her, while the other six acres allotted to the other women remained in his name. This way, he shielded her from the succession battle that he knew would follow his death. But what had angered the boys, other than the apparent bias that the old man had shown towards Ruth when he was alive, was that Ruth started entertaining married men in her matrimonial home after the death of Jakubu. The old man’s sons felt that she was defiling his memory.
But Ruth didn’t care. She gave them the middle finger and got them arrested. The local OCS was one of the men she was sleeping with, and she only made one call and the boys were locked up. They stayed in the cells for two days before they were released without charges. When they got released, three of them ambushed her one evening and tried to beat her, but goons appeared from nowhere and thrashed them. They were warned to stay away from Ruth if they wanted to stay alive. Ruth had paid for personal protection. From that day on, the young men left her alone.
Ruth got money from her lovers to sustain herself and her son. The OCS even opened a hair salon for her at their local market, which is still operational to date. As a result of Ruth’s cunningness, Lucas got the best education of all Mzee Jakubu’s children. When the old man died, the boy was still in primary school. But Ruth ensured that he stayed in the private school and was admitted to Mang’u High. He scored a straight A in KCSE and was admitted to the University of Nairobi to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Medicine and Surgery. He later did his Master’s degree and is now a cardiovascular surgeon, He has built his mother a nice four-bedroom house on the two acres they inherited from Mzee Jakubu, where she lives with the former OCS, who abandoned his wife in retirement.
Hannah wanted to be like Ruth since she was young. She did not go beyond form four. But she knew that that would not be a hindrance if she was determined to achieve her goals. Ruth is living quite comfortably, yet she did not go beyond class seven. Hannah realized that to make it in life, what she needed was a level of conmanship, and the ability to shake off criticism without letting it affect you.
The first job she got after form four was as a waitress in a bar and restaurant in Nairobi’s CBD. She had traveled to the city to look for greener pastures and had stayed with a friend for a couple of weeks before she got the job. The staff were rotated between the bar and the restaurant daily, and Hannah started in the bar. She preferred the bar to the restaurant because she had convinced herself that she was more likely to land a rich drunkard than a rich sober diner. While working, Hannah taught herself the art of subtle flirtation. Most people would think she was just being friendly, but the right hyena would pick it up and take it further.
She was right.
She landed her first “customer on the third day of her employment, which was the second day she was working in the bar. He was not the first man to take an interest in her. Over the two days she had worked in the bar, various drunkards had tried to grope her, but she had firmly brushed them aside. This man, however, asked her whether she would like to have a drink with him after work.
She played hard to get a little but eventually agreed to meet him outside the bar at the end of her shift. She ended up spending the night in his arms at a local hotel. As it turned out, the man was a pastor called Josiah. He made a living by practicing what he preached against. He taught sexual purity, but he prowled through bars looking for young women to sleep with. He taught the evils of alcohol, but he downed expensive wines and spirits after dusk. He taught honesty, but he shamelessly scammed his congregation.
Yet his church always flocked with congregants. He was the perfect con man, and Hannah instantly knew she wanted to align herself with him. She did everything, including practicing sexual skills and even visiting a known witch doctor for a love potion, to keep Josiah loyal to her. She succeeded, and while he did not dump his wife for her, she is his official mistress, and he is the father of her son. The boy Richard thinks is his son.
Josiah is the one who inspired Hannah to become a pastor. She saw the possibilities and she begged him to allow her to start her own church. He did, and she started a branch of his ministry. She reports to him. He taught her the art of money laundering, and introduced her to a few of his “customers”. These are corrupt government officials who would use her church to launder money. That is why, even though her church was small till about two years ago, she did not lack money. Now the church has grown and so has her reputation. She has made friends in high places, and the money is rolling in plenty.
The idea of getting married was Josiah’s. He told her that her legitimacy as a pastor would grow if she was married. But she needed a man she could control. She identified Richard as the target. She had studied him and his family and realized that he was the impotent one. But his wife was faithful and so would never know that.
She carefully plotted Rhoda’s ouster and executed it ruthlessly. She continues to sleep with Josiah even after getting married to Richard, and Josiah is the biological father of her son. Ruth has total control over Richard’s life. She controls his salary. She also stole his title deed, forged his signature, and transferred his land to herself.
Richard cannot kick her out of his matrimonial home, but she can.
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