“Rachel cries out in Chibok…
she cries because her children are yet unfound.
The cry of Chibok is our cry…”
The delegates at the National Confab have been on deliberations in the 20 committees they had been split into. Interesting news coming from tabloid reports inform me that Nigerians did in fact respond to the request by the National Conference Secretariat to send in memoranda embodying the different areas of life they wished committees to deliberate on.
The secretariat reportedly received a total of 319 memos; the breakdown according to an exclusive report by Saturday Vanguard is as follows:
Radical restructuring of the Nigerian polity – 70
Devolution of power – 42
Politics and Governance – 34
Citizenship, Immigration and Related matters – 23
Social Sector – 22
Political Parties and Election Matters – 20
Religion and Law – 15
Judiciary – 15
Human Rights/Legal Reforms – 15
National Security – 14
Environment – 10
Agriculture – 10
Trade and Investments – 10
Transportation – 5
Public Service – 5
Public Finance and Revenue – 5
Civil Society – 4
Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Matters – 4
Energy – 1
I do have a couple of questions for this week…
1. Why is it that the broken down numbers of memoranda sum up to 324, 5 more than the reported total number of memoranda?
Surely with the rate at which authorities and media confuse numbers these days we all must now know the importance of carrying a pocket calculator!
2. And this one just occurred to me; are the delegates allowed to recommend a cut in the emoluments of government officials, or is that an untouchable?
Meanwhile, I was privy to a sneak-peak into the venue of one of the committees’ meetings. Two things were clear to me at the expiration of my peeping allowance:
1. Adults are not very much different from children as far as juvenile idiosyncrasies are concerned, and I mean this in the most grey-haired-loving way possible;
2. A lot of delegates seem unconvinced on the workability of a state police in the Nigeria of the near future. It remains to be seen if this skepticism extends to other matters or not.
I wrote and published the essay reproduced below in 2013, and I am forced to resurrect it by the stunt pulled by the Nigerian Film and Video Censorship Board in delaying the release of the movie ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ to the public. The board reportedly took this action because certain parts of the movie “tend to whip up tribal sentiments, especially on issues that led to the Nigerian civil war.” I find this absolutely ridiculous.
Nigerians are not unaware of the tragedy that was the Civil war – our parents and grandparents lived it; what we need in this country is access to properly assembled information on the experience so that lessons could be learned. As my grandfather would say, a young man who puts on agbada over a festering wound only to impress his bride will be wifeless barely a day into the marriage. Fool yourself not, Nigeria!
A DEBT THAT MUST BE PAID
Specimen A: In the year 1861, civil war broke out in the country we all know today as the United States of America. The war originated from the attempted secession of the Southerners from the Union, a move which the Northerners perceived as a violation of the essence of the American republic and so, rejected. Ergo, war broke out between the Southern states which had formed themselves into the Confederate States of America and the Northern states which were called the Union. By the year 1865 when the war ended, casualties numbered over half a million on both sides.
Fast-forward to the year 1900, thirty-five years later, the United States had established itself as the world’s foremost industrial nation. Overall, the nation experienced a stunning explosion in the scale of industry and in the pace of production. 
Specimen B: May 30, 1967, civil war broke out in the country we all know today as Nigeria. The war was fuelled by the attempt of the South-easterners to secede from the country Nigeria. The move was condemned by the Nigerian government as injurious to the country’s oneness and a catalyst for an extensive disintegration of the nascent republic. Ergo, war broke out between the South-easterners who called themselves the Republic of Biafra and the Nigerian government. By 1970 when the war ended, casualties numbered well over two million on both sides.
Fast-forward to the year 2013, forty-three years after, Nigeria is 40th on the list of 79 countries which have been marked as ‘hungry’. On a daily basis, 29.6% of the over 150 million Nigerian population lives on less than N190 and 83.9% on less than a miserly N300. Outside the shores, the nation maintains its 7th position on the list of oil-producing countries but also is one of the highest importers of refined petroleum. Nigeria is also notorious for crime, corruption, nepotism and terrorism.
In analyzing specimens A and B illustrated above, similarities abound but a singular (major) difference exists viz one country built a bridge over all of the post-war debris, blood and craters while the other did not. While the United States, spurred on by memories of pain and loss from the war, promptly commenced an effective reconstruction agenda, Nigeria evolved a selective memory, a porous reverse-filter which retained the chaff and let all the seeds fall through.
Many people today, urged on by contemporary schools of thought, will preach a total annihilation of past experiences in favor of the present and hence, future – “throw away the burdens of the past so that you may herald the treasures of the now and future!” But the wisdom in that approach is yet to be seen. The past influences the present just as much, if not more, than the future does. Albert Einstein noted, “The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion”. With every passing second, the future becomes the present and the present, the past all within such short intervals of time that George Calin further posited thus, “There’s no present. There’s only the immediate future and the recent past”.
Therein lies the secret of the richness of the American culture today. In the United States, children are taught about the civil war as early as the third grade, the Nigerian equivalent of Primary 3. They are taught to understand the institution of slavery prior to the Civil war and its principal role in the breakout of the war, explain the reason(s) for the states’ secession, and outline the course of the war among many other requirements. In an article published by Education news, “(teachers) use props like milk-cartons for boats and blue marbles for cannonballs to illustrate battles…” and field trips are taken to any of the Civil war sites which have all been preserved. In Yale university, History 119 – The Civil war and Reconstruction Era, 1845 – 1877 is a course taught to freshmen twice a week for fifty minutes; it is also made available as an ‘Open Yale course’ on the internet for downloads by whoever is interested. It would be needless recounting the series of books, movies, documentaries, etc that are available with war accounts from both sides of the conflict. The US government went a step further by taking pains to preserve sites where some of the most eventful battles were fought and today, those sites are unique walk-through museums which also earn the country revenue.
This publication is not an effusive idolization of the US; if at this point you think it is then unfortunately but not for the first time, you have missed the point. Late Prof. Chinua Achebe’s There was a country is a book that was trailed by perhaps just as many harsh criticisms as it was by acclamations. One subject of one too many heated debates is the role played by the late Obafemi Awolowo in the starving of Biafrans, as alleged by Achebe. In arguing either side of this issue, Nigerians missed the point again. Achebe understood the relevance of written history in the building of any nation. As he noted in his introduction to the novel, “it is for the sake of the future of Nigeria, for our children and grand-children, that I feel it is important to tell Nigeria’s story, Biafra story, our story, my story”. That was the point – the narration of the open secret, the untold story and lessons of the Nigerian Civil war. Over time since the end of the war, the same has been done by others who played parts in this momentous conflict. Nigerians like Olusegun Obasanjo, Joe Achuzia, Wole Soyinka, Alexander Madiebo, David Ejoor, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu and even foreigners such as Frederick Forsyth, Holger Ehling, Laurie Wiseberg among others belong to this class. Unfortunately though, these men and women will have wasted their energies if the Nigerians for whom these books have been written continue to approach them with the sole aim of finding ammunition for inter-ethnic attacks.
The point should not be who was most wronged or which group of people must apologize to the other. The point is about learning the truth exactly as it happened because with the objective learning of this truth comes acceptance, then reconciliation and eventually, a reconstruction agenda. Regrettably, the possibility of acquiring this undiluted truth has progressively dimmed as the currents of time have swept away many artifacts, landmarks and symbols. But late is not the end and nearly is a word that is yet to kill a bird. The government needs to stop banning movies and books about the war just because they ‘threaten national unity and integration’. We must realize that the real threat to national unity and integration is a student writing his West African Secondary School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) whose response to a question regarding the extent of his knowledge of the Nigerian Civil war is “ummm…I don’t really know much shaa but it was a very bad war”. The real threat to national unity and integration is the absence of ANY landmark in honor of the brave soldiers (Biafran and Nigerian) who fought gallantly and died in Uzuakoli, Calabar, Abagana and Owerri. The war museum that was barely scrapped together at Umuahia deteriorates everyday fiber by fiber and the ‘Old soldiers’ day’ celebrated yearly on the 15th of January has about as much influence on the Nigerian populace as does the ant on the hide of the elephant. These are the real threats to national unity and integration.
The needed reconstruction project is an all-encompassing one which must either be taken on wholeheartedly or not at all. The pervading bugs of white-elephant projects and ghost organizations must not be allowed near this sacred task. Historians worth their salt need to be engaged by the government in a fact-finding mission; every document or artifact belonging to those thirty months of conflict must be collected and preserved. The ‘Biafran pound’ frames, Nigerian army uniforms and Ogbunigwe at the National war museum in Umuahia need to be dusted off, shined and showcased in glass with renewed pride.
Gen. Yakubu Gowon continuously appears in news pleading and praying for a peaceful Nigeria but he is yet to publish a documentation of his personal memories of the war, as principal an actor as he was in the affair! And every day, so many neglected old men and women die, enriching the soil of the graveyard with the precious stories that are our history. The documentation of such memories is not a nicety to be engaged in at one’s leisure, we must understand; such a task is a mandatory assignment placed upon the actor by the gnarled hands of history. It is a task of so much importance that I envisage the Creator stopping whoever fails at it from proceeding beyond heaven’s gates. Because separated from their history, a people cease to exist.
The climax of this reconstruction agenda would be attained when all of this knowledge and wealth of experiences have been collected together and are then fed to every Nigerian child. From as early as primary education, the Nigerian child should be fed information and facts about the war that played no less than a crucial role in the molding of the country he or she has been born into. The NYSC (which was indeed created as a healing balm for post-war Nigeria in 1973) could be employed as the culmination of these lessons. The information taught would include the facts of events leading up to the war starting with pre-colonial Nigeria to the coup and pogroms of 1966; the reason(s) for the break-out of the war; the primary and secondary actors of the conflict, the various roles they played and the significances thereof; a timeline chronicling all significant events that occurred during the war; post-war attempts at reconstruction, why and how such attempts failed and the relevance thereof to the country’s present situation.
As Rick Warren aptly notes in his book, The Purpose-driven Life, “pain is the fuel of passion – it energizes us with an intensity to change that we don’t normally possess” So far, the pain of the Nigerian Civil war, excruciating as it was, has been lost to us all. It is our responsibility therefore, as a nation of people hungry for growth, to resurrect that pain or more aptly, the memories of that pain so that we can fully cash into the strength of its passion.
All casualties of the war,
Because we cannot hear each other speak…
Because whether we know or
Do not know the extent of wrong on all sides
We are characters now other than before…”
– J.P. Clark, The Casualties
 – Microsoft Encarta Premium 2009;
 – cumulative Global Hunger Index rankings for 1990, 1996, 2001 and 2012;
 – World Bank Reports 2010;
 – Petroleum Insights: OPEC’s Top Crude Oil Producers, 2011 – January, 2012 by David Rachovich;
 – The Purpose-Driven Life, by Rick Warren.
You have been ignoring it, refusing to believe it. Ever since your dad called from Lagos two days back with the news that Ekwe had gone missing, you have refused to admit that you are indeed worried. It was a morning call; dad always called in the morning these days – not so early that you are deeply asleep but early enough that you still feel the strain of your erection against your drawers. When you took the call, you – as had come to be the tradition – connected your earpiece to it, stuck the foamy bits in your ears and dropped the phone beside your head. With your eyes still shut and your hand loving the rough hairs on your chest in a habitual dance of dawn, you prepared to listen to the litany of the latest wrongs your brother had done.
Only he hadn’t stopped at wrongs this time, he had run off. You started to pay attention at that point, your eyes opened and your hand on your chest froze. Your dad recounted the events of the day before and ended by repeating it. Ekwe had not spent the night at home and nobody had seen or heard from him since then. What about his phone? Dad had taken it just before he skipped out.
You remember how unworried your father had been; little brother had slowly evolved into a mean thorn in the flesh. He sinned against all the dogma of the quintessential Christian family mum and dad had built and never seemed to even want to change. And oh, he wasn’t so little anymore. He was 18. He was not worried, your father had reiterated, he was sure Ekwe would resurface once the money he left with got exhausted. You agreed with dad, the gruff in your voice deepened with sleep and a ‘manly’ fearlessness you intentionally inserted.
It has been five days now. And in those five days, you have called your distant step-cousins who he had developed an affinity for from the last trip to the village. The boys were just Ekwe’s type – showy braggarts with no depth and plenty of blingz. So they had clicked. They listened mute while you bumbled through several awkward attempts at camaraderie and conversation. In tones as flat as your attempts had fallen, they zipped you off – no, they did not know. You have also called his friend from secondary school, the one who swore his new girlfriend had made him see the light. He had taken to it alone though, Ekwe’s eyes were apparently too sensitive for the ‘Christian’ light. He too did not know where Ekwe was.
You want to call some more but it dawns on you – not for the first time – that you hardly know any of his recent friends. Since you left home for the university three years ago, the brotherly bond had grown thinner and thinner. And as you moved from semester to semester, the realities of life had loomed larger and larger before you. And you had bothered less and less about Ekwe and his aruruana, as Ego calls it. Ego is your older sister; she’s married with three kids. There’s just the three of you and she believes, like your dad, that your brother is best left on his own to realize the folly of his actions from their bitter results.
And every time you chat with her on BBM, you concur. You sound all ‘manly’ and unconcerned, you say “he is a fully grown man, he can cater for himself”. But when you put down the phone, you are not so sure. You remember all those times as a kid when Ekwe would do something silly and you would – after beating him, also silly – flirt with the idea in your mind of him dying and leaving you an only son; a motherless only son.
On those occasions, you imagined he got run down by a car in the streets or a bare electric wire fell on the bike bringing him home from school. You imagined you would run out to the streets when you got the news, and you would stare at his lifeless, (mangled or fried) body for a few moments. Then you would blink twice so that one tear – and one alone – would fall off, after which you would turn around and walk home. Very like a man. Then when he was to be buried, you imagined yourself walking up slowly but steadily to his grave, a spade in your hand loaded with moist red earth. This time you wouldn’t cry, only sigh very deeply and loud enough for the people nearby to hear, before dumping the dirt on his wooden casket and walking away. Also like a man.
The memories come back to haunt you as you sit at your computer looking through Ekwe’s facebook profile. One part of you is glad your mum died all those years ago, it would break her heart the things Ekwe is…was doing. The other part of you wishes she were here so you could lay your head on her lap and confess to her that you do not want to be an only son. You do not want your brother dead. And there is nothing manly about the tears you shed every night when you lay in your bunk bed.
A friend buzzes you on BBM and you remember the friend lives in Lagos. Before you can stop yourself, you ask him if he has seen your brother, that he is missing. Your friend says no, he doesn’t even know what your brother looks like. So he can see what Ekwe looks like, you type in Ekwe’s facebook name and stop yourself just before you hit send. You stopped because you remembered that Ekwe’s pictures on facebook make you feel ashamed. He has semi-nudes with ladies of mostly advanced ages in different compromising situations, and he has pictures displaying the dragon tattoo on his biceps and some with captions like ‘Smoke weed today…save a life’. They are not pictures you want any of your friends to see, they all know you are a solid Christian brother.
You tell your friend that you will send him pictures. When you check, you realize that you have no pictures of Ekwe on your phone. As you browse through his facebook albums for any pictures that will not shame you, your breath comes slow and heavy. And an ache builds in your chest, blurring your vision of the laptop screen. You have never done drugs but you’re fairly certain this is how it would feel if you had barbiturates flowing in your veins.
You find some okay pictures and you send them off to your friend. Then you pack up and lay down on your slim hostel mattress. You turn one way, then the other, and back the one way. Right on time, the tears burn through your corneas, sear your lids and slide out the corners of your eyes. You sigh a heavy sigh; it will be another very long night.
Lately I’ve been having nightmares courtesy of some of my readers who are intent upon ensuring I do not renege on giving out the prizes for The Medallion Easter bonanza; in one nightmare, I saw a Bollywood williwilli growling “Meee-daaa-llioooon…PRIZE!” and in another one, I was arrested and when it was time for my hands to be bound, the cop pulled out a Medallion.smh.
So, I have succumbed (this one bad pass my village people abeg). As you know, we only have a winner for Prize 1, all of you go and carry last for the second one. My Prize winner though is Walter Uche Ude, better known in these spheres as Walter Shakespearean Ude (WaltShakes). It was a delight for me when I saw his entry as first commenter because I was already a fan of his writing and here was an opportunity for us to meet (oh, that was a clause for the prize I didn’t want to commit to from the start before some of you will go and pay one BH boy in Bornu to run and be first commenter).
Anyhu, Walter and I met up yesterday afternoon here in Lagos for the prize-giving ‘ceremony’. I’d like to tell you that we first saw ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ then proceeded to Kilimanjaro before doing KFC and Calabar Kitchen in one summary swoop. But we just sat and talked, and boy, was it more fun! It had just rained one of those muddy annoyances the Lagos skies are capable of on a bad day but after gisting and laughing so hard with Walter, my day was considerably perked up. Walter is gifted, funny and very ‘gisty’, a good friend already. He is also one of the few guys I know who are lighter-skinned than I am; at least the next time a conductor at Ojuelegba calls me ‘yellow’, I can say “wait till you see Walter!”
It was a full-blown ceremony oh! There was an intro, we both made speeches bordering on just about all topics from writing to modelling agencies in Okoko, then for paparazzi, we asked a good Nigerian (or was she Cameroonian, Walts?) to take a few pics. We finished it off Oscar-style on the way out when we took our own ‘celeb selfie’. For those of you who didn’t know, where two heads and more are gathered in a selfie, there a celeb selfie is; thank God for that unknowing gentleman in the background. 🙂
Walter blogs at “My Mind Snaps” – http://www.mymindsnaps.com and you can bug him on twitter @Walt_Shakes. He graciously agreed to do the following review for The Medallion; I like to think I was so charming he couldn’t refuse but I’m sure he is just showing off ;). Anyhu…enjoy!
THE MIRACLE OF THE MEDALLION
You start out reading The Medallion, believing it’s going to be an Easter story, one that encapsulates the persecution of Christ, His crucifixion, and then His rising.
But then you follow the story, you trace the unraveling of the narration, and you’re drawn into the mind of this commoner – Rufus, an erstwhile Nazarene criminal, one who knows the wiles of the streets as an only way of life. You are led – as he is – to the acknowledgement of a mission. The hunt for something priceless. A quest that is on some level driven by a desire for the invaluable. A tar of self-interest tainting the otherwise incredibly selfless import of the story of Christ’s sacrifice.
And that is when you get distracted from your objective. Your focus is shaken by the intrusion of the persecution of the Son of Man. Those blood-riven scourges that mark the back of the condemned man. The cruel and jubilant delirium of the crowd over the man’s torture. The apparent seal of Heaven and Earth on his suffering. You are repulsed by it. Yet you are drawn to it. You fight your grief. You feel the weight of sadness. You share the aching pain of that mother who watches, helpless, as her child is mauled by the bloodthirsty soldiers and rabid crowd. Your heart cringes with every lash. Your fists curl at every taunt. You wish you didn’t have to witness this. You do not want to be here. You have the medallion to find. Your very own precious.
But more precious is He who bears the tribulations of the world up to the Hills of Golgotha, where He is nailed to a cross and bared to all – the glory of His crucifixion.
And with His passing, you’re right back on the scent of the mission – the hunt for the Medallion. Where might it be? The foothold of the cross that held up the King of the Jews? Perhaps hanging from the plumage of one of the formidable centurions? Or tucked away in the clothes that swaddled the afflicted body of Jesus as he carted off to His tomb. Aha! It just had to be in there – the tomb, nestled amongst rocks and pebbles, glinting softly in the darkness, waiting to be dug out of the slight rubble once the Roman guards were away and the soul was too far gone from the body inside to tell any tales of your invasion.
And then, Jesus the Christ rose from the dead, ablaze with His incandescent glory. A fulfilled testament of the prophetic words “…and on the third day, He shall rise.” And afire with the promise of the life that would be given to His ministry.
That is when you realize that you’ve lost. The find of the Medallion isn’t logical. It isn’t a consequence of reasoning. It defies all that. It is divine. It is magical. The miracle of Easter happened for the people who would later be called Christians. It also happened for Rufus, enclosed, a gleaming bundle, in the folds of his robes.
And it also happened for me, the one who was the first to drop a comment on the thread of the eventual episode of The Medallion.
It’s been a really slow four-day weekend cum Easter holiday, and God forbid it pass by our delegates at the ongoing National Confab. They had adjourned proceedings at the end of Wednesday to enable them partake in the celebrations of the Easter season.
Last week ended in a consensus of sorts (thank resurrected Jesus!) for the first in a long time. The delegates had earlier deliberated on the composition of committees, committee work plans and the need for an extension to three weeks of the two weeks given to the committees to work.
Justice Kutigi, Conference Chairman however stuck to the existing work plan. He also shot down the attempts by some over-EGGcited delegates to extend the Easter-induced hiatus of the house. He ruled conclusively for deliberations to resume today, Tuesday, April 22. We expect the different committees, numbering about 20 in all, to resume meetings in the National Judicial Institute and halls of the Sheraton until the expiration of two weeks when the entire house will reconvene to review the committee submissions.
It is therefore with gratitude in our hearts and a heavy sense of loss in our stomachs, that we mourn the passing of the holidays and turn our binoculars once again, on the deliberations at the National Conference.
It is needless to mention that outside the walls of the Conference venue, patience is drawing thinner and thinner by the second. The write-up, reproduced below, of a Nigerian youth speaks volumes and all the angles of the present Nigerian (youthful) disposition to the Confab, a disposition Justice Kutigi and sons best be aware of:
My Experience & Contribution at the National Conference – Hemenseter Butu
Last night, I dreamt I was in the National Conference and I got tired of hearing delegates go on and on about seceding, division, unfair representation, etc so I stood up to speak. Hear me:
Good day Ladies and Gentlemen. Please lend me your ears for at least five minutes. I’ve heard all everyone has had to say and it’s becoming more and more deplorable. Hear me out this day so we can go back to finding a solution to our problems – assuming that is why we’re here.
I am a Nigerian youth, in my late twenties. I represent the largest set of the country’s demographic yet we are the least represented at this confab. Have we complained? Have our peers raised placards and threatened bloodshed? I must confess your generation doesn’t give us the respect we deserve, we have given you countless chances, Obasanjo was Head of State in 1976 and came back again as President in 1999. Muhammadu Buhari had his turn in 1983 and yet has also been given several chances to vie for President of the Republic. What have we to show for these chances we’ve given your generation over and over again? What has it benefited us? Yes, I’m talking about the young people who make up almost 70% of our population?
We’re sitting here whining over our allowances and allowances for aides, food and the lack of it. Talking about food, do you know hundreds of thousands of Nigerians go without a meal every other day? And I’m not talking about those currently being displaced by the numerous crises in the nation. They can’t complain like you are. They neither have the disposable income to afford it nor the voice to be heard, unlike most of us gathered here.
Before we talk and propose anything let us remember that 13 year old boy who’s dreaming about becoming an astronaut, not knowing there exists no infrastructure in Nigeria to support his dream. Let’s remember the young girl in Konduga who is waiting on her WAEC result only for her life to be cut short by Boko Haram. Let us not forget that uneducated boy who just wants to run his barber shop in peace but can’t because there isn’t electricity…ROUND THE COUNTRY, in 2014! *sigh* fuel is scarce and there aren’t realistically accessible loans for informal businesses like his.
Those are a few of the real issues my peers are currently facing. So please with all due respect to “Elder Statesmen” sitted here, spare me the “food didn’t get to me yesterday” talk.
My generation is growing weary of wasted chances, we hear of the millions of millionaires in Norway and we weep. We hear of the electoral reform strides in Ghana and we weep. We hear of the ranking of a Sudanese University above all varsities in Nigeria and we weep profusely, as I speak we are still weeping.
If this confab fails it will be towing the same path as every other thing in Nigeria over the years. Problems beget problems and we the youth offer another chance to be wasted yet again.
Is it not time to convert all this potential into energy? Is it not time to come together as a nation and forget about being Muslim or Christian, Efik or Tiv, Northerner or Southerner? Is it not time to force critical thinking out of every Nigerian? It is not time to do all it takes to get it right? Again I assumed that is why this National Conference was convened in the first place.
I am standing here, representing the largest constituency of Nigerians and instead of complaining I truly want to request, beg of you even, that this conference throw away all division and just get it right this one time.
By: Hemenseter Butu tweets via @HemButs
He who has eyes let him read and use his mouth to tell those who have ears alone.
Compliments of the season!
…continued from The Medallion V
They had found it; they had found The Medallion.
The man who Simon had identified as Joseph of Arimathea spread out a length of white linen on the floor with which he wrapped up the body of Jesus. Mary and the other woman put the handkerchief containing the blood-drenched soil – and unknown to them, The Medallion – in with the corpse just before it was wrapped. The corpse was placed in a pulled cart and the procession, soldiers inclusive, headed west of the city where the sepulchers were located. Rufus and Simon followed.
They reached a tomb which from the looks of it had been freshly dug. Joseph led the way in and they laid the wrapped corpse in the tomb. The women dragged Mary away who was still weeping uncontrollably and all the men present combined strength to roll a heavy stone across the mouth of the tomb. The centurion ordered four of the soldiers to stand guard at the tomb while he retired towards the city with the rest of his men. The young man who had been at the foot of the cross of Jesus with Mary persuaded her to come away with him; the weeping women of Jerusalem followed, most of them dry-eyed with exhaustion. Joseph of Arimathea and Nichodemus brought up the rear.
There was not much that Rufus could do; even if he somehow overpowered the four soldiers standing guard, he had no means to get past the massive stone which had taken the combined strength of over a dozen men to roll over the mouth of the tomb. Also Simon was anxious to return to their sons whom they had left asleep at Golgotha. With one last look at the sealed tomb, Rufus turned and left with Simon.
He would be back.
*** *** ***
“Eleazer, douse your light quickly!”
The boy obeyed. Rufus put a hand to his lips and stealthily, crawled closer behind a prominent rock from where the mouth of the tomb was clearly visible. Eleazer followed suit. The tomb was a little bee-hive of activity; the soldiers on guard duty had positioned lit torches at strategic corners lending more visibility to the already moonlit night and they sat around dozing, playing games, eating, drinking and jesting.
It was almost midnight on Sabbath day and well into the Feast of Unleavened bread. After they departed the tomb the day before, Rufus had left with Simon to the latter’s house where he had heard the whole story of this Jesus who was called the Christ. Rufus was intrigued by the stories of healings, resurrections, exhortations and miracles which Simon regaled him with about this man.
Rufus could not however, fathom why a man with such powers could not have saved himself from the shameful death he had died. In his shoes, Rufus fantasized over the numerous ways in which he would have ensured the painful demise of his attackers – a snap of his fingers and a man would lose his arm, one smile and all the teeth in one soldier’s mouth would dissolve into red-hot molten metal, one arched brow and the ground would open up to swallow that fat Pilate with his shiny basin of water. The deeds of this Jesus as Simon had told them – and Rufus had confirmed from a good number of people – certainly put any of these retributions within the man’s capacity. Yet he had meekly followed his captors, like a lamb to the slaughter, to death on the cross.
In his quest for answers, Rufus accompanied Simon to the temple on the Sabbath day; the look on Eleazer’s face said volumes about how often his father visited such premises. But Rufus was a man seeking answers. He was disappointed though. The temple was over-run by the ‘pricks’ as the followers of the dead Jesus had all disappeared. The entire Sabbath day was dedicated to denigrating what was left of the memory of the man crucified the day before. One by one, the priests rose and spewed a litany of offences Jesus had been guilty of: he had cured Alphonso’s withered hand on a Sabbath day, he had dared to heal Ebenezer, a leper, neither he nor his disciples were ever seen fasting with ash on their heads or anguish on their faces, he even mustered the audacity to quench a storm sent by the Almighty,God of Moses.
Rufus could scarcely believe the sheer blasphemy and sycophancy that played out before him. He did learn one interesting piece of news though – Jesus had said that after he died, he would rise on the third day. If there was any truth to this – the man had quite a reputation for keeping to his word – Rufus felt deep within him that something of some significance would indeed happen at that tomb on the prophesied day. He hadn’t told Simon of his plan to return to the tomb because they had both agreed that The Medallion was a lost cause. But he had known he would be going there.
Rufus was unsure what drew him to the tomb – was it The Medallion which had been buried with the man or the man who had been buried with The Medallion? Whichever, it was strong enough to pull him after he left Simon’s with Eleazer in tow, westwards towards the guarded tomb rather than eastwards towards Bethany. They had hung around dozing and munching on strips of unleavened bread while waiting for darkness to fall. Now it was dark and they crouched behind a rock few meters away from the soldiers and the tomb. What next, Rufus had no idea.
As the city bells clung midnight, the earth reverberated soundly. Rufus thought he had imagined it until he saw the look on Eleazer’s face. Then the ground shook again, this time with a ferocity that made the quake of the crucifixion day feel like child’s play. Rufus anchored himself firmly to the rock while holding on to Eleazer with his spare arm. The soldiers’ noises quieted down in an instant as they looked about with terrified eyes each struggling to maintain balance.
Suddenly, a wraith appeared in a halo of white light so bright that Rufus inadvertently let go of Eleazer to shield his eyes. This form gradually grew in visibility till it took the form of a big man in a flowing white robe cinched at the waist by a wide glistening belt. From the belt hung a sword with a glistening handle that crackled with charges; the man’s entire ensemble gave off a pristine glow, calm and white. Thunder rolled and perpetual lines of lightning divided the midnight sky.
The glowing man glided – for that was the only word for the way he moved – over to the stone that sealed the tomb and Rufus saw then that he had two massive wings. The wings were like those of a giant-sized eagle, a snow-white giant eagle with feathers which looked to be as soft as wool from Shechem. They flapped once, the wings, sending everything – man, beast and thing – in the vicinity flying off in a gale of strong wind.
Rufus felt certain that the vision before him must be God and from a distant childhood memory, he remembered the saying that no one ever saw God and lived to tell the tale. So he quickly put his hands over Eleazer’s eyes and cursed the fatal fate that had seen him come across this Christ.
The vision raised one glowing hand and the stone over the tomb’s entrance started to roll away. In his amazement, Rufus’ jaw dropped down and his hands fell away from Eleazer’s eyes. He had seen a dozen men roll that stone across the tomb’s entrance, huffing and puffing to the brinks of their very lives’ breaths. But before him, the same stone now rolled, as if on oiled wheels away from the mouth of the tomb. As it rolled away, the tomb’s entrance peeped through as a crack through which light – a white light brighter than the glow of the winged vision, if such a thing was possible – shimmered.
The farther away the stone rolled, the wider the crack grew and the more of this brighter incandescence it oozed. The illumination that poured out of the mouth of the tomb after it was fully opened was glory in itself; it glided over one’s skin with the warmth of a soothing balm, white and blinding but indeed calming to the eye. It flooding the entire hillside and the skies above with a luminescence so bright that the air shimmered like a pristine veil over the grasses which glittered like transparent glass.
In the midst of all this resplendence, Jesus emerged from the tomb, flying without wings. The white linen in which he had been wrapped hung over him loosely hooked over his shoulder; it twinkled with stars and even more light poured out of the holes which the nails had made in his hands and feet. The expression on his face was of peace, a calm dignified peace and royalty. A halo of warm gold encircled his head and the tips of his beard seemed to be on fire – it was like looking into the sun from just ten paces away.
Suddenly his eyes, burning a triumphant yellow, settled on Rufus where he stood dazed. A thrill, akin to the one he had felt when Jesus looked at him from atop the cross at Golgotha, raced through his marrows and settled like a warm pool in feet Rufus could barely feel. Staring up into the face of the resurrected Jesus, Rufus knew he was a dead man.
Slowly, Jesus began to rise up into the skies, his stately face and arms raised up to the night sky awash with heavenly splendor. The winged vision from earlier fell down on one knee, clasped his hands together as if in prayer and bowed his head; his massive snow-white wings came together at his back with their glowing tips pointing downwards. Had Rufus been thinking, he would have fallen on his knees too but he was lost to the luxury of human though. A warm heady feeling coursed through his veins like warm honey, and as the resurrected Jesus vanished from sight, and with him the phenomenal light and vision, he felt a lightness take its place, a sweet friendly lightness. Like a second chance.
Darkness resettled quickly upon the entire hillside; the wind howled, its noise given a hollow timbre by the open deeps of the now-empty tomb. Crickets chirped, their music given a mournful tinge by the emptiness left behind by the departed light. Rufus stood with Eleazer, oblivious of the scampering soldiers, staring upwards into the dark of the now moonless night.
A series of tugs on his sleeve woke Rufus from his shocked state. He stared down at Eleazer and could not believe that they both were still alive.
“We should go, Father”
The boy’s eyes gave away nothing. It was almost as though he hadn’t just seen God rise from the dead; yes, he was God, Rufus admitted. There was indeed a God and Rufus had just watched Him defeat the great power of death without uttering a word. A God of light; no noise, just light and love.
Another pull on his arm, this time leading, shook Rufus back to his surroundings. Eleazer had taken his hand and was pulling them both towards the city gates – the trip to Bethany was definitely cancelled for the night.
Rufus was amazed to find that his legs worked. Totter by totter, he followed his son across the rock-strewn hillside still dazed. The lightness he felt in his bones was slightly dizzying, and he hadn’t realized it but his throat was parched shut with a thirsty dryness. Signaling to Eleazer to hold on, Rufus reached into his robe for his water flask.
He felt something else in the pocket, something he hadn’t put there. Not knowing what to expect, Rufus pulled it out; it was a small bundle wrapped in a spotless white cloth, the finest piece of silk he had ever seen.
His breath hitching, fingers quivering, unbelieving, Rufus unwrapped the bundle. And it was right there, staring him in the face.
I apologize for the tardiness on delivery of this piece. It has been a great experience walking you through the path of Rufus’ journey in the hunt for The Medallion. May His encounter with the risen Christ replicate itself in various ways in our individual lives, Amen.
HAVE A VERY MERRY EASTER!
Winners of The Medallion prediction and ‘first-to-comment’ prizes will be announced soon.