Afonja: The Rise -The Deception of the Author… Historical fiction my foot!
I have read all sort of reviews, praises and accolades from different quarters about the book, “Afonja: The Rise”, Nobody has challenged the Author on the claim that the book is a work of fiction. How a book tagged “FICTION” able to set some historical facts straight still beats me.
As a student of Yoruba history, I fact-checked a lot of the historical issues and situation addressed in the book (Afonja: The Rise), I found them strikingly similar to what I have read or heard in the past.
Firstly, the book, “Afonja: The Rise“ is a great attempt to present an important part of Yoruba history as it is, no unnecessary sugarcoating and all. The author caveat describing the book as a work of fiction not withstanding.
There had been several attempts in the past to put in the right perspective , the history of Afonja, Aole Arogangan, Mallam Alimi and other actors in the feud between Ilorin and Oyo on one hand and the feud within Ilorin fuelled by the Fulani uprising on the other hand. While some of these attempts had been in good faith, a lot of them could not hide their bias and subjective mindset. The author of Afonja : The Rise was able to do that in a subtle way, but a keen reader will see what he did there (using the social media parlance).
Another historical fact brought to the fore by the author is the internal rivalry that ensued between the Yoruba Muslims of Oke-Sunna led by Solagberu and the Fulani Muslims under the control of Mallam Alimi and the role played by the impatient Ladugba in the rivalry. The author also pointed out as a fact that Laderin, Afonja’s father founded Ilorin as war camp.
Secondly, I am taken to the book by the simple language used by the author. Tunde ‘Leye used simple and easy to read words in the book. Many authors would have opted for big and mostly incomprehensible words that would have made the book a boring read. The author instead choose to use simple, everyday words that will keep the readers glued to the book until the last words. The use of the original names of the characters and the use of the exact Yoruba terms in the book is quite remarkable. While some other authors would have gone for the English representation of the words, the author’s resolute to use the Yoruba terms and resist the urge to anglicize the words added colour to the book. This is quite commendable and I think the readers will appreciate that. I mean, if I don’t have problem pronouncing Aegon Targerayean , you shouldn’t have problem pronouncing Iwarefa!
Thirdly, the book is arranged in a way that it is very easy to follow. The description of events in the book are graphics, it’s like you are watching a movie on a big screen. For instance, the way the author described the battle between the forces of Toyeje of Ogbomoso and the Ilorin forces was so graphic and real that I was raising my imaginary shield and shielding myself from imaginary arrows at a point. In short, the author was able to bring the reader into the book and that for me, was the top of it.
Another important aspect of the book is how the author highlighted the important role women played in the pre-colonial Yoruba society. In these days when revisionists are trying to portray women of that period as subservient and relegated, the author was able to use the character of Abike to show the position of women in the pre-colonial era.
Was there any flaw about the book? Yes there is one which I take personal! Who on planet earth or any other planet for that matter advised Tunde Leye to make us wait this long before dropping the masterpiece? And who told him the book is just a work of fiction? I will love to know his answer to these questions but until then, I will go back to reading the book, “Afonja: The Rise” for the third time. You read that right, the THIRD time!
Finally, I think everyone who can make sense of written words should buy, read and keep the book for the coming generations .
Moruff Adenekan is a Strategic PR and Communications Consultant in Nigeria.