Sunny Obande’s A Miracle for Daddy: Simple but not Simplistic
Inalegwu Omapada Alifa
Beyond the lucidity of Sunny Obande’s A Miracle for Daddy, this novella presents an average Idoma Nigerian family living in Kaduna. The unfolding of the fictional narrative brings to bear the Christian belief in Miracles. Essentially, the miraculous healing of Otseme’s father in the last chapter dovetails and interconnects with the fourteen preceding chapters of the story. As the domestic drama heightens, a character, Aunty Rose, is introduced. She changes from being kind and jovial to being the wicked aunt whom Otseme and Oyigwe, his elder sister, dislike. Through the interactions between Otseme’s household and the Salamis, I see a portrayal of the impact which Otseme’s father has on him and Oyigwe, whom their mother calls Dolphin. The onus of the writer is to render an account of what he or she describes and to establish a nexus between fiction and a true-life experience. This is the kind of realism Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie created in her first novel, Purple Hibiscus. Like Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus, Obande’s A Miracle for Daddy compels comments and criticisms. The nuclear family Obande creates is an idyllic one whose happiness was punctuated by their daddy’s accident. Furthermore, Obande uses his instrument which is mightier than the sword to bring us into the fictional Nigerian world he creates even though he mentions real places like Kaduna, Kafancha, Funtua, Lafia, Makurdi, Igumale and Agila
The interesting thing is that the story is anchored on the healing of Otseme’s father. For some artistic and creative balance, the theme of divine healing is disclosed at the end of the novel. This creates suspense in the mind of the reader who is eager to know whether Otseme’s father has gone yonder or is still in the hospital. Equally stunning is Aunty Rose’s recovery after taking palm oil to assuage her pain, the aftermath of drinking the pap Otseme poisoned with hydrogen peroxide. An interesting slant to the world created by the author is that Otseme told no one that he did poison Aunty Rose’s akamu. Besides, Otseme orchestrates that action because he is saturated with Aunty Rose’s mistreatment of them, especially when Uncle Mike, her boyfriend is around. Moreover, before the end of each chapter, the novelist advances his story by surprising the reader with new information. To recreate the story of the average happy Nigerian family, the writer deploys common Nigerian expressions such as abaracadabra (p. 40), sabi sabi (p. 41) and amebo (p. 42). The novella is also salted with certain pidgin expression especially as used by Alhaji Ibrahim Mai-Kayan-Miya, a supposed Hausa man who cannot speak fluent English. A stunning thing about Obande’s A Miracle for Daddy is that it requires the reader, with whom he wants to achieve a conversation with, to page through the entire novella to discover that it is intended for all kinds of readers. While Chinua Achebe can read it with relish like his Chike and the River, a student in Primary School can read it like Edet lives in Calabar. Charged with optimism, the story centres on the infantile as well as the matured. It is in the light of this that I tag Obande’s novella “a simple but not simplistic rendition.” Without declaiming the self-glorification of the exalted writer in an elevated language, Obande brings home his point without being melodramatic. He captures his readers by establishing a dialogue, with the intent, to awaken our consciousness to the everyday realities of life. Needless to say, therefore, the writer considers himself bonded to his nation. He is eager to speak in not highfalutin but pedestrian style, positing implicitly that the national story can be imagined as one in which a good president falls ill and the citizens are praying for his recovery. Inseparably connected to the Nigerian society, the writer cannot deny that his story stems from Nigeria and it is one of the plethora of Nigerian writings: the Achebe’s, the Soyinka’s, the Osofisan’s, the Okigbo’s, the Clarke’s, the Okara’s, the Okri’s, the Aiyegina’s, the Ezigbo’s, the Osundare’s, the Emecheta’s, the Raji’s, the Ofeimun’s, the Sefi Atta’s, the Bello’s, the Unigwe’s, the Habila’s, the Adichie’s, the Toni Kan’s, among others. Obande’s A Miracle for Daddy and the works of these writers can collectively be called Nigerian Literatures.
It can hardly be gainsaid that the stylistic thrust of Obande’s A Miracle for Daddy is chiefly novella. The writer’s diction is plain, simple, clear, and coherent. It is capable of torpedoing the mind of the reader against believing that the experiences of Otseme, Oyigwe, Aunty Rose, Uncle Mike and the Salamis are not similar to the ones he goes through or his next door neighbour experiences. Couched in fifteen chapters, the novella, the collection is a potpourri of voices. While the major character, Otseme, represents infantile innocence; his parents and the Salamis represent both maternal and paternal concerns for children; in Aunty Rose, one meets an emerging adult experimenting what love is. Nobody can say that because the language of the writer is simple, humorous and entertaining, it does not make valid statements about Nigeria. It seems clearly reasonable that the writer’s world is neither purely fictional nor completely true. This notwithstanding, it reflects the situation of existence of a typical average Nigerian family in North Central Nigeria. Hence, A Miracle for Daddy is a book many parents and teachers will be happy to keep at the reach of their children and wards. This is predicated on the fact that the writer’s simplicity in portraying life is quite captivating, stunning, gripping, and “just beautiful.” The choice of words is neither rude nor crude. The novella is characteristically not simplistic but simple. Few African writers have committed their literary energies to writing for both children and adults with more admirable virtuoso. The writer’s wee little oversights do not strip his work of the toga of good writing.