This book chronicles the journey of a young boy in military school (Ayorinde) who had fantasized about becoming a soldier after he saw a young man in soldier’s attire pass through his school. He pursued that dream until he gained admission into a military school. Though his mother was reluctant at the beginning but his uncle helped convince her to let Ayorinde pursue a career in the military. Then the story begins.
The life of Ayorinde is filled with quite a number of adventures in school as he faces bullying and hardship constantly. He is barraged by school seniors, army commandants and basically everyone who was a level ahead of him found one reason or the other to always inflict punishment. He discovers that he is not alone in the life of misery when he found a diary of another boy soldier who wrote all his experiences in military school.
This review will not give away much so that you can get your copy and read for yourself. However, the book will be hilarious for many who have had the chance of being in a typical Nigerian boarding house where bullying and teasing is a way of life. Also, you will find it quite appalling as it is funny. Appalling because one is left to question how young boys are made to live in very poor conditions and where brutality is accepted as the way of life. Though a lot of military jargons are used, the book shows that becoming a soldier is no small ordeal.
The book deals with a lot of other themes like resilience, betrayal, teamwork and friendship but shows the terrible state of affairs of young boy soldiers. One scene that comes to mind is when Ayorinde’s mother mourns that the son she sent to military school is not the son that came back to her. The change was evident in Ayorinde’s attitude to his mother. He had no regards for her anymore. He had become a boy who no longer saw his mother as the symbol of authority over him. This strait obviously picked up from his life in military school. Brutal beatings of young boys by other boys and the laughter that erupts from others who watch such beatings can sometimes make you stop in your tracks and ask why in the world is this OK?
In Born on a Tuesday by Elnathan John, the author takes time to show the high handedness of the military in dealing with civilians. In An Abundance of Scorpions, the author also shows the brutality and corruption that the military is popularly associated with. One is forced to ponder through Ochogwu’s book if this is not as a result of the very rough and brutal handling of boys in military schools that leads to their verbal and physical abuse of other people?
However, one must applaud the author in showing us what goes on behind the scenes of the boy soldier. Probably, this might help us understand our military men better or make us question the mode of training of the military and its effects on psychological well-being of their students.
Moreso, we watch Ayorinde grow through all the trainings. We see him build resilience and courage. However, he could not position those attributes to his academics causing him to fail woefully and leaves his mother in tears. The book is written with a mixture of different narrative techniques from Omniscient point of view to 1st person point of view and also infuses the journal technique making it resemble a memoir of some sort.
The book was good and could have been better in a lot of ways. More than the brutalities and troubles that Ayorinde experiences throughout the book, there isn’t much of a concrete storyline. Sometimes each event narrated seems like a replica of another event in the sense that the same thing continues; more beatings, more insults, more unnecessary fights and injuries. It would seem that was all that was portrayed in the book until we get into the part of proper military trainings which delved into a narration of military tactics and strategies that might at some point bore the reader because of the looseness of the plot. One thing is sure, you will laugh while reading this book as you see young boys carry out their escapades. You are sure to understand the lingua franca of the military and you get to really go behind the scenes and see the process of training young military personnel. Also, you get to empathise with our military men because you see first-hand the rigours they go through just to become who they want to be- Soldiers.
Well done Alexander Ochogwu!