The name, Sefi Atta is yet to gain international repute like Chinua Achebe or Soyinka but it does a lot in contributing fiction to African literature and the world at large. Her novel, Everything Good Will Come contributes to a new direction for the 21st century African writer. It speaks of a movement away from the ‘trado –nationalism’ of the early African literary writers. It speaks in a feminist voice that has little or no respect for the opposite gender. Yet, a chauvinist would easily accept her mastery of fiction. Her characters and description of the setting spoke with an inner voice to me. It says ‘you understand what I am saying because the protagonist, Enitan, can be easily seen in someone close to you’.
It relates the growth of Enitan through the progressive and retrogressive years of Nigeria. It shows how its unstable polity affects the girl child. As she grows into a woman, the patriarchal system becomes very unbearable to an enlightened Enitan, and she stands strong despite family problems and political pressure to free herself from macho confinement and her father from undue physical imprisonment. The plausibility of the character strikes an appeasing cord in me and I can relate the characters to different people in my environment. The story seemed more like a miniature biography of an aunt of mine. It highlights a young Nigerian woman who fights her way through the oppressive nature of men. For Enitan, the protagonist, divorce is a victory against the world of men. She is not a man hater; she just cannot survive under the old submissiveness of the African family order. An order that allows women to do only what the men want them to do.
Sefi Atta’s novel seeks a path different from the old order. It is the celebration of the woman in a manner still strange to the 21st century African man, on the issue of gender equality. The setting of the novel in the city of Lagos brings to mind an element of reminiscence. The story’s background invisibly takes me to the old Lagos. The novel revisits the lives of the old elite Lagosians, which have become legendary and unseen in the present Lagos society. The story presents a Lagos read in past newspaper stories, which Sefi colours in literary aesthetics of dialogues and scenic expressions. It is an expression of the past; a recollection of what was beautiful and ugly about Nigeria.
The use of the ‘I’ narrative with all its problematic concerns turned out as an added aesthetics to the writing. Its personality tune spiced up a reflective mood in me about how the country of Nigeria was and still is for young women. I could easily read the lives and understand the advancement of the story towards a satisfying conclusion. It may seem shocking and un-African, but the 21st century African woman will not take nonsense from any man. The story purged out certain chauvinistic tendency in me, and I realize the need to respect ‘womanity’.
However, the most important message of the novel was survival. As a young Nigerian who must strive hard to achieve success, Sefi Atta teaches me how to survive. Her writing shows me the success in hard work and having faith in oneself. She says to me that even though I live in a developing nation, Everything Good Will Come.