Vulnerable Chronicles is a coming of age story. It tells the tale of four friends Ayaere, Angela, Daniella and Pauline. Interestingly, their story begins on the last day of their stay in secondary school. Now if like me you recall that day with fond memories then permit me to share mine. The relief I felt on my last day in secondary school was knowing that I would never have to sit in another maths class (a subject I hated and feared in equal proportion) ever again – well so I thought until I was forced to endure two semesters of micro and macro economics and accounting in my third year in the university.
For the girls, all of the emotions and excitement of that special day is aptly captured in chapter six of the book by Mrs Owhor the principal of Okwuta Girls School in her admonition to the girls during the Valedictory service held in celebration of their passing out.
“May I urge you therefore to hold fast that which is your pride and innocence, know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Keep your book in your hand and heart always. Remember that the girl child is the future of this nation. You carry in you sons and daughters of greatness, the generation next.”
It was a special time in the lives of the girls, a time between childhood and adulthood, a time when they felt almost invincible and that they could go out there in the world and conquer. A time when they felt they could do anything and be anything.
In the early chapters of the book, we see a great bonding and how much the girls drew on each other for encouragement and strength as if to buttress the saying about evil company and what it did to good manners. In effect, at that impressionable stage of development and even beyond, people are largely influenced by the company they keep. The girls shared almost every thing, including the innocence and expectations of a bright future if they stayed chaste and followed the straight and narrow path, but this is not the story Ebidenyefa Nikade intended to tell – she has a darker and more sinister revelation for her readers.
Vulnerable Chronicles tells the story of desecration, molestation, abuse, violation and rape. These are very serious issues even in Nigeria today and I am glad the author tackled them with the seriousness they deserve. Through the eyes of Ayaere Tessy Akpoebiddei, a bright and beautiful starry eyed sixteen year old girl raised by a single parent because her father died when she was only four, we see how trust can be betrayed and how our young girls can be taken advantage of and exploited by the very men who should be protecting them.
There was a time last year you could hardly read the papers without learning about one incident of paedophilia and rape – students by their teachers, children by thier grandparents, and young girls by their neighbours and friends. Vulnerable chronicles boldly and brazenly brings these issues to the front burner. It is a clarion call for parents and those in authority to take action and protect our daughters.
Like the author, I am fascinated by the word vulnerable, it connotes a state of weakness and helplessness. This is not in anyway saying that the female gender is subservient to their male counterparts, or that they cannot aspire to the same heights as the men do. My point and I strongly believe that the author shares this with me is that they are biologically and culturally susceptible to sexual assault, early marriage, vesicovaginal Fistula, abortion and other conditions capable of truncating their destiny and future. Need I remind us also that they are the ready victims of war and the defenceless, softest of targets for terrorists and insurgents be they Boko Haram or ISIS, as they pillage and kill in an asymmetric battle that even the west cannot contain.
Permit me to ask at this point, where are the Chibok girls? Will they ever be found?
Vulnerable Chronicles is a beautiful and well-written book. Written in fluid prose and simple language, it is interspersed with good Poetry. Now with the double unveiling of this book and her collection of poetryThese Words are not Mine, I daresay that Mrs Nikade is the Queen of Bayelsa Poetry. She deserves the crown and all the accolades that come with the responsibility.
The brilliant infusion of Ijaw words and expressions through out the work, something I admire and aspire to emulate in my future writings(although I suspect my very limited assimilation of my mother tongue would pose a major hindrance),is highly commendable. More of our writers should do the same.
In concluding, Vulnerable Chronicles is a story for teenagers, written in a language and style they would understand. It addresses issues that they deal with, answers questions about themselves and admonishes them strongly about faith and not giving up even in the face of the harshest adversary. It exposes emotions they are unable to fully comprehend and feelings that they may be too ashamed and confused to admit. The book is not filled with romance and blue-eyedprinces and fairytalecastles but it confronts the pitfalls to avoid and what to do in certain situations. It tells us that there are lions and wolves out there and that as parents and guardians we need to be vigilant and work with schools and churches in instilling the right values in our Children – boy and girl child alike.
My concerns about explicitly are silenced by the sensitivity of the issues raised in the book and forgiven by Nikade’s boldness and courage in facing this growing epidemic. For errors, mostly typographical, I cannot comment much on these because I read an advance copy of the manuscript but I believe the dedicated and professional team of editors working with the author would have spotted those and dealt with them accordingly.
In Vulnerable Chronicles, the writer has shown herself as bold and fearless. She has become a voice for a good course and reminded us that we cannot remain silent in the face of what a dear friend of mine has described as a season of sexual assault.