Religion and Poverty as Star-nosed Moles: A review of Olukorede S. Yishau’s “In The Name Of Our Father” — Enang God’swill Effiong
You see, life is full of mystery. And when humanity remains inquisitive after seeking probable solutions or answers from the mundane, humanity resolves to the supernatural as Magic-realist writers claim that the supernatural world is fused with the real world. What is more? Great reverence is given to the things of the supernatural than the real which in turn, blinds humanity and as a result, affects their every being. Poverty on the other hand, is a cankerworm. When it begins to fester, everything will begin to fester. And this is what this review tends to accomplish: how religion and poverty go pari passu, blindfolding people’s actions using Yishau’s novel as a channel.
Morality is the ability for one to distinguish between good and evil. It is a logical, acceptable form of behaviour. However, this acceptable culture was thrown under the carpet or in better terms, it probably became mixed, adulterated or desperately carried out. For instance, in the introduction of the second plot (“AND THERE WAS PREGNANCY”) of the novel, the flat character, Tosin Adelanwa, was driven out of proportion to get solutions for her unwanted pregnancy. Poverty, hovering around her, she defiled morality by her actions. According to her: “The pastor has one spiritual soap like that. Once [She] bathe[s] with the soap, the pregnancy will become history.” (p. 15) A soap? Washing away a fetus? Well, one could categorise Tosin’s action to be the desperate part for having even thought of killing the child in her womb, in the first place.
Also, after Tosin’s sudden death due to the unsuccessful abortion, Alani Atotonu, one of the chief characters, runs to his village for fear of being linked with her death. There, he meets his only child, dead too. The next morning, he abandons his wife (Abeke) and mother, which he had done before running back to the village. The reason? He is so poor that he couldn’t take care of his family and he murders morality the second time because he wants no attachment in his struggle to be prosperous. Now, isn’t that preposterous? A married man, abandoning his wife and mother completely because of poverty? Yes, that’s how poverty blinded his sense of reasoning.
Furthermore, you know how it is when a typical African lady is on the verge of choosing the flesh of her flesh. She, out of fear of probably picking the thorn of her flesh, consults the spiritual realm. Unknown to her, there are many “men of God” waiting to show her her heart desires but only to her own perdition. Take for example Pastor David and his mistress, Aduke. Aduke brings some of her desperate friends: one looking for the “right man” and the other, to break the shackles in her low business productivity. Ignorant to the ladies, Aduke has fed the Pastor with the necessary details about one of the lady’s men of possible choice and likewise the other. And as the Pastor tells them what they know, their reverence becomes deepened till they are extorted. Here as well, religion has become a shade for mediocrity.
Another example to look at is what religion and poverty do to humanity. In the exposition of the narrative, it is evident that some highly recognised “ministers of God” preserve their diabolical powers by sacrificing humans as the character, Imalaya says: “…it is the blood of human beings, an 8-day-old baby.” P. 36. Another example is with Rebecca Daniels, an initial prostitute who falls in love with Prophet Titus Cornelius Jeremiah and gets married to him. She losses six pregnancies in about two years of their marriage and it is induced that the two charms (Olugbohun and Aworo) Prophet Jeremiah uses is most likely to be responsible for Rebecca’s miscarriages. From the examples above, it is a clear indication that the Prophet and his cohorts sacrifice humans to garner powers. And for Mr. David and the Prophet, poverty is a factor which tossed them to doing that.
Finally, religion affects politics and injustice in the work. Through the character of the C-in-C, fear, engraved in his heart as regards his post as President of the country, makes him seek the advice of the ‘Miracle working’ prophet (T. C. Jeremiah) who in turn tells him to arrest innocent people on the basis of them trying to wear him off his position. The C-in-C believes so much in the powers of the Prophet and does what he is told.
It is no wonder the justice system of Nigeria frails. One will begin to wonder if all inmates are truly guilty of their crime before being convicted. Looking at Prophet Jeremiah who wants to remain rich, having the Head of State in his hands, and knows that he had to up his games. This brings him to Baba (the blind seer/ritualist) who makes the Head of State (C-in-C) believe all that the Prophet tells him. And one of which is a list of people to arrest and eliminate for trying to usurp his position. Of course, some of these people are innocent of the charges against them.
Justus Omoeko is brutally handled that he passes out twice in the course of his torture. Before his first collapse, the writer uses humour to spice Omoeko’s trauma. It is not just for humour’s sake but to put the reader to a possible or a probable experienced feeling. During his first arrest, after being taken from the guard room to a bigger space, the protagonist (Justus Omoeko) says: “One minute I felt I had a migraine. The next moment it looked as if I had a fever. I was just not sure of anything” (p. 182). His feeling reminded me of being in the police custody for hours and for something I didn’t commit. Even though I knew that I would be out, I felt the same way the protagonist felt—my head was not just straight (metaphorically). I was looking but could not see. For the protagonist, his sentence is imprisonment for life. Others, not less than twenty years while some are sentenced to death.
In addition, the ‘SPECIAL MILITARY TRIBUNAL’ is used as a symbol to show how the defendants are not given the freedom of speech in the tribunal. For instance, the protagonist narrates: “On our first appearance, we were given the rare opportunity to speak” (p. 190) and “There were so many bizarre angles to the verdicts. The chairman offered no insight into the involvement of each officer; neither did he explain why none of those sentenced to death was in control of any operational command in the army…And as if to confirm our fears that the tribunal was a mere camouflage, we were not allowed to make any comments after our sentences had been passed” (p. 191).
Many have been forgotten in prison cells with nobody to judge or review their case. The narrator tells John that there are “people who have been awaiting trial for years. Some of them have even spent more years than the offence they committed attract” (p. 206). Therefore, Olukorede Yishau is saying that Nigeria should improve on her justice system, which is so porous.
In conclusion, this review captures the mutualistic tendency of religion and poverty affecting humanity in Yishau’s novel (In the Name of our Father). It brings to my submission that when Mark Twain said that religion is the opium of the people, he wasn’t wrong. Not in the slightest.
In the Name of our Father;Novel;Olukorede S. Yishau,:Parresia Publishers Ltd.; 2018