Shine The Congo – By Alba K Sumprim

The bus had barely pulled out of the bus station when a chubby, round, happy faced man, wearing a white lace outfit dotted with tiny rhinestones, got up at the front and shouted, “Praaaaaise the Lord.”

“Hallelujah!” A few people mumbled half-heartedly.

“Oh God, I thought they had banned these public transport pastors and doctors,” I muttered to the elderly man sitting next to me. I was sitting on the front row seat of the bus and knew I would be subjected to the full blast of his sermon.

Once upon a time, you couldn’t get onto a public bus without someone wanting to ram Christianity down your throat, threatening fire and brimstone if people didn’t repent and put all their trust in Jesus. It was either that or they were selling ‘cure all’ drugs. I didn’t know which was worse. Thankfully, the government waded in and outlawed the religious hijackers and quack doctors from public transport. Or, so I thought.

The day was already sticky and hot and the journey towards Alakija bus stop a long one, especially in choked up Lagos traffic. The lace with tiny rhinestones attired man looked like he was going to be with us for the duration and had come solidly prepared. I groaned as I fanned my face with my palm in the airless bus.

“I said, Praaaaaise the Lord.” He shouted again. As if we hadn’t heard him the first time.

“Hallelujah!” The response had a little more vim this time around, giving the man his cue to start the proceedings with a prayer.

He prayed and prayed, dabbing his shinny face, which had began to sweat with effort, and ended with shouts for all evil spirits to be cast out in the name of Jesus and be replaced with God’s eternal blessings.

AMEEEEEEN!” The blessed passengers shouted vigorously.

That was the green light.

Dr. Alex, as the chubby man in the white lace outfit dotted with tiny rhinestones was called, quietly prepared for his spiel. From the seat next to him, he opened up a small case and flashed us a big smile waiting for curiosity to grow. Within seconds, we were all craning our necks. The dark brown case was embossed with ‘Power Up your Health’, in brilliant gold lettering. ‘Power Up your Health’ was the highly advertised health empowerment conference that had been held at the Eko Hotel at Ikeja. Ahhh, so this wasn’t a quack, this was a learned man. My interest was piqued. Along with the other passenger, I sat in anticipation as he opened the case and took out a few square sachets, holding them up for all to see. They looked like extra large tea bags and were called Dr. Alex’s action powder.

You’d get on a bus and mobile doctors, the vast majority with no medical background whatsoever, would produce tablets, potions, soaps and creams from plastic bags, claiming they would cure all ailments known and unknown to humankind. The scariest would be hearing mobile doctors giving prescriptions as to how the drugs should be taken. I was always amazed at how people could so casually put their lives into the hands of others.

However, from the look of Dr. Alex and his gold lettered case, I assumed he would be different. He wasn’t. Each of the action powder sachets he was holding up, it turned out, had the power to cure; cleaning out of the system, worms, dirty stomach (whatever that is) menstrual pains, white, ulcers, heart murmurs, fibroids and barrenness. The usual suspects.

I rolled my eyes and ho hummed cynically. For a moment, I thought something unusual was going to happen.

A few sales were made, but Doctor Alex needed to make more money and time was on his hands. He shifted into the next gear by giving us an in-depth medical lesson about the evils of cholesterol and our bad West African eating habits; full of carbohydrates and oil. The reason for so many dirty stomachs in the region, he explained.

More sales were made and Dr. Alex told the new clients how to take the powder.

With each ailment, there was a specific way to take the powder. Either with hot coffee, sprinkled into a meal, with soft carbonated drinks or plain old pure water. Having squeezed as many sales from an ailment as he could, he’d launch straight into the next set of ailments his action powder could cure. The only thing Dr. Alex’s action powder could not cure, it seemed, was HIV/Aids. At least that!

Again, I ho hummed cynically, wondering how people could be so gullible.

By the time we were half way through our slow moving journey, Dr. Alex had run the gamut of dirty stomachs right through to Cancer, each with its own anecdote and written testimonies from satisfied customers.

Dr. Alex passed the most powerful testimonial, laminated for preservation, around as proof of his honesty and the power of his powder.

The testimony was the pitiful, much heard story of a couple who had been trying to have babies for years without success. It read like the plot of a Nollywood homevideo. The wife had felt the full wrath of her mother-in-law and the scorn of others around her. The couple had been to and spent a lot of money at more orthodox doctors than they could remember. They had been to every prayer camp and pastor in the city, all with no positive results, and were on the point of visiting a Mallam or a juju practitioner. They were desperate. The marriage was at the point of collapse and the woman, apparently, on the verge of suicide when Dr. Alex and his action powder were recommended. All it took were a few sachets of Dr. Alex’s action powder for the woman to become pregnant. She gave birth to triplets, – yes, triplets – bouncing baby boys. The marriage was saved and the woman became the apple of her mother-in-law’s eyes.

We were highly impressed and many of the passengers congratulated Dr. Alex for being such a wonderful humanitarian.  While he basked in adulation, I pondered which of the Nollywood stars would play the leading roles in the homevideo. Obviously, Patience Ozorkor would play the terrible mother-in-law.

Dr. Alex moved onto the topic of worms. “Na worms be one of de biggest gbege wey we get for West Africa o!”Na worms be one of de biggest gbege wey we get for West Africa o!

A few passengers tittered.

Dr. Alex wore a ‘you better take me seriously’ face. “Una think say an joke I dey yarn? Everyone suppose comot de worm wey dey we bodi once every three months, but I fit bet my chop moni say e get people wey dey inside dis bus wey never deworm since Naija independence!”

The passengers collapsed with laughter while nudge-nudge wink winking each other.

Dr. Alex pointed at the men laughing the loudest on the back row, “na una wey dey back seat i dey talk to! Yes! una!

The laughter quickly died down and I looked back to see those who had not dewormed for so long, imagining how dirty their stomachs were.

Doctor Alex took a deep breath and narrated, with all the appropriate sound effects, a saga where his all-powerful powder heroically saved the day, and many lives, it seemed.

One early morning there was loud screaming coming from some bushes where people went to toilet. He and other neighbours jumped out of bed and rushed to the scene. When they got there, they found a screaming man clutching his stomach. A metre away was the huge worm he has passed out. The worm was big enough to swallow him. Frightened by the size of the worm, the neighbours quickly rushed to collect an array of weapons – sticks, stones and cutlasses – for the attack. The worm, however, was too big and powerful for them, so, Dr. Alex rushed off to find a policeman with a gun. The policeman used all the bullets in the gun before the worm was finally killed…to be continued….


*Alba is a renowned writer with two must read books to her credit. To contact Alba please visit

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