I’ve woken up many times to stories of riots in several parts of Nigeria. And although I have an equal amount of sympathy for the people caught in these skirmishes, my interest soars when there is a religious undertone. I tend to spend a reasonable amount of time analyzing why the religions (or denominations) involved in the clash did not practice love and tolerance which are basic tenets of most faiths. There never really seems to be a plausible excuse for the attacks.
Tony Nwaka’s Mountain of Yesterday starts in 1982 and dumps us in the first few days of one such religious riot in Maidugiri. There we meet Udoka and Amina, an inter-tribal Christian couple that barely escapes angry mobs and religious extremists. With their house burnt and no property, they make their way to Udoka’s village in Anambra state and have to start life afresh.
The story follows them through the birth of their first child immediately after the queen’s death. Tradition states that female children born during the mourning period have to be marked on the shoulder, but Udoka and Amina disagree with this practice as they are Christians. They are pressured by the villagers to obey “the gods”, and are almost ostracized from the community for refusing. With the birth of other children and their continuous bid to uphold Christianity, they end up in several clashes with the village elders. Udoka is poisoned soon after.
After Udoka’s death, the family struggles on without him. Amina has to be strong for her family and fortunately for her, her tailoring business keeps them going. In time, her rising fame from her excellent designs lead to her being approached to serve as a political aspirant. Her children and extended family get everything good and bad they deserve, and the rest is history.
I like that Mountain of Yesterday zigzags across states (Maidugiri, Anambra, and Lagos) in the major geo-political zones to tell this story; it lends an interesting view to life and traditions in different parts of Nigeria. The story also presents pertinent issues in the society like the effects of violence and its far-reaching effects. I also like the insight into the struggles of a female political aspirant. Tony Nwaka’s Mountain of Yesterday explores new grounds and is an interesting read.
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Chiamaka Onu-Okpara is a freelance editor with an absolute love for anything weird. When she isn’t wading through punctuation errors, she binge-watches cartoons and writes speculative fiction.
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