6th November, 2013
Lola Akande’s new offering, In Our Place, is a timely reminder of Nigeria’s quest for a truly united country
Lost, confused and alienated are three words that best sum up the character of Anjola Adeniyi, the heroine of Lola Akande’s new book, In Our Place. Born in Kwara State, Anjola travels across Nigeria to understand that her state has no place in the country. Her quest to find employment, a partner and happiness, takes her through a rather tortuous path.
Often times, she questions the difference between a Nigerian from the North, West, East and Kwara State. She probes the true meaning of citizenship, indigenisation and federalism. As she journeyes through her country, she finds that indigenes of Kwara State have no place in Nigeria’s geo-political zones as she is rejected in the North, East and West.
Her ordeal is pathetic and troubling at the same time. To get an employment in the North, she forges her citizenship, claiming to be Hausa from Kaduna but her emphatic tribal marks, numbering 15, give her away. She is humiliated and told to go to the West, Oyo State, to get a job.
In Ibadan, Oyo State, the situation is as grim. Oduduwa International is recruiting graduates from the West, the Yoruba precisely. Anjola thinks this is her chance, since she hails from the Yoruba-speaking part of Kwara. But she soon realises she is not eligible to apply.
In Our Place sustains the reader’s interest because it tells many stories in one book. Deftly written and strewn together, the daring book is full of vivid metaphor. As you flip the pages of the book, you want to laugh and cry but most importantly, you have empathy for a young lady trying to find her path in a lost world.
Akande’s witty remarks, masqueraded by common literary drama, give wide perspectives to the issue of ethnicity in Nigeria. In Our Place examines inter-ethnic marriages, favouritism and adventurism in Nigeria.
Having spent a good time living in many states across the country as an adult and being an observer of ethnicity, citizenship and patriotism, Akande is well positioned to question ethnicity and inter-ethnic marriages in Nigeria. In this work, she analyses and brings to bare the ugly face of ethnicity and citizenship. In Our Place is a social satire laced with romantic comedy, politics and tribalism.
But beyond ethnicity, the book is about the frustration and disappointment young Nigerians face when trying to succeed in a place where there are differences in background. The book emphasises how one can be lost in the country of one’s birth! It also opens the mind of the reader to the magnitude of fraud perpetrated by thousands of Nigerians to conform to societal corrupt practices. In Our Place also explains in detail how Nigerians place premium on connection and favouritism.
The 10-chapter, 275-page book, published by Macmillian, should be top of the list for people with a critical mind. The book is also a must-have for every Nigerian, especially youths who think they can someday travel across the country and conquer it like Anjola.
Akande, a Ph.D holder in English Literature, has written other books–– Camouflage, What It Takes and Blue Bullet. She reckons that In Our Place is her contribution to the literary development of the country. “Nigerians place a lot emphasis on where they come from and this has hampered development in many ways. I want the readers to make up their minds about making a change in this country,” she said.
Dedicated to Odia Ofeimun, her mentor, Akande believes that the book would be recommended as a literary text in secondary schools across the country by the education board. “This is an eye-opener. It leaves the readers to decide whether or not they want to correct this lingering predicament In Our Place.”