Right from the prelude, signs of protestations are evident in Tope Adeboboye’s Sunny Side of Midnight, a relatively voluminous, striking debut novel. Adeboboye, who is the Features Editor at The Sun newspapers, displays impatience with a system that has kept Nigerians down from time immemorial.
This debut novel centres around Adaba, a brilliant but jobless University graduate who earns small cash at a tutorial centre soon closed down by government on the premise that it was not licensed. His story, which is told in a language of protest, shows a man who has done almost everything right in the sight of God: He does not womanise, he does not drink and smoking of any kind, except “smoking gari”, has no place in his life. So, he expects that at 25 and a clean man, things should go well for him, but instead he lives from hand to mouth and when he is praised for coming out the best at an interview, he thinks his best days are beckoning only for the job to be given to a lady who was abroad when the written and oral tests were done. He is pained seeing the bad people in the society having all the good things of life while those who follow the rules become the dregs of the society.
Adaba’s travail is peppered with commentaries about a government peopled by selfish souls. The novel begins with Adaba having a nightmare in which a monster is struggling for a bag of treasure with him and threatening to kill him if he does not give up the bag.
Adaba’s quest for a way out of poverty leads him to an old school mate who only a few years after graduation is living large with two cars to cruise about town and enough cash to paint the town red. Ideku helps out but hooliganism soon kills his hope and he is naked, once again at a time trouble decides to make life hell for his helper. What follows is expertly handled by the author and it helps take the story to another level. The suspense from this point gives the feeling the book is just beginning. The role an Indian hemp smoker whose only family is a dog plays from this point on is interesting.
This book is not just about Adaba’s burden. Adeboboye brings alive what it takes to live in a land where leaders are dealers ever willing to sell their people for filthy lucre, where the rich and powerful hijack an area in the name of reclamation, where thousands are made to scamper for job vacancies that have been filled even before the call for applications is made and where the clarion call is: “to your tent, oh Israel.”
The book is also about how a man tries to resolve ethical questions when faced with making difficult decisions in the face of biting, searing poverty. This challenge of joining or not joining the bandwagon is one many have faced and many have failed at.
Adeboboye takes his character to hell and back and he does this ‘evil’ so well that one begins to look at the bad things happening as cool. The setting of the novel, Anija, qualifies as a character because the author devotes ample time to depict this city where poverty and abundance cohabit, where slums and posh neighbourhoods sit facing each other, where government hospitals exist only in name with their doctors and nurses now engaged in private practice, where kleptomaniac leaders compete about whose loot is bigger than the other, where infrastructure is at its lowest ebb and where there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. It is indeed a place that works only for the rich and powerful.
The book also touches on child labour, spirituality, corruption, favouritism, hooliganism, greed, and more.
This book will raise posers: Can bad things repeatedly happen to one person just for the fun of it? Must there be an evil force behind such ordeals? Are there evil people out there whose happiness stems from making others sad through fetish means?
While the answers to the posers are bound to be subject to all kinds of considerations, Adeboboye’s prowess is not in doubt. This book does not only hum, it sings, and sings well; it has harmony and ticks many boxes of a good work of fiction. The harmony syncs so well that it will not be your choice about when to turn the pages, because the chances that you have turned the next page before knowing are high.
Adeboboye envelopes this tale in elegance and it drips with poetry and beauty. He recreates the landscapes of Nigeria beautifully and he excites with his so many beautiful expressions thus delivering a rousing novel that is truly remarkable.
In all, he has rendered in grisly details the story of Nigerians and how they come to live with decades of failed leadership, nepotism, corruption, favouritism, and much more.
This is an important addition to literature by the man who gifted us Songs of My Rebirth.
Olukorede S. Yishau is author of Vaults of Secrets and In The Name of Our Father.