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We Celebrate the Giant Called "Ofor"!

Review – Gerard Aluka’s “Broken Club.”
Richard U. Ali

The engagement of political themes by Nigerian writers puts them in a peculiar situation. This situation, often untenable, is between the avoidance of clichéd stereotype in writing and the need to express social reality with words, whether to express and let be or to express and prescribe. Yet, the political terrain is such that it has produced the most fantastic characters most of who, in their self-interested venality, in their stupidity and vanity, do seem to have been made in just one mad factory – so much for cliché and stereotype! On the second issue, on the purpose of writing and our success at it, well, that would depend largely on the powers of the writer who dares write political fiction.

Gerard Aluka has presented us with a fine example of contemporary political fiction from Nigeria. His “Broken Club” is a swift moving short story about two main characters, Eddy and the persona through whose mind the action is filtered, who is only referred to once as “Bull”. The Nigerian political reality is often one peopled by Siamese characters, one in the limelight and the other less so. The freshness of Aluka’s prose comes from his exploring the psychology of such relatedness. But it would be simplistic to think that this relationship is one of mutually complementing opposites. There is hardly any difference between Eddy and the persona – both are selfish politicians who had met during their Student’s Union days, and the experience of their betrayal of that cause became the foundation for their subsequent, very successful, political support for each other. Through the mind of the persona, Aluka presents a potpourri of emotions and a slew of well rounded characters. There is a kaleidoscopic quality to his prose, and the description of characters is very apt, done in a few words like in a Tolstoy novel. The story revolves around the metaphor of a broken baton, that instrument of state power, in this case the breakdown of the relationship between the two friends over an imminent Union Strike. The flashback device is used to stunning effect to give the reader a grounding in Nigerian politics as well as the background of the two main characters.

However, there are certain issues with this work, making it typical of its time in a not flattering way. Chiefly is the issue of language and grammar. There have been erratic changes of time specific Point of View from present tense to past and back to present again – that do not seem justifiably done. For example, most of the narrative happens in Commissioner Eddy’s office, where the persona is standing, just after having been physically assaulted by his friend Eddy – one would expect a present tense point of view to match the persona’s immediate thoughts. Reminiscences of their Student Union days, a decade or two before, would of course be in past tense. Another issue is the choice of certain words – an example, “Eddy shouted on {at?} his secretary.” – that are more appropriate to street talk, and not the educated characters he has created in whose mouths he puts them.

It may be possible, in the popular manner, to lay both these on the nail of “typographical” errors. Yet, typographical errors are solely the responsibility of the writer! And the critic must, with kindness, ask - why? Is this not more indicative of the hurry far too many writers have to send in their work in response to calls so soon after having written them, without taking the time to fine out their phrases? A story is like a piece of wood under a carpenters’ hands, effort must be put in for the best of it to come out, by using a plane to smoothen and level its surface to perfection. Writers should take this further step.

In spite of this, and we hope this writer would further put his style, language and choice of words again into the crucible of editing, there is a lot to commend in this offering by Gerard Aluka. The depth of his social perception comes out in the skillful manner he shows a whole lot by creating simple contrasts. An entire essay can be written around the circumstance that creates this brief excerpt;

“It was Eddy who delivered the address of the executive governor of the
state. It was he who arranged the policemen that
surrounded the venue that day. He also paid for the refreshment of the voting
members. He pleaded with everyone to approach the exercise with dignity. And
said the police will deal with anybody disturbing the peace. He wished
everybody luck.”

There is no doubt in my mind that Gerard Aluka is a writer to watch and that he will in time take up the brand already lit by Uche Peter Umez and Chimamanda Adichie if he is willing to spend the effort in finessing his language generally. He stands at an important crossroad in his literary career and whatever the choice he makes, he is one young writer to look out for.

Jideofor says “I am a regular dude, Now 26. Currently staying in Owerri, Nigeria. Studied Statistics in Imo State University. And Journalism in International Institute of journalism. Published Trickles of a Time (a collection of poetry) in 2007. Have written a good number of poems and short stories (including THE GOAT HAS LEFT THE TETHER and BROKEN CLUB”


We also celebrate our own Uche Peter Umez, who is one of those young writers who have broken the chains of the art.
Uche Peter Umez is a winner of the 2006 Commonwealth Short Story Competition, and
his poems and stories have been published on-line and in print. He is the author
of Dark through the Delta (poems), Tears in her Eyes (short stories) and Aridity
of Feelings (poems). He lives in Owerri.


Ali is Editor-in-Chief of the Sentinel Nigerian Magazine;

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