AUTHOR: Dike-Ogu Chukwumerije
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2012
REVIEWERS: Salamatu Sule and Princess Ovrawah
This novel is a first person narrative fiction told through the eyes of a young Nigerian boy and is almost autobiographical in nature.
It is set during the military era of the 90’s and it can be said that the book is a record of the events as well as experiences that engulfed the lives of people from the controversial June 12 general elections and how the event of the time changed their lives forever. It is a pure political satire that is a reaction to the military regime of the late General Sani Abacha.
The plot of the novel discusses the life of the main character Urichindere in a splitting personality. He takes us through the journey of his life as a boarder in the personae of Pips Macqueen at St Michael’s College, a school made for the elites while also introducing to us all the other characters in the story.
In Urichindere, we pause to grasp the story of a family who finds themselves in a turbulent situation in the hands of the military government. First he tells us of how his uncle Ima was captured by the marshal for his idealism and philosophy.
Mr. Okpara his father is caught in the middle and must also struggle against being part of the system to stop uncle Ima from portraying the government in a bad light. The government also tries in every way possible using military strategies and deceitful means to bring the Okpara family down.
Meanwhile in Pips we laugh ourselves to stupor as we get a vivid picture of his life as a boarder with so much hilarious activities like shit pounding and being a hard man in all areas such as his clash with Temlong, his wishes and aspiration to study and become a medical doctor, drive a car and marry a very beautiful.
In the life of Urichindere Dike seems to agree with Samuel Becket’s theory of splittism which preaches the need to be bad and good at the same time in order to survive as portrayed in Urichindere.
You must adapt to the environment of time which means you must refute the oppressive tendencies of the oppressors by being a real hard man like Uncle Ima against the government, Pips Macqueen against Temlong, Mac Jimmy and the society.
The author creates a unique narrative style and approach in a way that engages his readers and holds them spellbound till the end as the readers can relate to most of the events in the novel.
He uses a participatory form of approach when he asks us the readers’ questions in a rhetorical manner and the reader quickly reacts by either agreeing or disagreeing to the question.
More participatory is the fact that the reader throws himself in to a raucous laughter while nodding in agreement with the author. He changes his composure to look serious and also to reflect on issues such like power and class, betrayal and deceit when Urichindere brings the reader to a pause to reflect. The author explores so many themes in this novel.
Coming of Age: In the novel, the reader is taken on a journey through the growth and transition of Urichindere A.K.A Pips MacQueen from an innocent “…starry eyed form one student …” (19), to a matured teenager who had witnessed death and learnt how to take responsibilities for his family and himself as we see in his handling of little Haruna’s death, a child watching another child die and helping in a childlike manner.
Pips MacQueen realizes that maturity when the news of the fight between the Christians and the Muslims breaks out and was taken home immediately.
“The world can be like that. In one tiny circle, you find love and laughter and family…, but then in another circle, just a handspan away, you will find people killing each other, and you will find fathers telling their children to grow up…Am I really growing up? Because, having to remember that Mac Jimmy is northern and Muslim, is making me feel as if I am growing down.” (107)
He learns that he has to be responsible for his family when his father is arrested by the men with “black glasses and dark coats…” and is sentenced to death. His mother tells him:
“You are the one I will hold responsible for the house when I am gone. Take care of everything.” (289)
Violence and Death: It is a dominant aspect of the novel as we are introduced to the negative effects of war and crisis.
“…Christians and Muslims were fighting seriously in Kaduna. There had been a big fight some time ago in a place called Zangon Kataf. Now, it was like some people were taking revenge on some other people for what happened then, and Kaduna city was not safe” (104)
Violence can also be seen when Pips MacQueen was assaulted by the soldier at the check point. Despite the fact that it was obvious that Pips was a student, the soldier:
“slapped me, punched me, kicked me and then pointed his gun at me…Who do you think you are? If I waste you now, do you think anything will happen?” (143)
Pips and his family had to leave Lagos for the village due to the escalating level of violence in the city as a result of Gidanbaba annulling the results of the elections.
Furthermore, violence can be seen through the death of Uncle Ima who was arrested by the men in black glasses and dark coats. Uncle Ima was charged for treason by General Bulala’s government and sentenced to death.
Betrayal and Deceit: In the novel, Pips MacQueen learns about betrayal on account of his naivety when his best friend Mac Jimmy betrays him:
“I did what I did…to your dad to win to win back baba’s trust. It was the only way to get close to him again…But I thought …all they wanted to do was to remove him from power. I honestly didn’t think they would kill him…” (315)
I personally would love to read this novel over and over, because of the author’s unique use of diction and style, and also the fact that the reader can relate with most of the events, and the author through his craft, holds us spell bound.
CULLED FROM: WEEKLY TRUST
I am a member of the WRR editorial team.