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Sunday Trust - - ART & IDEAS - Solomon Omayiwa is a pro­fes­sor of The­ol­ogy and Or­ga­ni­za­tional Lead­er­ship and teaches at Doxa In­sti­tute, Kaduna

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TProse Dick­son Salami Adama Transcon­ven­tional Pub­lish­ers 206 2016 Solomon Omayiwa he book An­ces­tral Farewell is a needed piece that ex­em­pli­fied cul­tural rev­o­lu­tion. It came in 24 palat­able chap­ters and 206 pages. The black and white com­bi­na­tion of the cover has in a way ex­pressed the two forces be­ing fought for and against in the book; that is the an­ces­tors and the fu­ture gen­er­a­tion.

The cover photo is apt in iden­ti­fy­ing tribal con­cept as enun­ci­ated in the book. The im­pos­ing cover photo is that of a beau­ti­ful woman with tribal mark­ings. She is in a pen­sive mood, her hand to her cheek and with pupils ex­press­ing mild sad­ness.

Read­ing through the book, the dom­i­nant theme wouldn’t be lost to read­ers as it high­lights the con­flict of value sys­tem which is the ex­pe­ri­ences of most eth­nic groups in Nige­ria and Africa alike. One can sim­plify this con­flict as con­flict be­tween for­eign in­flu­ences ver­sus lo­cal be­liefs. Not all such in­flu­ences are for­eign though, as some lo­cals at ev­ery slight op­por­tu­nity po­si­tion them­selves in man­ners by which they can as­sess and have opin­ions on the ac­tu­al­i­ties of the cul­tural life.

It is per­ti­nent to note that the au­thor in wield­ing a story around this vil­lage called Ubali was able to craft out the phys­i­cal, men­tal, psy­cho­log­i­cal, and to a great ex­tent spir­i­tual ag­gres­sion ex­erted by the char­ac­ters, thus ex­plain­ing the de­lib­er­ate strug­gle in hav­ing to re­place one value sys­tem over an­other. The is­sue of cul­tural iden­tity and the weight of such iden­tity in hu­man­ity were also in full fo­cus.

Losses are even­tu­ally in­curred and in this wise An­ces­tral Farewell clearly state that the loss here is the lo­cal and well cher­ished val­ues. Yet, it is not as such a to­tal loss. It is a re-def­i­ni­tion of val­ues since hu­mans are dy­namic and changes are part of this hu­man dy­namism. Folks sim­ply lived life to the full when they rea­son­ably weigh op­tions and drop all de­grad­ing val­ues mak­ing them to live be­low the worth of their dig­nity.

More­over, all cul­tures ought to be flex­i­ble so that in the event of a needed trans­for­ma­tion or mod­i­fi­ca­tion, losses won’t be in­curred, and not even a prospec­tive new and bet­ter life should be less en­tic­ing and sac­ri­ficed un­der the al­ter of an ac­cus­tomed life.

For sure, changes would come, as it is said to be the only con­stant thing in life. No tra­di­tion to­day is prac­tised ex­actly as it was cen­turies or even decades ago. But fear of an un­known life is of­ten the rea­son for hold­ing unto a known and an ac­cus­tomed All the con­fronta­tions in the novel are in two fronts: tra­di­tion against tra­di­tion and then civ­i­liza­tion against tra­di­tion. In the con­sum­ing ar­gu­ments, good cases for the life of the fu­ture gen­er­a­tion are pre­sented against the man­i­fes­ta­tion of the an­ces­tors who are the found­ing fa­thers upon which the present life is cast life. Ar­gu­ments are re­quired to make a case for that which is bet­ter, and so ar­gu­ments are pre­sented in the book. As the ar­gu­ments, claims and counter-claims and at­ten­dant in­trigues roll around in vir­tu­ally all the pages of An­ces­tral Farewell, the au­thor keeps the au­di­ence en­ter­tained, while heighten sus­pense and in­ter­mit­tent hu­mour is also sus­tained.

In­ter­est­ingly, the crises in the book are trig­gered by a uni­ver­sity grad­u­ate, Arome, who de­vel­ops a con­trary opin­ion about the pre­vail­ing be­liefs. Em­bolden by the ac­tiv­i­ties of a white mis­sion­ary, Mr. Richard­son, Arome is poised to en­gi­neer some kind of change. But the path upon which he threads is tough and rough as he faces stiff op­po­si­tion. First, his fa­ther, Ok­panachi, is the ti­tled de­fender of the same tra­di­tion, and so the op­po­si­tion be­gins from home. It be­comes worse as it ex­tends to the king’s palace and the el­ders’ coun­cil where some el­ders are pre­pared to de­fend the be­liefs with their breath. Worse still, some el­ders at­tack Ok­panachi over his son’s un­cor­re­spond­ing be­liefs and there­fore ques­tion his po­si­tion as the de­fender of the vil­lage’s tra­di­tion. Mean­while, there is a be­trayer in the land all along who passes the el­ders coun­cil se­crets to Mr. Richard­son and at­tempts to un­cover the be­trayer prove abortive. This ex­tends the sus­pense in the novel.

Again, the be­liefs are sa­cred and the an­ces­tors wield the pow­ers, there­fore the peo­ple would be­lieve noth­ing else. Be­sides, death penalty, mys­te­ri­ously or­ches­trated by the gods, is the pun­ish­ment for some of­fences. In ef­fect, any con­trary view of the be­liefs merely gives the el­ders and other lo­cals an ex­cited op­por­tu­nity to labour them­selves de­fend­ing the be­liefs and to reaf­firm their al­le­giance to the an­ces­tors, rather than the op­po­site ar­gu­ment his pen to present all the dis­agree­ments through stylis­tic de­scrip­tions, gram­mat­i­cal word­play and mag­nif­i­cent nar­ra­tives, as if he was de­tached from the whole set­ting. But a cur­sory reader will see through the book into his mind and nav­i­gate him back into the pic­ture.

The con­clud­ing two para­graphs in the book say it all and it reads: “In gen­eral, there were no feel­ings of con­flict­ing limbo, ex­cept in­ner voices that pre­vailed in ev­ery­one’s mind: The End! The End! The End of Ubali An­ces­tors!

“The fi­nal un­der­stand­ing was that while the pre­dom­i­nant half of the ac­cus­tomed life had come to an end, the re­formed half would make their lives more mean­ing­ful and then usher in the fu­ture gen­er­a­tions in style. Only time will tell.”

By and large, the au­thor is an in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ter and some kind of joker. He presents se­ri­ous sto­ry­line on sa­cred things and strong tra­di­tional be­liefs in the book, yet in­fuses hu­mour at reg­u­lar in­ter­val as well as end­less sus­pense. The au­thor’s style re­laxes the read­ers and holds them spell­bound; thereby mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for them to drop the book once they open the first page.

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