Friday, February 25, 2011

A review of Times of the Supermen by Tope Apoola(part 2)

From chapter two, the narrator explored the story as seen from a child’s point of view. He talked about his childhood and the Nigerian society in which he grew.

A place where many who tried to live tomorrow became stuck....
A country where every old man was King and every young man listened....
A world of laughter and drama that foreigners would gladly drop their money to watch.

He also speaks about his family; the tension between his parents due to the effect of his father’s job at the Institute of Special Studies. As the narrator grows up the real aim of the story emerges, as we come across more characters and unprecedented events start unfolding. Rumours and legends abound. Series of hypotheses start to emerge, partly in credit to Chekhov, the Russian naturalist who delivers series of seminars and hypothesized multiple universes and that the Black hole must have been the gateway to our universe, from where ethereal beings must have sneaked in, eons ago. Governments support his researches and the Nigerian President even made policies along his eugenic ideas, declaring in a highly eloquent speech that government should reserve the right to birth control.

The narrator’s experience culminates into a multilateral government project to send 24 young African astronauts to space. The narrator was chosen as part of the team. Book one ends with an accident, the Mars crew lost their way and all contacts with the Earth. They braced themselves for a long sojourn on the red planet.

Book two explores another timeline preceding book one. Here, instead of the narrator, the reader sees the story through the eyes of the book’s important characters; Olabode, the troubled bachelor who was also the narrator’s uncle, Sola Aderomoke; the elegant, adventurous female journalist, Lord; the intellectual pervert who leads a profane organization, Olanusi; the brilliant but senile psychiatrist. Each of them has their own story and yet all their stories are interwoven. Their lives are interwoven in a manner that contributed to the story line.

Sola is Olabode’s girlfriend, Olanusi is the mythical lord’s former psychiatrist. When Olabode starts to have schizophrenic problems, he approached Olanusi who helped unravel the significance of his hallucinations. Olabode would dream of another life in another age. He did not just dream, he sees life as it was, 30,000 years ago. He experiences the war of the primates, a long time ago in prehistoric England, when the modern Homo sapiens triumphed over the primitive, brutish Neanderthals. In this myth and dream he met a La kenu who turned out to be Sola, of his modern world. The plot thickens as lord and his neo-nihilist movement, the human renaissance plan to take over the world and usher a new age of the supermen, where superhuman abilities through genetic alteration will spurn the evolution of a new breed of men. Is there a grand conspiracy by the ancient lords here, those beings who left those genomic signs on the ancient rocks several years before, or is this twist of events just a mere coincidence? The fate of the world nonetheless appears to have been sealed

In the beginning of Book 3 the narrator returns from Mars with the rest of the crew in the year 2287, meeting a very different world that has advanced scientifically and technologically.
The saga culminates in the ultimate confrontation and defeat of evil, epitomised by the human renaissance organization’s plan to create a new world order that will eliminate what it considers ordinary men, as opposed to supermen, which they hope to create.
‘A time comes, when the mere man will seem to the superman, an embarrassment’

The book takes some philosophical issues pertinent to the origin of man, and his continuous search for his identity. Several questions are raised and focus brought on lingering, controversial matters such as evolution, abortion, racism, and religion. It is intricate in its description of events. The style of writing is also good, with frequent flash-backs and rapid plot. The story timeline actually commences in book two, goes back to book 1 and finally ends in book 3. The language is fascinating, it is the rich, biblical English typical with writers like J.R Tolkien and C.S Lewis. The author did a good job of blending together, the various complex characters of the book. Yet the book is without flaw. Spelling errors occur randomly on its pages. Atimes, the plot progresses two slowly and in such a complicated way that the reader may lose touch with the characters. The writer makes up for this in the rich dialogues embedded in the plot.
Altogether, I will say this is one of the most interesting Nigerian novels I’ve read. The theme and the plot have a way of captivating a reader’s interest in a way that one doesn’t get released until he reads to the end. It is expected that controversy will arise concerning the intricate issues raised by the book and some readers may find themselves averse to the opinions of the narrator. Tope Apoola deserves some commendation for putting forward this brilliant debut.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Arab uprisings; lessons for Nigeria

In recent times, several Arab nations have witnessed intense upheavals. The situation became especially severe in Tunisia where the people have removed their president, and in Egypt where a million people are marching on the streets, calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled the country for 30 years. Angry protests have been going on since December last year. Riots sparked by protests against unemployment, corruption and rising standard of living have claimed over 150 lives in these North African countries as protesters clashed with law enforcement agents. The riots were said to have started when a 21 year old man set himself ablaze as a protest against the poor living conditions of himself and millions of other youths in Tunisia. This incidence happened in a provincial city but the riots soon spread to the capital Tunis and the whole country became submerged under a blanket of violence. In what has been described by international journalists as an unprecedented revolution, thousands of people rose up to challenge the 23 year old government of President Ben Ali. Several people were killed, many others were injured or arrested, and journalists were initially barred from covering the protests. Yet the riots persisted. This was an indication that something unusual was about to happen in Tunisia. The problem soon became too much for the government to handle as protesters began to demand for the removal of the president, who had ruled the country for 23 years. The firing of the interior minister and announcement by the president that jailed protesters and journalists would be freed could not help matters. The government even removed restrictions on the media and announced that more jobs would be created but it was too late. The people had spoken, they had spoken clearly and fearlessly; they needed change. The height of the unrest was President Ben Ali’s resignation from office and his subsequent exile. The speaker of the parliament has since been installed as caretaker president. In Egypt, the atmosphere continues to be charged as the people have demanded their rights from their elite. The Egyptians have spoken; they want Mubarak out. The international community continues to watch the outcome of the crisis in Egypt with concern as Mubarak delicately clings to power.
The events happening in North Africa have shown the world the power of the people and the effectiveness of mass action, which is something we have not been using in Nigeria. While watching the live footage of the Tunisian riots on Aljazeera, I wondered whether Nigerians could have the kind of courage exhibited by the young Tunisians. Can we summon in ourselves the courage to demand for our right to self determination, good living conditions and justice, even in the face of harassment by security forces? Before the resignation of the president in Tunisia, the international media were concerned that the protests were not been covered because of government sanctions. Immediately after the president’s exit, it was amazing how everything changed. Freedom of the press was attained immediately to some level as footage of the protests began to stream in. That is what can be achieved when the people speak out with one voice and march against injustice. Wole Soyinka said ‘The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny’ So is the man dying in us Nigerians as we have kept silent, or we have not spoken out loudly enough in the face of rigged elections, inept leadership, corruption, bad electricity, bad roads, lies by our leaders and debilitating poverty. We pray to God to liberate us everyday from oppression of the elite, forgetting that God will not come down and help us. He has given us the power to liberate ourselves, if only we are ready to pay the sacrifice, even at the detriment of our lives. The forthcoming election in April is an opportunity for us to make our demand loud and clear. We must not only speak out, but also act against everything we know as injustice or tyranny in our country. Then only can we achieve the Nigeria of our dreams. Otherwise we will just sit down and fold our arms as we watch things go from bad to worse.