What you need to know:
- We sabotage the systems to work in the favour of a few, while at the same time, acting blind to the rapid changes in societies in the world.
- And both actions leave us in an awkward position that does not support progressive dreams and ambitious minds.
No of pages: 103
Genre: Young adult novel
Reviewer: Muchira Gachenge
Availability: Text Book Centre
Arguably, one of the most indubitably memorable speech by President Obama was delivered at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, three months before he was elected to the U.S Senate to represent Illinois. During the speech, Obama said, “I stand here knowing…that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.” He went on to offer the premise of his argument, and perhaps, what sets the United States apart: “That is the true genius of America… that we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door. That we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe. That we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will be counted, at least most of the time.”
Basically, he was praising a country with systems that work for all people without discrimination. He was taking pride in and attesting to the strength of the American institutions for the benefit of all her citizens. Reading what he did not say but within the context of his sentiments, one would agree that he was disabusing the world of the warped notion that one can thrive in an environment where the system is designed to serve a few at the top, usually the political elite, while squeezing life out of the majority at the bottom of the pyramid. Sadly, it is a notion that is in action in most states in Africa, as best portrayed by the story of Theophilous Sigwe, the central character in the young adult novel, God’s Case: No Appeal.
Theophilous was born in Nigeria. However, he had the opportunity to travel to London, where he studied law and became an exceptionally excellent and the most sought after lawyer. At the peak of his career, and after twenty years abroad, he receives a letter from his younger brother, Luka, informing him of the demise of his father, who was the Boma or chief of his people in Adagali.
As tradition dictates, Theophilous Sigwe has to return home in Nigeria to inherit the chieftaincy. It is during his transition from London, a place where systems of governance, education and society in general, are designed to serve all people and to allow them a decent shot at life, and back to Nigeria that reveals how a broken society can be frustrating and hurtful to one’s progress.
Upon arrival, he is intentionally held hostage at the airport in Lagos as customs officers search for the unknown from his wife Maud’s luggage, and his own. That marks the start of unlikely events in his home country. Before he leaves the airport for Adagali, his home, he is surrounded by a swarm of porters and layabouts, who end up stealing some of his luggage. He stops by a local bank to change his foreign currency to naira. The manager pays him ten naira less his money and demands that the ten naira is the commission for assisting him. He is then hijacked on his way to the waiting taxi and robbed of all his money at gunpoint, while the police officer guarding the bank- who later threatens to arrest him- looks the other way. Later that evening, they are carjacked and robbed of all their belonging, including their clothes.
That before he even gets to his father’s homestead he has been robbed in his own country, and forced to part with a bribe, points to a broken society where lawlessness rules.
This series of events is a poignant evidence of failed systems in Nigeria, and by extension, the African continent. It is a revelation for why it is difficult for individuals to break even in their chosen fields, or even contribute meaningfully towards the development of the state.
At some point, when Theo identifies himself as a lawyer, a police officer takes the opportunity to speak ill of lawyers in his country, and equates lawyers to mosquitos whose sole job is to suck blood out of Nigerians. That description offers a basis on which to understand the frayed relationship between various parties who are directly involved in service delivery and the enforcement of rule of law.
At Adagali, Theo is indoctrinated and inducted into his people’s tradition ahead of his installation as the Boma. This does not come without disagreement between him and his wife Maud, who is a modern wife irritated by the backwardness of her people.
In the end, it is clear that his immediate family ties break and things fall apart, as Theo favours a return to the old ways that are unfavourable to his wife and eldest son, Daro. The fallout is a further demonstration of the rigidity of the traditional cultures and reluctance to acknowledge the globalisation and modernity.
Reading through the 103 pages, I had a feeling that to some extent, we, the Africans, are our own enemies. We sabotage the systems to work in the favour of a few, while at the same time, acting blind to the rapid changes in societies in the world. And both actions leave us in an awkward position that does not support progressive dreams and ambitious minds. If the book was proofread a bit more keenly to correct a few structural and punctuation errors, it would have been a perfect and smooth read. It was great, nonetheless.