It was not long I drew attention to what I called harvest of deaths in the land. Specifically on 10 December, 2020, I wrote as follows: “Death has stalked the land, raiding villages and towns, and stumping cities to add to its already disturbing haul. We are befuddled and left aghast by the development. Before an obituary could be crafted for one, many more people have fallen victims.” A fortnight ago, Segun Odegbami, the famous footballer we fondly called Mathematical Odegbami, in the early 80s, doing the same in his column, in the piece captioned ‘A Season of Death’, lamented the death of four former international footballers. Among them were a former chairman of the Nigerian Football Association and a fine sports journalist. They passed away within the last one month, he wrote. Since early December we have witnessed more departures from earthly life. These were Alhaji Lateef Jakande who left on 11 February, the day the remains of Prince Tony Momoh were being interred. Two days before then, Olajide Akinbiyi, more widely known as Jide Akinbiyi, one of the pillars of Jakande Administration also took his flight. Jide Akinbiyi, son of one-time Olubadan, Oba Daniel Akinbiyi was director of publicity and information in the Governor’s Office, and was instrumental to the establishment of Radio Lagos and Lagos Television, having been a member of the pioneering staff of Western Nigeria Television, Ibadan, in 1959. Jide Akinbiyi departed at 87. Also gone is the stormy petrel Dr. Junaid Mohammed, the irrepressible former member, House of Representatives in Second Republic.
For a majority of human beings the question remains: Where do the departed all go? There are still a great many who do not believe in life hereafter. Some consider it fashionable to reject any such thought. Others denying are goaded by technological wonders of our time. Anything science cannot prove makes no meaning to them. It is superstition. For them once it is over here on earth, that is the end of conscious existence and living. The Christians and Moslems, of course, believe in life hereafter. So do animists. Whether Christians, Moslems or animists, they may differ on details, but they are convinced there is life beyond earthly life. There is the concept of Paradise and Hell which may be said to have been taken out of a huge pile of myths surrounding the destination of man when he gets to the Beyond. An average Christian speaks with a measure of conviction that there is Paradise, the land of peace, joy and bliss, which for some denominations is also called New Jerusalem in Heaven, and there is Hell the region of everlasting torment. The Moslems are convinced about Paradise and Hell and have the same picture that Paradise is a land of peace, bliss and unceasing joy, and Hell where torment is the order of daily reality. For many human beings, however, there are several unanswered questions.
There is a lack of clarity, for example, on how long a person remains in the grave. Many believe that a man remains in the grave until the proverbial Judgment Day when he will be awakened to face judgment even when our biology teachers have brought to class dug up skulls, femur, ribs cage, tibia etc, to educate us on body architecture. And you wonder where the body cover is and where the content of the man to be awakened is. What of those who died 200 years ago or 2,000 years ago? Where are they and from where will they be awakened to face judgment. The work of the Creator cannot be so defective. There are the loving wishes for the soul to rest in peace, or sleep in the bosom of the Lord. All these arise from the conception that all life is solely material. All these are cleared up when we recognize that the grace in birth and death goes beyond the material, beyond the physical manifestation of the building and dissolution of the body. And the wishes for a soul to rest in peace do not correspond with reality. Is Paradise a place to sleep? How does a man sleeping all day enjoy the sheer splendor and sheer, indeed, inconceivable beauty of Paradise? Yet, that is where every believer regards as Home and goal.
Tony Momoh wrote as part of his wishes when the approach of his demise became a certainty to him: “My co-travellers on Train Station Earth, when I go, as my brother Hafiz Momoh left on April 25, don’t curse me by praying for me to rest in peace. Wish me a smoothened journey to my home in Paradise which all of us here left aeons ago to this part of God’s wonderful Creation where we can attend the school of life. The whole of this Creation is on the move and there is no stopping.” He also spoke sternly to his family not to weep over his departure. Tony Momoh’s note raises the question: When and where does life begin and when does it end? These are not subjects of discussion for today.
There are in the present time some literature and publications on Life in the Beyond. There is the book, “Life after Life” by Dr. Raymond Moody, a medical practioner, made popular in Nigeria by Chief Obafemi Awolowo who had said on the occasion of his 78th birthday celebration that he had read the review of the book in the Times of London and wondered how he could get a copy of it. The book details experiences of people declared clinically dead but who came back to life. In the Preface, there is an account that says: “I went through this dark, black vacuum at super speed.” Another said: “it opened up a whole new world for me…I kept thinking, ‘there’s so much that I’ve got to find out.’” There is another book titled “A Wanderer in the Spirit Lands” said to have been transmitted to a medium by an Italian by name Franchezzo who had passed away. It contains descriptions and experiences of the dead in the Beyond. Another publication is “More About Life In The World Unseen” by Anthony Borgia. In the cover, the following is said: “the assertion that ‘dead men tell no tails” has long been proved untrue. Countless so-called dead men—with women and children too—have persistently shown themselves to be very much alive by returning to earth to say so…. Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, son of a former Archbishop Of Canterbury, is one of the many who have returned to earth to deny that they are dead…Monsignor Benson has communicated with Anthony Borgia who has all along acted as his ‘scribe.’”
The author writes in the Epilogue: “I would like to make it perfectly clear, lest misunderstanding should arise, that our young friend Roger, the brief chronicle of whose life so far in these lands of the spirit world, is the subject of these writings, is no imaginary person, created merely as a character upon whom to hang spiritual facts. He is a real person whose passing and immediately subsequent story are precisely as here recounted.”
Franchezzo shares his experience, reproduced in part as follows: “…I knew not that I had died. I passed from some hours of suffering and agony into sleep—and when I awoke it was to find myself alone and in total darkness. I could rise; I could move; surely I was better. But where was I? Why this darkness? Why was there no light left with me? I arose and groped as one does in a dark room, but I could find no light, hear no sound. There was nothing but stillness, the darkness of death around me. After some fruitless struggle I fell upon the ground in unconsciousness. When I awoke again I was overjoyed to see that my beloved one had returned to me. She was standing near, looking this time as I had seen her on earth, but pale and sad and all dressed in black….She stooped over a low mound of fresh earth. I drew nearer and nearer and saw that she was silently weeping as she laid down the flowers on that low mound. Her voice murmured softly, ‘Oh, my love! Can you be indeed dead, and gone where my love cannot follow you?’ and I drew near, very near, though I could not touch her, and as I knelt down I, too, looked at that long mound. A shock of horror passed over me, for I knew now, at last that I was dead, and this was my own grave. Now I stood beside this grave, my own grave, and heard my beloved call me dead and strew flowers upon it.
“As I looked, the solid mound grew transparent before my eye, and I saw down to the coffin with my own name and the date of my death upon it; and through the coffin I saw the white still form I knew as myself lying within. I saw to my horror that this body had already begun to decay and become a loathsome thing to look upon. Its beauty was gone; its features none would recognize; and I stood there, conscious, looking down upon it and then myself. I felt each limp, traced out with my hands each familiar feature of my face, and knew I was dead, and yet I lived. If this were death, then those priests must have been right after all. The dead lived—but where? In what state? Was this darkness hell?
“And yet as I thought thus I looked again upon my beloved…she seemed moral enough, and if she knelt by my grave surely I must still be upon earth. Did the dead then never leave the earth at all, but hover near the scenes of their earthly lives? Then I spoke; I called to her by name. I told her that I was there, that I was still conscious, still the same, though I was dead; and she never seemed to hear—she never saw me. She still wept sadly and silently, still tenderly touched the flowers, murmuring to herself that I had so loved flower, and surely I would know she had put them there for me. Again and again I spoke to her as loudly as I could, but she heard me not. She was deaf to my voice. She only moved uneasily and passed her hand over her head as one in a dream, and then slowly and sadly she went away.
“I strove with all my might to follow her. In vain, I could go but a few yards from the grave and my earthly body, and I saw why. A chain as of dark silk thread –it seemed no thicker than a spider’s web—held me to my body; no power of mine could break it; as I moved it stretched like elastic, but always drew me back again. Worst of all I began now to be conscious of feeling the corruption of that decaying body affecting my spirit, as a limb that has become poisoned affects with suffering the whole body on earth, and a fresh horror filled my soul.
“Then a voice of some majestic being spoke to me in the darkness, and said: ‘You loved that body more than your soul. Watch it now as it turned to dust and know what it was that you worshipped, and ministered and clung to. Know how perishable it was, how vile it has become, and look upon your spirit body and see how you have starved and cramped and neglected it for the sake of enjoyment of earthly body…I looked and beheld myself. As in a mirror held up before me, I saw myself. Oh, horror! It was beyond doubt myself, but, oh! So awfully changed, so vile, so full of baseness did I appear so repulsive in every feature.”
What do we take away from this experience? Every human being will experience the immediate beyond differently from the other person after passing on in accordance with his volition and emphasis on life which takes on ethereal form in the Beyond. The experience of Franchezzo, a typical good man in the reckoning of many, was borne out of his belief that everything ended with death! Consequently his etheric organs could not be brought to activity and the thread connecting his body with the soul became dense and to the decaying and disintegrating body. Because the ethereal world is lighter his weaknesses, unedifying thinking and passion showed on the garment of his soul and held him down. It is revealed in higher knowledge that this is fate that befalls many souls that have departed. When they are set free, detached from their bodies, the level to which each sinks is determined by the degree of his density in accordance with the Law of Spiritual Gravitation. The Lord says: “Thou shall not get out of thence until thou have paid the last farthing!”
Next week: Concepts and the Beyond; Kwara and Hijab controversy.