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A transcontinental saga

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A transcontinental saga

Title: Imminent River

Author: Anaele Ihuoma

Publisher: Prima – Narrative Landscape

 

Press, Lagos, Nigeria

Year of Publication: 2018

Pagination: 347

Reviewer: Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

 

 

There is the compelling need for me to go back to the publishing of Alex Haley’s Roots in 1976 to find a book that bears comparison to Anaele Ihuoma’s debut novel Imminent River. Just as Haley after hearing grandma’s tales, Haley traces his roots back to the adolescent Kunta Kinte who was kidnapped into slavery to America from West Africa in the 18th century, Anaele Ihuoma regales us with the intriguing story that goes way back to early 19th century West Africa. The soul of the tale is the old matriarch Daa-Mbiiway, the bearer of the formula to prolong life.

Ihuoma stresses from the beginning that Imminent River takes its roots from fact as he writes in the author’s note: “This story may be fiction, but it is built on, rather than merely imitating, real life. The grand matriarch of the epic, Daa-Mbiiway is unashamedly a great maternal aunt of mine, by the same name although spelt (if it ever was), Daa Mbiwe. One of my most exhilarating exhibitions as a little boy growing up in Eziudo community, my maternal home, was when I was asked to go to Itu, now HQ of Ezinihitte LGA, Imo State, Nigeria, by my maternal grandmother Daa Nnennia Iwe, nee Abii, to go visit Daa Mbiwe.”

It is a mark of Anaele’s mastery that Daa-Mbiiway who uncannily disappears at the beginning of the novel curiously ends up holding the entire tale together through the spell of the much-coveted longevity recipe.

The span of the novel divided into three parts can be appreciated thus – Part One: The Progenitors (West Africa. Early 19th Century); Part Two: Prodigious Leap of Limbs (West Africa. 19th Century to Early 20th Century); Part Three: Blindfolds and Iron Fists – The Rocky Road to the Imminent River (Southern Nigeria: 20th Century). There is a mini-section in Part One bearing one chapter (14) entitled “Mid-19th Century: Trans-Atlantic to New England).

The book ends with “Epilogue: Ajaelu Tastes the Hiatus Music” where we read: “Urem Okakuko sat, pensive, in front of the Centenary Hall, Ake, Abeokuta, bathed in her own tears. Inside the Hall, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong were performing Satchmo’s ‘Back O Town’ and Armstrong himself, the lead vocalist, was rhapsodising.” Further down the epilogue, Ihuoma writes: “It was 13 July 1934. Duke Ellington had released his hit track ‘Symphony in Black” in New York. That same day, not far from the Centenary Hall, a baby was born to the family of Pa Ayodele Soyinka in nearby Isara, Abeokuta.”

Let’s call that baby Wole Soyinka, the future Nobel Laureate in Literature who was Ihuoma’s Head of Department at the then University of Ife from 1978 to 1982.

Ihuoma’s blend of fiction, fact and fantasy in Imminent River intervolves the longevity progenitor Daa Mbiiway and her husband Okpuzu, the feuding plutocrats Jesse an Opuddah warring to take custody of long life medicinal formula, the matriarch’s hostile sons Chimenam and Dioti-Ojioho, the suitable boy Ezemba and the village belle Agbonma whom Ezemba loves madly, Edidion whom Daa-Mbiiway almost adopted as a granddaughter, the treacherous and cultic High Chief Nnanyereugo Chris Ojionu, Urem Okakuko the story teller, Wopara etc.

 

The quest for certitude is not deterred by a letter that informs: “I have just realised that there is no such thing as the Longevity Formula. Or rather that the documents we have, with figures purporting to point us to Eldorado, is nothing but an attempt to send us on a wild goose chase.” Cracking the Nsibidi code of the Longevity Formula remains a life-affirming mission.

Disunity in the land makes the people susceptible to conquest and slavery. Conspiracy rules the roost. The comeuppance of evil comes translated in the news headline: “Strange River swallows HCO’s Ojionu Cottage.” It is a brave new world in which “Youths Demand jail for Eagloma cultists”, by listing “the alleged crimes of the fraternity to include, murder, unhealthy sexual practices, the so-called ‘Eagloma double’, political blackmail, archaic cultural practices such as bride battering and perversion of justice.”

Ihuoma’s Imminent River strikes a chord with Ayi Kwei Armah’s 1978 novel The Healers in which the protagonist Densu envisions African unity, just as the hero Ezemba gets the ultimate introduction from David thusly: “Sir, my name is David. I’m the son of Jesse, the healer from the Healing Home. We were rescued from the sea of malevolence. We are here to help the just retool.”

Ihuoma’s reputation as a poet is well-established. He has equally done commendable work as a playwright. His novel Imminent River is ample evidence of his roundedness in all the genres. His power of description can be enchanting, as note: “Even though he liked to reassure himself that it was Agbonma’s character, rather than her looks, that held his attention, he would be hard pressed convincing God in heaven that her physical beauty had no part in it. She had such lush supply of eye lashes and brows. Her deep, brown eyes themselves appeared to be set deeper from the rest of her face. This tended to project her face outwards, giving her something of a permanent smile and an inviting visage. You would think Leonardo Da Vinci had wanted to capture her in that immortal brushwork but could not and had to settle for the Mona Lisa instead.”

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Literature

Beasts on Rampage, Something to Live For and other stories

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Beasts on Rampage,  Something to Live For and other stories

Book title: Love Like A Woman and Other Stories

Author: Razinat T Mohammed

Pagination: 120

Publisher: Kraft Books Limited

Reviewer: Adeniyi Taiwo Kunnu

 

 

T

he human heart is as deep as complex, and when it comes to matters of the woman heart, the discourse takes a unique turn in need of careful attention. Razinat Mohammed in this work, “Love Like a Woman and other stories”, examines the multifarious fictional realities in the lives of different women, deftly navigating the planes of marriage, religion, culture and the vicissitudes that affect other lives.

 

 

Eleven stories in 120 gripping pages; and the reader could never be left the same way because the pieces contained in one piece gets one acquainted with the not-too-often examined daily or lifetime experiences of people. If only we knew the much we should, as someone once said, we would have done more to make the world better than we have it now. From the first story, Razinat simply conveys delicious incidences and at times unsavoury glitches in ‘fine’ vocabulary.

 

 

“Something to Live For” gives needed premonition which later comes to fore in the other stories. Afi, hungry and tired descended into another realm which reveals her experiences as a woman married off against her will. Failing in her bid to commit suicide and having been rescued by a stranger, her life continues for a brief moment in lonely forest. Razinat employs the stream of consciousness technique, demonstrating how often times we keep our fears at the subconscious, but present to the world the side which fits men’s acceptance.

 

 

Importantly, Afi chooses the real world where her torrid relationship with her spouse could not prevent her from getting back to the one person in her family where her only love still remains. She could leave every other thing and move on with her life, but in this instance; the propelling force of love keeps her in. Her memories of Efida can wait, while the painful face-off with Uduma must be shrugged off.

 

 

Sterile Water takes the reader on another fictional journey in realistic representation. Kulu’s life depicts one whose existence is enmeshed in destructive poverty. In a family of five children, jobless husband and offensive cultural practice which are obviously unfavourable to the plight of the mother who toils but gets incommensurate returns. This is a creative output which addresses, not only an area of general concern, but specific cultural distastes.

 

 

The third story, which also doubles as the title of the collection is “Love Like A Woman’s”, takes this narrative a notch higher.  Dije bears the burden of love by giving her life to a man whose mental state defies immediate or remote remedy. The story describes the height of one’s love characterised by ‘ultimate sacrifice’, and in this wise it is a woman giving her life, having first lost the life of the unborn to the violence of a mentally unstable man.

 

 

In “Laila”, Razinat gives new perspective to the weighty concerns of an erstwhile divorcee.  Overwhelmed by the stigma associated with being unmarried on the one side and the fear of being out of a second marriage of three months on the other, Laila contends with the disrespectful gateman in her new home, the pressured facilities, step-children rivalry, perceptions by the older wife and ultimately her sexual preferences.

 

 

The author keeps readers’ taste buds watered with “The U-Turn”. Here, a woman also finds herself on the receiving end of the pugilist. A husband-to-be; a beautiful prospect in a daughter in-law; a dotting mother-in-law and the Achilles Heels of being overweight all come together causing flurry of emotions. So, when England came to Nigeria in the hope of a damsel, Sam got a shocker in eve’s daughter who has indulged beyond measure in ‘fatteners’. In summary, Mary Rose does not have the Knight in any shining armour as hers. He, back to England, while the consolatory words of her mother in-law does nothing to change Sam’s mind.

 

 

“Beasts on Rampage” is another delicious read which queries the sanity of allowing the wild dwell amongst the urbane. There are circuses where wild animals are on display for fun, but having these carnivorous mammals in neighbourhoods gets a thumb down here. Mohammed weaves her words around the humanity in people, touching on the unjust treatment of the average in society and arrives its zenith with the distaste that under-lie her fictive presentation. She sure makes the reader wonder but in a maze of reading experiences.

 

 

One Good Turn is one of morality…, of a home gone apart…. of a child turned out and left on the streets…, of a father bereft of needful values and love and subsequent degeneration but eventual redemption of a dear life. This story x-rays parents and parenting, while also exploring peer influences and workings around it.

 

 

“Official Touts” rounds off this collection, and this story picks holes in the often mentioned fake police experiences. This piece regales readers with the stop and search on the roads by police and the check point experiences. A travelling family that parts with cash and kind; and then in turn receives some ‘change’ from the money stolen from them gets the reader’s needful attention. This is an eye opener to stepping up the game in terms of security so as to keep men of the underworld on their toes.

 

 

A Love Like A Woman and Other Stories is truly a fascinating collection. It is a work recommended for its unique perspectives and indeed a deserving applause as a beautiful piece of literature.

 

 

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Literature

Nigerian poet, Ipadeola, bags International Writing Programme in US

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Nigerian poet, Ipadeola, bags International Writing Programme in US

Award-winning poet and author of short stories, Tade Ipadeola, has been selected alongside 28 other accomplished writers from across the globe to participate in the International Writing Programme (IWP) Fall Residency at the University of Iowa, courtesy of the United States Department of State.

Ipadeola, who was the 2013 winner of the Nigeria Prize for Literature, left on September 1 to participate at the world’s oldest and largest multinational writing residency. The programme ends on to November 16.

Before Ipadeola’s selection, 34 Nigerian literary figures had participated in the IWP Fall Residency. Notable among them are Elechi Amadi (1973), Cyprian Ekwensi (1974), Ola Rotimi (1980), Femi Osofisan (1986), Niyi Osundare (1988), Festus Iyayi (1990), Lola Shoneyin (1999), Obari Gomba (2016).

Over the course of 11 weeks, Ipadeola and the other participants will give readings and lectures that share their work and cultures, collaborate with artists from other genres and art forms, and travel to interact with audiences and literary communities across the United States.

In addition, the residency will provide the writers a one-of-a-kind inter-cultural opportunity to forge productive relationships with colleagues and translators, and take part in the vibrant social and academic life of the University of Iowa as well as the larger American literary scene.

United States Consulate Public Affairs Officer, Russell Brooks congratulated the Nigerian writer on his acceptance into the residency program.

According to him, the goal of the IWP Fall Residency is to provide outstanding writers with a platform for cultural exchange and collaboration.

Ipadeola, an essayist and translator, has three published works, including The Sahara Testament, a poetry collection, which won the Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2013 and has been translated into Dutch, French, Spanish and Xhosa.

In 2009, he won the Delphic Laurel in Poetry for his Yoruba poem Songbird at the Delphic Games in Jeju, South Korea. In 2012, he translated Paid on Both Sides, the first dramatic work of renowned Anglo-American poet, W.H. Auden, into Yoruba as Lamilami.

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Literature

Nigeria Prize for Literature announces shortlist

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Nigeria Prize for Literature announces shortlist

The Nigeria Prize for Literature has announced shortlist of three for the 2019 edition of the Prize.

They are Boom, Boom by Jude Idada, Mystery at Ebenezer’s Lodge by Dunni Olatunde, and The Great Walls of Benin, O. T. Begho.

The shortlist, which was drawn from initial shortlist of 11 books, was announced today in Lagos by the Chairman of the Advisory Board for the prize, Emeritus Prof. Ayo Banjo.

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Literature

Nigeria Prize for Literature announces shortlist

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on

By

Nigeria Prize for Literature announces shortlist

The Nigeria Prize for Literature has announced shortlist of three for the 2019 edition of the Prize.

They are Boom, Boom by Jude Idada, Mystery at Ebenezer’s Lodge by Dunni Olatunde, and The Great Walls of Benin, O. T. Begho.

The shortlist, which was drawn from initial shortlist of 11 books, was announced today in Lagos by the Chairman of the Advisory Board for the prize, Emeritus Prof. Ayo Banjo.

Continue Reading

Literature

Nigeria Prize for Literature announces shortlist

Published

on

By

Nigeria Prize for Literature announces shortlist

The Nigeria Prize for Literature has announced shortlist of three for the 2019 edition of the Prize.

They are Boom, Boom by Jude Idada, Mystery at Ebenezer’s Lodge by Dunni Olatunde, and The Great Walls of Benin, O. T. Begho.

The shortlist, which was drawn from initial shortlist of 11 books, was announced today in Lagos by the Chairman of the Advisory Board for the prize, Emeritus Prof. Ayo Banjo.

Continue Reading

Literature

Nigeria Prize for Literature announces shortlist

Published

on

By

Nigeria Prize for Literature announces shortlist

The Nigeria Prize for Literature has announced shortlist of three for the 2019 edition of the Prize.

They are Boom, Boom by Jude Idada, Mystery at Ebenezer’s Lodge by Dunni Olatunde, and The Great Walls of Benin, O. T. Begho.

The shortlist, which was drawn from initial shortlist of 11 books, was announced today in Lagos by the Chairman of the Advisory Board for the prize, Emeritus Prof. Ayo Banjo.

Continue Reading

Literature

Nigeria Prize for Literature announces shortlist

Published

on

By

Nigeria Prize for Literature announces shortlist

The Nigeria Prize for Literature has announced shortlist of three for the 2019 edition of the Prize.

They are Boom, Boom by Jude Idada, Mystery at Ebenezer’s Lodge by Dunni Olatunde, and The Great Walls of Benin, O. T. Begho.

The shortlist, which was drawn from initial shortlist of 11 books, was announced today in Lagos by the Chairman of the Advisory Board for the prize, Emeritus Prof. Ayo Banjo.

Continue Reading

Literature

Nigeria Prize for Literature announces shortlist

Published

on

By

Nigeria Prize for Literature announces shortlist

The Nigeria Prize for Literature has announced shortlist of three for the 2019 edition of the Prize.

They are Boom, Boom by Jude Idada, Mystery at Ebenezer’s Lodge by Dunni Olatunde, and The Great Walls of Benin, O. T. Begho.

The shortlist, which was drawn from initial shortlist of 11 books, was announced today in Lagos by the Chairman of the Advisory Board for the prize, Emeritus Prof. Ayo Banjo.

Continue Reading

Literature

Nigeria Prize for Literature announces shortlist

Published

on

By

Nigeria Prize for Literature announces shortlist

The Nigeria Prize for Literature has announced shortlist of three for the 2019 edition of the Prize.

They are Boom, Boom by Jude Idada, Mystery at Ebenezer’s Lodge by Dunni Olatunde, and The Great Walls of Benin, O. T. Begho.

The shortlist, which was drawn from initial shortlist of 11 books, was announced today in Lagos by the Chairman of the Advisory Board for the prize, Emeritus Prof. Ayo Banjo.

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Literature

Homage to an uncommon revolutionary scholar

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Homage to an uncommon revolutionary scholar

Title: Unions Without Unionism, Governments Without Governance: Essays in Honour of Professor Funminiyi Oladele Adewumi

 

Editors: Owei Lakemfa and Ahmed Aminu Yusuf

 

 

Publishers: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Abuja

 

Year of publication: 2018

 

Pages:     306 pages

 

Reviewer: Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

 

 

P

rofessor Funmi Adewumi (1960-2017) died so painfully at the height of his powers. As the dedication of this book committed to his memory goes, Prof Adewumi “devoted his life to honest intellectualism, a better society based on social justice, and to the emancipation of the poor, the disinherited and the defenceless.”

 

 

‘Unions Without Unionism, Governments Without Governance’ is a compilation of some of the papers presented at a “National Symposium” following Prof Adewumi’s death which held at the ETF building, Hall A, College of Humanities, Osun State University (OSU), Ikire Campus. The symposium, sponsored by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, had the theme “Democratic Space, Labour and the Socio-Economic Liberation of Nigeria.”

 

 

According to the editors, Owei Lakemfa and Ahmed Aminu Yusuf, in their Preface, “Professor Funmi Adewumi, in his thoughts and deeds, was an intellectual of the universe, not just because he taught in various countries and crisscrossed the universe seeking and spreading knowledge, but because his worldview, learning, research and work had universal origins and applications.”

 

 

In his Foreword, Funmi Adewumi’s comrade in the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Femi Falana (SAN) pays deserving tribute to “a committed and dedicated intellectual, who devoted his life to the study of the working class, the political education of union leaders and activists, and was an active participant in the struggles of workers for improved working and living conditions, national development, the enthronement of social justice and the emancipation of the poor.”

 

 

Divided into four parts and made up of 18 chapters, ‘Unions Without Unionism, Governments Without Governance’ starts with an Introduction, “Funmi Adewumi: In the Race of Time”, written by one of the editors, Owei Lakemfa, who recounts how as a 19-year-old University of Ife sophomore he met his age-mate, Funmi Adewumi, who was already in the third year as a History Education undergraduate and they bonded as “part of a tribe of youths who had consciously decided to either change our country from its under-developed and dependent political economy or dedicate our lives fighting to do so.”

 

 

The title of the book is taken from Professor Funmi Adewunmi’s 2009 Inaugural Lecture at Crawford University, Faith City, Igbesa, Ogun State, to wit, “Unions Without Unionism: Towards Trade Union Relevance In Nigeria’s Industrial Relations System And Polity,” which is included here. As in the case of Nelson Mandela, the struggle was Funmi Adewumi’s life as he writes: “As a Part 1 student at the University of Ife, Ile-Ife (1977/78), I got involved in prosecuting the Ali-must go struggle in 1978, thus marking the beginning of my involvement in political activism. I got elected into the Students’ Representative Council during the 1978/79 academic session and by the time I was in 300 Level; I became Chairman of the Students’ Union Electoral Commission. The Central Executive Council that was elected that year remains one of the most dynamic in the history of students’ unionism in the university.” The elected student leaders went on to distinguish themselves in Nigeria, notably Wole Olaoye (President), Greg Obong-Oshotse (Secretary), Femi Falana (Public Relations Officer) etc. Professor Adewumi concludes the essay by stating that it is “necessary to re-invent trade unionism in Nigeria as a necessary step in ensuring the relevance of trade unions within the Nigerian social formation.”

 

 

‘Unions Without Unionism, Governments Without Governance’ is a compilation of in-depth essays by academics, activists, journalists, researchers, trade unionists and a public servant, namely: Owei Lakemfa, Professor Sola Fajana, Funmi Komolafe, Ade A. Ola-Joseph, Olutoyin Mejiuni (PhD), Oluranti Samuel (D.Phil.), Comrade Ismail Bello, Jubril Olayiwola Jawando, Aderemi Medupin (PhD), Ahmed Aminu Yusuf, Comrade Martin Adekunle Babawale, Professor Tunde Babwale, Baba Aye, Femi Aborisade, Abiodun Aremu, Oluranti Afowowe and Comrade Gbenga Komolafe.

 

 

Aside from proclaiming the bona-fides of Professor Funmi Adewuni and what he stood for and why he stood for the principles, ‘Unions Without Unionism, Governments Without Governance’ interrogates the Nigerian state’s implementation of undemocratic, nondemocratic and anti-democracy neoliberal policies as exemplified by the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).

 

 

The trade unions come up for censure for not adequately promoting and advancing the interests of the working classes. The need to move Nigeria onto the path of development, true democracy and social justice by instituting people-centred and driven developmental policies cannot be over-emphasised.

 

 

Professor Funmi Adewumi lived and died fighting for the lives, struggles, well-being and welfare of the working class, students and other vulnerable people in Nigeria. With the existence of a book such as ‘Unions Without Unionism, Governments Without Governance’, it is very obvious that Professor Adewumi did not die in vain.

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