Review Of Eloghosa Osunde’s ‘Vagabonds! By Ibraheem Uthman

Book Title: Vagabonds!

Author: Eloghosa Osunde

ISBN: 9780593330029

Publisher: Riverhead books

Published Year: 2022

Reviewer: Ibraheem Uthman

 

Nigerians know for a fact that spirits in a night market can flip them into another world, that genitals can be stolen simply by passing by a stranger, that laws are for those who don’t have master keys, and that anyone can be imprisoned or killed simply for being able to make choices, as per Osunde’s Vagabonds!

Vagabonds! Begins with numerous dictionary definitions of its title, allowing the reader to have preconceived notions of the book before even starting to read it. Throughout the novel, the reader is prompted to grow familiar with Nigeria’s economically, sexually and culturally oppressed existence. The author presents people at their best and worst, sometimes in the same scene, creating a universal sense of belonging that will appeal to a wide audience. The novel is recounted in a series of interconnected short stories kept together by a crescendo of “monitoring spirits” who collect and relay the experiences of the people of Lagos to the “city-spirit,” Èkó– a mythical figure and synecdoche for the masses. The book thrives as vehement opposition to Nigeria’s 2014 Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act. The statutory provision makes same-sex marriages and LGBT groups illegal, and violators (Vagabonds) face more than a decade in prison.

As narrated by a city spirit, Tatafo (a pidgin name for a blabbermouth or nosy person), steering the readers through the sprawling metropolis, much of the book’s revulsion is directed at Nigeria’s government for passing the law under the pretext of improving morals. Tatafo is a restless figure, one of Lagos’ appointed spirits, Èkó’s henchmen. The city spirit is assigned to the city to observe the settlers. Under the order of the despotic Èkó, Tatafo stirs up mayhem and promotes unfairness. He eventually began to challenge ÈKó’s despotic authority. He was evicted from Èkó’s close sanctum, full of questions and determined to change things. According to Tatafo, Nigeria’s endemic corruption implies that any crime can be solved with a single phone call if “you just pay the right person the right amount.”The devil sneaks in and out of humans, regardless of gender or age, to carry out his acts, frequently leaving his victims in a daze, as seen in “Night Wind.” In one way or another, Osunde portrays the devil as an entity who, to carry out any deed, needs a human vessel.

“There Is Love at Home” is a love narrative centred on a lesbian dominatrix and her lover that combines sex with emotional compassion.

“Overheard: Fairygodgirls” shows how guardian fairies try to get the proper books into the hands of insecure adolescent girls, who “fly over their heads while sitting down” to climb fast and cut where it hurts rather than languish in self-pity. “I’m seeing you. You’re not the one who needs a new mentality, it’s them,” the “sentence-seeds” of these stories inform their readers. The novel’s magnificent ending, “Witching Hours/They Will Not Depart from It,” resurrects characters we encounter all through the narrative and appears like the euphoric orchestral climax of a spectacular opera.

Eloghosa’s escapist fiction novel is pervaded with this vivid feeling of the dynamic and the possible, even when it tackles darkness in its denunciation of Nigeria’s governmental corruption and homophobic legislation. It’s a blaring artistic work, as the exclamation mark in the title suggests. It boldly rants against Nigerian society’s harmful sexual dogmas and bigotries. It also defiantly defies grammatical and general conventions.

Vagabonds! It is a strange dreamscape written in “standard” and pidgin English in prosaic and lyrical forms. It’s a short story-like snippet about disenfranchised dreamers and otherworldly beings living in Lagos’s thrall, all depicted with Osunde’s knack for highlighting moments of peaceful connection among the city’s chaos.

The imaginative mood of the work ultimately aims to highlight the fallacy of categorizing overall social groups. It also highlights how binary divisions between “we” and “them” are bogus. Most evocatively, it emphasizes how stigmatized individuals can seem weird to themselves. The plot line of Tatafo is the unifying factor across all of these bizarre and hyper-realistic sketches, effectively. The novel has room for improvement for those unfamiliar with Nigerian parlance and culture. Osunde isn’t here to explain agbero, shekpe or oversabi, and the connection between the human and divine worlds can be confusing. However, Osunde’s style allows us to fully appreciate the vibrancy of her writing. “Vagabonds!” is a melody, sprinkled with inventive metaphors, that calls for a more genuinely free Nigeria. In its artistic embrace of selfhood, the book is bravely itself.

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Ibraheem Uthman is a poet and the author of the book; Mind Of a Bard. He is a member of the Hill-Top Creative Art Foundation and he is writing from Minna, Niger State, Nigeria.