i2i Publishing, Manchester, United Kingdom, Killing Them Softly: A call to arm, Martin Agbbonlahor
Andrew Iro Okungbowa
Killing Them Softly, written by Martins Agbonlahor, a Nigerian-born United Kingdom-based trained lawyer and professional journalist, is not just only a seminal book on the struggle for women’s rights in Nigeria but also of the exhibition of the oppression and injustice visited on the women based on cultural beliefs and practices and a revolt against this odious maltreatment.
It is obviously, an x-ray, in a very moving manner, of happenings in Nigeria, his country of birth, where bad governance has given root to endemic problems of injustice, abuse of human rights, bribery and corruption, religious bigotry and all sorts of social vices and economic woes. It is also reflection on other Africa countries where such practices are elevated to an act.
The author will surely earn the recommendation of anyone reading the 318-pages novel for telling his story from the stand point of a feminist. Agbonlahor succeeds in sustaining interest in his socio-fictional cum factual novel by choosing to adopt the story telling technique rather than use mere polemics and socio-jingoism employed by many of the feminists or promoters of feminism.
It this story telling method –telling the story from the standpoint of a fictional lead character, Martha Clifford –that makes this work of his a great work and something that anyone will find difficult to put down once you get through the first few pages.
Agbonlahor, from the prologue, left no one in doubt of what he sets out to achieve with his work. Detonate African’s oppressive culture as laid bare in a patriarchy setting and beliefs that at every point undermines the rights of the women, putting a hold on them as second class, if not third class citizens, who are only fit to fan the embers of man’s ego, doing his bidings and satisfy his erotic and bestial desires most times.
Although not a feminist himself, for obvious reasons and using his poetic license as a writer, he has decided to bring to the fore the disadvantaged position society has put the women. And so, at every point in the novel, while unfolding happenings across the socio-cultural, economic, religious and political planes, to bad governance, he does so highlighting how all of these are skewed against the women.
The entire 28 chapters are devoted to how Martha Clifford challenged the status quo, trying to break the glass ceil and act not only as a conscience of the society but a voice for the oppressed women and others in the society.
Agbonlahor takes his readers into the inner recess of the cultural practices and beliefs of his Benin background, giving us a benefit of his experience and apt understanding of the cultural practices of his forebears while growing up in the city of Benin.
Martha Clifford is raised in a polygamous home, where the father calls the shot and turns his wives and children to mere furniture or appendages to his person as none of them had no say in the running of the home or dare go against the autocratic decree of his father, who is seen as ‘The Lord of the Manor.’
Growing up, she agonises over these accepted ways of life and whenever she raises questions, she is silenced by her father and mother as well as others around her, who have acquiesce with the oppressive and degrading cultural practices, to simply do as she is told and not ago against the societal code as the consequences are grievous.Despite her fight, she was not able to reach the ‘mountaintop of her desire’ due to the deep-seated nature of the cultural beliefs and endemic corrupt practices in her country.
The author has carefully penciled the novel in a lucid and simple as well as easy to comprehend language, with symmetric flow and diction while he has also spiced it with anecdotes and drawing examples from other parts of the world to drive home his story. He draws also in terms of anecdotes from his years of stay in Europe, precisely Italy, where he first sojourned before relocating to London, where he presently resides with his family.
This is a book every Nigerian, especially the women and human rights activists, should read to understand properly the plight of women and the oppressed and seek to banish it through concerted efforts as Martha Clifford and her team sought to, drawing many followers to their fold in the process. The author, Martins Agbonlahor is a journalist and a motivational speaker, who resides in Greater Manchester, North-West of England.