By Anote Ajeluorou
THIS last quarter is turning out a perfect moment to journey back in time to unearth memories of the past, especially in the coming-of-age class of writing. Unoma Azuah (author of Skyhigh Flames and a new work, Edible Bones, due to be presented on December 17, at the National Library, Yaba) and Dr. Eghosa Imasuen, are two writers whose works explore this theme. But it was Imasuen that came to town with his new work, Fine Boys, last weekend.
It was during the launch of the book’s digital format on a wholly Nigerian portal, Hibuzz, at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos. Imasuen’s second novel, Fine Boys, though taking a new turn from his first, To Saint Patrick, a science fiction, still echoes his first work in its down-to-earth thematic preoccupation.
While To Saint Patrick is utopian writing on what might have been, what could actually be, and the sort of socio-economic development that Nigerians rightly deserve to have on account of oil wealth, but which they are yet to have due to a systemic failure in the polity, Fine Boys deals with the reality of university campuses in the 1990s when Imasuen happened to be a student, and a continually deteriorating system over two decades later.
The launch was also Farafina’s first romance with the digital format, and Fine Boys is its first book to enjoy a global social media network fully developed by an African for Africa and a global reading audience.
After his utopian, sci-fi work, To saint Patrick (published in 2005, and said to have sold out, although both publisher and author remain mum about exact figures so far sold), Imasuen’s dream of a better Nigeria has remained what it is – a dream. Not even after 10 years of democratic governance has anything of significance changed to bring the country any closer to the author’s dreamed of utopia.
And so, Fine Boys becomes a consummation of that subsisting anger that a dreamed of utopia couldn’t quite heal. Therefore, while To Saint Patrick is how things could be but are not, Fine Boys examines how things really are and the need to change them otherwise.
For Imasuen, therefore, “There’s a bit of anger in the system that easily makes one into being cynical…” It is out of this anger and cynicism that he has written Fine Boys in his bid to trace the root of the rust that has crippled the system, and why his dreamed of utopia may just take a bit longer in coming into reality.
He stated, “Fine Boys is a story I have to tell; it’s about growing up in the ‘90s and seeing my friend being killed. My friend was a naughty boy. I felt I want to tell the ‘bad boy’ story. I examined the time and what it meant growing up then. There’s nothing as compelling as tragedy. There’s the tragedy of our nation. The anger I feel is that history is repeating itself in our country”.
SET against the backdrop of the military era of the 1990s that spawned cultism on university campuses and the heady days of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election, Fine Boys is Imasuen’s response to the tragedy that has since befallen Nigeria, and from which she has not fully recovered. Yet Imasuen’s faith is boundless, believing that Nigeria’s solutions lie within reach.
One such avenue of solution for the nation’s malaise, according to him, was for decision-makers to re-evaluate the position pro-democracy group, PRONACO (of restructuring the polity through a Sovereign National Conference of ethnic nationalities), held during the period while it dangerously tangled with the military to wrestle power from them for civilian rule.
On his writing, Imasuen stated that his voice has matured over time since he came out with his first novel, To Saint Patrick. Now, it isn’t how he would write but what to write about that is his concern, adding that sci-fi gave him boldness. “I’ve mature in my writing,” he said. “My voice is smooth, confident, and bold.”
Also, Imasuen said he is pleased about the explosion that has happened in Nigeria’s literary space in the last two years, saying it was his hope that it would provide enriched content for Nigeria’s home video films. He also hopes that film producers would approach writers for adaptation of their novels into films, saying it would provide another avenue for writers to make money.
FOR Kachifo, Farafina parent company, it was history in the making with the digital launch of Fine Boys on the Hibuzz platform. It stated, “Fine Boys will be the first Nigerian e-book to be published by an indigenous mainstream publisher on a Nigerian platform. The print version is slated to appear by January 1, 2012. Hibuzz, Kachifo’s chosen distribution platform, is the first digital distribution channel of its kind in Africa, created by Africans and dedicated solely to the promotion of African-generated media.”
However, another writer, Myne Whitman, has challenged the claim by Kachifo, saying that her work, A Heart to Mind, an e-book published in March 21, 2011, indeed preceeded Kachifo’s release of Fine Boys.