• Monday, December 04, 2023
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Artistic licence and the insurgency in Nigeria (1)

Artistic licence and the insurgency in Nigeria (1)

Chances are that, as another weekend comes, the book lover is likely to seek the company of his or her favourite author. In the process such persons want to lose themselves in the writer’s imagination.

Strictly speaking however this is not really so. This is because Art mirrors life. And at the risk of sounding absolute, the writer is nothing if he cannot draw from life. This is in view of the fact that, the lived reality constitutes his raw material. Therefore, in a primary sense, the writer is a keen observer of reality.

Invariably in this kind of enterprise, he shares something with the journalist. Perhaps the only difference between the two is that the writer brings the imagination to bear on his narratives and renditions.

But despite the foregoing, writers are still in the habit of putting in place disclaimers – that their works are indeed works of fiction. These literary offerings, according to them, have little to do with reality.

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The author of a new book, Madagali, Dr Wale Okediran, has lived up to this profile of the typical writer. This can be observed in the opening pages of this book. How true is this posture? Is it possible to have a work of pure fiction that is not rooted in some reality? Thus, the disclaimer by the author is in itself, a fictional deposition.

Let me quickly state here however, that the author is not alone in this strategy of drawing from reality and going on to state that the consequent output is fiction.

A look at South African literary works will confirm what we are saying here. Over the years, the attention of the world was drawn to the reality of South Africa. This was through the fictional works of writers like: Alex La Guma, Bessie Head, Alan Paton, Ezekiel Mphalele and Nadine Gordimer.

Meanwhile, in East Africa, an Ngugi Wa Thiongo has performed the same task for his country through works like; “Devil on the Cross, Weep not Child and A Grain of Wheat. Indeed, a close reading of Ngugi’s works reveals that he has consistently grappled with what can be called the dilemmas of nationhood in post-colonial Kenya.

Luckily for us however, another writer, Kole Omotosho, has resolved this seeming contradiction for us by contending that what writers attempt to pass off as fiction, is in reality, a blend of the writer’s imagination with observed facts. Hence, he coined what can be called, a new term for literary works. The new term, according to him, is called ‘’Faction.’’ This refers to a blend between the fact and the writer’s imagination.

Hence, the ensuing phenomenon called, Faction. Against this background, it is possible to contend that, what Wale Okediran has engaged in, in this book, Magadali, is that his literary imagination has been deployed to focus on the reality and facts of the evolving tragedy as embodied in Boko Haram and other associated variables.

For good measure, he has thrown into his story, a human dimension. This human dimension involves the narrator, a soldier who is in the frontline of the battle and who at the same time is torn between two love relationships in different countries.

Meanwhile, he has to contend with an injury which he suffered in the course of the war. And such was the existential nature of the injury that he was rendered impotent. A feature which, as amply demonstrated in the book, virtually dehumanised him. This is more so in the light of his status in the family.

As revealed by the author, the narrator is an only son, and as such, the lineage must continue through him on the platform of procreation. What can be seen here as revealed in the book is a kind of tussle between modern orthodox medicine, and its traditional and competing counterpart.

As the story unfolds, the two women in his life provided their respective solutions to this impairment. The one in Liberia catalysed a situation in which an American surgeon in Monrovia carried out an operation, while the one in Nigeria took him to a traditional medicine man. And this is where the story gets more interesting.

Here the reader cannot but be conscious that the writer is a skilful story teller. This is because the second option ties in somewhat to the central theme of the story – insurgency.

Safiya, the facilitator of this second option, has a father who is an off-and-on member of the dreaded Boko Haram sect. Indeed, he it was, who at the urging of his daughter, making contact with the medicine man who provided the cure for the narrator.

However, it was a cure, which ultimately demanded a lot from him as a soldier and as a human being. The suspicion here is that, what the writer has tried to portray is that, it is unrealistic to view the Boko Haram insurgency in simplistic and Manichean terms.

The visible enemy may be Boko Haram but as revealed by the author, there are also other enemies within and without. These range from the soldiers who give information to the so-called Boko Haram enemy and to officers who are equally busy, appropriating the allowances and salaries of those in the lower ranks. The perfidious picture is complete, since we also have soldier-officers who provide pre-bomb materials for the insurgents.

This column will continue next week