The Face of Tyranny:  Book Chat with Jowhor Ile and Odafe Atogun - Enajite Efemuaye

The military era was a dark time for Nigeria and it is reflected in the fiction set in that time where brutality and tyranny of the nation’s leaders. Odafe Adogun and Jowhor Ile, both first-time novelists, set their stories in that time.

Where Johwor’s book was set in the 90s, Adogun chose an unspecified time to bring his protagonist Tanudo home from exile.

Taduno’s story wraps around that of his girlfriend, Lela, who was taken away by government agents in Taduno’s Song. The author revealed during the book chat hosted by Dami Ajayi that while Taduno’s character was modeled on Fela Kuti, who fought brutality with peace and his music. He however chose to leave the time in which the book is set unspecified because “the president in Taduno’s Song is representative of tyranny all over the world.” Therefore he didn’t feel the need to parody any Nigerian military ruler as “tyranny in the world has the same face.”

 

Adogun read an excerpt from his work, a series of letters written by Lela (a character he confessed was an ode to his wife) to Tanudo, who is a musician. “I listened to music while writing the book so you could say the entire book is music,” Adogun said.

Jowhor Ile’s And After Many Days explores a similar theme of tyranny but in a less direct way. Also set in Nigeria during a military regime in the 90s, the novel is narrated in the voice of Ajie, the youngest of the three Utu children. It begins with the disappearance of the first son Paul, and the works its way backwards and then forward.  

Johwor read an excerpt that highlighted the sibling rivalry between Ajie and his older sister Bibi (who he insisted bears no resemblance to his own sister).

Responding to a question from the audience on his thought about a New York Times review that said he deviated so much from question of Paul’s disappearance that by the time he comes back to it, the reader has stopped caring, Johwor Ile said that he gave equal attention to every character in the story including the city of Port Harcourt which also took on the guise of a character.

Prof. Ngugi wa Thiong o got into the fray when he questioned the writers’ relationship with African languages in their writing. Adogun admitted that while he spoke two languages he couldn’t write them. His book was being translated into German and he looked forward to them being translated into Nigerian languages. Jowhor’s characters on the other hand benefited from him having good knowledge of his native Ogba, a language he predicts will be extent in fifty years.

Enajite Efemuaye works as enterprise editor at Kachifo Limited, one of Nigeria’s foremost independent publishers, and is also the Manager of Farafina Trust. Her work has been published in African Independent, This is Africa, Ake Review, Sabinews.com, Guardian Life Magazine and Brittle Paper.