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After 25 years, Chukwuemeka Ike releases a sequel to Toads for Supper

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After 25 years, Chukwuemeka Ike releases a sequel to Toads for Supper

Post  Admin on Mon Mar 02, 2009 5:12 pm

TOADS for Ever is a book that fans of Chukwuemeka Ike, first generation writer who has managed to remain less known among Nigeria's literary greats, should have read some 25 years ago. But surprisingly Ike chooses 2007 to conclude an unfinished business.

He says in the preface that readers of its predecessor, Toads for Supper have been yearning for the completion of the story ever since but that he thought the story should have ended there since it wasn't a real life narration. There was also the fact that he had not felt inspired to write to what he considered a finished work. If anything, the persistence of his fans that span continents has yielded results in a work that is essentially Ike in wit, humour and a fine blend of serio-comic.

But considering that no fanfare heralded Ike's book 25 long years, a tragic trap that literary works have fallen into in recent years, it's arguable that Toads for Ever might just not have been safely delivered to those who wished or asked for it. So, it might have been lying quietly in the shelves for all we know waiting for those who asked for it to be written.

What if they did get it to read? Did they get what they wanted? Did the distance of time (25 years) affect its impact? Have sensibilities and tastes shifted ever since on the kind of issues readers want to read? Who wants to read issues with colonial hues in the 21st century? Does the premiere university (University of Ibadan, the first in Nigeria) in which the novel is set ring a bell any more as it was back in 1965? What does Assistant District Officer (ADO) mean to the ordinary Nigerian reader?

And to move to the urgent matters which the book deals with, does love across tribal lines matter any more in today's Nigeria to warrant a fitting subject of literary discourse? To what extent does parents' consent or otherwise bear on children's relationships these days as against the colonial period, where our knowledge of the neighbouring tribe was vague and largely coloured black? Are the politics of tribal cleavages that raged then still in force today?

These are some of the urgent issues back then that Toads for Ever undertakes to address. It might be questioned why Ike bothered to undertake such enterprise of a sequel when he could have chosen a more recent subject, the sort that is current and therefore relevant to the day. But instead, the amiable and elderly professor chooses to take readers back to his university days to re-invent the past, as it were, to do what might aptly be termed laying a foundation for some of the ills that plague Nigeria at the moment; that indeed, Nigerian problems are age-old, that they have always been with us as a people yoked together to further the economic interests of our ex-colonisers. Perhaps too, the old professor finds it hard to believe that the good old days are gone forever. So, indeed, it's Toads for Ever.

In Toads for Supper, two lovers, Amadi and Aduke, who find love on campus are forced to separate because they are from different tribes and that Amadi has a girl betrothed to him from childhood. At his deathbed, his father extracts a promise from him never to leave his betrothed, Nwakaego, for another woman. But Amadi's love for Aduke, his university classmate, knows no limit. How does he keep to the promise he made to his father and his undying love for Aduke? On disclosing the promise he made to his father to Aduke, she runs mad and is admitted into a mental hospital. How does Amadi redress the error, torn as he is between duty to his father and the love he bears for Aduke?

Toads for Ever is a young couple's fight to retain a love that knows no tribal boundary in the face of intimidating ethnic odds. On the face of it, the novel fights off certain constraints that easily pin down people who have lived with certain customs and traditions and are unwilling to change in spite of current realities.

Amadi and Aduke make clear to their detractors that the university was a place to set standards of behaviour for the rest of society; not a haven to cling to practices that make people remain stuck in primordial cleavages for a nation looking forward to gaining political independence from her masters. Determinedly, Amadi walks the lonely road of affirming his convictions on tribal marriage, the danger of early betrothal of innocent young people in a relation they did not choose themselves.

Amadi and Aduke's are tales of harmony won through hardship as pathfinders are wont to do. Their doggedness to forge ahead makes them to succeed, and by so doing, they teach a lot of older people to embrace change; that it is healthy for the continuing existence of our society that is built along ethnic lines and divisive politics.

Toads for Ever is a novel for everyone. Through it, readers capture again how a university campus should be as against what obtains at present. Jobs waited for undergraduates while they are still studying; everything was just perfect; healthy campus politics without cultists terrorising anybody. There is the healthy politics, which too can become soured through self-serving politics of hate along tribal lines. These are what Ike wants young people to imbibe again, watching as he might, the decaying and erosion of time-honoured values slipping away from the university community he was once a part. Can those days ever come back again, these things which Ike pines for in Toads for Ever?

For the old people, whom Ike also addresses, there's a lot to be learnt. Parents' decisive role in children's marriages being one of them; what is the appropriate role parents should play in their children's relationships? What about politics in the larger Nigerian society? Must it be tribal one along North and South divide? Or as it is now, within a caucus of Nigerian cabals, who have captured power and are intent on lording it over the rest?

Ike's novel might look like a faded cloth still trying to impress on account of the years it took it to come out, but it still holds its place in today's Nigeria, of our unwillingness to shed some of our negative leopard skin in place of a harmonious existence. This is what makes the book unique, that we not really grown much from politics that shaped us some 25 odd years. It makes a special case for oneness and mutual cohabitation that have so eluded Nigerians as a people yoked together, who must find their manifest destiny in togetherness.

Yes, these toads maybe bitter but Nigerians are duty-bound to eat them for supper. But they will be healthier for it!



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