Archive for March, 2012


wole soyinka

BEATIFICATION OF AREA BOY by Wole Soyinka

On first hearing about this book, my thought was that how can area boys be beautified? But on reading the book my question was answered satisfactorily. This play is a different perception of the street urchins otherwise known as ‘area boys’ in Nigeria. Generally the society views them as a group of no-gooders, thieves, pranksters and miscreants but Soyinka portrays them here as a set of people who are as responsible as the next person and are only busy going about the business of survival.

The play which has its setting in Lagos, Nigeria centres around a syndicate headed by Sanda. Sanda is a University dropout who is quite smart and has the ability to think fast on his feet. He works as a security guard in a shopping complex from where he can source for potential clients for his group. The group members are not just criminals because we see them engaged in various trades. Sanda is portrayed here as a benevolent man and a freedom fighter of some sorts as portrayed by his denigrating songs about the military government which was in power then.

Then comes Miseyi, a former University colleague of Sanda, who was first shocked and disgusted on seeing Sanda at his security job post and was quick to condemn him. On getting to know the reason behind it though, she gladly joined forces with him. Miseyi later shunned her fiancé to marry Sanda on her wedding night to top official in government.

Another character of interest is Judge, a mentally disturbed man really but who had once been a Lawyer. He can be referred to as a cat with nine lives, because he had two brushes with death in a day but escaped luckily. He came to the realisation that justice was not won through the law but through the paths of mercy.

‘Mama put’, a local food seller, was also an interesting cast. She was a mother of one, who lost her husband in the civil war and watched while her brother was killed for her sake. She didn’t allow this drag her down but rather came to Lagos to make ends meet.

The play touched on some delicate matters such as the abuse of power by the military administration, oppression, poverty, fear, hope, and love. The play is also full of witty sayings and outrageous songs which expressed Soyinka’s discontent with the military administration.

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imagine

IMAGINE THIS by Sade Adeniran

‘Imagine this’ is the diary account of Omolola Ogunwole, a young girl who started writing a diary from the age of nine. Her diary which she named ‘Jupiter’ was a constant companion to her when she was uprooted from familiar surroundings to an unfriendly one where no one understood her. It chronicles ten years of her life

Omolola and her brother Adebola were born in London to Nigerian parents; they had to grow up with foster parents because their mother left eighteen months after Omolola was born and their father could not take proper care of them. They were brought to Nigeria when their father was in danger of losing them and lived together as a family for a while before their father decided that they should be raised by his relatives. As a result Adebola went to live with the father’s brother Uncle Joseph in Ado Ekiti and Omlolola was taken to Idogun to live with the father’s sister, Iya Rotimi. This move was traumatic for Omolola because Idogun was a village and did not have any of the amenities she was used to, no one understood her English and she did not understand them either. Furthermore Iya Rotimi and her children took a great dislike to her and she was wrongly accused of stealing so many times and sometimes left to go hungry. She was later made to go stay with her grandmother, still in the same village, when her father found out about the way she was treated. Life with her grandmother was no better and she went hungry more times than she had food to eat. She was forever looking for a way to go back to stay with her father and when all her pleas fell on deaf ears she got involved in so many pranks in school just so she could be expelled but none of her ploys worked.

Her brother Adebola had to die before she got her wish. When this happened her father mellowed and allowed her come back to live with him in Lagos. Her brother’s death was so traumatic for her because he was the only one she really cared about and he was the one she could talk to that understood her. When she was still mourning her brother, her father got married to a woman who already had two kids. One day an altercation occurred between her and one of her stepsisters and this got made her father angry and he sent her back to her grandmother in Idogun. She was back to square one and this time around she got into serious trouble in school which made the principal expel her so she could not write her final exams. Just when she thought all was lost and she was going to waste away in the village, help came through one of her Uncles, Uncle Jacob who took her to Lagos to stay with him. She enrolled to write her final exams but failed and because Uncle Jacob’s wife did not like her she chased her away the first chance she got. Next she went to live with her favourite Uncle, Uncle Niyi whose wife did not like her either and this made living with them very difficult for her. All through this her father did not search for her or even cared that she was staying in the same city with him and it took Uncle Niyi losing his job before she was reconciled to her father. ‘It takes a village to raise a child’, that was the reason he gave for making her go through all the hardship she went through. Of course at this time she had lost all love, trust or affection she had or her father but she only moved back with him because she had no choice. Unfortunately, her father was murdered before he could mend the gap between them and she finally went back to London.

‘Imagine this’ addresses some of the dangers faced by children who are forced to live with relatives as seen in the negligence by Uncle Joseph which led to Adebola’s death and the sexual harassment Omolola suffered at the hands of Uncle Niyi. All in all it’s a good book which tells of the resilience of the human spirit and its end leaves the reader begging for more.

diaries

Life in the village could be fun and idyllic but it also could be frustrating and disastrous. It has a way of shaping people’s lives and putting them in a race to continually justify themselves. Such was the effect the village had on the Jumais. The Jumais’ were a family of four: father, mother and two sons. They had always been poor and this book tells the story of how rumours, envy and caring about what others said influenced the way they lived their lives.

The father Meme Jumai, was 49years and had nothing to show for his near five decades on earth. Despite the fact that that he had some form of education, he chose to be a farmer in the village. His wife Stella, who married him simply to spite another man, stayed with him for twenty five years before deciding that enough was enough and left him, taking along most of the yam harvest for the previous year. The two sons left not quite long after their mother. This left Meme Jumai alone with just three tubers of yam for his sustenance till the next harvest which was in two weeks time. His diary told of his daily battle with hunger and the desperate measures he took to fight it. He got to a point he had to go and beg three people for food but they refused him. The diary also told us how he felt about not been able to provide for his family and his feelings about what the villagers thought of him

When the much awaited harvest came it was a calamity, as beetles and termites had destroyed the yams. All along Meme Jumai had been hanging on the hope that his hunger will soon be over and when this disaster happened he took the laws into his hands and went on a shooting rampage, killing three men and injuring another. These were people he had earlier gone to beg for food and the fourth had been peddling rumours about him. This incited the villagers and he was burnt to death.

Enter Calamatus, the last son who was a conman. He was the one the Igwe, the head of the village, sent for to come and bury the remains of his father. He got money by playing a fast one on Billy Barber, an American who thought he was in a legitimate business with an honest person. Calamatus had money which had always been a scarce in the Jumai family and he set about spending the money in a way to show the villagers that the Jumai’s should not be associated with poverty anymore. Calamatus blamed his father for his unnecessary pride because he believed this was what led to his death not the villagers burning.

Despite his affluence, Calamatus was bitter because he was impotent. This he learnt was the fault of the midwife who circumcised him, and since then he had held a grudge against the midwife and sworn to kill her whenever he discovered her identity. He got his wish when Barika, the man who was lucky not to have died from his father’s shot disgraced him in front of the whole village when he mentioned his impotency. Calamatus knew he could only have knowledge of this if it was his wife, who was a midwife that was involved in his circumcision accident. He burnt down Barika’s supermarket in which the Barikas lost their lives and he also died.

The next diary is Abel’s, the first son, who because of the lie his father told about him could not live in the village. He was a writer who had to resort to writing political pieces to make ends meet since all his manuscripts were always sent back to him unpublished. He despised his father because it was the rumours being peddled about him that made Abel’s- to- be in-laws refused him from marrying their daughter; and mainly because his father stayed married to his mother despite her infidelity. Abel was determined to live past his father who died at 49 and his brother who died at 25 but this almost became impossible when his neighbour shot himself dead in his room and co-tenants were ready to burn him alive.

Despite the seriousness of the character’s situations, the author told this story with lots of funny proverbs, and rib cracking sayings which leaves  the reader laughing from page to page.

everything

Set in the city of Lagos, Nigeria, Everything good will come is an account of Enitan, an only child of a Lawyer father and a fanatic mother who turned to religion as a means of escape instead of dealing with her marital problems. Enitan was a spoilt child who lived a sheltered life and was only exposed to another perspective of the world because of her friendship with Sheri. Sheri was a vivacious and quite daring girl from a polygamous home. She was also the first in her family and therefore had quite a big shoe to fill when her father died and she had to work with her stepmothers in order to keep the family together.

Enitan’s parents had to get a divorce and this put a strain on her relationship with her mother because she loved her father more and her mother was always trying to put her in-between their quarrels.

Enitan had her University education out of the country and on coming back to Nigeria already had a readymade job waiting for her in her father’s firm. In this vein Enitan was portrayed as a girl that never really had to bother her head about many things. When Sheri was trying to make ends meet by allowing herself be a kept woman and when she later started her own catering business Enitan was living the charmed life.

She was a strong willed woman who was of the opinion that men were domineering, self centered, overbearing and expected women to be submissive, attentive and perform all what they are supposed to regardless of their feelings and that the society expected the same of you. This put a big strain in her marriage because she refused to be subjected the role of the quiet, submissive wife who wouldn’t dare argue with her husband’s decisions. On an occasion when her father was arrested because he dared to speak against the government and people came to sympathize with her, she was totally aghast when her mother in law expected her to still entertain the guests because according to her she was the one in grief and she could not be expected to entertain.

The two daring decisions she made in this book that at least showed her in a different light apart from the spoilt brat that she really is was when she decided to join forces with other women in speaking out against the government while she was pregnant and which her husband clearly forbade her to do, and also eventually leaving her husband just after she gave birth because of this same reason of her husband’s forbidding her to do what she wanted to do.

Sefi Atta in this book left the choice in the hands of the women, whether she wants to be the submissive wife and mother that our mother’s taught us to be or whether she wants to be the modern contemporary woman who would do whatever it takes to pursue her dreams not minding if her marriage has to suffer the consequences.

As much as I would say I love this daringness, I’ll also say that the picture she painted could only exist in books at least as far as African women are concerned.

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