Olukorede Yishau’s Vault of Secrets is a robust offering of ten short stories that explore motifs of secrecy, infidelity, cosmopolitanism and Diasporic experiences. The author also explores subtle monologues and the impending shocks of vaulted secrets.
One of the ways in which Olukorede Yishau resolves the revelations of secrets is through the letter writing technique which the author employs to share parts of character’s diary and to lead the reader into an exciting journey of an eavesdropper. The author also remains interested in engaging socio-political realities that haunt Nigerians both at home and in the Diaspora.
The emotions of fear, solitude and rejection are projected in the work. Meanwhile, infidelity, impotence and incest are also going concerns in the works. Sometimes, secrets are kept for the sake of self-defence, to protect a loved one or to keep the family legacy away from cultural shame. Loyalty is also a defining difference between a revealed secret and a kept one. All of these are explored in the stories in the collection.
Men and women are culpable in breaking their marital vows. While the Ababios have a complex relationship and a family secret; the grandfather of Williams is both the grandfather-father and his mother is mother-sister to him in “My Mother’s Father is my Father”.
Infidelity with the house help is a common trope in Nollywood but when the author layers it upon other secrets in “The Special Gift”, the reader enjoys a beautiful time with the story. In “Otapiapia”, Aunt Rebecca complains about her husband’s inability to satisfy her sexual needs because he is too busy travelling to make ends meet. When her niece discovers that she has committed class suicide in order to satisfy her urges, she displays loyalty by keeping her mouth shut.
As an aside, It is often surprising that aspiring and rich men are often too busy to explore the lush exchanges of the flesh while those in the lower rung of the ladder are ready and available to be adventurous.
A sad discovery leads Aunt Rebecca to commits suicide and shortly after ASSU calls of their strikes, which had kept Idera at home.
There are also tremors of sudden disappearances of loved ones, in this case, a husband who escapes to the Diaspora with a sexy secretary due to years of oppression and frustration from his wife. Also, a friendship that saves from imprisonment and death due to an incestuous secret kept in “This Thing Called Love”.
The questions of DNA and the trope of nurturing children that the husband or wife thinks belong to him is a way to immortalise a social discourse that has trended and has heightened the tensions between feminists, liberals and chauvinists. This can be found in many stories including ‘Open Wound’, a story about a haunting love life, abortions, infidelity, paternal ownership, the violence and disappointment. The story also explores impotence and the tension of waiting for the ‘fruit of the womb’ where the problems come from the man.
Loyalties are tested when secrets are kept because it troubles the soul and the mind. In “Better than the Devil”, A skilled sharp shooter for a cult group has put his murderous past behind. Unfortunately, his former University Capo reaches out to him to function in the same capacity as an assassin, and to continue his killing streak. This paves the way for his friend to rise to a decent echelon of political ranking. This speaks to long and deep-rooted loyalties that are concretized by secrets, threats, money and position in society. This also hints atthe duplicity and complicity discovered in the subversion of justice as the assassin is also a reputable lawyer and human rights activist, while his Cappo works in the presidency. Other stories display loyalties to families, to friends, and to societal harmony which serve as harbingers of secrets.
There is no doubt that Yishau is drawn to the stretches of power and how the tight-fisted secrecy in the presidency, in government offices and corporate offices have morphed into fables of half-truths due to the trickles that are revealed by civil servants and workers. Even the media is not spared by the stifling and oppressive interactions between the two agencies of survival. In the story “Letters from the Basement”, Nelson, a former governor loses all influences, credibility and power when he is arrested for treason. While he awaits death, he exiles his family to Ghana and continues to receive the shocks of his absence as his daughter gets pregnant. His wife struggles with her finances and with lustful desires. When an old friend of Nelson comes to her rescue, we are not clear whether she is sleeping with him to receive the financial support or out of desire. Nonso is another character of interest in “This Special Gift”. Nonso, the media tycoon is a philanderer who loves trysts with different women while undermining the confidence and sustainability of other trained professionals who work for him. While Yishau hopes to reflect retributive justice in most of his stories, his stories also showcase the fact that justice is often skewed to favour the rich, the highly connected and the cunning. He extends the above to growing corruption, which straddles side by side with opulence in a pseudo-democratic landscape.
The author also showcases cosmopolitanism by subtly juxtaposing Lagos to London and other cities. He stretches his creativity by reversing some of the ills that are wont to be told of careless General and private Hospitals in Nigeria in “Lydia’s World”, where Chapel Hospital, London, was found wanting in switching babies, mislabelling them, using racial slurs and bullying their patients. The hospital is also a place where love begins between a male and female Nigerian Nurse, but when they returned to Nigeria, the rights of the woman diminishes and the personality of the man is defined solely by his ability to provide financially for the home in “Till We Meet to Part No More”. The conflict soon comes to a climax with murderous consequences. There is no doubt that murdering the male partner is becoming a feature of Nigerian life at home and abroad. It has become a twin of domestic violence which is often meted by the man in the relationship. Yishau explores this in this story and many others. The trauma of sex slavery, fraud, and the specialities of modernity are explored in the work.
Yishau’s narrative style is accessible to all readers. His stories are relatable and worthy of cinematic investments. His style ranges from first person, second, omniscient as well as a few authorial intrusions. A lot of the stories conceal the names of the characters until much later in the story which may bear some confusion. While Yishau would achieve a wide credibility for his prose, most of his works lack the poetic language that literary fiction considers a staple of the genre. He uses few proverbs and transliterations in some of the works but they were not enough to excuse the fact that Yishau perhaps prefers to create stories inspired by post-reportage and tangential realities of Africans at home and abroad.
The danger of remembering secrets is that there is a room for telling and there is access to the vaults. It portends that these secrets are filed and compared with new information in the public domain. The conscience and the memory of a person or persons urges us to relieve ourselves of the burden of our secrets, and those kept in our trust. This leads to nightmares, migration, or silences that may bear upon our health. These stories especially in “Open Wound”, “My Mother’s Father is my Father”, among others, inform us that it is a constant struggle for someone to manage the secrets that weigh upon his or her vaults.
A Review of Vaults of Secrets by Olokorede Yishau
Title: Vaults of Secrets
Author: Olukorode S. Yishau
Pages: 118 pages