Sunday, April 19, 2020 7:48 pm
By Idowu Layo
Publisher; Evans Brothers, Nigeria PLC
Pagination; 244 pages
Date of Publication; March 2020
MADAGALI is typical of many of Okediran’s fictional works, with its copious research, cliff hanger suspense, realistic settings and topicality. What is different here is the author’s liberal use of female characters who sometimes seem strong enough to take over the story from the main protagonist, Lance Corporal Buka Salisu. From his Liberian mother Sonia Salisu, (nee Johnson) to his sisters Fatima (Emine), Zainab (Shelia)and Rabia (Ella) on to his girlfriends, Jewel and Safiya, Bukar (Jabbie) the professional soldier seemed to be more affected by the actions and inactions of the women in his life rather than the instructions of his commanders as the Nigerian forces engaged the Boko Haram insurgents in a seemingly unending war.
Actually, what the author has done is not new becauseliterary fiction is replete with the different roles women play in a time of war. When they are not actually doing the fighting themselves as soldiers, they could be in the background as pensive mothers and wives, workaholicspies, nurses, doctors, factory, sex and welfare workers or adoring daughters and girlfriends. All these roles have hitherto been captured by writers in variousfictional accounts of the Second World War, the Vietnam War and the Nigerian Civil War among otherwars. However, this would be the first time that the role of women in a fictional account of the Boko Haram war would be explored.
Apart from a fictional account of military operations, MADAGALI was also able to examine the various ways women responded to war, in this case as supporters to a son, brother and lover. We also saw how some natives of the war– torn area were eager to give out their young girls into marriage either to BokoHaram fighters or Nigerian soldiers in return for protection. Sadly, some of the women willingly or by force became sex workers especially, some refugees in the IDP camps.
The story begins with the young Salisu, a vibrant and committed Nigerian soldier being shot by the Boko Haram insurgents at the Madagali front ‘one foggy evening’. The injury which was initially thought to beinconsequential was later discovered to have damaged a major nerve and made the young man impotent. To add to his woes, Salisu was lured by his Company Commander, Lt Col Bala Humus to serve as a courier in Humus nefarious business of supplying ammunitions to the Boko Haram insurgents. When he was caught, Salisu went through a grueling court martial which found him guilty of the charge of ‘’supplying dangerous weapons to the enemy’’. Fortunately, henarrowly escaped facing the firing squad through the support of his close friends, his mother and threeloving sisters.
Apart from a Liberian girl, Jewel whom the mother and sister arranged for him to meet in Liberia during his leave, Bukar also fell in love with Safiya, the seductive daughter of a repentant Boko Haram fighter. Theserelationships formally confirmed what he had all along known, that he was impotent.
Thus, while he continued coping with the ordeal of fighting a war with all its inadequacies and dangers, Bukar was in addition under pressure from his mother, sisters, Jewel and Safiya to find a solution to his sexual inadequacy. A surgical operation was quickly arranged for him in Liberia. It was while he was waiting for thesurgery to take effect that Safiya offered him what she explained was a faster and cheaper solution; a very potent herbal remedy in return for a favor.
It was not clear if what worked for Bukar was Safiya’s herbal remedy or the Liberian surgical operation. What was clear was that for the first time after his war injury, Bukar regained his libido. Unfortunately, Safiya’s request led to the loss of several Nigerian soldiers in an ambush by the Boko Haram insurgents. The novel ends in medias res, without further triumph or tragedy, onlywith further possibilities, as Bukar Salisu locks himself in his room leaving the reader to ponder and wonder.