On the day the recently held Nigeria International Book Fair closed proceedings, held from July 27 to 29 at Harbour Point Event Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos, was the auspicious moment former Association of Nigerian Authors’ (ANA) president and current Secretary-General of Pan-African Writers Association (PAWA), Dr. Wale Okediran, chose to launch his latest novel, Madagali, a fictional account on the ongoing terrorism war in Nigeria’s Northeast, also known as Boko Haram. The event had a sizeable number of guests that included family and friends, writers and journalists, with the book reviewer Dr. Abubakar Othman coming all the way from University of Maiduguri, where he teaches English and Literature. The chief launcher Ahmed Waziri Hassan is a native of Madagali in Adamawa Sate, the town on which the novel is set, who contacted Okediran when he heard his town was about to be put on the literary map via a novel and decided to be part of the book launch activities.
It will be recalled that this is Okediran’s second factional novel that is based on part facts and part fiction on Nigeria’s current socio-political condition. His first was Tenants of the House (published in 2010) based on his four years’ foray into the arena of politics as a member of the House of Representatives. It received critical acclaim as an authentic portraiture of Nigeria’s current political dispensation that many argue is anything but democratic as currently being practised.
While welcoming guests, the Managing Director of Evans Publishers, Lukman Dauda, commended the author for choosing Evans to publish the novel and disclosed his initial confusion about what Tenants of the House meant when his outfit first undertook to publish it.
“He had alternatives, and if I’m not mistaken, this is the fourth of his prolific writing that Evans has handled,” he said. “As the Yoruba say, you don’t keep a distance to know how delicious a soup will taste. You have to move closer and have a taste. He did a fantastic job in the context of that story. It truly depicts what is happening on the warfront between Nigeria and the Boko Haram insurgents”.
Dauda prayed for peace in Nigeria, saying: “We continue to pray that God in His infinite mercies will give us victory over the nation’s challenges. We also pray for peace for the people and residents of Madagali because peace has eluded them for a long time. “
Chair of the occasion and Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora, who titled his speech ‘When Fiction Mirrors Life’, commended the author for documenting the Boko Haram insurgency in fictional form. The Minister, who was represented by the CMD of Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Professor Chris Bode, stated that he took his speech’s title stems from the understanding that literary history is replete with books and novels which capture, in fictional form, momentous events in the historical developments of many countries.
He said Madagali follows in the footsteps of civil war novels, including Cyprian Ekwensi’s Divided We Stan’, Eddie Iroh’s Forty-Eight Guns for the General, INC Aniebo’s Behind the Rising Sun and Chimamanda Adiche’s Half of a Yellow Sun.
Mamora expressed the hope that the novel would draw attention to the plight of and bring relief to residents of Madagali.
“Although the town may not be the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency, it deserves the book title hoping that the expected global and national attention to it among other badly affected towns in Nigeria will lead to a further abhorrence of the insurgency,” the minister said. “We earnestly pray that apart from being a form of reading pleasure to many, the book Madagali, by bringing attention to this decade-old insurgency, will assist in the urgent and crucial role of finding a quick solution to the problem.”
Book reviewer, Usman, a victim of the Boko Haram insurgency, also commended the work. He noted that it is a resource material for a newly introduced course in the institution, noting; “I’m delighted to review the book, Madagali, written by Okediran for two reasons. One, teachers of literature will find the book very useful, especially my university. We have recently introduced war literature, and this book is very useful. Secondly, the book is about me. Actually, I should have written it because I was too close to the story to be artistic in presenting it. So, when Okediran was talking about the book Madagali, I was privy to the book right from its conception.”
Uthman further said that the novel could be approached from three perspectives in appreciating its significant.
“You can approach Madagali as a literary work of fiction: creative and imaginative, good plots, narrative techniques all the literary devices can be seen in the book,” he said. “Secondly, the book can be approached as a manual for studying military intelligence and guerrilla warfare in contemporary Africa. So, it can be recommended to the military academy if they can come off their high horse and listen to what literature is saying. Thirdly and most importantly, Madagali serves as a very useful book for medical doctors who may be involved in the counselling, management, and treatment of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTDS), especially time spent upon experiences in the war. So anyhow you relate with Madagali, you are reading a very useful book.”
Okediran did not only thank the guests, he also took time to share his inspiration for the book with his them. He said Othman was the primary source of his inspiration when he head Boko Haram took over his residence and made it their headquarters and had all his book burnt since they were fighting for a cause that forbids western education. He said he had to listen keenly to takes being told about the terror war and then did his own research to get a handle on the war.