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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