Helon habila’s Measuring Time is a story of a nation told vividly through the people. It is a narration that basically centres round characters and how their fears, ambitions, aspirations and philosophy affect their society. It is a story of many fictional personages brought to close reality by their thinking, interaction and relationship with other people. It is a story of Lamang. A handsome grassroots politician with an insatiable thirst for women and his ambitious move to become a relevant political personality. The two lead him to different ends. His thirst for women leaves him with a dead wife and living twins, while his political ambition brings his sad and untimely death. Lamang is a typical Nigerian politician who manipulates and dribbles people in order to be politically relevant.
‘Measuring Time’ is a story of the twins, Mamo and LaMamo who ar
e born to complement each other. Mamo is weak and unhealthy, LaMamo is strong and healthy. Mamo is more of brains, LaMamo is full of brawn. However, the two share a burning passion to leave home (a small village in Northern Nigeria) to become famous. But, Mamo’s health stands in his way while LaMamo travels to join a rebel group near the Chad border, then trains in Libya from where he moves to Liberia to fight alongside Charles Taylor’s rebels.
Habila’s classic novel is a story of Illiya, a war veteran whose effort to educate the hopeless of Keti community is consumed by the power play between the ruling party and Lamang. The book is a story of Asabar, a near failure who eventually get confined to the wheelchair after being shot when he tries to help Lamang’s party snatch ballot boxes. It is a story of Zara, a woman who can’t find fulfilment in her marital adventure. She leaves her first husband who denies her their son’s custody. Without family support, she turns nuts. It is a narration of Waziri and Mai and their royal deceit.
Measuring Time is an anthology of memorable stories of individuals who come to form the entire story of a nation: a historical biography. Just like his first novel, Helon Habila brings the issues in his country to the fore. He talks of poverty, corruption and political high handedness. He narrates the experience of the people under both democratic and military governments. He tells the readers of little change to the lives of the people despite changes in the government. He serves as an observer who narrates the story of his people from an objective angle. He reveals the follies of Nigerians without being neither judgemental nor sentimental.
‘Measuring Time’ spreads the story of a family round Africa moving from Nigeria to Chad and then to Liberia. Habila explores and examines the themes of war, religious violence, political instability, deceit and deception without appearing to be doing so.
The book measures time, ambitions, hopes and seasons. It is a good read.