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You could tell a good storyteller has arrived on the literary scene from the layers of plot deployed by a writer at a time where the shortfall of good piece has stayed longer than necessary with the third generation of Nigerian writers. It’s style, creativity, poise and figuration that lifts simple stories to fame. The readers get engaged in the foray as the author announces his presence.

Chigozie Obioma’s “The Fishermen” announced his presence with a story that will no doubt stay in the minds of literary enthusiasts for decades to come. Every day we find the book growing across territories and boundaries and it is already translated into 17 languages. The “Fishermen” rose to fame as an infant and the author’s ambition met the world at a time when it needed a story of this kind. A story laced with undying suspense, and at the termination of one hive climax tuning down a suspense, another is ignited only to keep the reader fixed and doused in adrenaline as he sifts through the journey of Mr. Agwu’s  home and his boys, whose life came under the influence of so many  inexplicable tragic forces.

Unexpectedly, conflict found its way into the story when Ikenna, leading his younger brothers- Boja, Obembe and Ben became fishermen at the Omi-Ala River; a forbidden river which at that time had become “a source of dark rumour”. It was truancy played by these boys while their father was away from Ilorin on transfer to Yola that cast an unbelievable darkness on the delicate twist of the story. The tragedy that followed became immeasurable while their parents sank in despair.

Abulu; the madman spearheaded their misfortune and his prophecy to Ikenna transformed him into a terrible stranger amongst his brothers. He sloped into clinical depression after the elusive interaction with Abulu who had prophesied Ikenna’s death which he opined will be caused by one of his brothers. Ikenna believed the prophecy because Abulu is known to have prophesied doom to people and it all came to pass. Solomon’s attempt to pacify Ikenna was shunned because Abulu in time past, had reeled out with accuracy eschatology of imminent doom that all came to pass with accuracy and exactitude.

It was said that “the reason Abulu was hated is because they believe his tongue harboured a catalogue of catastrophes.” It is also strange to note that “most bothersome was Abulu’s tendency to peek into peoples’ past the way he could into the future, so that he often dismantled vain kingdom of people’s thought and lifted shrouds from the swaddle corpses of buried secrets. And the result was always very dire.”

The moment Ikenna caught Abulu’s prophesy, a looming tragedy was sowed into the story. Darkness began to build up gradually and every sequence of event that followed were either orchestrated by the prophecy or influenced by the same omen. “It was here that Ikenna’s illness began, when fear robbed him of his health, for it seems that the account of the man’s death has established in him the unquestionable inescapability of Abulu’s prescient powers, causing smoke to rise from things yet unburned.”

Mrs. Agwu pondered in altered distress, trying to figure out why Ikenna’s sudden change in character left everyone imbalanced. Ikenna had developed hatred for all his brothers and Boja, the closest to him confronted him in a bid put things in order. This pursuit led to their death; Ikenna and Boja died.

Obembe took up the baton and initiated the process that saw Abulu’s death. Ben was lured by Obembe and together they killed Abulu thereby avenged the death of Ikenna and Boja. “The flood of wrong this man had done to us broke out the golem that this new discovery had created in me had risen to its feet, and shaken off the extra layers of earth from its creation. The verdict was now inscribed on its forehead: Abulu is our enemy.” After Abulu’s death, Obembe fled and Ben went to prison.

Chigozie Obioma is a writer that is versatile in words and his choice of classic language took the story to an exceptional height. The book is strut in measured sentences and the characters assumed their natural selves, the setting is resplendent and the style cohesive. The author’s ability to travel with respite details and clarity is most commendable. It’s noteworthy to state that when a work of fiction assumes paranormal realism it is either the author is gift with the use of language or his sense of history and details enchanting. This author is one that has the capacity to turn a simple tale into viral explosion.

The book was perfectly written except for certain errors in editing and plot structure. Obembe, on exile, could not have known that Ben was prosecuted and sentenced to eight years imprisonment. The desired link that established this fact was not indicated in the book which left one wondering how easy would it have been for Obembe to keep writing letters to Ben in prison and even promised to come back home on the day Ben will be released from prison.

This observation does not take away the merit of the story. Obioma’s conscious, calculated and respite method of storytelling leaves the reader asking for more. It is a story well told by one whose careful research, permutations and style has been tested by vast the populace  of literary enthusiasts all over the world. One thing stands out in Chigozie Obioma’s work- the resilience with which the story is told, the poetic waterfall of language, the erotic appeal of sentence drill, the towering characters and their rustic flaws, the stylistic tendency and the versions tragedy that it bore for readers to scoop. If you haven’t read “The Fishermen” I think you have left something very important undone because this piece of fiction could change your perception of life. The human imagination needs a story like this to pull all strings of influence, relevance and history.

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This article was first published on 14th April 2016


Evans Ufeli is a lawyer and the author of acclaimed novel, ‘Without Face’. He is also an Alumni member of the Writers Bureau, Manchester, a highly sought-after conference speaker with a passion for the concept of change. He lives in Victoria Island, Lagos. You can visit his blog or contact him via Facebook or Twitter by clicking the icons below; send an email to or call 08037712353

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