TITLE: GORILLA OF THE NIGER DELTA
AUTHOR: AKPOVIRI AKPOVETA PRINCE
PUBLISHER: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015
REVIEWER: Joseph Omotayo
Humans are living stories and literature (fiction especially) is a slipcase for them. Gorilla of the Niger Delta draws on the wealth of human lurid issues and you are hooked.
This book explores the familiar and investigates it in the way only literature is known to. I have always known fiction to transverse the limit of non-fiction, which is true.
The marginalization of the Niger Delta is one we all know, thanks to the mass media. Gorilla of the Niger Delta surpasses reports in the mass media to give us some closure. Reality stings us, inundates us and we are soon inured.
In getting used to horrors we create some distancing. Distancing protects us from trauma. Fiction does otherwise; it bites us in its imaginariness, makes us co-participants as the familiar is beaten into appreciative appeals.
This book makes the oil trouble of the Niger Delta almost a new experience for me.
That is one of the many things I appreciate about the book.
The main issue in the book is the gloom of a region exploited than it is enriched. Akpoveta Akpoviri creates conundrums around this known exploitation to mesmerize.
His book thrills for those who hanker after tensed actions, sweetened conflicts and smooth resolutions; which are known features of a thriller.
It will be as though you are seeing Jack Baueresque flicks. There are kicks, bullets, street cred and gores.
“Davis walked out of the room. Delano immediately made a quick check on the apartment, making sure it wasn’t bugged. Certain that the room was safe, he walked over to the 32 inch LG plasma screen and switched it on. He moved away towards the couch and threw himself on it. Picking up his luggage, he opened it and brought out a parcel he had neatly tucked away under the bottom of the bag. No matter how hard you would have searched the luggage, you wouldn’t have even suspected that something lay in there. He opened it and picked out the parts of his dismantled Colt 45 bit by bit, and a jack knife.” (pg. 48)
“…They moved on along the path. A cold breeze engulfed them. “We are close”. Suddenly Delano dived and pulled his companion to the ground, “Down!” he shouted. As they fell on the ground, gunshots exploded near them. Delano swiftly rolled over and crawled in the grass, his Colt 45 revolver in hand.” (pg. 115-116)
This book excites for the most part of it. A kidnap happens, and the many conflicts in the book begin: man’s greed and comeuppances; nature’s degradation and avoidable poverty, a country’s woes and her seeming rescue.
This book packs multifarious conflicts in one.
On one hand is the kidnap of an American envoy and the hidden agendas it serves. On the other side are little but germane conflicts between individuals and groups.
With the envoy’s kidnap, the diplomatic tie between Nigeria and America is threatened. Many messes follow through. Delano, an American resourceful officer is summoned to rescue one of his own. The situations that engulf him in Nigeria tar and change him.
Delano’s survival through it all opens up the hypocrisy and the class struggle that often masks a part of the Niger Delta revolution, a commixture of those seeking mints and gains and those who seek true emancipation. Gorilla of the Niger Delta tasks your knowledge of the Niger Delta travails.
A reader’s foreknowledge of the impoverishment of the region comes in handy. There are several metamorphoses of characters, from the good to the not-too good and vice versa; there is the priest, there is the Commissioner of Police, Davis and others.
There is also a toppling of deeply mired high ranking personalities.
This book nearly flops some ways, for one, it encourages lazy reading. There are many unnecessary annotations for inconsequential things. Words are wasted. See this on Muritala Mohammed International Airport:
“It was six pm at the Murtala Mohammed International (MMA) Airport in Nigeria, one of the foremost Airports built in Nigeria after independence, one recently given a facelift by the present administration in their drive for better infrastructure development within the Aviation industry, in order to stall the frequent accidents in the country. It had been christened after the Late General Murtala Mohammed, assassinated during the Lt. Col Buka Suka Dimka coup d’état, which took place in the country in 1976, ten years after the first coup occurred in 1966 led by the Late Kaduna Nzeogwu.” (pg. 43)
In this age and the internet, writers should make suggestions and let the readers go work them out. There is Google. On page 89 the same happens again:
“Her present health condition was not getting better, for she suffered from osteoporosis, a condition that causes fractures of the hip, ribs, or vertebras leading to frailness in elderly people.” (pg. 89)
And please who painted Mona Lisa? Pablo Picasso or Leonardo da Vinci? I thought Leonardo da Vinci did and Pablo Picasso arguably stole it:
“A huge picture frame of the Mona Lisa portrait by Pablo Picasso gracefully adorned one end of the room.” (pg. 6)
The central theme in this book is replete with materials online. The author intrudes on me many times. I like when a book pushes me to look things up on my own. The writer bores one with his attempt to explain all.
Lastly, this underestimates the reader. Why explain what pidgin is? Whom do you write for?
“He made a quick coffee and handed it over to the girl. She looked at it and declined. “You know get any food for here?” she asked him in the fashionable Nigerian slang popularly christened Pidgin English by the locals, because it is a corrupted form of the original English” (pg. 82)
You should read this book. There are many reasons to. It’s a laudable debut.