Journalist Henry Akubuiro’s intriguing view of the seedy side of Lagos
The melting pot status of Lagos came alive last week at a reading held in honour of writer and journalist, Mr. Henry Akubuiro, at the University of Lagos’ Department of English, with its regular book reading event. Akubuiro’s Prodigals in Paradise, which dwells on the grim, downtroden side of the city, known for its extravagance and uninhibited opulence, was the book in focus.
Prodigals in Paradise tells the story of a fresh university graduate, Nicodemus, a first-time visitor to Lagos, who finds, to his dismay, that life is not a bed of roses. His uncle, Job, whom he is putting up with in the city, is, against all expectations, living in a slum teeming with all manners of dubious characters. Job himself ekes a living as an okada rider, having tried all kinds of menial jobs in Lagos without luck. Disillusionment stares Nicodemus in the face as he comes to terms with the fact that white collar jobs aren’t there for the taking, even with his impressive result. When he eventually gets a job, it is to serve as a bus conductor, which ends unceremoniously due to his inability to compromise himself.
At the reading session, Akubuiro said he is appalled by the social contradictions in society, where the haves get richer and the chances of survival get dimmer for the have-nots.
He noted, “In the western world, there are social provisions for the unemployed, which isn’t the case in most African countries. Every work of art bears the stamp of the society that produces it; mine isn’t an exception”.
The arts editor of The Sun stated that the plot of the story is evident in the forlorn hope that become crystal clear in the lives of occupants of Paradise, adding ‘I am not just being pessimistic, but the reality in the story shows that constituted authority isn’t doing enough to alleviate the sufferings of the masses and the criminal elements among us will always have an excuse to perform their nefarious activities.”
Akubuiro stressed that his novel is a wake up call to those in power to live up to their responsibilities and also serves as an eye-opener to the reality of fake religiosity in society. He, however, said it doesn’t mean that there are no genuine men and women of God.
With his journalistic bird-eye view of Nigeria’s creative landscape as a literary reporter of many years, Akubuiro lamented that there are limited chances for young writers to get their manuscripts published traditionally in Nigeria as many writers prefer self-publishing in order not to let their craft die.
Host of the event and Head of English Department (UNILAG), Prof. Hope Eghagha said the department was please to have Akubuiro as guest writer. He describe him as a creative writer, who has won many awards including BBC World Service “What’s News?” , Young Reporters Competition (1998), National Essay Competition (1998), ANA Literary Journalist of the Year (2005), and ANA/Lantern Book Prize for Children’s Literature (2009) and Prodigals in Paradise was also shortlisted for ANA Prose Prize 2016.