Wednesday, 1 August 2012

{PMONKZ BOOK REVIEW} THE NEW MAN by POETOBY


Femi Ademiluyi’s “The New Man” is a contemporary Nigerian novel, first published in 1994. In it the author tackles the perennial problems of inter-ethnic conflicts and corruption in politics and social life that have plagued the country since before its 1960 independence. Ademiluyi does not so much tackle the problems, rather he lays them bare again in a narrative built around the central figure of a young government official.

Ayo Badejo is  25 years old agricultural science graduate newly posted as Produce Inspector to Ipaja Village – a hilly community somewhere in the Banwuya tropics. Everyone in the village were first surprised at the youth of the new Produce Inspector, but such appointments were not unusual for the period – a critical period of transition when colonial officials were having to hand over many aspects of government administration to invariably young native graduates.

When young Badejo comes to Ipaja, his righteous idealism worry the leaders of the village who are better used to older men as produce inspectors, with understanding and appreciation of their ways. But none of their concerns makes any good impression on the new and young produce inspector. Badejo is a man on a self-appointed mission to save the village from itself. It is his determination to bring change to the community and teach them to appreciate and accept the benefits he would bring them. Ayo Badejo’s dreams are not limited to this rural village.

He would liberate Africa, beginning from his own country, Banwuya; and in the process he would create the detribalized “New Man,” an ideal citizen, devoid of corruption and much of the weaknesses of contemporary man. The idea of the “new man” is not original, as we are made to know in the novel, it is borrowed from Hitler’s Nazism.

Such ideas, and his attack on their established ways of doing things, inevitably bring Badejo into direct conflict with the Ipaja villagers. Not surprisingly Badejo fails in his bid to ‘save’ the village and, from there, begins a headlong downward spiral that sees him betraying every ideal and pledge that he seemingly held to heart. A man who had proclaimed it his life’s work to save the people from evil and backwardness turns around to blame the “rabble” for his downfall. In the end, Badejo had become the very evil he had initially set out to conquer.

Even though Ademiluyi sets this novel in a fictional nation called Banwuya, it is obvious that his real interest and subject matter is his own country – the very real nation of Nigeria. His descriptions of inter-ethnic squabbles between Ipaja and Iwuya villages mirror the goings-on in the real country. Even the timeline of events in the novel coincide exactly with Nigeria’s historical development – from pre-independence and beyond. The division of the fictional Banwuya into two provinces of the Tropics and the Sahel also mirrors the south/north divide of the real Nigeria. The name “Banwuya” obviously derived from the fictional Wuya River which bisects the country, mirrors the naming logic of the naming Nigeria which is derived from the River Niger.

Ademiluyi has written a book that has cultivated the role fate or kismet played in the life of every individual, his style speaks about forestalling problems Puritans will get in return for their modesty. Telling us that corruption is going to be hard-fought because of its core practise by every dweller of this Banyuwa "Nigeria". He's an idealist who speaks the role he would have taken in the novel in present life.

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