Colours Of Hatred Revealed

Leona’s name could have been Beauty but her confessional is bound to make one wonder how such a beautiful person can be capable of so much evil. One can, however, hide under possible mental illness to excuse her excesses.

Leona and I met last week but it was not until Saturday that I heard the last of her story. Her story’s root is in Sudan. James, her father, left Nigeria to work for a British-owned firm based in Sudan. There he met her mother, Mary, a Sudanese from the Dinka tribe. Not long after they had Leona, war broke out in Sudan, but with the strong link of her grandfather to the rebel forces, they were protected. The protection did not last. The same rebel group to which her grandfather belonged was his undoing. He was killed and Mary was also slated for a meeting with death, but she narrowly escaped and they all moved to Nigeria.

With the money Leona’s father got from her grandfather before he was killed, he invested and soon came into wealth. In no time, he became close to the military administrations in Nigeria. He played a pivotal role in the palace coup that sent out Chief Ernest Shonekan from office and brought in General Sani Abacha.

Abacha was soon to bare his fang when he threw James into jail. He was there for three years. By the time he came out, democracy had taken root and he became a minister. For his time in jail and his pontifications, he was considered a hero of democracy.

“You could not live in Nigeria and not love parties, especially if you were a reputed politician and renowned millionaire respected by your country for… working to entrench democracy- that was what Nigerians thought of my dad. Only a few of us knew better,” said Leona.

She had found out her father’s other side when Mary told her “your father was involved in the annulment of the last election” and she asked: “Oh. How did you know that, Mummy?”

While James was in jail, Mary took charge of the businesses and was able to grow it. She even re-established links with Sudan and even set up a pharmaceutical factory there. Her path crossed with Chief Fegun Wale while taking charge of her husband’s business. Mysteriously, she died after her husband came out of jail.

To her husband, Chief Wale had a hand in her death and Leona must marry Akinola, Chief Wale’s son, to have access to the family for a revenge. This quest for revenge shattered Leona’s world. Agnes, her father’s second wife, encouraged her to marry the handsome Akinola, pretending to be her friend who wanted the best for her.

Leona eventually fell in love with Akinola and killing him was the last thing she thought of, but she also felt the need to avenge her mother’s death. Instead of Akinola, she felt Chief Wale deserved death for the sudden death of her mother. Unknown to her, her stepmother, Agnes, also hatched an evil plot against her to ensure her kids were not cheated out of their inheritance. There are many more intrigues; intrigues that are capable of wrenching hearts. I am incapable of letting them out on this space.

Now a confession: If the names Abacha and Shonekan have given you the impression that I have given you a big scoop, I am sorry because all I have just recalled are from the pages of ‘Colours of Hatred’, a new novel by Obinna Udenwe published by Parresia Publishers Limited. Leona and I met on the pages of this work of art and not on the streets of Lagos. The way Udenwe toyed with history in this book makes me begin to doubt what I know: Brilliant twists on historical facts that make fiction seemingly adorn the garb of reality.

Udenwe tells a gripping tale. The themes Udenwe examines in this amazing work include hatred, deceit, heartbreak, military dictatorship, deaths, failure of leadership, and abuse of power. The book also tackles the power of money, and how its acquisition shapes human beings. The way he handled these diverse themes and the concise use of language are the main strengths of this skilfully-constructed novel about characters who are traumatised by the experiences of their past and seem unable to rise above hatred.

Udenwe deserves kudos for his use of language. There are instances of words that look ordinary but used in such a way that they have meanings far beyond the periphery. He paints imageries with words and uses them as roads to drive his readers from one point to the other; he blends words almost perfectly. He proves that with simple but not simplistic words you can tell a story, and perfectly too. You can read it without recourse to a dictionary to check the meaning of some words. The suspense is good. The language is engaging and the style is one that sucks the reader in by its brilliance and the depth of the issues it takes on. The passages are lucid and the subplots make the reader have affinity with minor characters, such as Agnes aka Auty Agii, and the catholic priest-to-be who was the real love of Leona’s life.

I am thrilled by the fact that Udenwe anchored the characters’ life around major political developments in Sudan and Nigeria. It is a major plus and aids the plot’s plausibility. It takes the novel to a serious realm. I believe it will be nostalgic for an average Sudanese and Nigerian reading about our histories in a fictional setting.

The book demonstrates that despite our differences Sudan and Nigeria have a lot in common. Like Nigeria, Sudan has gone through hell and has been unable to find its way back. Udenwe gives us insights into the fire Sudan passed through that has made it difficult for it to find its feet. It is this aspect of the book that brings to the fore the research that went into writing this novel.

At a point I wondered how Udenwe was going to tie the ends. I never saw the Agnes angle coming; after all, she had been painted as a saint who proved that one person can harbour the devil and the good Samaritan. The last chapters are my best bits and I have a strong feeling they will be for most readers. Reading this important addition to literature will be worth your time.

My final take: The evil men do in their bid for money and women is unquantifiable. They carry on as though gaining the whole world at the expense of the poorest of the world is a qualification for unique spots in the hereafter. The good news is: Rat race is nothing but vanity upon vanity.

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