Author: Emiola Sunday Opasina
Publisher: Frontline Educational Services, Lagos.
The novel, Walking in the Shadow, is a well crafted story that wets appetite of any lover of good story. Set at Anjorin, a typical bucolic African village, it is a highly suspenseful novel wherein the writer revives the historical rivalry existing between Western education and African traditional society and orientation.
He as well deals with the roots of the mutual suspicion between the two civilizations by exposing governmental and institutional mediocrity. It is a situation whereby barren officialdom and government-people communication system breed disillusionment among rural farmers.
For the African intellectuals, the role Western education plays in self-realization of the individuals and the society is as imperative as human potentialities, but for the traditional African society, there are still reservations. Western education is summed up as enemy of traditional African history and cultures.
In real life, governments of African countries have been battling with legislation compelling parents and guardians to send their children and wards to primary schools. In Nigeria, for example, some states have made it offence against parents whose children of school age are caught engaging in street hawking, begging or criminal activities, especially during school hours. While some parents and stakeholders attribute the problem to poverty and lack of proper awareness, others think it is ignorance borne out of cultural belief.
Unless a truce line is drawn properly, the two will continue in their mutual damage. It is this yawning gap that attracts the literary fancy of Emiola Sunday Opasina in Walking in the Shadow.
At the centre of conflict is Fola, a school drop-out orphan whose dream of education and becoming a medical doctor is put at risk by the sudden death of his father. Sent to his foster uncle, Pa Adekoya, a successful farmer and community leader in a typical African society where farming is as important to physical and spiritual existence of man, Fola’s school dream grew dimmer. Fola’s life ambition is to become a medical doctor.
The chronicle of the forces threatening to frustrate Fola’s educational dream goes thus: he lost his father at a tender age. This forced him out of school but the dream of furthering his education did not die. Two: when he wanted to go to school, his uncle swore against it saying, “What do you mean?…Going to where? Why should you go back to school now after planting a lot of cash crops?….I am not in support of this decision…” (pp. 123-124). This is made real when his uncle got police officers to arrest him (Fola) and the headmaster who admitted Fola in school.
The third war-like challenge confronting Fola is funds for his school fees and up-keep. The fourth is the nervous and tragic romance between him and Ronke, a beautiful and intelligent girl and his classmate who he is to marry but who later became wayward when she entered higher institution. But time would later prove that Foluke, a virtuous and pretty lady, is his greatest friend, partner and consolation as his wife.
In his uncle’s farmstead at Anjorin the dream of Fola is further threatened by his uncle’s belief that Western education is a poison: “My uncle believed that Western education was purposefully designed to kill the black man’s culture. Therefore, he resolved to preserve his culture. None of his children would smell Western education”, said Fola (p.115).
This is fueled by the fact that the farmers were not getting any important incentives from the government through the agricultural inspectors. Anjorin elders think that, government is not useful to them. It sends supervisors to assist farmers, but they (farmers) argue that government should have its own farm if it wants to carry out any experiments. Government people, they further say, cannot feed the nation despite their education and agricultural expertise. This and coupled with the fact that, there are no infrastructural facilities and socio-economic development to show any government presence further convinced the villagers that Western knowledge is, indeed, useless.
This is clear in chapter 12 where an absurdity played out when the framers were invited from their farmstead in far away Anjorin to Eko, a replica of Lagos, and lodged them in a sophisticated hotel to come and learn the value of education. But ironically, despite all these suspicious circumstances, young men were deserting the village.
The virile young men who are the symbol of strength and pillars on the farm are now running away to the township. This sudden rural-urban exodus is predicated on what the frustrated and illiterate young men termed as lack of mechanized agriculture and the inconsequential roles of framers in the society dominated by educated elite.
“Farmers were seen as the underdogs in the society because there (sic) were illiterate and poor. Their opinion never mattered on national issues; they were never taken seriously. The young men were ashamed of being regarded as farmers in the society because farmers, unlike other professionals, were not accorded due respect. Why would the farmers who feed the society, including the elite, be treated as second class citizens? They would leave the farm at once in order to put a stop to this ridicule” (p.118).
Opasina is a talented writer with optimistic vision of life. This is the sum of the novel as Fola eventually surmounted all odds and became a medical doctor, his life dream. This is a classic novel in the making if some of the grammatical expressions can be reconstructed and the geographical setting of the book is properly re-ordered.
Mr. Jones who reviewed this book resides in Abuja
Filed Under: Book Review