By Prisca Sam-Duru
It is unthinkable that Africanswould at any given time, prefer to spend time in foreign prisons to being subjected to harsh economic realities of the time especially with the high level of insecurity, lack of social amenities, high crime rate, etc.
The crushing poverty currently ravaging most African countries which is largely blamed on bad leadership sadly, has sent many especially youths, to early graves while enroute foreign countries. Most of these emigrants transit to the next life through the Sahara desert, in the sea or suffocate in containers while some who were lucky to have crossed over, ended up prisoners.
These survivors face stiff immigration laws which of course turn them into prisoners of some sort and while in quest for Permanent Resident Permit, get involved in sham marriages which most often, mark the beginning of their fatal end.
These and more are issues that Ndubuisi George sets out to address in his latest thought-provoking literary work titled, Woes of Ikenga, published by Kraft Books Limited.
The book which is made up of 17 chapters and 325 interesting pages, is George’s modest literary offering towards sensitising Nigerians and Africans in general, on the need to avoid being lured into abandoning their home countries in search for an illusive greener pastures in foreign countries.
The name Ikenga in the title, is symbolic of an Igbo deity but on a first look, tempts readers into thinking the story is about certain traditional beliefs but the picture of a man and his reflection checking out, gives a hint about the main thrust of the novel.
Woes of Ikenga is an intense moving narrative exposing the level at which Africans struggle for survival in foreign countries, through engaging in demeaning jobs which they never bargained for. It sends a stern warning to any Nigerian and indeed African who believes that it is better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven, to count the cost before intending to emigrate.
The author spends time in the first chapter, with historical and cultural background of the protagonist Ikenga, a twin boy whose name symbolises “place of strength”, given to him after the horned deity known for its resilience, strength and purity in an imaginary community, Umuafor, where the story is partly set.
Driven by acute poverty in his war-torn land Umuafor and loss of mother at a tender age, Ikenga begins nursing the desire to travel outside Nigeria for better opportunities. At 19, after a short working experience at a foreign company based in Port Harcourt, and an aborted attempt to make fortune out of statues he steals from Ogwugwu shrine, Ikenga embarks on a suicidal journey to Germany.
He encounters several near death situations in the Sahara Desert and the sea while in transit. Once in Germany, Ikenga peddles drugs as a means of survival and also marries a German, Vanessa so as to obtain the much needed Resident Permit. Not even his relationship with Vanessa that begets Ahamefuna is able to aid the realisation of his dream especially with his refusal to bow to indoctrination of the whiteman’s culture. His woes however, degenerate into several prison experiences and the rest is better read than imagined. On page 298, “Life in Balthazar was far better than being free men in their own countries.” is used to portray the height of frustrations Africans face in foreign countries.
Ikenga’s is such a pathetic narrative that captures in vivid terms, the scary nature of life of Africans in host and hostile countries. Readers cannot help but feel the pains these unfortunate hustlers feel during struggle for survival.
George’s book critically examines the sanity in leaving one’s home country regardless of how perilous times have become, only to face constant police surveillance and harassment, engage in demeaning jobs for survival, become drug addict and or drug peddler, engage in sham marriages which most often, end up in frustration, imprisonment, loss of life and deportation.
The author meticulously, exposes diverse conditions of diaspora citizens which portray “obvious symptoms of emotional and mental breakdown and degeneration.”
The author in this life-changing book, not only succeeds in compiling an expose on life of diaspora citizens but critically portrays the place of literature as an important tool for social, economic, political etc, change in a society.
The Agulu, Anambra State born novelist through the intense yet amusing narrative, offers readers a window into what life in Europe and other Western countries is like, with the aim of discouraging individuals who erroneously believe those countries hold solution to their hardship.
Although the author failed to satisfy his non Igbo language users with a glossary of words, he must be given thumbs up for display of vastness in traditions and culture as appropriately represented with the right words as well as rich proverbs.
Woes of Ikenga is indeed a priceless reference material that stimulates intellectual curiosity. It makes an interesting read for students, teachers and lecturers in the continent .