By Chukwuma Ajakah
Nigeria’s prolific writer, artist, and clinical psychologist, Obu Udeozo has added an inspiring novel, Living Dreams as a follow-up to his award-winning poetry collections and literary criticism publications.
Known more for his foray in other genres, including painting, the 2006 Winner of The Pat Utomi Book Prize Award for Poetry in Nigeria, debuts into the genre of the novel with Living Dreams, a 326 paged thriller published by Fab Educational Books Ltd (2020).
The novel structured in the similitude of an omnibus narrative has eight books- Book One to Book Eight, which is further subdivided into several parts containing diverse subject matters.
Living Dreams, Obu’s latest addition to “The Third Wave of Nigeria Poets” in the “Gardeners of Dreams Series”, is set in the Federal Republic of Bozrah, a typical albeit imaginary African country, buffeted with the misfortune of being run by a select oligarchic group whose inordinate ambition for power and pecuniary gains obscure the more desirable vision of a prosperous and egalitarian society.
The narration oscillates between the capital city of Mabera, where the expansive Presidential is located and the ostentatious Plaza of the Offodiles, extending to Washington DC as well as leading Asian and European countries where the gallivanting power mongers ostentatiously display their ill-gotten wealth.
The author spices his story with didactic messages gleaned from the Bible, traditional Igbo folklores, classical allusions, and political histories of famous kingdoms. Moreover, the author decks some of the pages with lyrical verses and poetic interjections.
Living Dreams portrays a message of hope despite obvious pointers to the contrary in the political landscape of the pseudo republic, which shares much in common with Nigeria as it features geographical descriptions, names, socio-cultural and political practices that are unmistakably associated with that West African Country.
The author weaves the thematic thread around salient sociopolitical issues, including the theme of corruption and fiscal indiscipline realized through the excesses of government officials who misappropriate public funds to satiate their extravagant lifestyle.
In the steering meeting held before announcing his bonanza package to the soldiers, the helmsman had solicited their unalloyed support for a change of mindset, saying: “Much of the assassinations we have witnessed so far, have been overrank, seniority, and pay-check.
Nobody had been able to make the sacrifice by which a nation must grow. Soldiers are trustees of the community’s wealth. That is why we bear arms. We are the custodians over the kingdom’s wealth. Dogs do not eat the bones that adorn their necks. African soldiers must sacrifice their appetite for the peace and prosperity of the empire.
But that has not been the example in our experience and history.” Despite his good intentions, the amiable leader ends up entrenching a political culture that entitles the army to the lion share of the commonwealth.
Sequel to the eventual revolution, one of the characters, Leonard Chike Chukwudebelu, the National Security Adviser, describes the emergent deplorable political state thus: “The Federal Republic of Bozrah is an anomaly among the comity of nations.
There is no difference between armed robbers and the armed forces of that Kingdom…More than eighty percent of the vast fertile land and her treasures belong in perpetuity to members of the armed forces and their nebulous relations till the second coming of Christ.”
The plot of the novel revolves around the dominant political class, “The Golden Lions of Bozrah”, a clique open only to power-drunk military top brass and self-aggrandizing politicians.
A burgeoning couple – High Chief Greg Offodile and his wife, Her Majesty Lady Nkiruka Abigail Offodile, forms the nucleus of a master-mind that controls the public service sector through luscious Federal Government appointments and a mafia-like cartel run by smart cronies.
The story begins in the palatial home of the Offodiles, a miniature republic with the ambiance of a Government House and a sophisticated service structure that parades highly educated professionals whose credentials rank among the best in any organized Federal Civil Service.
The plot structure unfolds to reveal the lofty vision of the country’s military Head of State, Colonel Alexander Anene Maduabuchukwu to build a monumental Presidential Villa that will draw global attention as a beehive of socio-economic activities for bourgeois politicians, business moguls, and diplomats, thereby etching Bozrah on a pedestal as the “First Born of the Continent”.
Colonel Anene’s quest for political utopia assumes a concrete shape as he succeeds in assuaging the thirst of the already materialistic and politically inclined military via mega promotions to the rank of general by government fiat and sumptuous financial settlement.
The military leader also galvanizes the rich resources of Bozrah to construct the Presidential Villa which soon turns the capital city of Mabera, Kingdom of Bozrah into a Mecca for pleasure-seeking political gladiators. However, the visionary leader’s dream is short-lived as he dies suddenly after a bout of malaria.
His successor, Sheik Abdullahi Tetengi, assumes the reins of power and tries to concretize Anene’s developmental roadmap. The insatiable desires of the ever-avaricious power mongers, who lecherously hang on the commonwealth of the people, become his albatross.
With a brazen mishandling of the enormous resources available to the oligarchy, the road to enduring political and economic freedom deteriorates fast and the pendulum swings to usher in a startling reality: a fledgling society impoverished to the extent of insolvency by the greedy elite.
According to the narrator: “The Golden Lions of Bozrah, like the leopard rage, have no limit to their dreams and mortal appetites.” The rape on the economy of Mabera continues unabated until a divine intervention via a revolution sponsored by the Elite Global Government (EGG) occurs, leading to the ousting of the monstrous cabal, metaphorically described as Golden Lions of Bozrah, Dragons of Bozrah and Living Dreams.
The central character, Her Majesty Nkiruka Abigail Offodile, is depicted as a maverick demigod, surrounded by a retinue of well-educated domestic staff, whose worship boosts her ego even as she denigrates and erodes most of them of any sense of self-esteem.
Together with her husband, High Chief Gilbert Offodile, Director-General in the Ministry of Management and Procurement, Nkiruka Offodile, serving as a Senior Special to three successive Heads of State, maintains a vicious grip on “the official transactions of the kingdom’s affairs”, lining their pockets in the process and earning the nickname, “Owners of the Republic”.
Their meteoric rise from a very humble background to the highest echelon of the public service equally introduces them into a dream world where they dine regularly with the crème de la crème of the Bozrah Kingdom, gradually severing relationships with those considered as the dregs of the society.
The High Chief maintains perpetual clout on the economy as the mastermind behind a recruitment syndicate that exploits the prevailing unemployment situation, securing the services of desperate job seekers with high academic credentials such as Ph.D. holders as domestic staff for top government officials.
Unlike her parents who selflessly serve God and humanity, dispensing hospitality even at the expense of their own comfort, Her Majesty Nkiruka Offodile ruthlessly lives a selfish life, perhaps to make up for the depravity of childhood when her father, Catechist Shedrack Nnabuife Onyeanwuna would rather discomfit his immediate family than disappoint anyone he could help.
Mrs. Onyeanwuna offers an explanation to her daughter’s heartlessness: “Nkiruka is like a mother hen. But she is not a mild hen. She is a furious mother hen, protecting her brood and territory.
Ever seen where an angry foul tackles an intruder over her little chicks? She can fly into the air, with her wings spread, and her claws upon your face.” This assertion aptly portrays Mrs. Offodile’s disposition as a mother, but her bias in favour of Gilbert Offodile Junior to whom she relates as a doting mother, sharply contrasts with her almost inhumane treatment of her wheelchair-confined physically challenged daughter, Chiadinfe.