The Goddess of Resistance - For Leah Sharibu and all the Heroes of Faith

THE GODDESS OF RESISTANCE

 …for Leah Sharibu and all the Heroes of Faith…

He woke up with a start. Fine beads of sweat formed a beautiful pattern on his gloomy face and he felt cold, all over. It was the dream and he heard the voice again; it was the voice of Ruth Shagamu. As he ran, the world was closing around him. Although very tired, he couldn’t stop himself from running: breathing heavily, he noticed thick droplets of blood, falling sporadically from the sky.

“Kabiru, why are you persecuting me?” He heard the tearful and sorrowful voice of Ruth Shagamu, leaving a pang of guilt on its trail.

“Where are you?” He shouted, terrified.

His face filled with heat when he noticed that the moons and stars suddenly started withdrawing their light and a thick darkness was closing in, on him. As he fought the darkness, the voice came back stronger and louder; guilt and regrets gnawed at him, suffocating the very life out of him, as he awakened in darkness.

Moving swiftly to the edge of his bed, he grabbed a torch, lying aimlessly on his poorly constructed table, and flipped the switch. He reached out for a bottle of water, at the far end of the table, opened it and gulped the liquid down, feeling a little relieved.

“Kabiru, are you in?” He heard the pale voice of Yusuf, one of the foot-soldiers, and was irritated.

Dragging himself off his bed, he made no reply. Yusuf, who didn’t wait for an invitation to come in, opened the wobbly door and walked slowly through it.

“The boss wants to see you.” He said, with a tone of finality.

Kabiru’s heart sank, he knew what to expect. As he thought about the reprimands, he was sure to get from his boss, his stomach quavered with apprehension. She, Ruth Shagamu, was the cause of his recent misfortunes, and he hated her for it.

He didn’t know how to crumble her mighty walls and shatter her unshaken resolve: when he talked, she looked right through him, acting like one who was possessed. The scars on her body, which were testaments to the fact that he had left no stone unturned in inflicting pains on her, seemed to add to her comfort. All he felt, whenever he visited the dark room, where she was being held, was peace, and a glorious presence, which shook the foundation of his belief and the core of his existence.

For days, he avoided her room, then came the nightmare. “She’s literally witch hunting me.” He whispered, smiling sardonically to himself.

Walking briskly towards the door, he paused for a moment, surveyed his room, then went for his revolver, hidden in a wooden compartment, behind his door. Holding it securely, he shut his door.

He headed steadily for room 409, rather than the boss’s office, as he tucked the revolver, into his back pocket. Thinking deeply about Ruth Shagamu, and the mysteries surrounding her, he didn’t see Ahmed coming.

“Stay off my path,” Ahmed bellowed, with so much irritation and disdain.

Kabiru knew very well to avoid Ahmed. He was one with a foul temper and a despicable character. Having been sent by the terrorist group in Iraq, with the mandate of ensuring that all unique, recently converted individuals are introduced into the terrorist organization, he was considered an ambassador and as such, was treated with high regard. Kabiru hated him because he was a rival, one who had done things way better or a little better than him. He stole the show and took over Kabiru’s position of the most revered and favoured officers.

Advancing menacingly at Kabiru, he looked hatefully up, at him. “Don’t bother with Ruth, I should take it up from here.” Kabiru didn’t like the look of scorn in his eyes; they sent a thousand words of abuse, eating deep into his heart. In those eyes, filled with dark passion, was ridicule, hatred and crude jest.

Anger stirred in his heart along with hurt feelings.

“Did the boss put you up to this?” Kabiru asked, returning his hateful gaze, with his bloodshot eyes.

“Yes, he did. He wouldn’t meet with you again, there’s been a change in plans.”

He hated Ahmed. Clenching his fist and suppressing his toxic emotions, he staggered down the stairs, thinking about how he was being recently sidelined and neglected. He had been alienated from the group, since the coming of Ahmed.

“Whatever you do, check out the headlines. She’s been nicknamed the ‘Goddess of Resistance’.” He heard the sarcastic voice of Ahmed call out.

His eyes felt gritty and hot when he thought about Ahmed; he was very much aware of the technique Ahmed employs, in breaking his female victims. “Ruth Shagamu is much too young and innocent for that.” He heard himself say. Feeling like a fool and a weakling, for giving a thought on her well-being, he hated himself at that instant.

She just sat, heads up, back arched and hands spread lazily on the bare floor. She felt a gentle touch on her arms, urging her to get up.

“Get up, Ruth,” she heard the kind and familiar voice of the one she long decided to call Lord.

As she struggled to get on her feet, she felt a heavy weight, lifted off her shoulders, causing her relief. Her fagged out body was once again renewed. Standing there, pondering on so many things, her thoughts stayed on her family and friends, back in Yobe.

Her eyes pricked with tears, she had missed them all. She remembered mama’s smiling face with gratitude, thanking God solemnly for the gift of such a mother, who had showed her the way to salvation. When she thought of papa, she was filled with joy because in him she found a priest, lover, friend and a father; he was always there for her, mama and Tamar. Remembering Tamar, her baby sister, whose adorable smiles and babyish tugs, added to the colour of life, she broke down in uncontrollable tears. She knew Tamar would have a difficult time, getting over her.

“Lord, may your strength be made available in Tamar’s weaknesses,” she uttered soberly.

She remembered Mary, her best friend and classmate. She remembered vividly how they met: she had decided to attend the scripture union of her new school when she saw Mary, seated calmly on one of the many chairs in the hall. She felt a connection instantly and had followed through with it. Their relationship blossomed because they shared one basic thing in common and that was an unexplainable love for Christ. Through Mary, her eyes had been opened to different dimensions of the living God and she had basked in the euphoria of having a genuine relationship with her maker.

Her mind flashed to an image she had tried so desperately to obliterate; it was the painful memories of seeing Mary denounce Christ without bating her eyelids.

When they were carted away from school, into the isolated and deserted forest, Ruth had a deep foreboding that there might be an attack on their faith and their God. She had silently uttered heartfelt words of petition, asking God to grant her the fortitude to stand up for him and his cause, damning the consequences. She had interceded for her fellow captives, and for Mary especially. So when she heard her loudly say, “I reject the God of my father and the Holy Bible,” she was heartbroken.

The sand had gone cold under Ruth’s feet when it was her turn and she came in close proximity with the one they called boss. He was tall, really tall that Ruth felt he must be related to Goliath of old. He looked cold, hard and cruel; everything about him bespoke impatience and a deep hatred for the human race.

With every strength in her, she struggled desperately not to meet his unnerving gaze as they yanked her closer to him. When she had quietened, he hunkered down before her, held her face roughly so she couldn’t look away. When she looked into his eyes, she had felt unusually calm; all her fears dissipated and a new found zeal to be a lone ranger for Christ, consumed her.

“You want me to renounce Christ?” She had asked.

Without waiting for a reply, she quickly added; “I can never renounce my Lord and Saviour. As a matter of fact, for me to live is Christ and to die, is gain.”

The boss had looked at her in frank admiration.

“How old are you?” He asked.

“I am fifteen years old.”

“You would beg for death, in time to come, little one. I advise you do as your mates have done.” His mouth curved, showing the edge of his teeth, as he gave a bitter laugh.

“You can kill my body but you can’t kill my soul” Ruth had intoned convincingly.

She saw his face change from admiration into a sad, amused one. He got up quickly, looking mad. As she focused her gaze on him, she felt the sting of a heavy lash on her back; as she writhed in sorrowful agony, more whips descended on her soft skin, stinging the very life out of her. It went on and on and she felt her spirit, leaving her slowly, ebbing away into darkness. By the time she came back to consciousness, she met an empty cabin; all those who were brought in with her, did the needful and were happily reunited with their parents.

Resigned to her fate, she thought about her decision, weighing it with all she had suffered and wondering if it was actually worth it. She got her answer in the peace which enveloped her, the presence that had always attended to her needs and the feeling of contentment and rare happiness it brought her way.

“Now breathe in and out, child.” She heard the soothing voice of her invisible friend.

The gentility of the voice and the security which pervaded her, made her obey the command, almost immediately. As she performed the ritual for the third time, she saw the door give way, and a ray of light, forcing its way through the opening; the light got wider, until it illuminated a part of the room.

Clenching her jaw, Ruth closed her eyes; she was waiting patiently for the familiar hands of cruelty to begin its work. More than ten minutes, and nothing happened. It was unusual. Opening her eyes slowly, she shielded it from the torch’s glare and noticed a man standing close to her, looking lost.

She jerked when she discovered it was the notorious Ahmed, who had been nicknamed the ‘game-changer’, groping in the partially lit room. He staggered from one point of the room, to the other, searching frantically for something or someone she believed was her. As he reeled to and fro in the room, she thought about Kabiru; although he had been brutal, he never came close to defiling her: he had always exercised this restraint, typical of a gentleman who was saved.

Ahmed was different and the perfect definition of cruelty: sometimes, when she thought about him, she wondered if salvation had been made available for his likes. Ruth was privy to all of his atrocities; she had heard the loud cry of excruciating pains, coming from the room adjoining hers; she had heard the debilitating blows, laborious heaves and finally, sobbing breadth. Although she had clogged her ears in each episode, yet the thought of what she knew was happening to a victim like her, was ingrained in her memory, it was right there, drowning and numbing her senses.

So when she saw Ahmed in her room, memories and flashes of those disgusting sounds, enveloped her entire being. For once, in a pretty long while, Ruth was fidgeting, muttering inaudible words to herself.

“What do you intend doing to her?” The familiar voice of Kabiru broke into the confused and tensed thoughts of Ruth.

“Not your business. Since you can’t have her reject her faith and her God, I will simply make use of the whip in between my legs, to break her damn resolve.” He answered with a snarl.

From the dark corner Ruth stood, she observed Ahmed in fear, wondering what was wrong with him. Kabiru raked a hand through his hair looking stupefied. He could see Ruth, he however wondered why Ahmed couldn’t see her.

“What is wrong with me, where is the damn kid?” He asked foolishly, talking to no one in particular and acting as though he was the only person in the room. As he charged towards the door, cursing under his breath, Ruth slumped down in exhaustion, whispering ‘thank you, Jesus’, at short intervals.

“Ruth, are you alright?” Kabiru asked with concern.

For the first time, he dropped his hate and studied her in patience: she was very tiny and looked vulnerable, yet possessed a will coated in steel. It shone from her beautiful eyes and the rigid way she held herself, accepting and swallowing all the works of brutality. As he took in her frailty, he was broken. He looked at her and became so conscious of the filth which enveloped him. The light which shone from her eyes, reflected what was lunged in her heart. The purity of her being, mocked the darkness which enveloped him. Closing his eyes to get away from the darkness, he remembered her solemn prayer for his repentance, prayers done on his behalf when she thought he wasn’t listening.

A fortnight ago, he had woken up feeling horny. Leaving his room, he saw himself walking towards her room. As he placed his shaky hands on the door’s knob, he heard low whispers.

“Dear Lord, bring Kabiru to the knowledge of salvation. May my stay here win more souls for your kingdom.”

He was ashamed. Here was a lad he had dealt with during the day, starving and almost flogging her life out of her; as a matter of fact, he was just about going in to quench his lust with her body and yet she was asking her God to forgive him.

He gritted his teeth, trembling violently, his heart galloping. As he made his way back to his room, memories of his recent nightmare enveloped him.

Standing right there with her, he was clothed in shame. He thought about how he had tried so hard to pass his religion forcefully, killing sporadically, all who stood on his way. For Ruth, it was different. Her deafening silence and attitude of love and forgiveness in the face of brutality, spoke volumes to him. He had meant with her God through her actions and he wasn’t ready to let it go.

He fell on his knees, sobbing silently for something he could not really explain. He felt a heaviness growing inside of him. He saw the horrible weight of his sins, rushing fast at him and consuming every part of his damn body; it was his fault, only damnation awaits him.

There were voices, crying out loud in his head.

“They are aggrieved souls, crying out for vengeance,” he had whispered intermittently to himself. He held his ears tightly, trying to quell the voices that he knew were talking directly to his ear’s drum: he could still hear the loud cry of the little girl, just before she had been butchered beyond recognition; he heard the excruciating cries of those he had defiled and forcefully had sex with; he heard the wails of doom of those he had set ablaze with his bombs, desecrating their parts like butchered animals; he heard the whips of horror and how they had torn the skins of his victims; he heard them all. They were debilitating, harrowing and agonizing.

He held his ears, shouting and writhing in pains. Ruth who had been transfixed to a spot with intense worries, was about making her way to the unlocked door, to cry for help, when she was restrained by an invisible pull. She saw it in her legs which defiled movement.

“Let him be, dear. I must show him how he must suffer for my namesake. This is a process he must undergo before he is being released to that part of the world he and his likes have created. He will be a battle-axe for a great harvest of souls.” She heard the voice of the Lord, distinct and clear.

He opened his eyes and felt light. His rustling movement, released Ruth out of her realm of intense prayers. Like a mother, who had a sick child at death’s door, she rushed to him and graced her hands on his hot forehead, looking scaringly into his weary eyes.

Tears ran freely, down his cheeks; wiping his tears with her bare hands, she smiled, with her gaze still focused on him. He pulled his face gently away from her reach and covered it with his strong hands.

“I’m evil, I deserve a shameful death.” He drew a ragged breath, tears pouring despite his effort to stop it.

“He loves you still” he heard her say. “I was part of his plan to bring you to the beautiful knowledge of salvation.”

Releasing his face, he had looked up to her with his eyes still filled with tears. “Thanks for being a tool, dear Ruth. Now I know what I must do, to at least makeup for all my wasted years.”

“You are making the best decision ever,” she had said with a tone of conviction. Holding his large hands full of calluses in hers, she uttered heartfelt prayers for him, asking God to give him the needed grace to be a worthy tool for the great harvest of souls. He had intoned a very loud and believing amen.

“Thanks, dear Ruth. I should be leaving with the Tiger’s squad at first light; they are embarking on a mission to destroy a thriving Christian community in New Bussa, Niger State. It promises to be an internationally recorded disaster in man’s history but with God’s grace, I’m going to foil all their carefully calculated plan. I would be sending an intelligence to the Air Force Base in Kainji, giving them specifics of the planned attack, once I leave you. That would be my last operation with them since I would be needing a new family and a new home” he said enthusiastically.

Stretching his hands over his head, he gave a deep yawn and whispered, “it’s about time I leave this fraternity.”  Having been adopted since ten and indoctrinated into their way of life, he had only seen their cause as his cause and had taken them as family. Although he felt a little apprehensive about how life was going to play out there, he found strength in the evidences that graced Ruth’s life. He was going to conquer.

“I’m happy to hear this, Kabiru. May the Lord who has brought you to encounter Him, be with you all the step of the way.”

He stood up, moved back and bowed slowly before her. As he turned his back on her, tears of joy welled up in Ruth, bursting out in clear, hot droplets. As he walked briskly out of her cabin, she thought about the life he would lead, now that he had met Christ.

As she looked on at him, what she couldn’t envisage was how this was the catalyst, that would become responsible for the light that would shine so brightly in that part of the world, that has been darkened by the activities of the likes of him; what she couldn’t see was the persecution and tortuous journey that would become a necessary part of this important mission; what she couldn’t see was how one soul she had painstakingly brought to Christ, would become responsible for an exceedingly great harvest of souls and more importantly, what she never thought of or imagined, was the jubilation in the heaven and a big grin, plastered on the face of God the Father. He was so proud of her; the world saw her as the Goddess of Resistance but she was one of the most important personalities in His kingdom.

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