By Edward Dibiana
Reading through the pages of the novel was like responding to a summon by a kindred spirit. A true pleasure. The alluring beacons of a dreamland urged me on, as I effortlessly journeyed along with the author. Through the scotching hardship of the slum dwellers; to the city, taking in, with pleasure, the seductive rhythmic wiggles of the Allen night nurses; to horrendous death beds; dreadful shrines and evil alters; ostentation. Treachery. Deceit. Tears. Laughter. Dingy cells. Suspense!
The inscription: “To Eddy, the first copy taster. Thanks for the suggestions. ‘Korede”, written on the opening pages of my autographed copy of the recently released debut novel of my good friend, and colleague, Olukorede Yishau, entitled, “In the Name of our Father”, exploded bubbles of pleasant memories of the past, as I recollected that I had read the first draft of this book 16 years ago. Our past in The Source. Brilliant. Productive. Unforgettable. Challenging. Nostagic.
A past where restlessness of youth, as well as uncertainty and harshness of a wobbly economy, foisted on the nation by successive failures of leadership, were not enough to smother the blistering passion for writing, undying love for journalism, and the quest for excellence. The humility to learn and the uncompromising temerity to interrogate authorities and people in leadership positions, in a bid not only to hold them accountable, but also seek justice and equity in the society.
A factor that has kept Yishau in the front role journalism till date. And shaped the writer that He has become. This glowing portrait of a committed writer, activist and social crusader, interestingly find subtle but potent expressions in this his debut novel.
If literature is the mirror of the society, ‘In the Name of our Father’ showcases Nigeria in its ugly nakedness. The novel tells the tragic story of a critically sick nation. A soulless society, drowning in a sea of moral, ethical and cultural decay. A nation of banal, disappointing, disdainful, ruthlessly insensitive, abysmally irresponsible, and self-serving leaders, at different levels and diverse spheres of authorities.
The book also lays bare the heartbroken tales of human cruelty, injustice, corruption amorality, deceit and spiritual fraud in the society in general, with biting references to some sections of the christiandom. It as well X-rays the brutality of military tyranny of the nation’s recent past. And a debased society and people in dire need of redemption.
Written in captivating, easy flowing, short sentences, spiced with enchanting phrases, that make pleasant reading, and easy to understand, the issues addressed in this book by the author, are nonetheless, audacious and vital in contemporary Nigerian society.
While the book, catalogues various societal ills in the land, Yishau’s obvious controversial choice of the military and Christian faith (he is a Christian) as vehicles to expose and query the myriad of social malaise bedeviling the society is a bold statement that underscores his fearlessness as a social critic that has essentially resolved to stand with the people, in pursuit of truth, fairness and justice.
For instance, the novel in part, zeroed in on the controversial topic of fake prophets and questionable miracles, which many might consider very touchy, obviously because of the suffocating power and influence of religion in the Nigeria society, as well as how religion has become an escape vehicle to many, who appear to seek sucour in religious folds as a result of personal, societal or economic woes.
The major character in the book is one of such fake prophets! He is Prophet T. C Jeremiah, who was formally known as Alani, a mere abjectly poor cleaner, who was unable to feed himself or take care of his wife and only son. But his libido only matched his crass irresponsibility. He impregnated a young girl, the girl died during abortion. He escaped to his village where his son and wife had been abandoned.
Tragically, he lost his son the same day he got to the village. Sadistically he left a note to inform his wife that he was no longer interested in the marriage, barely few hours after their son was buried, and ran away to Lagos to join a fake pastor friend. He was taken to a deadly cult where he was initiated and given diabolical powers to excel as a pastor, renewable every year with human sacrifice.Soon he became a mega popular and successful prophet, patronised by the high and mighty in the society, including the head of state. His transformation was swift as his propensity for evil was shocking.
Apart from financial fraud and other forms of deceit that became the pastime of the fake man of God, the novel graphically chronicled other sordid tales of the self-professed Prophet as he got involved in murder, infidelity, blackmail and sorcery, in his desperation to retain his ill-gotten spiritual power, patronage by the rich and powerful, and relevance.
The author of the book, a multi-award winning journalist, had said in a recent interview in Thisday, that his intention was to use the novel to “shake tables” and probably add to the discourse about the deceitful application of the word of God by some con artists masquerading as men of God, whose true and only intents is to fraudulently use the name of God to enrich themselves at the expense of gullible and desperate miracle seekers.
Yishau stated: “I agree absolutely with Chinua Achebe that stories are not innocent. My debut ‘In The Name of our Father’ is certainly not innocent. It is meant to shake tables. I am a Christian, not by birth but by conviction. I wrote the book to examine the relationship between the pulpit and power. It was also written as a way of preserving our recent past with the military. So many people are messing up Christianity and mixing it with fetish tendencies and our people are still falling for it. Even people in power fall for this. They are blinded by ambition and they seek solutions anywhere, including in the hands of fake pastors like Pastor T.C. Jeremiah. They don’t bother checking the background of the people they are seeking miracles from.”
The novel went further to cast light on one of these fake prophets’ probable fraudulent enterprise in the form of annual new year predictions, which it suggested are only programmed to ensnare their victims, especially, big players in the political circle, thus:
” At that instant, his published ‘Book of Prophesy’ came to his mind. In there, he too had made some claims like five serving ministers would die, petroleum scarcity would prevail; the government would insist on deregulating the down-stream sector of the petroleum industry; and so on and so. And he had made quite a fortune from virtually all the serving ministers. Since he did not mention any particular name, almost all of the ministers, either directly or through proxies, visited him seeking means averting death. He had prayed for them and assured them that the host of heaven had reconsidered their plight. And to show their happiness, fortunes in the form of cash, gilts and so on, had rained down on his domain.”
In another part of the novel, questions were raised over the issues of whether churches should be made to pay tax and the money used to provide public amenities, given that some of them are run like big business enterprises, especially as some of the owners live ostentatious lifestyles.
I consider ‘In the Name of our Father’, an interesting and relevant work. Having been privileged to have read the first draft of the book 16 years ago, I can attest that the final work has greatly benefited from Yishau’s continuous quest for perfection and excellence and wealth of experience over the years. While many would agree that the book could produce two separate interesting novels, the creative way he fused the two plots into one enthralling narrative is ingenious.
Mr. Dibiana, a journalist, sent this piece from Abuja.