A Night In The Morning
A NIGHT IN THE MORNING is a nonfictional work of art. Although it presents itself as an alluring Yoruba narrative, yet it is fundamentally representative of African cultural experiences delivered in a thematic form. Each chapter provides an independent subject, integrated into the overall theme of the novel.
The critic’s curiosity is first aroused by the book’s title: A NIGHT IN THE MORNING, which conjoins contradictory terms in an oxymoronic fashion. A search is embarked upon to discover whether A NIGHT IN THE MORNING refers to the literal eclipse of the sun, or it depicts something unusual. But the novel itself quickly provides a clue in the first few chapters. It recounts the sudden transformation of a feeble Lagos boy into a brave adult character in Igboora. This is at the tender age of fifteen, all in the boy’s desperate bid to survive the harsh economic realities of his new Igboora location. No wonder the author himself describes the novel as a rendition of his ordeal as a little boy. Hear him:When pen was not yet firm in the hands of my age mates, I was already handling hoe and cutlass on the farm, most times, on an empty stomach and a bare skin, right in the scorching sun. At a time my peers would cringe and scream at the appearance of a crawling insect, I had got used to fending off life-threatening intruders. I indeed was often left alone in the cold, in the wilds, or expansive compounds, expected to know what to do. Indeed, when other boys were being pampered, I was already confronting manly issues.
A NIGHT IN THE MORNING is the autobiography of a promising young boy called Ayo Omotola, compelled by a strict, educated and well-to-do father to taste divergent cultures of Lagos and Igboora in his first fifteen years on earth. Each of the two towns bristles with varied allures and challenges. The city of Lagos beckons to Omotola with its boisterousness and a good life at home, but the fear of constant punishment by a disciplinarian father submerges those attractions. Igboora too, summons temptingly, granting the little boy unhindered freedom. The town exudes deep-rooted culture and tradition he relishes, but the home lacks adequate food supply because his uncle and head of the home, Fohun, is of small means. The hunger trailing that experience exposes Omotola to a risky, hunting enterprise. Interestingly, a semblance of Omotola’s emotive story is KOSSOH TOWN BOY, a non-fictional novel written in 1960 by Robert Wellesley Cole, a Sierra Leonean. KOSSOH TOWN BOY tells the emotive story of a young boy, showing his family life, school life, bereavement and environmental influence. The plot, setting and characterization of A NIGHT IN THE MORNING are similar to KOSSOH TOWN BOY’s. Thus, the temptation is high for me to have Omotola’s work rechristened IGBOORA TOWN BOY.
Omotola is strangely down-to-earth in his narration. All through the engaging story, there are no discernible traces of pretentiousness. This is commendable in a world filled with upstarts, name-droppers and egotists who like to prove their unassailable access to the stupendous wealth of their imaginary parents. Omotola prefers to present a hard reality in a flowing narrative and make it pedagogic. Not surprising then that the downhearted little boy of yesterday, who at a point nearly gave up the hope of going to school, is today an academic success in his own right, teaching the world how to survive an inclement weather. Omotola had it tough educationally as an indigent lad. He was always trekking barefooted to school, parading incomplete books and torn uniform. He was at a point forced by circumstances to pilfer pens and pencils, even as his school fees remained unpaid. Hear him again:
One day, as examination papers were about to be shared, the principal of the school, Mr Ayilara, walked-in with canes to arrest school debtors. I was the only defaulting student. I was beaten beyond measure and I was beginning to lose interest in education, something of a heritage to me. My new girlfriend told me that she would like to be a doctor, but I had no confidence in becoming anything when schooling was not sure. Fohun had been saying that we might stop schooling very soon. Without even telling us, we knew that the man did not have the capacity to sponsor our education.
Paradoxically, Omotola’s indigent background yielded profit, forcing him to mix freely with his peers, observe Igboora community keenly, and appreciate Yoruba culture and tradition better. He was able to notice the abuses and curses mothers rained on their wayward children in Igboora as well as the famed stubbornness of goats. He participated in the common students’ fights after school hours and visited the distant Araromi family farm. Omotola observed different kinds of birds and perceived their unique attributes. He encountered Ediko the madman, the village mourners and the charm merchants. The masquerade festival did not elude him either but sadly he experienced bereavement when he lost Dapo, his brother and Fohun, his uncle.
I commend Omotola for making A NIGHT IN THE MORNING a collection of gripping tales. The work is laced with witty sayings, profound Yoruba idioms and proverbs which could be conjectured as the effect of his interest in Igboora people and their customs. The sarcasms that run through the narrative can only but confirm how sharp-mouthed and troublesome the author could have been as a lad amid his peers. The novel is indeed unputdownable, exuding richness in content, style and moral lessons. The production is beautiful with clean pages, legible lettering and attractive cover graphics, although it surprisingly left out photographs and illustrations in the inside pages, which could have broken the white matter monopoly and fed the eyes refreshingly. Nevertheless, the oversight is inconsequential, for it does not, in any way, lower the quality of the great work, which I strongly recommend to all lovers of good African literature.
I Thank You
Reviewer: Dr Dele Omojuyigbe
HOD, General Studies
Nigerian Institute Of Journalism