Title: Prodigals in Paradise
Author: Henry Akubuiro
Publisher: Lasmedia Press, Lagos
Reviewer: Olamide Babatunde
Prodigals in Paradise is an unpredictably facetious and eloquent prose debut from Henry Akubuiro. The coterie of characters are well suited to play roles, which, on the whole, incite a hilarious camaraderie typical of low life city dwellers. The latest squatter in town, Nicodemus; his uncle. Job; Keziah, the wanton belle, her vagabond son, Junior, and others, all mirror an impoverished, careless life that leads to an abrupt twisted end.
No 3, Godmon Street, Okota, Lagos, the locale of the work, to Nico’s chagrin, is Paradise. When he is led to his uncle, he thinks to himself: How could my cousin be living in a wretched place like this meant for urchins? Perhaps it is another Job they are talking about. It turns out to be the perfect stage for the low lifers. Nothing is, as it seems, beyond the walls of the innocent uncompleted building.
In this comical history of what Lagos is about in the slum, Akubuiro avails his characters wanna-be dispositions, trapped in the rat race; he allows each character discretion over decisions as it hurts. From the start, the plight is understood to inflict an undeniable level of corruption and diehard mentality about surviving or worse still eking out a living.
Impoverishment, at its mildest form, would offend the most gracious of souls; more so, those who fall in the category of a bubble- brained- lazy-lout simply because they lack what it takes to turn the situation around. This symptom sufficiently is the basis for the indecorum, frowardness and shamelessness widespread in Paradise. It also mirrors the larger society riddled with people seeking comfort where they have not sowed and have no intentions to.
Set in the Lagos metropolis, the motivation, structure and complexities of the novel are woven together neatly that a reader can paint by every word the eyesore poverty can create. Purely entertaining and engaging, the laughter elicited from any reader by the descriptive offering of Akubuiro is honestly so much so. For instance, when Job feigns a dim-witted beggar an incidence at Oshodi which takes him unawares almost blows his cover. “A molue bus was ascending the Oshodi Overhead bridge when, all of a sudden, a tire burst, and skidded off the highway, ramming into an electric pole wham! Seeing the electric cables falling off and sparking currents here and there, the so-called crippled, deaf-and-dumb beggar, Job, rose up before any beggars huddled together, screamed in fright and took off, clutching his bowl of alms.”
We are not spared Keziah’s sexcapades from which she has had three babies and seventeen abortions. The only child she spares is Junior, the rascal. The infamous sorry residence has sheltered her for six years. According to her, “It’s home for all in the real sense of it. This is the only place in Lagos where you don’t get to pay a kobo as house rent year in year out. It is a place dreaded by both police and criminals. I call it a place of refuge.” Beaten by hardship, she would go any length to get a man. Even, with the most ridiculously twisted biblical justification, her life quote is life happens, whoring helps.
While Job the protagonist shares a name with an upright figure in the Bible, he is far behind being as faithful or pious. His cunning knows no bounds. When he returns from his father’s burial a year later, he takes up his new found hobby.
Having acquired some magical powers, he becomes the pastor of Paradise Church of Universe. Gobsmacked neighbours soon fall prey except Nicodemus, who is labelled stony hearted and misguided.
All hell is let loose when keziah is impregnated again by the miracle-seeking British, Edward Bolton. Bolton himself has had it unsavory with Job who made him fast for too long. His health condition worsened by malaria and starvation eventually kills him ten months after he entered Paradise. Nicodemus quits his bus conductor job to become a reporter duty bound to break the news of the evil church run by his cousin.
Every page drips with acute hilarious complexities of incredible characters fated to live in a crazed world of the metropolitan. The dreams about the Island, the manipulative survival instincts in the face of reality in Paradise makes this book one that highlights the struggles of the common man, his uncanny, tireless means of making sure man must wack. Unrelenting prodigals, indeed.
Book review : Agonies of the barren
Title: Collected Plays III
Author: Jerry Alagbaoso
Publisher: Krafbooks, Ibadan
Reviewer: Henry Akubuiro
A common thread runs through the three plays that make up Jerry Alagbaoso’s Collected Plays: the marriage institution is under threat. The philanderer is as bad as the desperate wife, who, in a bid to sire a child for her man, surrenders her pudenda to a mongrel. It takes us to six and two threes, which bode no good for the marriage at long last.
The blame game in our society for lack of children falls on the doorstep of the woman. But that is as far as ignorance goes. In reality, any of the couple can be the guilty one. Before you can kill an ant with a sledgehammer, Alagbaoso’s drama calls for caution; don’t play into the hands of a moral dupe.
Collected plays III contains three plays inside: Mine: An Enduring Heart, Nkem: Obi na Ali, and Signs and Wonders. But it must be pointed out that the first and second plays are much the same –Nkem… is the Igbo version of the Mine…. You can say the playwright is advancing the cause of writing in indigenous language.
What Alagbaoso does perfectly well in each of the three plays is to maximise limited characters to pass a subtle message. Humour is deployed to the very end, and he dons the garment of a pedagogue, using nuances as the pivot for emotional purgation. For sure, you are bound to take one or two things away when the curtains finally fall.
In Mine: An Enduring Heart, the two major characters are Husband, a young man called Clever; and Wife, his wife. There is an Old Man and three chiefs, who the family runs up to for help. There are also stock characters like Teacher and Dr. Bright. The crisis here is that, after years of being together as marriage partners, there is no child to show for it.
Wife goes to the heart of the matter from her first utterance in the drama: “…since after our wedding, it has been difficult for me to take in and my parents, especially my mother, are getting worried. I am sure the nonexistence of a protruding stomach explains why your mother throws on me some sarcastic questions about monthly sickness nearly every fortnight”. Husband blames it on her ill luck “or perhaps it is God’s design”. Yeah, we have many saints around.
In the heat of the matter, emotions pull at contrary directions. Wife wants them to seek the help of a third party at extreme case. She recommends that “… the man can equally be your close friend, and it will be on the basis of a shared understanding.” Husband can’t withstand sharing his honey with another man.
Old Man intervenes when the altercation between the couple becomes a slanging match. He would like the matter to be resolved the next day at their ancestral home. The elders resolve that the matter requires “a male sharp shooter to address it”. It is an old tradition that Clever can oblige, they compel him. If the words of the elders are words of wisdom, what do you make of this?
Wife eventually gets her way, and, now, we can get episodes out of a honky-tonk. Intolerance becomes unbearable, and the wife talks down on the husband. He is even ready to call it quits. What God put together is about to be put asunder. Gee!
In the third play, Signs and Wonders, Miriam, the PA-turned wife of Commander Timmy, is desperate for a child to consummate the marriage. She has succeeded in worming herself into the heart of the commander, against her wife’s wish. Now, she wants to hear the cry of her own baby. She tells her man: “Have you not noticed, Honey, that everybody is looking at my stomach expecting it to be disfigured by FW- Fruit of the Womb?”
The search for this elusive fruit leads them into hugging a log. There is famed Pastor Mirage Airze, who has a record of successful treatment of such cases. Miriam describes him further: “He is a prayer warrior and a singer …. He first speaks in tongues, and God will direct him on who among his numerous clients or patients needs immediate attention on a particular day….”
Commander finally agrees to give it a try, but it becomes a trial of fortitude when the bubbles burst. He catches him ramming into his wife, and here comes a flutter in the dovecot. A well guided secret of a miracle worker has been revealed. Yes, there can’t be signs and wonders in singlets and shorts!
Mr Endurance Fine-Face, who had accompanied his own wife to the sham miracle worker in the past, now realises that his two miraculous children might not be his after all. The damage has already been done. Commander vows to return to his first wife, the mother of children. Beware, not all glittery things are gold!
Alagbaoso deploys songs to fine effect in this play. Like in Mine: An Enduring Heart, the playwright beams light on the wanton wife b , while opening our eyes to the many untenabilities of marital actions. This book is a reader’s delight any day.