It’s been a long time we had a book review and it is interesting to note that the book I want to explore today is Daily Trust Most Anticipated Book of 2018. Omo by Alexander Ochogwu could not have been released at a better time than now because its topicalities reflects the modern tragedies of the girl child in Nigeria and Africa at large. Omo is a story of a young girl that encounters one misfortune to another and details how tragic it can be for young girls who struggle to survive and stay afloat economic storms.
The book opens up with describing the environment Omo grows up in. If you have lived in Lagos or live in Lagos, most of the scenarios painted will be very familiar to you. The illiteracy, poverty and filth that characterizes neighbourhoods contribute to Evelyn (Omo’s mother) sending Omo off to be a housegirl and that unfortunate decision puts her in the hands of a corrupt politician who attempts to rape her. He fails and pins a robbery charge on her that leads to her incarceration. More troubling is that Omo is just fifteen with so much potential that she was nominated to represent her school at a science competition but eventually could not.
Omo’s fate is changed again when she is married off to a man in the North to be his third wife. Can you imagine that her bail was her bride price? She refuses his sexual demands and kills him by mistake. At this point the story continues to build and Omo moves from one danger to another. Her Boko Haram capture leading to her being trafficked to Italy for prostitution are pointers to how the fate of this young innocent girl moves constantly from bad to worse.
Strikingly, the author portrays Omo as strong (I guess she owes that to the tough neighbourhood she grew up in). She faces her challenges headlong and somehow survives death traps such as insurgencies, sea mishaps as she crosses into Libya and even a near murder attempt in Italy. She becomes a prostitute and through her tragedies meets a young man who falls in love with her.
Now, the book has a good story. It makes you more aware of the level of poverty that rages in homes and the fact that so many dysfunctional families are part of the problems in the country as they raise children who become the thorns in society’s flesh. For example, Adamu is Omo’s half brother who is an accomplice to Kunle’s death (Omo’s husband). Old Soja, Omo’s father is known only to drink himself to stupor and lives in the past where he was once in the military. He neglects his home leaving Evelyn to provide for the home.
You would enjoy this book but and probably make up your mind to be a part of the solution. While reading, I could not but compare this book with Amma Darko’s Faceless. Both books bother on the same issues especially with the immediate need by society to look after the interest of the Girl Child. Amma Darko’s Fofo and Alexander Ochogwu’s Omo, are girls that are forced to grow up into adulthood while they were yet to fully explore their innocence. Fofo lives on the street and survives near rape attempt by Poison just like Omo also.
I was excited about these characters because both authors portray women as strong even in the midst of victimization and prosecution. Fofo encounters Kabira who is a woman that helps to uncover the mystery behind Fofo’s sister’s death and becomes a strong voice for women through the NGO she works with. However, this great story Omo is not without its flaws.
I think the author tried to say too much that he was telling than showing. I would have loved to understand how Omo’s mind worked in the midst of her troubles. The story had too many ‘suddenlys’ in that while I was trying to grapple with one event in the story, something else happens. Omo is in Lagos, suddenly she in the the North, suddenly she is in Libya, suddenly she is in Italy and suddenly she is in Lagos again. I wouldn’t say I saw much when it came to character development. There was more of circumstantial change/plot change than there was of character evolvement.
Also, the author might have tried to say too many things or chronicle most of the problems of the girl child that adequate attention was not put into allowing each event bloom or grow. The author’s military experience is well reflected as he tried to show how insurgencies are being combated. It was interesting to read but at some point I got lost because I am a novice in that field.
In it all, Omo deserves an applause because it shows the reality of our society and the need for all hands to be on deck in tackling these issues. It is a call for private and public organisations to partner and advocate for a change of attitude and perception towards the Girl Child. It is also reliving that this book was written by a male author. Thank you Flight Lieutenant Alexander Ochogwu for reminding us of our responsibility to the Girl Child. There is hope!