‘Journal of The Pandemic: Reminiscences of Two Lockdowns’ by Benedicta A. Ehanire and Andrew O. Ehanire is a medium- size book of 262 pages. It is structured into three parts. The first part titled ‘Reminiscences’ and written by Dr Benedicta Ehanire, comprises six chapters. Part two titled ‘Out of Body Experience’ – My Husband’s Kidnap Story”, is a narrative by Sir Andrew Ehanire. The third part comprises appendices, epilogue and the index to the book. The book is dedicated to Almighty God, General T.Y. and Senator Daisy Danjuma, the authors’ two children Alexander and Pearl, and anyone who has touched lives positively. There is a 38-worded prologue too. The foreword has been written by an erudite Professor of Literature and Medicine, Emmanuel Babatunde Omobowale of the University of Ibadan. The Professor did a mini-review in the forward. This illuminates the very essence of the book – the motive behind it. Dr Benedicta Ehanire tells readers that the title derives from the 1772 book written by Daniel Defoe and titled “A Journal of the Plague Year”. The similarity here is that both books evolved after major pandemics that were two and a half centuries apart. She opines that the book is easy to read and I do agree with her.
Part 1: Reminiscences
The six chapters of this part serialises the daily notes that the author began to write starting from Wednesday 25th of March, 2020 and ending on Sunday 31st May, 2020. Within these 68 calendar days, she religiously, meticulously, and painstakingly recorded pieces of information that will enable everyone to know her demeanors, routines, likes, dislikes, and attitudes.
The chapters include: Chapter 1 – One Week Shutdown; Chapter 2 – A Two-week Extension; Chapter 3 – COVID-19: An Uncertain Future; Chapter 4 – Dawn and Doubts; Chapter 5 – A Gleam of Hope or the New Normal; and Chapter 6 – Musings. Each of these chapters has been written in first person; in a coherent, easy to read sentences that one might not expect of a PhD holder in English Language and Literature.
Her writing style reminds me of the statement in Homer’s “The Odyssey” that “true strength is knowing when not to act”. Dr. Ehanire is undoubtedly well-endowed in highfalutin vocabulary that she does not deploy in the manner of the Igodomigodo. She chose to write in simple conversational language. I do remember that Elizabeth Pryse, the author of the book “English Without Tears” addressed the fact that styles are often peculiar and individualistic. By the way, if no one has thought of it, I suppose a PhD candidate should study the style and psychology of Honourable Patrick Obahiagbon, the Igodomigodo. Part one also gives insight into the nature and characters of persons.
For example, the Vice Chancellor is seen as a boss who is extremely hardworking and dedicated to lifting the image of the University. Sir Andrew Ehanire is seen as a doting husband, a soulmate and one whose command must be obeyed by the wife. Dr Benedicta Ehanire also astonishingly describes the ways the sun, weather and other elements presented themselves. Being a chronicle of events, major happenings in the University of Benin have been captured. There is the sad reminder of the death of Prof Dorothea BaxterGrillo of the Department of Anatomy, and the rape and murder of a 100-Level Microbiology student, Miss Vera Uwaila Omozuwa. May their souls and those who died from COVID-19 infection rest in peace.
Part 2: Out of Body Experience – My Husband’s Kidnap Story
This part has been written by Sir. Andrew Ehanire and it is about onefifth of the entire book. Like part one, it is written in first person. It describes his forceful abduction by gunmen; his delivery like a parcel to somewhere in the mangrove creeks; his futile attempt to escape for fear of being used for sacrifice; and his falling into what appears like a trance – the “out of body experience”.
My experiences in the hands of kidnappers are similar to that of Sir. Ehanire in many ways. Although I am much younger, mine was much earlier and it is therefore my delight to bestow on my elder brother, the suffix “KP”. Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, if you do not know, “KP” means previously kidnapped. You could compare his style to that of the legendary James Hadley Chase. If you read “The Sucker Punch” in which Chase describes the experience of Harry Barbers, you will understand what I mean. Sir Ehanire has knitted the sentences so beautiful that it would appear as if the reader was at the scene.
Unlike Dr Ehanire, Sir Ehanire’s description is enriched with interesting similes and metaphors. The imageries make this part a compelling read. Although he did not read English and Literature in the University, I guess that he attended a grammar school, like Holy Trinity Grammar School, Sabongidda-Ora (my alma mater).
Part 3: Appendices, Epilogue and Index
This part archives some of Dr Benedicta Ehanire’s releases in her capacity as the Public Relations Officer of the University of Benin. To staff of the University, they speak not only of dedication to duty and prompt response to burning issues by the Management, but also serve as a reminder of the landmark achievements by Madam VC within the period. The epilogue is 131-worded and addresses the abated state of the pandemic and concludes with thanks to “our Supreme Creator, God Almighty”.
This is a book that chronicles the major COVID-19 events in the nation, Edo State and the University of Benin. Books live forever! With this book, Dr Ehanire and her husband have immortalised themselves. As I read the book, I asked myself if I could account for each of the days of the lockdown. I am reminded that keeping notes of important events is an art that should be cultivated. Such was the style of the biblical Nehemiah the Prophet who kept record of his intervention in the reconstruction of his beloved land. We all need to have copies of the book.
First, for children so that they can imbibe the culture of writing in simple plain English language; second, for ourselves, to remind us of the happenings during the COVID-19 induced lockdown in Nigeria. Third, to make it a part of our archives because the contents constitute the history that will be told very many years from today. For those who want to have an insight into the modes of operation and what happens in the den of kidnappers, this book will be helpful.
One more thing about the book: the parts have been written with a good blend of grammar, syntax, and humour. When started, it can hardly be put down until the last word is read. Get the book and read it! Ozolua is the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic), University of Benin, Nigeria.