16 May Book Review of Obito by Sam Omatseye
What comes to mind and centre when thinking of Sam Omatseye latest book, Obito, is “THE KING IS DEAD” but is he? This story examines the traditional politics and cover up that attend the rumoured death of a Benin King.
‘Obito’ is short for Obituary in the story, but what it truly means is a funeral feast. A party like no other.
The story mostly follows the actions of Chief Nikoro, his son Toritse, and a Reporter. Chief Nikoro, like many Nigerian men of his generation, has broken his marital vows and cheated on his wife. His infidelity produces a child, one that he cannot claim without damage to his reputation. Consequently, he abandons the woman and the child. The child dies at the start of the story and we watch as Chief Nikoro consults with a ritualist, seeking for a solution to his wife’s barrenness. He is assured he will yet have a son, but he is given a condition that can only be flouted at the peril of the child’s life.
This gives relevance to Toritse, Chief Nikoro’s now fifteen-year-old son, who is as curious, cunning and clever as any teenager can be. Toritse has been given an assignment by his teacher, who in my opinion is just fishing for firsthand knowledge on rumoured death of the King. Being a chief, Toritse’s father must have good information. However, such knowledge is not easily shared without consulting with other chiefs. So, when Tortise asks his father for the truth, he is given a none answer, but Tortise is determined to find the truth and pass his exams.
Chief Nikoro situation is doubly complicated by the reporter, who uses his as a source for royal news. When Chief Nikoro begins to prevaricate and gives the reporter a non-answer, the reporter senses something is off. The reporter and Toritse soon join forces to uncover the truth; Toritse becomes, then, an inside source for the reporter.
We get to see how the public reacts to the rumours of the king’s death, and how such news causes an upheaval in the community. The community is confused; the people do not know if they should be mourning or not. A king’s death definitely demands some sobriety. There are certain actions that happen in this story, that got me questioning Toritse’s freedom. However, as the story progresses, it becomes clear why Toritse is given so much freedom by his parents: Chief Nikoro will go to any length to protect his son, abide by the condition to keep him and seek redemption for his past.
The story gradually builds up to the big reveal and ultimately answers the question. The story is very good at integrating cultural background with new media, and how much the cultural and traditional ways will always have a lasting effect on our society today.
Obito is a solid play, I would have loved reading it for WAEC in secondary school. Hopefully one day, I will watch these play acted out on stage, in all its glory.
Written by Lara Kareem