- Published by Weekly Trust Newspaper of Saturday, 24 January 2015 05:00
- Written by Nathaniel Bivan
Author: Nnenna Ihebom
Publisher: Origami Books
Reviewer: Nathaniel Bivan
This novel is timely and tells a very familiar story – of a few people trying to fix a country through violence, a higher institution where sexual harassment of female students by lecturers and manipulation of results are the order of the day, a president surrounded by a cabal responsible for putting him on seat and a chief electoral officer hounded by politicians sworn to rigging the upcoming election.
A few physical attributes of the book, Patriots and Sinners, is noteworthy. Being an imprint of the Nigerian Writers Series (NWS), the publishers of this work, Origami Books, kept the title portable, with the logo of the series, located at the top right side of the cover. Every reader would quickly notice the work is under the NWS even before turning the page. Many Nigerian readers familiar with the African Writers Series and Pacesetters have perhaps thirsted for well written literature from fresh authors ready to address the ills of the Nigerian society. In the latter regard, this novel is a successful attempt.
The plot, from the very first page, gets one wide awake. There’s a checkpoint, and the cops conduct the usual selective search. A car boot is popped open and a spiral of bullets kills the four policemen in an instant. Alas, the whole scene was premeditated by the passengers in the car with one of them inside the boot.
Federal Republic of Katanga is in crises, an immediate reminder of the insecurity in present-day Nigeria. But in Katanga, it isn’t Boko Haram, although killings of any sought do terrorise. It’s a gang, so strong it forces Zachel, the Chief Security Officer of the nation to seek outside help, from one man, after Siella, the President’s daughter, is kidnapped. Now, the suspense begins.
Page 21reveals that Napoleon, the man Zachel seeks for help is in fact in lieu with the gang. Then one is suddenly caught off guard. Close to the bottom of that page, Chapter 5 was written like any other line in the page, inconsistent with other chapters located at the top of the page, Origami sure made a fatal error here.
Napoleon disappears on Zachel in Timbuktu, where the latter met him. Meanwhile, the president’s daughter displays great courage in the hands of her captors, the dreaded gang, called Patriots who have terrorised the country. Her captors treat her well. But after Siella gets into a scuffle where she beats up one of the group’s henchmen, the leader, Roxy becomes attracted to her and they become friends. Soon, the two form an alliance and a romantic relationship begins to take root. The captive is freed and she goes home with an ideology tuned towards redeeming her nation.
From distributing magazines unravelling atrocities of lecturers in Siella’s university to working alongside the new electoral officer – Siella convinced her father, the president, to install – the now reformed Patriots break the backbone of Katanga’s political elites who are determined to rig the upcoming elections by all means. Soon, politicians involved in fraudulent activities are arrested and locked for months in a rehabilitation centre where they are forced to go through an orientation programme.
Although the story has great lessons for any nation suffering from corruption and god-fatherism, there are evident flaws in this delivery. Imagery was poor, as well as the ability to show rather than tell the reader. An example of telling and not showing is seen in the beginning of chapter 31, page 159.
Page 159: Leroy, a Class Three student of the Kimono Day Secondary School, came back from school one day and saw his mother, Madam Lovina, in a very happy mood. The middle-aged plump woman was singing and dancing, displaying a wrapper and a few edible items. Leroy was happy to see his mother in such a happy mood but was curious to know why (There are so many of such in the book, telling, without showing).
Interestingly, the book is like a manual aimed at proffering solutions on how to handle cases of electoral fraud.
On security, a force was put together, made up of former criminals who hitherto had no understanding of the best way to help the society. They stole money and gave to the poor in a typical Robin Hood style. When the rehabilitation centre for fraudulent politicians was established, these same men became part of special security. Unfortunately, some aspects concerning the events that unfolded in the rehabilitation centre appear illogical. For example, the fact that Inspector Davies, Chief Yagaz and Doctor Fab, would try to escape and opt for a life as fugitives when they had just four months to leave the centre.
There’s also inefficient use of the five senses of taste, smell, sight, touch and hearing, indispensible in any work of fiction. Today, even non-fictional works are given these authoritative ingredients, so as to take the reader into the writer’s mind. Reading Chuck Palahniuk’s – Nuts and Bolts: “Thought” Verbs, on the internet, will be an indispensible asset to this promising author.
Omissions, misrepresentations, repetitions, unnecessary use of dispensable words all ganged up in watering down the strength of this intriguing story.
For unnecessary words, the beginning of chapter 11, page 68, reads: Siella resumed “for” studies at the Longram University (“for” is dispensable). Another example is in the first line of chapter 15: Professor Kabba was worried, and he had “a” good cause to be (“a” is unnecessary. There are so many of such flaws).
The story ends with all the former major players and king makers in Katanga’s politics turned to reformed citizens when they rounded off their stay at the rehabilitation centre. Roxy and Siella become engaged, while the president hands over to an honest man (even when he had the constitutional right to go for a second term in office) who desires to govern the land with integrity. This work is obviously timely, especially at this point in Nigeria’s history where the elections are around the corner and allegations of plans to rig already in the air.