Storm Across The Sahel review — Revisiting the Aftermath of the Boko Haram Insurgency

In his 1972 classic, Homecoming, Kenyan writer Ngugi Wa Thing’o asserts that literature does not develop in a vacuum. It is given impetus, shape, direction and even area of concern by the social, political, and economic forces in a particular society.

Storm Across the Sahel, Aliyu Danladi’s debut book, is a collection of thirteen short stories written in a primarily poetic tone. It delves into social, political, and economic concerns within the context of Northeastern Nigeria, focusing on the devastating aftermath of the Boko Haram insurgency.

The first story, “The Homecomer,” depicts the life of Bunu, who lost his family and belongings to the Boko Haram insurgence. Bunu’s story serves as an example of resilience in the face of insurgency, finding a new beginning despite being subjected to harsh constraints. “Storm Across the Sahel,” the last short story in the anthology addresses a similar issue but adopts a different approach. The story follows the life of Fanna, one of the survivals of the insurgency who falls into unsavory prostitution after losing her family. Through her, we become familiar with some of the heart wrenching realities of being displaced in the IDP camp even without visiting one.

“The Friday Run” showcases people’s fear of the unknown at social gatherings. It evokes both amusement and laments. “To Light the World” is another significant story, portraying Maryam’s traumatic ordeal following a Boko Haram attack. Her experience drives her to the brink, nearly resulting in destructive acts. Hundreds of Maryams exist in the society, who live daily with similar traumatic and unforgettable experiences.

In the context of the 21st century, themes of love also find prominence in several short stories, such as “Between Two Hearts,” “Photograph in the Heart,” “Heart Beat of Love,” and “The Girl at the Dentist’s.” These tales beautifully illustrate the power of love, offering insights into its complexities and intricacies.

Three stories in the anthology, “Confession of a Wife,” “Clash at Mile 3,” and “The Man who Taught us Maths,” delve into the theme of deception in a most ebullient manner. These stories explore betrayal, with “Confession of a Wife” shedding light on the pressures of motherhood for barren women in African society. The intense societal pressure, specifically from the mother-in-law in this instance, drives an unnamed character into an adulterous affair. “The Vision of Malam Makaho” challenges cultural standards by addressing the societal issue of unplanned pregnancies. Zinatu’s quest for materialistic things leads to a heinous occurrence that puts her father’s foresight to the test. Even as it fictionalises the “Yan Kalare” thugs in Gombe, “The Error of Tero Zaro” cautions against the consequences of juvenile gangs and drug misuse.

Charles Nolim once said that Nigerian fiction is a blend of Nigeria issues. This book deftly blends together fictionalised stories set in Nigeria’s Gombe area, integrating native language idioms to highlight the overlooked experiences of the region.

Ngugi Wa Thing’o statement that Africa Literature has grown against the gory background of European imperialism, means that African Literature is a protest Literature against the Europeans especially when you look at the first set of writers in African Literature like writings of Achebe, Ngugi, Abrahams and Soyinka, but Danladi’s anthology neither protest against the Europeans nor questions government for every misfortune. Notably, the book emerged the first runner-up in the 2022 Bill Ward Prize for Emerging Writers.

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