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Monday, June 28, 2010


It was as if the 5th edition of the BookJam which was held on the 26th of June, 2010 will never come to reality as the time was delayed 30minutes later than the official 3:00pm time. This administrative strategy later eventually paid off as readers, writers and literary enthusiasts started filling chairs that were before dotted by early comers. The Bookjam 5 had writers like Toni Kan (author of 'Night of the Creaking Bed' and 'When a Dream Lingers too Long'), Abraham Oshoko(author of June 12: The Struggle for Power in Nigeria) and Kunle Ajibade (Jailed for Life). In no time, the invited writers at the BookJam started talking about the books they have written.

It was shocking and at the same time amusing when Toni Kan said that the title of his collection of short stories, Night of the Creaking Bed, was a publishing-mistake.The creaking in the title was a publishing-mistake, don't mind the man. The 'creaking' in the title should have been 'squeaking';. This is where the squeaking from the title came from; "when I was still poor, when all I had was a bed of springs, each time I slept on it, it was always squeaking". When Toni Kan was asked if he had been attacked in any way before based on the 'sex' that features dominantly in his book. Toni Kan humorously stood up to show that the tallness of his body and the broadness his chest could scare any attacker away. Toni Kan however didn't deny the fact that he has indeed been attacked. He alluded to an attack of words that were hurled at his book by a Unilag student sometimes ago because the student considered 'sex' in literature unnecessary.

The rendition of Kunle Ajibade from his book, Jailed for Life was refreshing and mesmerising. Kunle Ajibade carted the rapt attention of the audience with his powerful and absorbing reading from his autobiographical note, Jailed for Life. The taste buds of the readers were whipped up when Kunle Ajibade read from a part of his book. The part in the book lucidly captured the travails of Ajibade in the vicious hands of 'khaki boys' when he was in prison for the infraction he never committed. The story read from the part of the book was also the awful itinerary of Ajibade in cramped rooms called prisons. The attentive audience almost fell off their chairs with laughter when Ajibade read,"...I looked at the piece of the jewellery (handcuff) on my hands, and I saw 'made in Germany' on it. In response to
questions, Ajibade said; "To be hopeful could be difficult, but I was always happy during my times in the prison. There is this force that keeps you going even when everything is not working. While I was in the prison, I was always happy even when the military guards would think I would be sad. At times, the guards were even scared by my happy disposition. I know they would be saying; this man, e be like say him get one power way he believe in o. No, no, no... I was never detached. My relationship with them (his captors) still remains cordial. You would be surprised to know that these Hausa boys were just trying to survive in the system too. If I see Abacha's daughter now, if she is beautiful, I could say; hi girl, how are you doing? You know what I mean?"

Abraham Oshoko was creative with his reading from his graphical illustrative book, June 12: The Struggle for Power in Nigeria. He only read quotes excerpted from words of past national leaders and statesmen; words that give diverse views and perspectives on the nationality and unity of the country when peace was about to be punctured in the land because every region wants power. Though he read a little from his book that looks similar to a comic book because of the comical pictures of its characters, it was very brief. Oshoko was disagreed with by a person from the audience when he said we are a country that hates taking down history. The disagreeing person backed his proof up that things are actually changing going by what writers are now doing.

If you were sitting in the front row like True Talk did during the monthly literary event, you might not know how large the population have become until the 'buy a book and be qualified for a raffle draw' time came up. The scramble for book by literature lovers was massive. The lifestyle store, where the event was held, suddenly became buzzing with people that were going from one shelf to another to pick their favourite books. Three winners were selected from the raffle-draw box, out of which Joseph Omotayo was the first prize winner of David Wej(D.W.) shirt.

BookJam is now having a strong footing on the literary scene; attracting people like Odia Ofeimu, a poet and essayist, Adunni Abimbola of the Punch and author of Under the Brown Rusted Roofs, Jumoke Verissimo, the author of I am Memory, Wole Oguntokun, the writer of the Girl Whisperer in the Guardian newspaper,etc. Kafayat, the guitarist cum singer, performed brilliantly when she refreshed the audience with her sonorous voice when she sang 'Times are good. Bidemi's recital of his poem titled 'Black', which was accompanied by tunes from Kafayat's little piece of music, guitar, was magnificent and quite novel too. The 5th edition of the BookJam is really an occasion that will long be remembered. After the two-hour reading, we were all itching for more talks from the writers and questions from the audience. It was indeed a programme not to miss.

NB: The fourth person in the picture with a black and red face-cap was a guest writer during the reading.He is a francophone writer, whose participation was just a complement to the programme.

Monday, June 14, 2010

From Caves Of Rotten Teeth: A Nigeria Story Told With Clarity

Though the book written by A. Igoni Barret is a collection of short stories that has the potency to keep the reader glued to every of its pages from the first to the last, what can also not be discountenanced is the fact that no matter where the reader decides to take his reading from, the strong centre theme of brazen rottenness will still resonate through out the book. Like an eight-day old child that takes his parents’ privacy to the market-square for unprecedented interference, From Caves Of Rotten Teeth’s imperceptible reprimanding touches down on each of the hypocrisy that this sleeping giant of ours has always been known for – the hypocrisy of religion, the hypocrisy of individual survival, the hypocrisy of tribal supremacy and the hypocrisy of marital ‘co-habitation’.


‘The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit’ is the story of a religion dramatist called the Pastor, the ignorance of a diseased Father, and the tale of an unjust victim called the Son. The Pastor’s wall comes crumbling down on him and his cohorts when the tricks used in performing make-up miracles that intoxicates its recipient with the flexibility to perform acrobatic stunts as a sign of being ‘healed’ and ‘delivered’, cannot make a little Son, whose Father claims to have been the source behind his diseased leg, shake in a frenetic manner, even after the Pastor has conjure thousands of Holy Spirit down from heaven by speaking in tongue. The Son is put in critical condition when he is beaten black and blue by the Pastor and the elders of the church all in the process of getting delivered. The Son ironically wins the sympathy of the congregation, who has earlier call for his head for being the problem in his Father’s life, when they realize that he is just a little boy that intends no harm to anybody.

‘Dream Chaser’ tells the enthusiasm and the excitement a boy uses to decide his destiny, by plying the trade that would only give him his dream in cramped room called cyber café. He jettisons his academic pursuit for the ‘bright’ future that he sees in the magical power of the internet. He is very frank about it when he tells his father that all he wants to be doing in his lifetime is to sits permanently behind a computer screen surfing the web. He converts his feeding allowances, the accruals from his thieving expeditions and fares to school to the money he uses to buy the tickets that sustain his time in the cyber café.

‘A Loss’ catalogues the bitter but untoward experience of a man, whose happiness is soiled when he discovers, rather lately, that he has been dispossess of his money in the bustle and hustle of getting a bus. However, this leaves him with another story to tell the bus conductor, who with manly and tout-like grunt, asks for his fare.

‘On a Night with Two Friends and an Empty Oil Drum’ narrates the plan-of-theft of two friends, Saamekpe and Kozi, which is carried out at Saamekpe’s father’s filling station during the five week long fuel paucity that disrupts the economic activities of the city. The multi-thousand naira plan is messed up when the ‘doro’ is left at home before coming to the filling station. The encounter they had with the police-men exposes the rottenness in the security system of the country. For want of what to present as evidences for the expended bullets the policemen use in the shootout they engage in with an armed robbery gang, they almost kill the two friends in order to use their dead bodies to ‘make’ report. The timely intervention of Saamekpe who offers the policemen his life savings gives them back their freedom. The man, called Oga, who leads the police team, says; ‘One, because if I no produce the body at the station that we use the bullets for, it is me and my boys who will pay for them…’

‘Early Retirement’ is the humorous story of Miss Mizodenayam Pondei, a 28-year old engineering graduate, whose father’s string-pulling can’t get her the desired job in the Ministry of Works but a job to work as a primary school teacher with 6 months probation. She later secures a loan with her academic certificates to assuage the pain the money that pays her fare to her place of work puts on her. The 28-year-old engineering student receives the shock of her life when she is retired from work after 5 months as a person who has worked for 35 years with a pension and gratuity she never works for.

Boniface Doa in ‘The Heat’ rises above the tedium and the suffering of the extreme heat from the hotter-than-hot weather by having a sexual stint with the Orjinta’s maid, Bola, a Francophone girl. When Boniface’s blurting of the smithereens of the Pidgin French he can still recollect can’t help him make Bola to accept his advances; he is quick to resorts to giving her his 22-carat gold necklace, which finally thaws her unfriendly disposition towards him.

In ‘Pot Pourri’, Mrs. Uju (Augustina Lilyrose Patience Odenigbo ‘Mama Uzo’) Orjinta meets her marital waterloo during the screening of her favourite T.V. programme, a weekly half-hour show, Pot Pourri, which she loves so much to a fault. The comforts she gets from watching her favourite weekly half hour programme is shattered when she flinches at the sight of her husband, Mr. Orjinta, who ought to be in office, on the left side of the screen with his lover-bird, where he was so much engrossed in crooning loving words into his girlfriend’s ear. The rendezvous of Mr. Orjinta incidentally coincides with the venue of the weekly half-hour cuisine show, where the chef of the hotel used is the guest-cook on the show.

The long-aged Child Abuse syndrome stares in the face of the reader in ‘Pluck Today Tomorrow’s Wilted Flower’, as the burden of sustaining a family rest on the faltering shoulders of a little, poor and helpless girl. She is taken to the park every morning by her father, who only stays back in a shade in the motor park to while away the day with kola-nuts and cups of tea bought from the daily pittance the girl gets from wheedling strangers who comes to the park to board a vehicle or from those whose buses’ destination terminates at the park. The little girl faints on the day when hunger taut her stomach after several hours of nothing to show for her effort of begging, but a wilted flower that decorates her hair. She is rescued by a stranger whose care and self-pity translates to money and food.

Odion’s manhood is tested and found wanting by the avalanche of letters purportedly written by his runaway father, which Odion’s mother gives to him on his eighteenth year old birthday in ‘The Letters’. The letters profess the undying love of Odion’s father to him. The letters give flimsy excuses to make up for his (Odion’s father) absence in Odion’s life when he needs him most. Anxiety creeps in on Odion when he does not know how to tell the mother that has always been there for him that; he has finally forgiven his father despite his misdeeds. He summons the courage to break the news to his mother after the fear of telling his mother makes him to wet his bed. In desperation to look for his father, he angrily steps out to look for his father, but is taken aback and shocked when his disappointed mother said; ‘What if I told you that I wrote them, to show you, and prove to myself, that I have indeed succeeded. You will never be a man.’

‘The Tempest’ is a literary documentation of a bereaved mother, Onari, who despite her ‘expectant’ posture (pregnant), still commands the attention of numerous admirers who swim around her like flies vying to perch on an overripe mango. Bayo, the winner in the contest for Onari’s love, dumps Kelechi, his fiancé. The ground under Onari’s feet gives way when Bayo jilts her and returns to his first love, Kelechi. Hunger becomes Onari voluntary companion afterwards and as a result, Onari is delivered of a baby in an early labour. Onari is bereaved after two weeks, when a furious tempest takes her house’s roof off the house to a faraway destination and carries away her baby to an unknown place. Just like her missing baby, Onari mysteriously leaves her tenement before the search party formed to look for her missing child arrives.

Despite Ifedior Idoko’s propitious augury in investing in his wife’s (Godiya) education, he is dominated upon and emotionally oppressed in ‘Domination’. After series of fruitless search for job vacancy for Godiya, a graduate of Angronomy with first class honours, she later acquiesces to the price that comes along with the new part-time teaching job she is given by the headmaster of a school; the price which leaves a love-bite on Godiya’s supple and succulent breast. Ifedior Idoko sees this when she is breastfeeding their baby. He raves and rants, but penury dominates on his anger and suppresses his manliness as he comes into the arms of Godiya like a crying baby.

In the ‘Phoenix’, Tartius Abrachius destiny and dream is almost smeared, if not totally destroyed, by the irrational rashness of two tribes who war for supremacy. Though he is the luckiest one among those lynched upon in the fiercest battle that takes place between the decade-long enemies, he is only left with his two arms chopped off from his shoulder. Like the mythical story of the Phoenix, Taritus Abrachius gathers the broken pieces of his life and becomes more resolute to achieve greatly in life. He later excels in his trade of road-side tailoring as he entertains his clientele with the rare dexterity he displays, even without his two arms, with the sewing machine – this is the rebirth from when his first dream is shattered when his hands are viciously severed. Tartiuis Abrachius completes his lifecycle like the proverbial Phoenix when he is mistaken for the thief he is helping to nab with his fleet-footed feet and burnt to death. At this point, Tartius Abrachius is believed to have lived the life of a Phoenix – a first death he dies when his two hands are amputated, a second death which sorrowfully snatches him when he is passed for the thief he has been pursuing and set ablaze.

‘Even As An Angry Wind Leaves Nothing In Its Path’ shows how a story in few words, if properly presented, can explain a whole lot that could have been written in a whole book. The writer uses the experience of a character, Barinada Kpee, to expose the not-too-well and decaying man-made problem that always plummet the fledging structure of a dying nation. Through Barinada Kpee’s various encounters, the stinking and rottenness of a failing nation is laid bare. The story mirrors the negative effect of colonisation, the immaturity of those who rule an independent nation with an ability that is far below mediocrity and the grief and suffering that the citizens are used to as a normal way of life.

‘They Would Be Swine’ is a story-in-a-story. The short and brief story is a story of two friends whose journey to having wealth almost destroys them, it is the story of a bus which almost had an accident because of a bad story that is shared by its passengers, it is also the humorous story of a man whose bag’s content turns out to be the ‘smiling’ head of a girl when the bus he is travelling in is stopped for a search by policemen.

My Pen Critiques:

The book is no doubt a powerful book that shows that its writer, A. Igoni Barrett, has indeed paid his dues. I admire the rare diction employed in conveying the writer’s imagination which makes the story to appear ‘real’, as to how it affects and relates with the people the messages are meant for. What I however could not understand is how the writer almost spoils the broth with gratuitous ingredients. Some stories could not be easily understood, leaving the reader to keep pondering on the necessity of the tasking words that are not in anyway needed. The writer’s presentation of the story is too ‘shakespearely’ that one wonders if the messages are really for those whom the messages are directed to. The pen of the writer pays too much attention to the story without deeming it fit to pull out the weeds that can destroy the good crops. It has always been believed that only the weak tries to prove their strength to people. A piece with strong messages does not need to be peppered with too much far-fetched dictions to be able to glean acceptance and wide readership. The appeal of a piece is in its messages and not in the too-much-dictions and words that leave the writer struggling with the method to pass his messages with. It is the ineptitude of a writer to properly express his messages that warrants the use of unworthy and unnecessary statements and phrases; which only makes the writer to writhes in the pain of the method he has adopted.

With all these said, it is indeed worthy to praise the unusual deftness the writer uses to sustain the book’s main theme through out the literary collection without any unreasonable deviation – let the literary guns roll out their shots to exult the literary adroitness of A. Igoni Barrett. I never regretted reading the book. Thumps up!
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