Helon Habila’s daring narrative ‘The Chibok Girls’ cannot be strictly placed within the novel tradition in African literature because of its overly journalistic and subjective narration. Memoir it might be, though not certainly. However, this is a creative historicity of the physical and political rubble that has turned out to be the Northern Nigerian state of Borno and its environs.
‘The Chibok Girls’ laces a generally reportage technique with literary creativity to construct sociopolitical issues swirling around ethno-religious crises, violence, corruption and political propaganda and stripping the malignant controversy that has been Boko Haram and radical Islamic militancy in Northern Nigeria. Habila’s mastery of art and storytelling skill will hold even the most indifferent of readers captive all through the narration; creating a solemn empathy and pity for the victims of this terror group.
Despite the tense atmosphere in the narrative — screaming blood and thunder, Habila manages to purge the reader of the sullen grief and fears by doling bits and pieces of humorous tales and scenes about the Northern people and even his childhood days while growing up in the North.
Habila’s mastery of art and storytelling skill will hold even the most indifferent of readers captive through the narration; creating a solemn empathy and pity for the victims of this terror group. Despite the tense atmosphere in the narrative — screaming blood and thunder, Habila manages to purge the reader of his sullen grief and fears by doling bits and pieces of humorous tales and scenes about the Northern people and even his cthildhood days while growing up in the North.
Not necessarily the grandest of literatures, ‘The Chibok Girls’, nonetheless sits in a secured haven in contemporary literature by daring to exhume issues many writers consider derogatory and nether. And the mere fact that Habila reconstructs a first hand information of what he saw and heard during his sojourn in a town considered dangerous to habituate, makes the reading amusing and the reader anxious. That events and scenes in the narrative— gory as they may seem really happened and the dilapidated settings and rubbles were actually captured by the writer offers a certain kind of freshness into the narrative. At the tail end, the reader simultaneously smiles and frowns— smiles that the writer successfully accomplished his risky fieldwork in Maiduguri and frowns that some innocent school girls kidnapped from their hostel on the fateful night of April 14, 2014 are still missing and their families ‘eternally’ mourning, while the infamous mob (Boko Haram) is still at large.
Habila’s ‘The Chibok Girls’ is generally a historical novel — a must- read for all Nigerians and Non- Nigerians alike eager to uncover the politics behind Islamic radicalism in Northern Nigeria and mostly “related to religion or politics ” (35)
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Author: Eugene Yakubu
Eugene Yakubu is a book critic, reviewer and storyteller. He loves art and nature; and spends his time reading beautiful novels and writing stories. He reviews Nigerian books for Authorpedia.