Author: Chimeka Garricks
Publisher: Paperworth Books
Year of publication: 2010
Number of pages: 428
Chimeka Garrick’s debt novel Tomorrow Died Yesterday tracks four characters Doughboy, Amaibi, Kaniye and Tubo who grew up in the oil rich Niger Delta and how their lives end up as they deal with the oil companies that are the biggest force in that part of the world.
The book starts in a very memorable way with the first line; “We were going to kidnap the white man at about 11:27am on a drizzling Friday morning in August.” This is Doughboy aka Doye a leader of the Asiama Freedom Army a band of men that kidnap white men for ransom on the Asiama River. He kidnaps said man and then demands a ransom from the company whitie works for; Imperial Oil. This is the place his childhood friend called Tubo works for as a communication officer who has to somehow secure the white man’s release. The only person who Doughboy will negotiate with will be highly respected university lecturer and another childhood pal Amaibi.
The ransom is paid but the white man is returned as a dead body to his superiors kicking off a furore with the authorities arresting gobetween Amaibi, throwing him in gaol and through the book at him legally. Amaibi hires his old childhood friend Kaniye who is a lawyer who doesn’t practice but in fact runs a series of restaurants.
As we follow the tale we meet the women in the boy’s lives; at least two of them. Deola is a doctor who has been visiting Amaibi in hospital and then meets Kaniye and they have some sort of chemistry. Then there is Dise, Kaniye’s sister, who was married to Amaibi’s until something happened that led them being estranged and eventually divorced.
The book is told with the backdrop of the trouble that the black gold brought to that part of the world and the horrors that are racked upon a country. This includes the bad extraction that leads rivers to die and finishes the livelihoods of communities that depended on it. It talks of the corruption of the leadership from the national to the local, represented here by the Asiama Council of Chiefs led by the Amayanabo. It also talks about the Nigerian legal system and how difficult it can get your due if you are not in the right financial space not unlike here in Kenya.
The most fun parts of the book had to be the legal process and when I see the book cover saying that the author is a lawyer it makes perfect sense as he knows his stuff. This is some of the best courtroom prose I have ever had the honour of laying my eyes on. It is gripping to follow the case the prosecution presents and the mother of battles defence lawyer Kaniye lays for his client.
The least fun parts of the book were the way the people of Asiama were treated by their leadership whether local or national and the brutality that can happen when the army is pissed. That ish was not fun. The thing is that it so well written that while one wants to cry as they despair at the unfairness of it all one has to give two thumbs up to the man telling the story.
The book even as awesome as it is isn’t without its flaws; several pages are missing starting after page 227. They weren’t too bad where following the storyline were concerned but it was irritating when one is enjoying some really cool story line, in one someone was about to get laid I think (or hoped) then we jump ahead. Nkt! Mschew! The publishers really let down the author there.
Even with those missing pages I have to say that this book makes me realise that the decision I made to read on African prose was on point. It has everything; kidnappings, a gripping court case, love, death, prison scenes. Heck, there is even a helping of religion for those who love Jesus Christ. If you see this book anywhere near you pick it up and buy. Awesome.