By JAPHET ALAKAM
Nigeria as a country was doing well with its agriculture and other products before the discovery of oil in the Niger Delta area. Since then, the fortunes of the country changed as all attention was shifted to oil to the detriment of other sectors.
The multinational companies rushed in and in connivance some wealthy community leaders took the oil money and left the various communities to wallow in abject poverty. It works in a system, where community leaders are greased and consequently forget their people, the youths, mostly graduates roam the streets with no jobs and in search of a way to make ends meet, kidnapping, oil theft and others vices came up.
This was exactly what Lawrence Amaeshi, who grew up in the Niger Delta region narrated in his new book entitled Sweet Crude Odyssey.
What is the root cause of crude oil theft? What are the issues involved in this risky business, who are the actors, how is it operated and what are the risks involved. Is it worth doing, these and other issues associated with the crude oil black market are what Amaeshi highlights in the 342 page book published by Kachifo Limited, Nigeria.
The story centers on the life of Bruce Telma, the major character and how he was lured into the illicit business. Spurred on by desperation and pulled by the allure of immense riches, Bruce plunges into this dark abyss of betrayal and destruction, striking illicit million dollar deals and battling security forces and rival militants. What was the end and was it worth it?
Set in the creeks in Bonny Island with intermittent trips to Lagos, Abuja and London, with a good story line that depicts different life scenarios, the author brings to the fore some of those things that were done in secret. Segmented into three parts for easy reading, the first part which serves as the introduction begins in chapter one and ends on chapter four.
Here, the author introduces the reader to how Bruce was unknowingly enlisted into the business by his girlfriend Daisy and after his meeting with Steve and his group with the offer and its monetary attachment that follows, Bruce had no other choice than to capitalize on it to see whether he could change his fortunes.
Once into the game, there is no going back. Though from a very humble family, Bruce abandoned his fathers virtuous path and plunged himself into the darker side of life.
As someone who was once into cultism during his universities days, he was used to rough life associated with the business, so he went into game, embarked on his first trip and it was a success. The second part sub-titled the game begins from chapter five and ends in chapter 36. In these chapters, the author using the power of narrative highlights the intricacies that followed other trips.
The business is illegal with many battles to fight, first the local militants who are out to undermine each other, the government security forces monitoring activities of oil theft, the bargaining with the various militants for the supply of the crude and how to deliver the crude to the final destinations etc.
All these are risks that involve loss of life, the crude and as such each party is fully equipped with sophisticated weapons that are used at all times with reckless abandon. Here, also the author narrates how the security agents tracked Bruce’s movements, the different encounters that led to deaths of many and how he met and fell in love with Kathy, a young lady doctor that eventually embraced Christ,and was an influence on Bruce.
Finally, the third part from chapter 37 to 45 tagged the end game. This part starts with his escape from a bloody war that took the lives of many. Here, he tries to re-examine his life, especially with the presence of Kathy who was in Nigeria for a workshop and his encounter with security agents who finally caught up with him. Then came, his father’s illness that took him to London, his meeting with his family members and the reappearance of Daisy and her demands.
From the very first chapter to the last, the story goes with one encounter to the other and in it is embedded many lessons of life, the good, the bad and the ugly. Bruce made the money, but he never enjoyed his life. The Imo State born writer, in the book paints a perfect picture of the social ills caused by the inability of the government to do the needful.
Apart from the story line, which is good, simple English is used for easy comprehension, the chapters though are 45 and make the reader keep turning the pages till to the end. A very interesting and emotional narrative with lots of messages for all classes. I recommend it for all, especially movie producers as it is a well written script begging to be adapted for a film.