TITLE: AFTER THEY LEFT
AUTHOR: EDIFY YAKUSAK
PUBLISHER: KURDAN PUBLISHERS
DATE OF PUBLICATION: 2016
BOOK REVIEWER: ADEFOLAMI ADEMOLA
DISSECTING THE RECURRING CASES OF VIOLENCE IN NORTHERN NIGERIA: ANATOMY OF EDIFY YAKUSAK’s AFTER THEY LEFT
In a boisterous season of literary offering that has seen works drool with titles that reek of melancholic exoduses and fresh genesis, and expunges snippet of hopes and a sacred blossoming of a once withered hopes, Edify’s After They Left has joined the symbolic team of entrée, sharing the rung with brilliant works like Efe Paul’s For Broken Men Who Cross Often, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim’s Season of Crimson Blossoms, Elnathan John’s Born On A Tuesday and a host of other impressive literary accomplishments by various authors on the Nigerian literary scene.
Amidst its postmodernist tensions and embellishments, the novel, first of its kind from the author’s forge of creativity, and set in between Jos and Abuja,is a thriller that vividly expresses the puerile and senile inter-ethnic and inter-religious crises that have continued to undermine the stability of the Nigerian state.
With relative ease and a douse of annoying brilliance, Edify Yakusak joins the list of authors like Richard Ali (City of Memories), E.E Sule (Sterile Sky) and others who have, in their novels, exposed the level of pyrrhic goriness and the deep scourge of doom, morbid darkness and chronic madness, harvested whenever the foul wind of an avoidable violence erupts in the northern parts of the country.
Just like writers—poets and novelists— from the Niger-Delta climes have ceaselessly brought the world’s attention to the harsh realities of life and living amidst intermittent gas flares, environmental despoliation, and unremitting oil spillage in the Niger Delta, Edify’s is a compelling voice that leads the readers, who become more than mere spectators, on a journey through needless massacre, IDP Camps, as well as a mega kidnaping and human-trafficking syndicate in Northern Nigeria.
In a country that has witnessed an innumerable case of ethnic rivalry-cum-religious violence—one of which the Kaduna 2002 and Jos volatility remain unforgettable—literary works have bluntly continue to hit on the theme of ethnic and religious intolerance, and how the government, lukewarm as always, has been pitifully unable to quell the heavy blows of violence. Sadly, the north still remains a warzone.
However, Edify’s novel exposes the extent of the violence, destruction and rage, through the bloodshot eyes of Mafeng, a mother who lost her parents to the whims of violence, watched her police husband killed, experienced the utter sacking of her entire village, and was temporarily separated from her two children—Kim and Jugu, who went from homelessness to hopelessness, sleeping under trees in open parks, and in an IDP camp where Kim was almost sold in, the company of 18 other teenage girls, into slavery. Edify’s debut has a photographic adeptness, capturing the haunting images of disaster that terminated, without a humane or logical reason, the lives of more than three hundred people.
In an attempt to show the shamelessness of the government, Edify Yakusak, with the deft mind of an experienced writer, notwithstanding her wetness behind the ears, essentially, without prejudice, shares the travails of the charades that are the IDP camps, especially in Northern Nigeria.
Through the characters of Madam Mati and Danjuma, her accomplice, the author defines the treacherous dealings that are housed in these camps, where for instance, the camp director, Madam Mati keeps for herself all the bounties donated to the camp by generous donors, and how, to further her devilish schemes, she plans with Danjuma to sell some of the girls off to a kidnapping consortium—The Surabs.
For every observant readers and keen follower of the hopeless situation of the Nigerian state, it is easily noted that the author, with her immense foresight, relays the lawlessness of soldiers reportedly raping girls in IDP camps all over the country earlier this year. As such, it is not out of place to infer that just like Achebe predicted the 1966 coup in his novel, A Man of the People, Edify also predicted the series of dark experiences of rape and torture in IDP camps in the country.
With this initial work of prose, the fearless novelist in her debut has been able to create a bundle of pages that, from the opening to the last chapter, speaks in clear language about violence, doom, murder and the dazed confusions of a government that does not know how to respond promptly to distress calls.
However, these gruesome disasters are spiced with a meagre pinch of love and affection, as seen in the characters of Mafeng and her murdered husband, Samuel.
There is also the shameless philandering and gallivanting in political offices which the novel x-rays. This is mirrored by Bot, a senator and Mafeng’s first husband, who was found in the company of prostitutes in a hotel.
Like most works of art that strive to meet the pedagogic, didactic and entertaining bars, After They Left broadly attains these three yardsticks; educating, teaching a vital morally-sound virtue, and surprisingly entertaining, not minding the canvass of anomie and chaos that it is painted on.
Edify Yakusak, with her debut novel has, without doubt, inscribed her name on the strata of Northern writers who, in their works, are continuously telling the real stories of pain, denial, anger, emotional torment, violence and death that have been their seasonal lot as a result of inhabiting a geographical entity that appears to be as vociferous as sitting on a keg of gunpowder.
However, only time will tell if, like other pathfinders before her, if years from now, the name will remain a household feature on the African literary stratosphere, or be forever erased, like a grain of sand, from our memories.
Adefolami Ademola is a writer, poet, social commentator, and content writer. A graduate of Theatre Arts from the prestigious Lagos State University, Lagos, he is a 2016 PIN (Poets in Nigeria) Poets’ Residency Fellow. His poem, “Memories, Regurgitated” inevitably made the Top Ten Shortlist in the 2016 edition of the Korea/Nigeria Cultural Poetry Fiesta. He is presently a Content Creator at http://seemeseenigeria.com/ He lives in Lagos, Nigeria.