Wednesday, November 30, 2011

121. The Imported Ghanaian by Alba Kunadu Sumprim

Title: The Imported Ghanaian
Author: Alba Kunadu Sumprim
Illustrator: Alba Kunadu Sumprim
Genre: Non-Fiction/Satire
Publishers: Marvik
Pages: 264
Year of First Publication: 2006
Country: Ghana

This book was supposed to be reviewed within the Ghana Literature Week hosted by Kinna. However, I had to defer it.

Alba Kunadu Sumprin's book is a difficult book that provides an unapologetic and scathing look at some supposed Ghanaian eccentricities and foibles. How much the issues discussed are a general Ghanaian problem and how prevalent they are to merit such generalisation is what need to be discussed not whether they occur or not. However, there are certain things that must be cleared before I discuss this book:
  1. If you are a man be careful when reading this. According to the author, almost all the things she discussed are caused by men. Even when she was discussing the problems of women, she found ways of making their problems male.
  2. The author placed herself on some high pedestal of morality, civility and knowledge and Ghanaians in a box of 'badly nurtured, ignorant, undisciplined zombies' who have not yet come out of the eolithic age.
  3. The author makes everything she saw, read or was told look inferior to the mannerisms she has acquired in UK, where she was born and raised.  
Thus, as a Ghanaian male forgive me if I tend to be defensive instead of discussing this book. This book is the antitheses of both of Kofi Akpabli's books. 

To begin with, it would be deceitful to say that none of what has been discussed by the author is alien to Ghana. It is not. In fact they do occur and I have personally witnessed or being a victim of some of them. However, where I disagree with the author - the author herself states that she doesn't expect the reader to agree or believe everything she has written - is her penchant to generalise.

The book opens with a list of 20 Things You Need to Know and each begins with 'Ghanaians ...'. First on this list of was:
First and foremost, Ghanaians know everything and are always right. If you try to tell or show the Ghanaian something or a better way of doing things, then you are too known, and they are not going to listen to you.
I guess, the Ghanaian has never been to school or learnt a vocation. If the Ghanaian has then I wonder how they learnt from their teachers or masters. It is wonderful that by accusing Ghanaians of knowing everything and being always right, the author herself exhibited this trait by condemning everything - at least those in the book - she saw or experienced and prescribing what should be done instead. She knows the correct way Ghanaians should dress and the proper body-weight they should have. In the latter, I don't know if Ghana is an obese country compared to the UK or Europe, where governments spend more on obese-related health issues than any other. 

The author does not understand why Ghanaians would ask you 'are you sure?' after you have provided them with an information (and note that this never occurs in a formal setting; it's always between friends). I have never travelled anywhere or as extensive as the author, but I guess each country has its own such 'unique' words or phrases they use, which to the uninitiated ears doesn't sound right. Having lived in Ghana all my life, I never take offense to this. The questioner is not doubting your integrity, he or she wants confirmation. And this is not a matter of semantics. Recently, a guy had to come to my office for something. He called to say he was there and I asked if he was sure he was there. Why? because I was in the office, had even come out of the building but he wasn't around.

Perhaps experiencing some form of culture shock, Alba decided to put down her experiences as a freshly arrived Ghanaian. She describes Ghanaians as individualistic but pretending to love the communalism. She says when the Ghanaian says you are invited (to his or her food), you're really not invited and she experimented this with a MAN who later looked shocked that his food was really going to be shared. I was also shock because unless the author is telepathic, something she accused Ghanaians of in one of the chapters, she could not have known why the man was shocked. I have friends who will not wait to be asked before they join in my food. And I do same to them. If one has worked in the rural areas one would know that the first code of ethics in working in such places is that 'do not refuse anything you are given' and these are the most poor people you will meet in Ghana. They can surprise you with the gift they will give you. In fact, some years back people prepared more food they can eat and keep some in expectation of a visitor: family or otherwise.

Then there is the issue of the εnyε hwee  (literally, it is not anything, just stop) phrase which she used to explain most of the topics she discussed. This phrase or statement is used to calm down tempers and resolve problems. Here one of the parties, especially the aggrieved one is made to drop the issue at hand and forget about it. And this is what the author vehemently spoke against. She would want to educate the perpetrator of the effect of what he or she had done or nearly did to her. Why should people tell her to drop the issue? This also leads to why several street arguments do not degenerate into fist-fights; why someone will just pop up and utter the "εnyε hwee" phrase to whittle tempers, and she doesn't understand this. I was partly surprised by this notion; partly, because for one who is describing Ghanaians as having a Neanderthal behaviour to prescribe the reenactment of William Golding's Lord of the Flies as a way of resolving problems is shocking. Perhaps it is this attitude, despised by the author, that has kept the country together, have prevented all our elections from descending into civil conflicts, though we have been to the brink on many occasions. On the other hand, I think we, as Ghanaians, need to stop being bias towards these foreigners who parade our streets and should insist on the right thing as the author wants. But to fight to get there? No.

She describes how people spits about, urinate and ease themselves anywhere they get to, dig into their noses, and most of these are men's behaviour. However, had the author not been told that the buta (a kettle-like plastic container) that Muslim carry contains water, she thought it was a urine container they carry with them. Is this not a clear example of misconception and misconstruing of people's way of living? 

Under Wires Crossed she discussed how Ghanaians respond to questions. In asking a driver's assistant (popularly referred to as Mate) whether the trotro (public bus transport) will pass through Achimota, the mate responded that he doesn't have coins. And here the author was worried. She needed a yes or no answer. But hasn't the mate responded and added a condition? I would have jumped onto it because subtly the mate had said yes, but she shouldn't get on board if all she has are bigger notes as he has no smaller notes to be used as change. And this is the reason I refer to some of her experiences as ordinary culture shock. Again, it is not good to pretend that everybody speaks or understands English especially the kind which comes with the American or British accent, no matter how the words are enunciated.

There is also the discussion of Ghanaians making other people's business their business. I laughed when I read this. This is what most Ghanaians who have lived abroad (abroad meaning North America and Europe) will tell you they miss the most about Ghana. According to them, the stress and lifestyle of living in such countries makes impossible to share their problems with others. Here in Ghana you can strike a conversation with an unknown stranger and before you are aware he or she has shared with you all her family problems. The Guardian reported of Joyce Carol Vincent, a socialite young woman who died (on her bed) and was undiscovered for three years. Soon after discovery, the British behaviour of keeping to themselves became the topic of discussion. Is this the route the author wants us to take? Well, what I know is that this will never happen in the place I live in Ghana, though it will happen in residential areas.

The author described a situation where people gawked at her because she was wearing an afro-wig and here I was shocked because wig-wearing is not new, afro-wig included. This chapter antagonised other chapters in the section; for whereas the author wanted people to accept the fact that wearing afro wig was alright, which I know most Ghanaians already know, she also went on to complain about how poor Ghanaian women dress in terms of their hair and nails. 

Not even beauty contests escaped Alba's lens. And like most of the topics she managed to make it a male one:
Previously, I'd been against the idea of beauty pageants, considering them to be mere cattle markets for attractive skinny women to parade their skinny butts in front of salivating members of the male species.
Whether she is discussing the giving of chop money (upkeep money) or cat fight (where she discussed women fighting over a 'short' man - I don't know if the author is averse to short men) she made them male problems and accused them for being the cause.

If there is something that this book does, it is generalisations. It treats Ghanaians as a brainless, mannerless, amorphous group whose thinking and actions are backward; perhaps, the author's use of Neanderthals and Stone age show her perspectives and views. Consider this statement:
When it comes to customer services, Ghana is still somewhere in the Stone Age. Restaurants, chop bars, shops, renting property, utilities services, communications, you name it, the moment Ghanaians get thrown into the equation, expect the fun and games to being. [Part VII, Customer Services]
I will reiterate that the Ghanaian can be found in almost all of the topics mentioned: for instance who has not complained of the numerous feet-stomping, hands-clapping, microphone-bursting churches in their environs, or the speedily waltzing trotro and its ear-splitting fuzzy radios, or some of the poor music coming out these days. But do they merit the broad paintbrush treatment? The way it has been presented, it is akin to me saying that all Americans or Europeans are nudists when I see one nude walking the streets or that they are all serial killers when I read of one in the newspapers.

Perhaps, it is Alba's writing style in being judgmental whilst generalising that makes people take offense to these scathing issues. Who knows? she might be able to change one or two people with her straightforwardness. And there are those who minces no words in getting themselves heard. Or perhaps I am one of those Ghanaians afraid of taking responsibility, who always think they are right and who get angry when their country is being described as such. It should, however, be noted that there are several humorous descriptions in the book that one will enjoy. I couldn't help but laugh at some of Alba's descriptions of her experiences and observations. I will end with a list of some of her generalisations:
  1. Ghanaians don't like taking responsibility for anything;
  2. Ghanaians are always right
  3. Ghanaians know everything
  4. Ghanaian logic is very simple; whatever the Ghanaian does is logical because Ghanaians are doing it
  5. The Ghanaian male was created solely for entertainment
  6. Just like their men, Ghanaian women are also an interesting case study
About Author: Alba Kunadu Sumprim was born in London. She has been writing for as long as she can remember and regularly flips through, with a wry smile, the stacks of notebooks that contain what can only be described as the melodrama of her teenage years. She graduated from the Cuban film school and earns her living writing radio dramas, screenplays and weekly social commentary column in The Daily Dispatch newspaper. She lives in Accra, where she is regularly accused of being Senegalese, Malian, Ivorian, Liberia or Zimbabwean, in fact, any other nationality but Ghanaian. She is adamant that she is just as Ghanaian as any other ... though imported. (Source: The Imported Ghanaian) Visit the author here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

120. Butterfly Dreams by Beatrice Lamwaka

Butterfly Dreams was shortlisted for the 12th Caine Prize for African Writing Prize in 2011. It was part of the crime anthology 'Bad Company' published by Pan Macmillan SA in 2008. It has also been included in the Caine Prize for African Writing 2011 anthology To See the Mountain and other stories.
Beatrice Lamwaka's story is a sad one. It is a story that represents the true story of many children caught in the unending conflict between the Lord's Resistance Army and the Uganda government in northern Uganda. This conflict has left in its wake many rape victims and child soldiers. And those who escape from their abductors are left traumatised, needing rehabilitation.

It is within this setting that Lamwaka's story is set and told and eleven-year old Lamunu is one of such children. Like all children Lamunu also had a dream, a dream to become a medical doctor and take her mother's profession a step higher. Consequently, she loved to learn. She loved books and would brace everything to be there including news of abduction that would lead teachers and other pupils locked in their homes. Unfortunately, one evening the rebels invaded the village of Akololum and amongst those abducted was Lamunu. 

From the story we see that though she had been able to escape from her abductors after four years in captivity, Lamunu suffers from post-abduction disorder. She refuses to talk to anyone and reacts badly to any booming sound of a passing plane and helicopter. However, the narrator drops pieces of information regarding what Lamunu have done and what have been done to her whilst in captivity. For instance, we get to know that she was forced, together with others, to beat a girl who tried to escape to death. Again, by mentioning the names of people who have gone through similar experiences we find that Lamunu's experience is not unique; it's almost become the norm.

Another angle to the story is the effect of the conflict on the life of the people: the once vibrant village of Akololum had been turned into a camp and the farmers, including Lamunu's father, who could in pre-war days feed their family to excess, now have to depend on donations and hand-outs from Non-Governmental Organisations and on food which they used to give to their dogs. In some way the story also shows resilience in the face of adversity; for Lamunu, after spending her youthful life in captivity, still kept her focus on her dream of becoming a medical doctor, enrolling in school again. Emotions have been bottled up, each person afraid of raising or asking a question that would open healing wounds. Yet, the urge to know more was high. The fear and anxiety could actually be felt off the pages.

Written in the second person addressing the protagonist, the story could have taken place entirely in the narrator's mind or it could have been epistolary, though the latter is not supported by the facts presented. And it is this writing style that brings to the story its weaknesses, in addition to it being part of the usual story of Africa. For instance, though it almost sounded as if the narrator did not know what the protagonist might have done or gone through, because she was non-communicative, there were places where she actually described some of these. Besides, there were shifts in focus from the suffering mother and coping family to Lamunu attempting to fit in. And again the second person did not seem to work at many places. The tense, past or present, was difficult to pin down. Then the story itself: it is not unique. It is about abductions, child soldiers, rebels, camps, NGOs and more and these are portrayed, more grisly, on our Televisions.

The story can be downloaded here.
About the Author: Beatrice Lamwaka is a teacher and writer. She graduated from Makerere University with BA (ED) Literature and English Language Studies. Her published works include "Vengeance of the Gods," a short story Published in ‘Words From A Granary’ An anthology by Ugandan Women Writers. ’Queen of tobacco’ Gowanus Books. Her poems have been published in various anthologies. She is one of the pioneers of a British Council writing scheme to link Ugandan writers with established writers in the UK. She is a member of Transcend Art And Peace (TAP) an organisation that supports creativity and art in working for peace. She is also a member Of Uganda Women Writers Association. Her Novella ‘Anena’s Victory’ is awaiting publication with Fountain Publishers. She is currently working on her first novel ‘Second Home’. She works with Uganda Bureau of statistics. (Source)

ImageNations Rating: 3.0/6.0

Monday, November 28, 2011

Proverb Monday, #50

Proverb: "Nim-nim" nnim.
Meaning: "Knows all", knows nothing.
Context: If you pride yourself on your wisdom, it is a sign of ignorance.
No. 4388 in Bu me Bε by Peggy Appiah et al.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Quotes for Friday from Benjamin Kwakye's The Other Crucifix

The elders say that the foreigner never carries the head of the casket. [16]

[H]ome is where you go knowing that no matter what happens to you, no matter what others might think of you, you will be loved. Period. No ifs or buts. This is where he spirit feels most comfortable, most restful and most at ease. [17]

Culture shock? That was to be asked at the end of my stay, for the shock, if any, of being exposed to a new culture isn't to be measured in days or weeks or even months, but by the depth of many years accumulated, tasted, tested, weighted, felt, loved, rejected, hated, accepted. [26]

Here, there was a distance that I couldn't define, and perhaps it was, like air, not definable in its infinite qualities. [32]

My imagined seduction stayed imaginary - mind proposes, reality disposes. [43]

In our earlier days together, the passion was too hot to suffer these gestures, but in the ebbed heat, when lust plateaus, I became vulnerable. [92]

There could be no bridge between the unlinked unless someone built it. But who would lay the first brick of the foundation? Sometimes an extraordinarily farsighted person does. Sometimes, though, the river must overflow, boiling red, before the first brick is laid. [102]

I wanted to know her, make her familiar like the insides of my eyelids. [136]

When it exists, love between husband and wife is intense, but the love between parent and child is indescribable, transcending transcendence itself. [158]

I could reconcile myself to failure, but I couldn't reconcile myself to failing her. [159]

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Book Reading with G.A. Agambila, Author of Journey, a Novel

In our last reading for the year 2011, we will feature Dr Gheysika Adombire Agambila, author of the novel, “Journey”.
Gheysika Adombire Agambila was born in Bolgatanga, and was educated in Ghana and the USA, where he had his BA from Brandeis University, an MBA from the University of Rochester, and Ph.D from New York University. Dr Agambila  has worked with Ernst and Young, taught at the University of Ghana Business School, and served as a Deputy Minister of State in the  Ministries of Finance and Economic Planning, Harbours and Railways, and Environment and Science.
He also has to his credit a collection of short stories for children, “Solma: Tales from from Northern Ghana”.
Dr Agambila will read from the novel, “Journey”, described by reviewer Kari Dako as “…an absorbing exploration of reality in contemporary Ghana…” and by A Denkabe as  “… a fine novel, written in a sober yet often moving style, and rich in the way it reflects the Ghanaian post-colony.”
“Journey” is published by Sub-Saharan Publishers and is available in bookshops across Ghana and also online at
This event offers the opportunity to meet and interact with G A Agmabila. There will be a short discussion session after the readings. Copies of the book will be on sale.
This monthly reading series is organised in collaboration with the Goethe Institute, Accra.
Date: Wednesday, 30th November
Time 7:00pm – 8:00pm. 
Location: Goethe-Institut Accra, 30 Kakramadu Road, (next to NAFTI ), Cantonments, Accra. 
Admission is free.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Proverb Monday, #49

Proverb: Wonnim asa a, na wose atwene nyε dε.
Meaning: If you don't know how to dance, you would say the drums (beats) aren't interesting.
Context: Sour grapes
No. 4383 in Bu me Bε by Peggy Appiah et al.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Quotes for Friday from Nii Ayikwei Parkes' Tail of the Blue Bird

If you look you will see that whatever happens the birds will sing their song. [1]

The ancestors say that the truth is short but, sεbi, when the tale is bad, then even the truth stretches like a toad run over by a car on those new roads they are are building. [2]

Ei, the elders say that news is as restless as a bird [5]

And when fear catches you, it returns you to screaming, your first language. [7]

I wanted to tell him that you do not light a fire under a fruit-bearing tree, but these young people think they invented knowledge so I ignored him. [9]

[R]emember that the monkey was eating long before the farmer was born . [9]

And I tell them that it is not just about beauty because beauty doesn't pay debts. But do they listen? [13]

He couldn't accept, as his grandfather's fellow had, that it was meant to be. His grandfather's life was not sunset, some light that went out whether you liked it or not. [32]

That is why they say that the way the crab lives by the stream makes it understand the ways of water. [66]

As the wise ones say it is not a name that changes the nature of an animal. [67]

The simple black and orange batik cloth she had wrapped over her breast was amplified halfway down her body by her hips, which swung with the casual ease of a hypnotist's pendant. [99]

It is no mystery that when something leaves your hand, grief can take its place; it is the same way that rain takes the place of clouds. What we cannot understand is how heavy the rain can be. [100]

The wise ones say that everything in this world is like sleep; it comes and goes. It is so with happiness and madness. [103]

[T]he brave man displays his courage and strength on the battlefield, not at home. [107]

[W]hen one starts on the path to evil good counsel sounds like a joke. [130]

They say nothing is other than what you see, but it is also true that nothing is other than what you don't see. [168] 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

119. Tickling the Ghanaian - Encounters with Contemporary Culture by Kofi Akpabli

Title: Tickling the Ghanaian - Encounters with Contemporary Culture
Author: Kofi Akpabli
Genre: Non-Fiction/Contemporary Culture
Publishers: TREC
Pages: 142
Year of First Publication: 2011
Country: Ghana

Kofi Akpabli is a creative writer I have come to admire. His is a journalism completely circumscribed by the field of Creative Writing. His style, of combining keen observation, difficult questions and mirthful writing, makes him unique in this expansive field of words, sentences and descriptions; a field where most practitioners resort to sensationalism, outright lies, and trivialisation, stretching an already suspicious occupation to its negative extremum, to grab people's attention and glean some fame for themselves. Such is the shitload on discerning ears that some, having exceeded their elastic limit, have tuned out from radio, permanently. To such individuals, Akpabli's writing has come as a relief. For having gone through the proverbial mill, Kofi Akpabli's method is refined. His dedication to his craft has been appreciated by winning, on two consecutive occasions, the CNN/Multichoice African Journalist for Arts and Culture - the first person to do so. 

Whereas Akpabli's first book A Sense of Savannah grew from his travels - mostly through northern Ghana - Tickling the Ghanaian is a compilation of thirteen published articles including The Serious Business of Soup in Ghana and What is Right with Akpeteshie, which won him the 2010 and 2011 awards respectively.

From How Cloths tickle the Ghanaian to This is the Way we say Goodbye, Kofi presents in this book articles which take an infinite look at the multi-dimensionalities of contemporary Ghanaian culture; contemporary, in that some of what is discussed are leftovers from colonisation - those that we imbibed, localised and refused to grant independence to or decolonise both at the peak of our furor and euphoria for independence. With themes on Christmas reminiscences, the vanishing taste of food, food shunned and loved, fashion, drinks, funerals and bargaining, Kofi takes us on a tour of Ghana's cultural idiosyncrasies. He looks at every topic exhaustively.

The book opens with How Cloths tickle the Ghanaian. Here the history, types, functions and sources of cloths and how certain kinds of cloths, especially those coming from Holland (like Vlisco/Dumas) have come to signify class and status in the society are detailedly discussed. Whether discussing the childhood uses of cloths, its social (among the citizenry) and traditional (between the citizenry and the chieftain) status, its use in traditional dances, like agbadza, or any of its numerous uses, Kofi weaves wit, knowledge, and love into each line providing the reader with a sense of satisfaction that only comes from reading a well-researched piece. In one of such various functions of the cloth among the Ewes (these are group of people to be found mainly in the Volta Region of Ghana and spreads through Togo and parts of Benin) Kofi writes
Among the Ewe people, the sleeping cloth is so important that it has a personality of its own. It even has a name, Zavor. Zavor simply means "night cloth" and it is the closest companion one could ever have in life. 
Over time, Zavor adopts one's personality. Indeed, few items hoard specimen of an individual's DNA like the night cloth) come on, what with all those body fluids). Among the boarding school boys and bachelors, Zavor has a special reputation for smelling bad. [18] 
In Ghanaman and the Rastaman the writer writes from experience when he had locks. He talks of how he was consistently thought to be a user of hemp and how people preferred to address him as belonging to the Rastafarian faith. The Serious Business of Soup in Ghana compares what Ghanaians refer to as soup and what is described as Soup in Europe and America. How soup could be drunk in a cup; how it could contain sugar and alcohol; how soup could be pepper-less, still bothers me. In this humorous description of Soup, Kofi writes
What is soup? Philosophically, soup is what makes the Ghanaian say "I haven't eaten all day" simply because all he or she has had did not contain a soup item. Soup is what makes people look forward to going home after a long day's work. Again, soup is what gingers up nostalgia for homely, far away places. Finally, soup (especially, when taken hot) is what helps critical minds to form opinion on serious issues. [32]
What more could one ask for? Yet, Kofi provided a detailed write-up on all the types and functions of soup interspersing it with titillating soup stories.

In The Rise of the Schnapps, Kofi investigates how this Dutch drink has risen to occupy a position that used to be the preserve of the local gin, akpeteshie; today at no traditional ceremony, be it naming ceremony, festivals, or engagement, can one not find Schnapps. Between Tinapa and Boflot - where did the old Taste go questions whether foods are losing their cherished tastes especially comparing old brands with the current bland brands.

Other issues investigated include the art of bargaining, which is a psychological warfare that could be studied under Game Theory. Here each player anticipates the other's move before he plays or makes his move.  Nash equilibrium is reached when both parties are satisfied with the outcome of their final moves, else there is no trade: the buyer getting value for his money and the seller too. Unlike in shopping malls,boutiques and other places where prices are fixed, the majority of trade in Ghana is governed by this art. Those who are well versed in this art always come out satisfied. This is discussed under the chapter heading Dongomi and Albarika - The Ghanaian Art of Bargaining. Here it is only right that I quote from Kofi's repertoire of humorous, yet truthful lines:
The Ghanaian's bargaining habit is also expressed at fetish consultations. Usually when a priest mentions the items needed to perform a ritual it is considered spiritually critical. Therefore, folks  do not subject it to common market-place negotiation.
However, there are times when the items demanded are simply impossible. For instance, a gourd, half-filled with the very first collection of late season rain, the egg shells of a maiden vulture and the midnight droppings of a pregnant elephant.
Because of the difficulty in obtaining these items, clients would manage a bargain of sort: "Errm, Mighty One, we have heard but; can you plead with your Honourable Deities to quantify everything in monetary terms?" [66]
The remaining topics include Things we do for Rings; The Truth about Fufu; Ghana vrs Naija - rubbing shoulders with a Giant; Batakari has spoken; Why Kokonte is facing the Wall; What is Right with Akpeteshie; and This is the way we say Goodbye. 

In What is Right with Akpeteshie, Kofi discusses the functions and origins of this local gin that has devastated so many homes and yet is one of the hottest commodities on the market. Though its effects - when taken in excess - are known, demand is high even if it has fallen from grace. People would love to hide or pretend to be not taking it. But it is the drink that has the heaviest repertoire of aliases. Whenever you hear blue kiosk you know there is a reference to this drink. Our reaction to this drink is similar to that of a local food kokonte which the author also discussed. But in Why Kokonte is facing the Wall, the author pointed out our hypocrisy with this food; a food that virtually saved Ghanaians from the massive famine the raged the country in the early 1980s, a food one would eat and sweat in a corner of his home but would swear he has never seen it before.

In the last title the author discusses how Ghanaians cherish funerals and how people go to all lengths to give their departed ones (loved or not) a befitting burial. It has become an industry on its own with different shapes and styles of coffin.

Throughout the book, Kofi treats the reader to insightful information and even when he seems not to be saying that 'let's be careful' he says it in a subtle way without sounding preachy and presenting the facts from both sides does the trick for him. With this style and delivery Kofi is set to go farther with his works.

This book is highly recommended. The reader is bound to learn a lot about Ghanaians, an aspect which would not be found in any text book about Ghana nor taught in any place of learning: higher or lower. What is in this book are the things that make Ghana, Ghana; the things that people associate with. In brief, this provides a sort of informal history of events and things of Ghana.

ASIDE: This book is similar in some thin respect to the one I am currently reading - Imported Ghanaian. What differs most is the approach, so that whereas Kofi looks at the more positive side, bringing out the fun and showing us we aren't that bad, the author of the current book takes a vitriolic take on Ghanaians and their behaviours.
About the author: Read about Kofi Akpabli here

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

118. The Other Crucifix by Benjamin Kwakye

Title: The Other Crucifix
Author: Benjamin Kwakye
Genre: Fiction/Identity/Immigration
Publishers: Ayebia-Clarke
Pages: 218
Year of First Publication: 2010
Country: Ghana

My first encounter with Benjamin Kwakye was through his first novel The Cloth of Nakedness. In that novel Kwakye used a proverb and a character to metaphorise the humorous nature and hierarchical structure of our existence or specifically of our way of living. Using tools within the society, he told of how manipulative the rich could be. 

Kwakye's third novel - I am yet to see a copy of his second book, The Sun by Night, on book stands - The Other Crucifix is a different kind of literary delight. It deals with identity, home, and freedom in an immigrant's life. He explores and expands every minutiae of life in an alien country. In doing so things that had always been taken for granted are held onto by such immigrants that letting go is tantamount to betrayal of the motherland: memories are held onto, or they are lost, together with the inner self. The setting of this book also provides contrasting feelings of identity and the characters and their background employed by the author also brought the issues he was tackling to the fore: are you an African because you are black? Is home where you choose or where you can identify with? Or is home where people look at you and see themselves in you? But what if you cannot speak the way they do?

Set in the early part of the 60s - after Ghana gained its independence from the British and African-Americans are still segregated against and women still had no remarkable rights and when the Civil Right movements were at their all-time peak - and into the 70s, The Other Crucifix tells the story of Jojo Badu and the struggles he went through as he left the borders of his country, Ghana, to seek higher education in the US. The story tells of his struggles against the established culture of racism, of negro-chanting, of severe discrimination, of alienation, of not-belonging and the culture shock he went through. Here Kwakye, through his exquisite and mature use and handling of language coupled with the first-person narrative form he chose, projected to the reader the internal struggles, the mental debate, the emotional dipoles Jojo Badu went through. He was able to make those emotions flow off the page into the reader.

Forgive the cliche, but the reader would love and hate Jojo in equal measure. He is unaware of what he wants and for most of the time he was selfish in his quest or betrayed a common cause. Specifically, one would say that he wanted to be accepted in unacceptable situations. He could not stand against the current but would also was also not eager to go with it. And as the writer intimated, Jojo Badu died several deaths; except, that he was always born anew with a different soul.

His first death was when the International Student Association voted to change the name of its house from Brewer to Castro because the former had owned slave. This caused a problem whose proportions went beyond the borders of the university for Castro stood for everything anti-American. After such grand problem, including the burning of a cross, the President of the University tasked the International Students Adviser, William Redford, to cause the International Students Association to change the name and issue an apology. Redford, himself eyeing the Dean of Students position, had early on courted the friendship of Jojo Badu by inviting him to his house. Thus, Jojo Badu was to become the perfect pawn to be used to effect the necessary changes after he was reminded that he was in the school
... because The University has been generous with its financial aid. Can The University continue to maintain such aid if the screws begin to tighten from Washington? And believe me, it will if nothing happens and this thing stands'. [61] 
Jojo's mind was made up after this. He would apply diplomacy to reverse this decision to continue to be a member of the university. He would later become the president of the said association after the voluntary resignation of its president, who afterwards lost all his initial verve to fight the cause of injustice. This kind of 'betrayal' was seen throughout Jojo's stay on campus and at several points he seemed ignorant or oblivious of the racial entanglement he was winding around himself. And this part of the story mirrors the several aids that developing countries receive with conditions attached to them be it social, cultural or political adjustment; the recent of such conditions being Cameron's threat to cut aid from African countries that do not accept homosexuality.

While Jojo responded to all these socio-political whirlwinds in his life, morphing gradually into an American, considering Marjorie - his girlfriend he left in Ghana - as a 'fat ass' something that is supposed to be disgusting, it was one major event, several thousands of miles away, that would define Jojo and make him seek refuge in an alien country where his skin colour makes him a second class citizen, deserving only the sloughs left behind by the first citizens of the land. Back in Ghana, his benefactor, whom he planned of working with should he come back to Ghana, had been killed. Uncle Kusi had been implicated for funding a group of individuals who had planned to overthrow Nkrumah's government. The coup failed and organisers were rounded up. He was said to have resisted arrest and was killed during the melee that ensued. This singular event completed the transformation process with Ghana sounding like the last echoes of a clanging metal.

Later, after school and without a diploma to show because he has financial obligations to settle with the university, he would go on to struggle for work but without the 'proper' colour a college degree amounts to nothing. Thus, Jojo Badu, irrespective of the fact that he completed among the top students in his class, settled for hay-stacking. He would marry to Fiona - a woman with as much history behind her as Jojo himself before proceeding to Law School with the intentions that Law School begets successful life. But the old demons would come revisiting: mounting debts from student loans plus student politics.

Perhaps to atone for his years of not standing up for anything at college, Jojo in Law School had spontaneously become emboldened after listening to: first, a lecture on racial discrimination in which the victim was described as a property and therefore having no right to sue his master and then, a first-hand account of the life of South African politician exiled in the US after the Sharpeville incident and of black South Africans in general. These two events turned Jojo into advocate of sorts and a tempestuous one at that. Here he was unfortunate to have assaulted the Dean of Students after he and three of his colleagues decided to submit a petition to the Law School to remove their investments from a government that did not uphold freedom and justice to all its citizens, after a hugely-attended demonstration. After the case was heard and his fear of expulsion did not materialise, Jojo and his friends were banned from any such activities on campus. And again, he was defeated.

This is a book of jaw-dropping analogies, of stupendous theories - Mechanic Instinct versus Earth Instinct - of inversions and parallelisms, and of humongous themes. Through his characters, Kwakye explored several levels on racialism apart from the usual black on white discrimination. He entered into the muddy waters of African-Americans and Africans and how an African whose speech leans away from his country of birth is considered a 'white man' and treated as such. He also treated the illusion of independence and how the verve suddenly died off. However, above all, Kwakye has written a book that seeps beautiful language. One cannot but appreciate his high acuity in the use of words. His tackling and description of human emotions, its evolution, eventual eruption, and devolution is superb. He takes the reader's heart through all the roller-coaster emotions the characters go through.

I purchased this book on November 25, 2010 and promised to read it for this year's Ghana Literature Week. I am happy to have gone by my word. Had I known what it entails, I might have read it earlier. It is worth it, especially if one has not read enough of an immigrant's story, as I have not. For those who have there is still much to be appreciated in Kwakye's delivery. His is a book of not just emotions but one that captures the politics of the world; of how at a time that Ghana had attained its independence, blacks in America, the land of liberty were still segregated and discriminated against at all levels, most especially in job search, of how women were still not part of the whole even though they were voting in Ghana. One thing I took from this book is that a deracialised American society is still in its infancy though greater achievements have been made.
About the author: Click here to read about the author. Kwakye's forthcoming book is The Legacy of Phantoms (Africa World Press, 2011).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

117. Tail of the Blue Bird by Nii Ayikwei Parkes

Title: Tail of the Blue Bird
Author: Nii Ayikwei Parkes
Genre: Fiction/Whodunit
Publishers: Jonathan Cape
Pages: 170
Year of First Publication: 2009
Country: Ghana

Tail of the Blue Bird by Nii Ayikwei Parkes is a whodunit of a unique kind. The story is about Kayo, a young forensic scientist who has arrived home after studies abroad to contribute to the development of his country. Having settled in, he realised that making it in this country is less a matter of what you have in your head than it is about knowing the right people and pressing the right buttons or greasing the right palms. Initially, with is profession as a forensic pathologist, he had applied to work for the police but was turned down. According to the police, a forensic pathologist is not their priority as current methods of 'interrogation' has worked and served them perfectly. Having resigned himself to working for the thrifty Mr Acquah, Kayo felt disappointed and underused. However, when a minister's girlfriend - visiting Sonokrom - came across an amorphous organic substance she suspected to be a leftover from a murder scene and after an initial attempt by nine police men and a pathologist to crack the case failed, a power-hungry police officer - whose eyes is on the position of the Inspector General of Police (the highest position attainable in the service, earned by political appointment only) began the search for Kayo. When the initial call to rope in Kayo to carry out his forensic investigation proved difficult because Mr Acquah wanted to charge of the said services even though it was not in his line of business, the police calmed him down with a secret of his. The way was then paved for Donkor, who sent his men to bring in Kayo. Blackmailed, coerced, threatened and tasked to bring in a CSI-style report on the case, Kayo set to work but the obstacles, the findings, the sheer weight of (mis)evidence and stories proved too much for science to unravel. Here is a science versus tradition case. Will Kayo's science save him or will tradition have its way? This is a multifaceted story with multiple dimensions and endings. 

Unlike the many African books I have read where authors provide glossary of words at the end of the book or where definitions of vernacular words and jargon are provided just after their use, Nii refrained from explaining, defining, expatiating all the vernacular words or jargon he used, leaving it to the interpretation of the non-Twi speaker. This style of his gave the impression, right or otherwise, that the book was written for the Ghanaian and made accessible to the world. My admiration of this also stems from the fact that when Kafka writes he writes not for Africans though his works are accessible. And even non-understanding of these words will not take the meaning away from the reader.

The story begins with Yaw Poku telling the story of his life. The language here is different. The English feels like it has been directly transliterated from Twi, especially when one reads 'We were at our somewhere when she came ...' and it is interspersed with a lot of Twi words. Even the chapters are labelled after the days of the week in Twi. This part of the narrative also had a lot of proverbs and reflects the way language and words are used in everyday Ghanaian life. To the Ghanaian and perhaps African, proverbs and analogies play an important role in language and communication; so that, instead of answering a question, an adept communicator will tell a parallel story - as Yaw Poku did - and the listener was expected to understand and find his own answers.

The second narrative or writing style is a point-of-view. Here Nii wrote from Kayo's point of view, following him with his camera zooming in and out, presenting his fears, his aspirations, his seeming failure and more. The language here is very different, though it shares with the first person narrative (Poku's narrative) a kind of fluidity in its read.  Being the main protagonist of the story, this writing style allowed us to explore the individual, Kayo, in a way that a first person narrative, which in itself could not be trusted, might not do. Here there is less use of Twi words too.

However, in tune with the happenings in the country, Nii Ayikwei Parkes was able to employ several of the major characteristics of contemporary culture such as songs in the realm of Hip Life - a new generation music genre that fuses West African Highlife beats with Hip Hop or Rap. Such traces of contemporary life brought the story alive making the Ghanaian reader identify with the unfolding events even if he has to suspend belief for awhile in order to swallow the final scenes of the story. More importantly, descriptions of landscapes, institutions, behaviours, and reactions were so exact and spot-on that at some point I thought I knew exactly where Sonokrom is, especially for those of us who have stayed at Tafo before. This feeling was enlivened when Sunrise FM, a Koforidua radio station, was mentioned.

Nii Ayikwei Parkes has written a book that, like Morrison's Beloved or the more conspicuously Song of Solomon, expands the borders of what is allowable, in African novels. He shows that even in a hut-and-thatch setting, which early in the story made me fear that this might be one of those calabash stories, there could be science and that the African character is not all poor and hungry but also has scientific tendencies, something a lot of contemporary writers are shying away from or are failing to point out. Yet like Ben Okri, though comparatively Nii's use of the surreal is mild, Nii has created a sub-genre that is solely his; for how many times will one encounter a forensic pathologist working in a village where traditions are upheld and having been rendered incapable acquiesce to it?

Again, both sides of the narrative bemoans loss and inefficiency. Whereas in Yaw Poku's world it is the the surge in rural-urban migrating depleting the village of its human resource such that its culture is dying off and traditional occupations like farming, herbal medicine and hunting are left without practitioners, in Kayo's world it is the corruption of the individual and institutions that is bemoaned. Yet there is a kind of symbiosis regarding the causes of the problem with the urban corruption and inefficiency drawing people from the rural areas.

One dimension of Nii's writing I loved most is his ability to involve the reader by not releasing all facts at a go. Sometimes sections begin as if the reader had been privy to some information required to understand what was currently being said. This implied or implicit sharing information makes the reader work his way into the heart of the story and becomes part of it and not necessarily a passive recipient of unfolding events. 

I purchased this book exactly a year ago and kept it for this moment. I have enjoyed this book very much and I therefore recommend it unreservedly. It is that book that should be read. Nii Ayikwei Parkes gives me hope that there is hope in Ghana's next generation of writers.
About the author: Early this year, precisely on March 22, I interviewed Nii Ayiwkei Parkes on ImageNations. Kindly click here for the said interview.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Proverb Monday, #48

This is my contribution to Kinna's Ghana Literature Week, Nov. 14 - 20, 2011.
Proverb: Wonnim nipa a, wo ne no nsi koso.
Meaning: If you don't know someone, you do not make a partnership with them.
No. 4381 in Bu me Bε by Peggy Appiah et al.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Quotes for Friday from Chinua Achebe's The Trouble with Nigeria

The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example with are the hallmarks of true leadership. [1]

One of the commonest manifestations of under-development is a tendency among the ruling elite to live in a world of make-believe and unrealistic expectations. This is the cargo cult mentality that anthropologists sometimes speak about - a belief by backward people that someday, without any exertion whatsoever on their own part, a fairy ship will dock in their harbour laden with every goody they have always dreamed of possessing. [9]

In spite of conventional opinion Nigeria has been less than fortunate in its leadership. A basic element of this misfortune is the seminal absence of intellectual rigour in the political thought of our founding fathers - a tendency to pious materialistic woolliness and self-centred pedestrianism. [11]

Spurious patriotism is one of the hallmarks of Nigeria's privileged classes whose generally unearned positions of sudden power and wealth must seem unreal even to themselves. To lay the ghost of their insecurity they talk patriotically. [16]

But whereas tribalism might win enough votes to install a reactionary jingoist in a tribal ghetto, the cult of mediocrity will bring the wheels of modernization grinding to a halt throughout the land. [20]

Unlucky is the country where indiscipline is seen by ordinary people as the prerogative of the high and might. For, by the same token, discipline will be seen as a penalty which the rank and file must pay for their powerlessness. [33]

My frank and honest opinion is that anybody who can say that corruption in Nigeria has not yet become alarming is either a fool, a crook or else does not live in this country. [37]
Read the review here.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

New Book: In The Midst Of Loafers by Omohan EBHODAGHE

Let Omohan Ebhodaghe introduce you to his book...
About the Author: Omohan Ebhodaghe was born in Lagos, Nigeria. He attended the universities of Benin and Lagos. He co-edited an anthology of poems and stories entitled Twenty Nigerian Writers: Portraits; and the author of Hightower. A former teacher, he was the 1993-4 publicity secretary of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Lagos State Chapter. He lives and works in London, courtesy of a British Council, Lagos office assistance. 

Focus: In terms of sheer size and quality, Spain has her own Don Quixote De La Mancha novel via Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra; Russia has her own War and Peace novel through Count Leo Tolstoy; India has her own A Suitable Boy novel as authored by Vikram Seth; and, now behold Nigeria with his own novel IN THE MIDST OF LOAFERS. And the upcoming PHOTOCOPIES & ORIGINAL.

The 945 page literary novel IN THE MIDST OF LOAFERS (Published by Chipmunka Publishing, UK, 2011is bifocal. With eight books of varied chapters in each, its first page opens In Medias Res “ Yet, you’re not one of our showbusiness pastors of the expressway church fame as Esiri want us to believe but alas an American-styled adjutant professor in bloom if you don’t know, “ page 30 UK edition, and thereafter the first four chapters centred attention, in flashbacks, on a group of religious and non-religious people who behave as each does and within or outside of the academic life of some of them on an imaginary university campus or so-called the Metropolitan University of Benin with campuses at Ekehuan and Ugbowo or the acronym MUB.

Written in a cinematic epic format, it uses the holistic approach in presenting the various issues raised in the novel and that included selfish human desires. Thus, it mixes dramatic actions with pragmatic realism with poetic wisdom as undertone. It also explores the historical development of a city, somewhere in West Africa from its early beginnings and speculates about the socio-political and aesthetic future of MUB and the state within the comity of nations.

The main storyline therefore runs through the main themes of madness and endurance and the main character Okoekpen Okonofua Junior, and what other characters gained from him or that they each lost to him.

Okoekpen Okonofua Junior, an undergraduate student at MUB is put against formidable obstacles in the home, at school, at the religious premises and the ordinarily perceived playgrounds of old Bendel state of Nigeria. At home he must face Omoakhuana. At school is Amadasun. Mo Debe Edegbe is for the church. And the playgrounds have to do with Ojame as a friend’s older cousin with a wounded ego. They claimed Okonofua was mad. Here also, we saw the exploration of his riotous relationship with the extroverted Ekaette.

Hence, Okonofua has to pass through these forces not only for his survival but also for his growth towards adulthood. Each character therefore wants what he Okoekpen already had initially as in Ekaette or would want to have as in formal education and or money. As a consequence, each became vicious, scheming and using willing folks to achieve their stated aims as in the unwittingly use of Mr Okonofua Senior by Omoakhuana at the home front and at the public arena Dr Okoroafor Agbamien by Amadasun among others.

The outcome in such incendiary activities is the conflicts not only of willpower but also of morality. Whoever is socially successful still has to contend with the seared conscience. Therefore Amadasun acquired his degree and lectureship; Edegbe gets the family properties and Ekaette as wife; Ojame gets the government parastatal job and social status; and, of course, his stepmother Omoakhuana secured her husband’s favour and the family wealth in trust for herself and offspring. Okonofua Junior, on the other hand, had the good life of a practical ethicist with poetic wisdom in a contemporary Benin city of chaos and corruption, as it were.

In conclusion, Okoekpen got what others lost and lost what others got. He lost Ekaette to Edegbe, family wealth to his stepmother, university lectureship to Amadasun and social status to Ojame. The others lost peace of mind, that is, the poignancy and wisdom to live a better, healthier life as only the person enjoying it can feel within himself or herself behind closed doors and this with a name that both preceded him and lasted.

The thematic thrust of the 945 page novel is madness as in pages 658, 661, 691, 718 and 762 of the literary fiction. It is bifocal, as in being particular and general. The primary readers are taught and research Ph D students or postdoctoral fellows; then those with a BA or BSc and MA or MSc and are intelligent; and, then, those with vocational qualifications who are naturally intellectuals as would other keen and discerning students at the formal university level. As a short term usage, it is especially useful to tourists, secondary school and college students as well as the general adult readers as a literary enthusiast.

The particular aspect of the bifocal overview of the literary novel is the quest of the lyrical personal or hero or protagonist Okoekpen Okonofua Junior that used the In Medias Res format in its first four chapters. Okoekpen in the Esan language of the people of Edo state in Nigeria means the child of peace. Okonofua is a white child, with connotative effects vis-à-vis the cosmology, aestheticism, moral philosophies, academic prowess, the anthropological and touristic possibilities of the Idunwele villagers of Ewu in Edo state of the older Bendel state. Set in a fictional university campus called the Metropolitan University of Benin or MUB, with names of other real universities placed side by side to create the effect of verisimilitude, other themes that engaged the author include literary, lesbianism, paedophilia, feminism, corruption, historical development of Edoland, linguistics, love, revenge, domestic family squabbles, self-reliance, spirituality, entrepreneurial efforts, deficiency in public infrastructure or utilities like water supplies, good roads, lack of housing estates, electricity power supply, serenity of Idunwele village life and social chaos.

If, when the novel IN THE MIDST OF LOAFERS is ready or published eventually, and you climbed up the descriptive or rather analytical passages from page one to one hundred that are the mountain Everest of the work, then, when at the summit, so as to come face to face with the eagle on mountain Everest, as it were, then you could relax and savour the juices that are the dialogues and characterization and this up to the end of the epic novel that is written in a cinematic form.  

  1. OKOEKPEN OKONOFUA JUNIOR, the lead character is a first son of Okonofua Senior as recreated in flashbacks and In Medias Res in the first four chapter format. 23 years old, he enters the Metropolitan university of Benin on his own effort. In a Benin society of a survivalist nature, rank and file individuals cheat in one form or another and yet lay flip flop accusations on others and wait for personal material progress or publicly acknowledged happiness that never arises. The facts from Omoakhuana or Ojame or Edegbe or Dr Agbamien he realised were utterly opposite to the truth that their actual negative actions inflicted on him. At the end, he experiences a final escape from the broad road, streets, avenues or footpaths of mankind with their confused layered claims to public goodness yet tread for that narrow road of eternal bliss reserved for one or two folks from each generation with a true sense of righteousness.  
  2. AMADASUN OGOMUDIA, 25 years, is the typical Edo opportunist who fought real and imaginary enemies in order to be featured in the media, for first positions in class, playgrounds or workplace, to be the person to secure the available plum jobs or monetary favours from foreign donors. A spy for his lecturers, he used everybody to achieve his goals.
  3. MO DEBE EDEGBE. Mo is Moses. A 36 years old junior civil servant of the old school of fawning and perpetual mental and social servitude to colonial ideals and who was on a four years leave to acquire a qualification necessary for social mobility in a corrupt Benin city civil service system, he is equally a church elder of the sect of the local Jehovah’s Witnesses whose brutality if crossed knew no equal.  
  4. AGBOGIDI OJAME EGUA, 32 years, is the inherently unqualified civil or public servant whose survival rested on using others qualifications, positions or name to feather his own nest. Thus, he is easily able to ruin any person who threatened his future.
  5. OMOAKHUANA OKONOFUA SENIOR, nee AFEGBUA, is a 42 years old second wife who at the office or marketplace came across more as a 28 years old waistline rolling, rumbling, wobbling or undulating akpoleyeke or a psychedelic Bini damsel in outlook. Her raunchy talk of explicit sexual nature does not deprive her from killing if possible her stepson in order to get the family wealth
  6. EKAETTE UDO. Also known as Akaette, the 24 years old. She is the face of the emerging Nigeria who aimed for the politically democratised freedom of north America while desperate to hold onto the traditional sense of respectability accorded women with formal academic qualifications, in top positions or wedded to public figures and elected figures. Yet, unlike in north America where a female has a choice to do good or refrain, in Benin city that human rights is unattainable when faced with satanic intents of men behind closed doors at homes, offices or hotels; a malignant social malaise amongst those with visible affluence and higher education and in which some women are willing participants as Ekaette wedded Mo Debe Edegbe or play leading roles in. Hence Ekaette’s double standards in her adopted Bendel state even as a medical student.
  7. DR FIDELIS OKOROAFOR  AIGBAMIEN, 45 years old, is a metaphor of the morally subhuman African elite with a doctorate who thrives only where social infrastructure were put in place by bricklayers, plumbers, electricians, roadside mechanics, seamstress as better role models of practical values that he loathed. With a former classmate and friend like Osime his return to the USA is a parasitic way of paradoxically reaping where he did not sow.  
  8. OMOGBAI AFUZE is that 28 years old personality with otherwise serious intents whilst in bed but who acted out as a joker who does the dirty biddings of other socially and economically better placed people in public without shame.   
UNCLE OKILO, 37, lean, stoic with a dopey-face kind of a book lover, he is that good-natured man like Jumobi or Adiza who is a churchgoer but with a private lifestyle that is of a better quality as an Ezon pragmatist, with a silent and reserved countenance to match. He entered MUB as an experienced adult

OBASOGIE ANSOWAN, a 41 years old male with a respectable traditional wife and three birth children back home, he is a bout of jokes with teenage undergraduates with foreign airs of make-belief sophistication yet he finds joy in rubbing minds with the same teenagers or young adults as domestic life contrasted sharply with the university air of freedom, liberty, material acquisition, cafes, staff clubs, glamour or student restaurants catering for wealthy and pretenders alike if the price is right

OGHENETEGA OTERI, the plain-looking 26 years old pharmacy student, in order to get friends or a semblance of it, fights other people’s wars while her domestic problems remain. A member of a religious sect, she plays the holier than thou role of a typical Isoko woman with a morally rotten past that she blames on parents and society solely.

ONOLENLEN IKPOBA-HILLS, 38 years, is a senior staff nurse whose office boss is ten times treated better than a legal husband of hers back home. With a desire to uphold a lifestyle of drugs, parties or sexual escapades begun in junior secondary school, she finds a soul mate in Omoakhuana and other schoolteachers as crude feminists.

OKPOME MALAIKA OHUAN-SHOKPEKA is a 19 and half years old who grew up in the wild wild west suburb of Idumota in Lagos and so hardened for life. Once a squatter with Ekaette, Mo Debe Edegbe used her as an informant whose corrupting ways within their Pentecostal church would then be condone if she does the bidding of her male elders as equally wicked bosses.

UDEME ANICHEBE, is the 17 years old otherwise clever lass who is overworked and underpaid housemaid, also called UD by mates or Ude by her madam’s children. She was given out as a purchased property by Igbo parents who were originally from Ngbidi in the old Anambra state and with already 14 offspring the father cannot feed, house or clothe at his relative age of 39 with primary school qualification, an office messenger job with petty farming on government lands and an illiterate fulltime housewife of 36 years

OKONOFUA SENIOR, 52 years old, is wholly self-effacing, although easily used by his second wife Omoakhuana to get at his first son Okonofua Junior. A man of remorse at the end, his wife still prevailed over his assisting his son.

OKUMAGBA WADO ODUMAGBA is the 25 years old primary school mate of Okoekpen whose house became his second home as his upper class taste did not find a corresponding ally at the GRA and more so when his spirit sought the lower and working middle class folks as friends especially.

OKEKE UGBOKWE is the 34 years old shrewd Igbo man and a former trader who did a bachelor’s degree in health science at the university of Ife in the western region of Nigeria before relocating to MUB also as a local church elder for an MBBS degree in medicine. Class conscious he loathed Okonofua whom he rejected for Debe as a better choice for his medical student counterpart Ekaette.

MODUPU OWOBU, a 42 years old, is the supple Benin woman of an unconditional and so a hundred percent surrender sort of mentality once in love and as she was imbued in a vast knowledge of a conjugal nature of raw animals and a soul who has travelled far and wide with scores of boyfriends, lovers and other male hangers-on, especially church elders who took advantage of her financially and sexually.

OROME AFE, a portable figure, trim, dark and posh, she is 19 and able to hold her own amongst males who could be thrice her age and this she did in matters of coitus, social partying or academic matters as she has links with Great Britain where her father schooled at.

JUMOBI  EJIROGHENE, is the huge, lanky and super-shy 32 years old of lady with genuine self-respect who preaches regularly. She is unlucky in love even with Okonofua but a gentle giant in physique and this despite her good deeds that she easily offers people and as enshrined in her Pentecostal religious doctrines

NWAKAEGO UGBO, is the 17 years old Imaguero college junior secondary school dropout as a result of diverse reasons and who ended up at a hotel to ply her trade as a commercial sex worker who laughed at the so-called good society of Benin city and indeed the world to scorn. Her use of language she claims emanated from several encounters with top flight businessmen in Benin society as her sexual customers. 

UNIBEN and MUB lecturers also make up a large proportion of her clients. Besides, she is also self-educated via the media outlets of newspaper readings, listening to radio stations especially the BBC World service, Radio France International and the VOA Africa programmes

JAFARU IGEDU EMOATA, 24 years old, is the Imobighe the silent one at the backside of the Oyiya church place of worship but who became agitated and tried to challenge his body of elders at their regional headquarters at Igieduma where he died on his way via a motor accident

ELDER AMUTA AMIEGBE-AFIEGBE, 49, is the worldly-wise insurance agent and banker who doubled as the new presiding officer or overseer of Oyiya congregation that Okonofua, Ekaette and Edegbe also attended

ELDER OLIHA OGIDA, 68, is the older and former presiding officer and the de facto pleaser. Also a weakling, with a wife and children to cater for, he used his position to get financial rewards from the socially privileged Ekaette and dealt injustice to Okonofua whom he took as poor and a church rat or floor member to be used and got rid of as practised widely in Benin city.

COLONEL  ETIM INYANG, 45, is a semi-illiterate man with brutal ways but courted royalty, class and wealth as a lover of front seats at social functions could as well do.

GARY OSIME PHILLIPS, 42 years old, a former course mate and friend of Dr Agbamien, is the symbolic unfriendly, unloving banker, corporate company executive, city trader or stock exchange broker who married wealth and so used mainly college and junior university students as mere playthings who came to him for financial favours. His speeches are loaded with sexual innuendoes common with buddies in men’s gatherings or wholly men’s only clubs.

ADIZA OMOSENOBULA, 21 years old, she emerged the best all-round student in her class, the department and challenges her lecturers who found her as one of the fewer benefits of enduring as a teacher who gets his or her brain stimulated once in a while. Yet, she is that one whom her cruel society relegated to substandard jobs and lower pay while her former course mates as dullards become Nollywood A-list celebrities, executive state governors and high-flying military officers with billionaire, fleets of cars, palatial estates to show for it.

There are other characters well over 350 that represent in number only the tribes in Nigeria.

The Book is available at the Guardian and at Amazon
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Njoroge, Kihika, & Kamiti: Epochs of African Literature, A Reader's Perspective

Source Though Achebe's Things Fall Apart   (1958) is often cited and used as the beginning of the modern African novel written in E...