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ON THE BANK OF THE RIVER

Ifeoluwapo Adeniyi was long-listed for the 2015 Etisalat Prize for Literature for her debut novel, “On the Bank of the River”.
She is a PhD. student at the University of Manitoba.
Before leaving for London in 2016 for a postgraduate degree in Creative Writing, she was a radio broadcaster and political analyst in Nigeria
Let me tell you about her novel.

The novel, “On the Bank of the River” comes across as a narration of the influence of a river running
When a river visits at night to interact with the innocent beauty Enitan, everyone in the village of Obade meets at the bank of the river to exhibit their strength.
There, they also expose their frailties . The river sees through them.
through the lives of those who use it and soothing their acts of love and emotional outbursts.
Stranded in the shades of their dreams, wounded by their distance from the centre of modernity and starved by the restriction of their identity, the author, Ifeoluwa Adeniyi brings to the reader a sense of culture concealed with trepidation.

From the title, the impression is that the bank of the river is the stage where the characters in the novel expressed their roles. This is far from it, but it is true.
Every character in the novel has something to do with the river, but beyond its bank is the intimacy, struggle, and ideas that make the story a soothing balm for the reader.

The novel is about four main characters: Enitan, Jibike, Asake and Adeoye. In these characters, the writer erects a conflict of love, the absurdity of hate and the strength of motherhood.
Asake is a beautiful woman, her dance steps make angry gods look on their victims with mercy.
Her body shape is the reason a chief priest will keep the gods waiting.
But mind you, the reason Ifeoluwapo did not mention any god and a chief priest in a story of a village enclosed by the generosity of a deity - Obade, who decided to make the sacrifice to save his people from long years of famine, can only be explained as an attempt to sideline the gods from the actions of men.
I hope the gods will not hold the author responsible for ignoring the role of the spirits of the land in a story to open up the reader to the narratives of a dying culture.

The land had no rain for years and somebody needed to die to give the people a source of water. A lonely richman Obade, who could not find love, decided to give his heart to the people.
He gave his life and transformed into a river that saved his people from hunger and death.
In the novel, no one worshipped the river, nor paid homage to it on behalf of the community.
The water obviously avoided the relationship between the gods and the people, but portrayed the quarrel of love and distance, thus defining Asake the beautiful one as a basket of water because of the education she refused to acquire.

A story set in 1976 to 1998, did not take me back into time as I thought. The story is modern just that the life the people of Obade lives makes it look like the days of Sango are still with us.
The writer clearly, explains the underdevelopment that continues to define the existential struggle of our people. Asake could not unbound herself from it and got bitten by the bug of ignorance, failing to appreciate the power of education but went ahead to fall in love with Adeoye a medical student.
Asake’s younger sister, Jibike loves books and became a link between Asake’s love and Adeoye. It was only a matter of time before Jibike took Adeoye from her sister.
You would say betrayer!
Wicked sister!
Aha, when loves sings from a distance, those who have ears can always pick the rhymes of the heart.
When love is close-by, the heart becomes sharper than the ear.

How will the poor Asake understand that she who wants gold must learn to glitter?
Her love for Adeoye, produced a girl child Enitan, but her hate for education gave her a disappointment she never recovered from. This is the implication of premarital sex.
The pregnancy limited her ambition.
Anyway, Jibike by her action has a case to answer.

The novel is a conversation on the sometimes good treatment of the boy child at the expense of the girl child. The twins, Dayo and Bayo exemplify this.
Bayo, the boy is dull and harsh.
Dayo the girl is brilliant and sensible, but when their mother died, Dayo was asked to leave school to carter for her baby sibling.
This took her off the bright future she envisaged.
I am pained.
The writer also used Enitan and Dayo to call for the sex education of the girl child especially by their mothers. Dayo did not understand menstruation when it came.

Ah, Malomo died. They said he was an Abiku.
No, he had sickle cell anaemia.
Our roads were paved with ignorance, our present is challenged by excess knowledge, that we have failed to use them for our development.

Ifeoluwapo Adeniyi
Ifeoluwapo in the novel “On the bank of the River”, used the journalism and medical professions to propel her story.
The author practiced journalism. Is the novel an attempt by her to define the role of the journalist in nation building?
Is it an attempt to appreciate journalistic activism?
On the last question, I say yes.

Adeoye studied Medicine but became a top journalist. Jibike, Enitan’ aunt uses her journalistic skills to make good living.
The novel represents the persecution a journalist goes through when he or she confronts bad governance.
Paul, the Editor of Newsfeed was killed in the line of duty because the government feared his pen would topple it. Adeoye, known popularly as nomenclature was detained.
Though the writer did not mention Abacha, it was obvious that the description of events fitted the Nigerian situation from 1993 to 1998.

The novel is a reflection of our society.
The power of books shows in the transformation of Enitan from a struggling village girl to the best student in a city school in Lagos.

Ifeoluwapo is a story teller.
Her words mix happily even when the characters fight. Her use of metaphor is a giant in a market place.
The writer is humorous!
Here is Enitan talking to her mother after one of their goats refused to return from its usual stroll:
“There is still one goat missing, I want to go and search for it” Enitan announced.
“Why did you not do that earlier?” She did not look up from her meal.
“The goat is always late, so I waited for it.”
“Wait for a goat?” Enitan’s mother chuckled. “Who waits for a goat?”.

The 285 page novel is a story at hand.
Sitting here, I see the serenity of beauty and the sneezing of a depreciating culture. How the author intimately narrates the story of a soaring love broken by the thorns of desperation, explains the restlessness of an unresolved future. In the depiction of yesterday in the image of today, Ifeoluwapo Adeniyi leaves us with lines that are echoes of dreams and reality.

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