Quote

“Easy Motion Tourist” by Leye Adenle

Anyone who knows me well enough knows I always scavenge for the latest Nigerian Literature books. My latest read is “Easy Motion Tourist” by Leye Adenle.

In this book, the author calls our attention to the lack of social justice and inequality crippling our society. He reminds us that prostitutes are humans and they also deserve our protection and respect. He challenges us to protect even the low income earners in our society and in an amazing style reminds us of the repercussions of ignoring our restless youths, the powerless and the voiceless in our society. He also brings back the debate on the regulation — or the lack of it — of prostitution in Nigeria. Should prostitution really be illegal?

The author addresses prostitution, police brutality, money ritual and corruption in Lagos, Nigeria.

The story was narrated through the voice of Guy, a half-baked British Journalist sent to Lagos to cover the upcoming elections. In the churning city of Lagos, Guy soon got caught up in its frenzy when he got picked up by the police as a witness to a gruesome murder case of a lady whose mutilated body was discarded just outside the bar where he had decided to hangout.

The protagonist, Amaka, is a fierce young lawyer and the only child of a Nigerian Ambassador. She devoted her life to protecting sex workers from abusers and ritualists in Lagos. To take one from the smorgasbord of Pa: There are feminists and there are feminists, Amaka is a double feminist. She has a database for the sex workers and their prospective customers which she had built over time. The prostitutes would text her the plate number of the car of a prospective customer and she would respond by letting them know if it was safe or not. Once they got there, they texted her other details that could be used to identify the clients. Amaka’s character is not patronizing; she is not perfect. Sometimes she is the angel who protects sex workers, take some off the streets and even send some to school. Other times, she resorted to blackmailing men who maltreated the working girls as a means of revenge. Amaka is gutsy; she raises a middle finger as she takes on the rich and powerful who try to harm sex workers in Lagos.

In her own words to Guy: “Prostitution is illegal in Nigeria so nobody watches out for these girls. They are molested, extorted, short-changed, raped, killed, you name it. What you saw, it has happened before. Not like that, not so openly, but at its worst that’s exactly what we try to prevent.”

There are lots of characters in this book. They were mostly all over the place but Leye masterfully interconnects them — albeit fleetingly in some cases. Each character feeding off others as they grow into their own uniqueness. Amazing stuff!! I thought there were some well coined monikers for some of the characters in the book that are worthy of a mention. To name some: Catch-fire, Go-slow, knockout, and the hot headed police officer, Sergeant Hot-temper. The author used the character of sergeant Hot-temper to highlight the brutality and recklessness of the Nigerian police. The impetuous police officer killed prisoners for the fun of it, with little or no accountability.

Leye also reminds us that the Nigeria Police force is structured to — primarily — protect the rich and powerful in Nigeria.

It is also important to point out that the title of the book was inspired by one of the songs of the king of Highlife, the late Guitarist, Fatai Rolling Dollar — “ Easy Motion Tourist” which was about a nocturnal misadventure.

Easy Motion Tourist” is a deliberate book that awakens ones sensitivity and awareness.

Grab a copy, read and enjoy. I got mine on Amazon.

On Language and Nigerian Literature

NB: The target audience — to me — is very clear. The characters were not overly explained. Leye didn’t write like someone trying to prove his intelligence, he simply wrote. I thoroughly enjoyed it and not once did I roll my eyes because a Nigerian colloquial was overly explained for the benefit of the other. That was the only problem I had with Chigozie Obioma’s “The Fishermen”. Listen to Obioma describe Molue: A beat up squeaking yellow painted bus with a constant metallic rattle”. For what? Ordinary Molue? I understand the need to overly explain indigenous words for the benefit of the other; the reason may be economic and I don’t blame those who do it. I don’t blame those who feel the need to prove their intelligence too. We are all humans. I’m also guilty.

I gave my Chinese-American colleague Americanah to read and for the past one week, we have been talking about the book; she has a ton of questions. She totally loved the book. Here is what she told me about some of the Igbo words: “Olu, I came across some words that seemed to be Nigerian language, I had to google some of them to understand what they meant. Some of them are just expressions”. I was proud of her. That is a serious reader who gives a damn about the space she’s reading about not someone with a shocking sense of entitlement who thinks everything should be overly explained for them.

Advertisements
Quote

A Review: The Other Barack by Sally Jacobs

Kudos to the gutsy Sally Jacobs for her incredible biographical research on Barack Obama Snr. The book titled “The other Barack” is about the life of the father of the POTUS (Barack Obama Snr.). After I read “Dreams of a Father” written by POTUS himself, I knew that was just a sneak peek and a beast of curiosity awakened inside me, and the only thing that could put the beast back to slumber was to lay my hands on this book. The book was engaging, prepossessing and unputdownable.

Obama Snr. was brilliant, reckless, impatient, and jocular. He was many things, one cannot run out of adjectives trying to describe the man. He was vociferous, facile, and eccentric. In some chapters, his decorum was admirable, in others, I was chagrined for him.

In chapter 2, the first paragraph says “The tribal prophet Kimnyole arap Turukat foretold it’s coming long before the white man knew of it. It would rear from the vast lake to the east, a lethal iron snake belching smoke and fire and uncoil across tribal lands before at last quenching its thirst in the waters of the west. The beast would bear with it a kind of foreigner never seen before, a stranger who would one day rule the land”.

Sally had me there, I was thrilled reading that paragraph, I thought there had been a prophecy about the coming of POTUS, only for the second paragraph to imply something completely different—the Uganda railway built by the British colonies. I was so upset and disappointed but I garnered strength and character and managed to carry on with the book.

The Luos and the Kikuyus are amongst the major tribes in Kenya; Barack belonged to the former and Jomo Kenyatta who was the first Kenyan President belonged to the latter. After getting help from an American woman called Miss Mooney, Barack got an admission to the University of Hawaii in the United States. It was an amazing feat, as he was the first of his clan to go to college and also the first African to attend Hawaii University. He met Obama Jnr’s mother at the University of Hawaii and he later graduated with a B.A in Economics. They got married after he graduated; beating the odds by defying the popular racial barrier. He was black and she was white.

ju

He proceeded to Harvard for PhD Economics. His dream of getting a PhD in economics came to an abrupt end when the Oyinbos got tired of his womanizing attitude and misdemeanor and sent him back to Kenya even though he had completed all his coursework, but he was yet to defend his thesis.

His love for women was unparalleled as he betrayed a lot of them in his wake. He left no skirt unopened, as long as the skirt waved past him. His oratory prowess was enough to bewitch any woman. Just 3 months after he left the United States, his girlfriend in Boston bought a one way ticket to Kenya to visit Obama Snr., and of course, she did not return.

He was a living ghost to most of his children, he was consumed by his own ambitions and patriotism that he had little or no time for his children.

He got back to Kenya with big expectations for his country that had just gained independence and he certainly wanted to take part in the government, but he never got satisfied with any position he got and he seemed disappointed with the Kenyatta led government. He found solace in alcohol and started drinking heavily. His drinking habit got worse when his longtime mentor, Tom Mboya got assassinated right in front of him. He lost his job the same year due to his lack of discipline and recklessness.

He was an iconoclast, and he spared no word against the Kenyatta led government in the wake of Kenyan independence. He was fearless, and he gingerly challenged the corruption and nepotism openly practiced by the Kenyan government with his voice and his pen. He was later blacklisted by the Kenyatta led government and he couldn’t get any job.

The man was a paradox, it was difficult for me to comprehend why a man of his grandeur, well principled with integrity and bag of talents could lack dignity and humility. He was deluded by his precocity of going to Harvard.

I concluded that his life was cut short by his own hubris and his frustration with the churning state of Kenya. If anyone told him, his own seed would end up being the President of the United States of America, maybe he would have done some things differently.

In June 2015, President Obama visited Kenya and met with its present President—Uhuru Kenyatta, who is the son of Jomo Kenyatta. I remembered this event the night I finished reading the book, and I thought to myself-no one knows tomorrow. I felt inspired, challenged, and disappointed. I felt ambivalent. I turned the book around, placed the book in front of me, and stared at it until I slept off.

I also found out that while Obama Snr. was at Harvard, he had lots of Nigerians as friends and classmates. The only familiar name being Chukwuma Azikiwe, the son of the first Nigerian president. I breezed through lots of Nigerian names in the book and I couldn’t help but wonder where these men are or why I’ve never heard of them. Like our people say, they must have been swallowed by the west.

 

Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun (Adichie Chimamanda)

Nothing but respect for Adichie, she is a genius.

Half of a yellow sun is about the inferno of the Nigerian civil war; laced with a love story. A book every Nigerian should read. Adichie joined the list of prominent writers who did their part to keep Nigerian history alive in the heart of Nigerian readers since our government has decided to expunge history from the educational curriculum. For this, we are grateful. The book was properly written and intended for the African audience, albeit some debatable points. But then, like our elders say- until the lions present their own historian, the story of the hunt will only justify the hunter. So if anyone wants a debate, go ahead and write your own story or proceed to America and engage Adichie.

This is not a review so I would advise anyone interested in Half of a Yellow Sun to simply pick up the book and read. However I was particularly impressed with the laconic mention of the Asaba massacre using one of the caricatures named Alice. Olanna who is Igbo and also one of the main characters dated a northerner called Mohammed (Adichie showed us a northerner once loved an Igbo).
Like someone had said, she revealed her gift as a “perceptive observer of human behavior”.
How she was able to dovetail the civil war in this fictitious book is virtually unbelievable.

 

Americanah, however, is a book about race, immigration and the power of first love. The first few chapters made me nauseous when all she talked about was hair. I found it boring, and it reminded me of one of my exes who always talked about her hair and took it upon herself to educate me on the different types of hairs and wigs. I would pretend to be listening but in reality, it made me sick. It’s the same thing I felt in all chapters where the crux was hairs and saloons. As it went on, I started enjoying it. I could transport myself back to secondary school days and fit some of the stories into my life, I could easily represent some of the characters with my friends. A typical Nigerian secondary school, the kind of experience we all had.
In some chapters, I quickly boarded a boat of imaginations to the life in America, carefully and joyfully fitting some of the stories into my life and that of my friends in America.
The way some Nigerians in Diaspora turn to political commentators on Social media, knowingly or unknowingly comparing life in the west with life in Africa; their own way of killing the distance between home and Abroad, the urge to breach a certain gap, to fill a vacuum, to travel home-using the social media. The struggle of hanging on to that Nigerianness, pretending America cannot change you.
The way Africans suddenly realize they are blacks after landing at the American Airports. The unending discussion about racism, pretending to understand racism more than the black Americans, sitting in front of the television playing victims but would never go out to join in on protests. Everything was meticulously touched in this book.
Seeing your highs and lows written in a book; the lows you cannot talk about staring back at you with audacity—yes!….That is the kind of power the book wields.
But still something was wrong, I can’t really place it, perhaps the way it was written. I still do not think the book was intended for an African audience. Even though the book is majorly about Africans, one could argue it’s one of those books about Africans intended for the western audience (NOT POVERTY PORN). I didn’t have this feeling when I read “Half of a yellow sun” or when reading anything Chinua Achebe. But then, there is only one Chinua Achebe. Also, I think the power of first love demonstrated using the two protagonists, Ifemelu and Obinze was exaggerated. Sigh! I can’t even remember my first love. Exaggeration-they say, is a necessary recipe for good writing.
I also think Adichie should have mentioned the prejudice that exists between African Americans and Africans, she shied away from it. Even those who morph into Atheist after experiencing 24hrs of electricity and speedy internet in the west—sigh
Well done Adichie, your writing adroitness deserves a bow.

For anyone who is interested in an extensive review of Americanah, you can read (this)