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Friday, 28 April 2017

In Dependence by Sarah Ladipo Manyinka

"The best stories told are from history"
        
Although Nigeria had gained independence from Britain in 1960, she only became politically independent in 1963 when she became a Republic. After winning the fight against colonialism, Nigeria found herself basking at the brink of a socio-political cum economic downturn. Manyinka's "In dependence" tells the tale of Nigeria and Africa(at large ) during the post colonial era.
         
The novel is vast in setting . "In dependence" opens in the year 1963,with Omotayo Ajayi , a young athletic Nigerian getting ready to leave his country to England for a scholarship award to study in Oxford. On getting to England,he realizes that things aren't really as they seem. He exchanges letters with his father Mr Ajayi, telling him of his trip and of how he's been acquitted with other Nigerians such as Bolaji Oladipo and Christine Arinze. Through his connection with his former headmaster Faircliff,he meets The Barker's who welcome him warmly at lunch. At the Barker's, he meets other Africans such as himself at a drink party. He joins Bolaji and his clique who are discussing literature. Among this clique is Christine who is the "famously beautiful third year". Carefully studying her,he engages her in a conversation and allows her get the upper hand. By so doing,he proves himself to be the King of charms like his uncle Bola. After sometime,he invites her over for coffee at the Cadena. She accepts and puts an extra effort in looking good for their date in disguise. Over time they become closer, and nineteen years old Tayo, wins over Christine leaving memories of his Nigerian-ex Modupe to trail off.

     
At another part of England is Vanessa Richardson, an English lady meets Tayo at the West Africa Society meeting. Becoming closer, they go out on a few formal dates. Christine on the other hand who seems to be flirting with Ike calls for help from Tayo. A help that rekindles the fire in Tayo's bones. Vanessa invites Tayo and Gita to her family's Christmas party in London. The hatred for Africans by Mr Richardson is revealed when he has a short argument with his daughter. At an Easter vacation in Paris with Simon, Nina his girlfriend and Vanessa, Tayo receives news of Christine's death which is tagged as a suicide. Tayo feels bad for not being there for her and for lying to Vanessa about his relationship with dead Christine. Back to England, he broods over how much Christine had expressed her being caught up between Nigeria and England. An identity problem. He spends the summer with his cousin Tunde in Bradford while Vanessa stays in France. Although communication becomes abridged but Vanessa keeps in touch. In France,Vanessa gets to stay at her grandparents with her best friend,Jane. At Tunde's, Tayo stays with Yusuf who has a problem with religiosity and also has a white girlfriend Joyce who he tricks and makes promises of marriage to. All these promises are exposed to be a feebly told lie at Yusuf's marriage to Joy Williams(a Nigerian). At Tunde's house party, Tayo gets into a fight with a white man and is thrown into detention where he is released later. Tayo takes Vanessa to see his Uncle Kayode a military personnel who visits England. Uncle Kayode likes Vanessa at first sight and approves of her. Not too long after Mr Richardson invites Tayo to speak of Nigeria at his school assembly, he receives a telegram informing him of his father's sickness and the urgency to return home.
        
Back in Nigeria,Tayo struggles to adapt. He tries to write to Vanessa but is interrupted by the news of a coup that has just taken place. Everyone looks up to him for the next step and he doesn't let them down by telling everyone to remain calm. He writes to Vanessa telling her of coup and other events that had occurred in the past few months. Exercising no patience, Vanessa flies to Nigeria to see Tayo and she leaves no faster than she arrives.On hearing of Tayo's relationship with a lady who is now pregnant for him. About two years after her flight, she is seen to be with a Salmatou a Senegalese at Dakar in Senegal. They bond well as they discuss on past relationships. In 1984,Tayo is married to Miriam(the lady he got pregnant) and has a daughter by the name Kemi. His life seems to be going fairly well while he works as a lecturer in the University of Bauchi. He mingles well with his friend Yusuf and his family along with old time friend,Kwame. At this time,Tayo stands against the government critically. Miriam who is with child, persuades Tayo to move to England as everyone seems to be doing. Tayo is defiant and chooses to stay in Nigeria and fight for his students.On a visit to Lagos with his family for the summer holiday, Tayo meets up with a carver Akin who claims to have a great Uncle who served under Lord Lugard. This news fascinates Tayo and he goes off to Village of Atan to see this man.His delayed stay at the village further delays the family's trip to Ibadan.On getting back to Lagos,he receives the tragic news of his mother's accident and death.
         
Precisely six months after his mother's death, an expected coup took place. As an activist, he fights against the poor condition of the universities which were now on paralleled strikes. His defiance to listen to Miriam to leave for England costs him his marriage. Miriam leaves with Kemi. In 1990,things become worse as Nigeria's condition continues to deteriorate. His attempt to help the University along with Simon fall through. In 1994 despite warnings from his sister Bisi,he continues his activism and is taken into custody by the military government who violently and savagely get him to quit writing against the military. After this encounter, he meets up with Vanessa when his biography of Lugard is named Biography of the year. They reminisce the past and speak of the present. Vanessa reveals Tayo about her marriage to Edward Barker and her son, Suleiman (late Salmatou'son). Tayo also tells her of his family. Tayo attempts to rekindle their love with a kiss but Vanessa dodges for the train. Vanessa's marriage to Edward isn't exactly a bed of roses, neither is her relationship with her adopted son. She kneads company with a young man Anthony who in turn indirectly flirts with her. Vanessa and Tayo continue to write to each other during this period. Vanessa continues to pay visits to her racist father who is now in a facility for old people, she awaits the arrival of Tayo after such a long time. Tayo though never arrives. He is involved in an accident with the savage military on his way to the airport. His driver Abdou dies of internal bleeding after saving Tayo's life.
       
After the ghastly accident, Tayo is taken to San Francisco in the United States to live with his daughter Kemi. He becomes utterly depressed living with his daughter who he hardly knows. Old wounds are salted as Kemi confronts him on the past. These wounds are tended by the filial love of Tayo. Miriam continues to send money for Tayo's up keeping and recovery. Vanessa's strained relationship with Suleiman is stretched and ironed out. At the end,Tayo's academic work is not left without awards . The Oxford University confers on Tayo an Honorary degree along with five other honors. Vanessa's relationship with Tayo is rekindled with a misty summary.
       
The heart of racism is brought to the lights as Tayo and other Africans face the heat of racism. It is important to note that Africa has been a victim of racism from time memorial. Black is a colour that has never been fully accepted by the English's and the new world. Racism is a trending social issue which manifests itself in the so called "1st world countries". In "In dependence" , intellect earns some Africans such as Tayo Ajayi, Kwame and Christine recognitions, but the highest spots and potions on the ladder of success is reserved for the whites.
            
Mr Richardson, is an example of a racial bigot, radically prejudiced in reasoning. The word "despise" is a fitting term for his feelings towards Blacks. The ideal of coloured children is frowned upon. Note that Black is different from Coloured in this context. Coloured children refer to kids whose existence is from the union of a white and a black. Just like Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche sights in her novel "Americanah", Black is black and coloured is black.Its an eye sore for a white to be married to a black. Why?!. Aren't we all humans?Just as Vanessa and Tayo, unions such as this are frowned upon.
            
Edward Barker, a quite unique character is Manyinka's introduction of a different sect of racist who love Africans based on pity. This sect don't necessarily love Africans for who they are. In fact, they take great notice of the difference in colour and believe that keeping artifacts and African art works are a way of showing their love for Africa. But this in itself is a love cultured by pity and pride.
          
Christine is however a significant character who can be likened to "Dike" in "Americanah". She suffers from depression which is rooted in her search for identity. As witty as she may be, she struggles to fit in and hides it under the facade of participating in African initiatives and African Literary reviews. However she meets her end before the end, when she commits suicide.
          
Asides racism, Manyinka reads the history of Nigeria,spicing it up with love and lust . After independence, Nigeria couldn't manage itself . Corruption crept in and still dwells as a cankerworm-eating through the possibilities of development. Series of Military rulership as we have in history,come to play in the novel. Military incursion into civilian politics is nothing but a charade put together by ruthless dictators who have no respect for the constitution and fundamental human rights. They are exposed to be no better than the corrupt civilians.
           
The kleptomaniacs in power devour public funds into private safes leaving the country in shackles. "In dependence" inks to the paper, the problems which post colonial Nigeria faced and still faces. It's no surprise to hear of Universities closing up with strikes in this present age. Funds are being mismanaged by those in power and doesn't reach the hands of civil workers. All these boils down to the  unquarantined spread of the virus we name "Corruption".
             
Sarah Ladipo Manyinka also highlights the difference in culture and religion, which is quite ironical when played out. Marriage in Africa is termed Polygyny, where a man can have as many wives as he pleases. This is supported by both the traditional religion and Islam. But in the white man's land/Europe, marriage is confined to the context of monogamy,where a man can marry only one wife. The marriage is only declared null and void through divorce in court. This system of marriage is supported by the Christian religion. But taking a deeper look at things, can we really say that the Europeans abide by their principle of "one man-one wife"?
            
While in marriage, they seek sexual fulfillment outside their matrimonial homes. This they do in secret. But as for Africans, one man-many wives holds, as long as he can take care of them. So in reality, the europeans practice an illegal form of polygamy under the shed of monogamy.
              
Manyinka does not leave any stone unturned when making  reference to social issues. The emigration rate in Africa increases everyday. This is because Africans are leaving their fatherland to the white soil where they believe lies the" shore of possibilities"(adapted from Ambush by Gbemisola Adeoti). Can we blame them though?The Land has made it unbearable for its inhabitants to dwell in. Many people such as Mariam,rush the opportunity of leaving for America because they believe a better life awaits them there. But is a better life really on the white soil?
       
In conclusion, Sarah Ladipo Manyinka has indeed written an all round novel which connects history with modern Africa, entwining it in all kiss of love and fate. One might wonder why "in"  was separated from " dependence" in the title. Sarah Manyinka speaks not only of Africa's independence but her dependence after independence. Quite paradoxical but a bitter truth. Even after independence, Nigeria still remains in dependence. Thus the reason for the title.


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