For the umpteenth time, Jason Emokphai wondered why he was on his way to Kirikiri maximum prison on Christmas Eve. As he sat in the taxi that hot Saturday afternoon in the standstill traffic synonymous to the Lagos metropolis, his mind travelled back to the moment he heard that his brother had been convicted and he felt the shame and anguish all over again.
Osagie Emokphai had been slammed a three-year jail term for raping a seventeen year old female student of his. The family of the girl called it a slap on the wrist. Osagie’s lawyer had been smart enough to appeal to his client to plead guilty, had it been the other way round, Osagie might have landed a bigger sentence.
Jason arrived just in time for the visiting hour. Osagie was soon before him. Osagie looked horrible, he smelt of dust and sweat, his beards were overgrown, his jaw was swollen and when he smiled at his brother, the swollen jaw made his face look like a Halloween mask.
Jason had planned to begin by wishing his younger brother a merry Christmas but immediately discarded it. Surely there was nothing merry about being in prison.
Both men stared at each other; it was the first time they were face to face in five years as the older Emokphai had been studying at University of Pretoria for a Ph.D. in vertinary medicine.
“You look good…” Osagie began “…South Africa has been good to you.”
“Yes it has, I just returned last week. I’m done with the programme.”
“Congratulations, Dr. Jason Osagie. I’m proud of you.” Jason nodded without emotion.
Osagie was delighted when his brother placed a plate of fried rice with the largest chicken he had seen in six months before him, he began to eat as quickly as he could, tearing the chicken with bare hands.
“So…how do you feel……honestly?” asked Jason prepared for an outburst of anger as a response.
Osagie dropped the spoon for a moment, “how does a man feel in this jungle? Anger, disappointment, low self-esteem all creep on you and tie you down. This is hell on earth and I deserve every day I get. My life is over……”
“No it’s not. I don’t believe it is and that’s why I am here.” Jason cut in.
Osagie laughed hard, his blood stained teeth in full view, he opened his mouth to reply but stopped and shook his head.
“They can inflict pain on your body, hurt your emotions but they can’t mess with your mind or take hope away from you. That’s the message of Christmas: hope!”
Osagie laughed even harder, “You come with your Phd and nice clothes to talk about hope, you’ve never spent a day in a police cell. You’ve never had a moment of insanity that brings a lifetime consequence and you’ve never had to face the fact that you are a pevert and there is nothing you can do about it….” osagie paused a moment, then continued: “Jason thank you, but please go home and have a merry Christmas with Folake and your kids. There is no Christmas here and injecting hope in kirikiri is like trying to make a Muslim out of The Pope. Go home.”
Jason grabbed his brother’s hand in a split second and leaned across the table, “Everyone in our family including your wife has cut you off except me, and it has taken me courage to come here. Please listen to me.”
Osagie nodded and Jason continued: “Your life may seem over but it’s not and Christmas is not just for the happy people, it is especially for places like this. God resurrected hope at Christmas when Jesus came and he came to become sin for us so we become righteousness of God as though we’ve never sinned, he became a curse for us, so we can be blessed not because of anything we’ve done or would do but because we believe and accept his grace…..”
“….Jesus is no longer on earth and I don’t believe your religious rant.” Osagie replied in anger.
“Jesus is in heaven, yes. But he left us with The Spirit of God, the comforter who understands what you are going through more than anyone else can. I’m not asking you to believe right now just think about it.”
The visitation hour was over, “Oya e don do. Make una come dey go.” a warder shouted. Jason slipped a paper across to Osagie which read:
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
Both men shook hands. “I’d see you next week.” Jason said.
Osagie strolled away with a lot in his mind to think about.