The Case of a Nursing Father
By Sylvester Odion Akhaine,
The creativity involved in social essaying comes in different forms, with consequence for genre formation, as in The Case of a Nursing Father, a collection of essays by Sylvester Odion Akhaine, many of whose distinctive parts have made newspaper appearances in the past three decades.
The subjects of the 23 articles gathered together as a volume – dwelling on issues traversing a wide range of experiences, events, ideas and thoughts – are basically the every day concerns of people, which rightly assume a pulsating urgency and reveal/take on newer levels of meaning, while mediated upon by the author. They come alive and sprout into narratives capable of piquing the minds of even the most peculiar of readers, urging a re-contemplation of the import of the issues involved.
From the lead article, “The Case of a Nursing Father” to the highly touching must-read, “Mother”, there is an examination of domestic issues and relationships, which are quite hilarious; and also extend to “Many Wishes of Christmas and New Year” and “The Virgin Nightmare”, and others with strong socio-political overtones like “Che Guevara: Twenty Eight Years after the Mortal October” and “The Days of the Dracula”. Also, there are “Requiem for Bullet Stoner” and “A Tribute to a Brave Couple”, in which man’s ineluctable mortality is brought up for consideration.
The author draws us down recesses, into the 1980s, and chronicles a number of experiences in the Nigerian society and beyond. For instance in “Bloodbath at Bayero”, the activities of students unionism in its hey days in the country is brought to light and many who do not have an inkling into how the system operated then, but warped ideas about this, are given a clear insight into the workings, ideals, selfless and sacrificial spirit that animated the struggles of the past, the vestiges of which remain in the ivory towers today though, but only in stunted measures.
“Cuban Notes” tells the story of struggles in the South American country of Cuba, in a manner that bears testimony to the vastness of information that can be gleaned from such short articles, making them a veritable resource, especially for researchers of socio-political history.
Perhaps, the most striking feature of this book would likely be its titling, both of the compiled work itself and of individual articles. Bearing elements of allegory, a reader’s interest is intently aroused by titles crafted above the banal, just as it is in other works of Akhaine, includingPatrons of Poverty and Another Woman of Substance. These are titles holding together both surface and deeper layers of meaning.
In a unique manner of naming, The Case of a Nursing Father, as book title, lures one into seeking it out for reading, also intensified in the captivating titling of the 23 constitutive articles, which though suggestive of a first surface level of narrative, leads into deeper essences and perspectives. This fact makes the work highly interesting and compelling of return reading experiences worthy of their weight in gold.
Akhaine’s style in this book, as in his other works, unfolds in the simplicity and brevity of language, making it easy to key into his thoughts and the workings of his mind. Thus, despite the metaphoric twists and turns in the articles, the down to earth and familiar expressions that make no pretense at academic or verbose appurtenances, and the subdued humour and lightheartedness contained therein, make the articles reader-friendly and easy to appreciate.
However, the book’s general lightheartedness could possibly becloud the deep promptings embedded in the articles, with lessons on the value of persuasion for social good getting lost on the not so keen of mind.
On the whole, this mustering of diverse pieces into a single volume is quite salutary, as it offers a holistic presentation of the range and nuances of Sylvester Odion Akhaine’s social thought, in its evolution through a number of decades.
The Case of a Nursing Father will be launched on Saturday December 3 at the Rights House, Adeniyi Jones Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos.