When unbridled quest for political power goes awry
Night of a Red Moon (TND Press, Port Harcourt; 2017), written by Ojay Aito, unveils the games usually played in the political field, the never-ending quest of power and how detrimental it can be for the lives of the ordinary people, who ought to be beneficiary of political power. This novel serves as a tool of awakening for present-day leadership in Nigeria and other parts of Africa.
In Night of Red Moon, Aito tells the story of the immense darkness that unfolds on the night of June 16, 2005. The story is set in a well-known university town in Ogun State.
The author plays with the idea of suspense, with the book opening at climatic point, when one of the characters, Femi, is running for dear life from his pursers, who are hired to assassinate him. This is what stirs up the turbulence of the night; Femi ends up being killed. But it is just the start of the trouble to come.
“The man that had used a whip on him some minutes ago now stood over him,” the narration goes. “With the same weapon made of stripped pieces of rag and raffia, he struck his head as he had done before. This time the pain jolted Femi’s spirit out of him.”
After the killing, students of the university, his colleagues, go on a ‘peaceful’ protest to King Ebumawe’s palace, where things get really rough. Unknown to the students, protesting at the palace was like seeking justice from the wrong source. The king’s crown is also threatened by the same power forces; in fact, it is the source of the disturbance. The bloodthirsty and power-seeking Otunba Adewole had, unknowingly to both the students and the king, sent some miscreants to disrupt the protest and to also kill the king. His aim is to overthrow the king and take over his crown. The king narrowly escapes death, but the palace is destroyed and burnt to the ground.
In Night of a Red Moon, Aito utilises ‘plot twist’ technique to achieve his fictional vision. With the introduction of radical changes in the direction of outcomes of the plot, he is able to keep the reader’s attention riveted on the unfolding drama. This technique is deftly woven into the narration, as the reader suddenly finds out that, although in killing Femi, Adewole has killed the heir to the throne, a child has also been unknowingly delivered to Femi’s family by his girlfriend (Fatimah) earlier that morning at the palace clinic.
One of the students, Dan, alongside a few other others, are able to locate the child with the information left in a cot by the town’s Imam, who had earlier rescued him from the burning palace. Adewole’s plans go awry, when, at the end, the child, who happens to be the rightful heir, is presented.
The narration goes thus, “Otunba Adewole couldn’t believe what he heard (sic). He could picture only disaster. The new revelation was impossible. How could he not have known that there was a child somewhere? He turned to the Imam, “where is the child? Where is he? They say seeing is believing. Let us see him. It’s all a lie.”
Night of a Red Moon is the story of one man’s irrational quest for political power. Inevitably, his blind quest for power leads him to shed a lot of blood, with the orgy of raping, burning and destruction of property completing the vicious circle of evil for power-mongering. It is a night to remember for the residence of the sleepy community for the wrong reasons.
Aito’s use of imagery gives the reader deeper understanding of what is at stake and it stirs up distaste for the political wrangling that occurs in the town in the tussle for power.
In a desperate bid to save students, who are stranded in town during the riot, some of their colleagues, who are safe on campus,’ decide to resuscitate some abandoned buses in order to provide transport to rescue their colleagues.
“They seemed to be confident in their ability to fix the abandoned vehicle… Soon the engine began to cough in terrible spurts but the boy with his foot on the pedal wouldn’t give up until the engine roared higher than everyone’s voices combined, filled the air with plumes of carbon monoxide.”
Unbridled thirst for political power, as exemplified in Night of a Red Moon, is the bane in the Nigerian and African political set up. Night of a Red Moon seeks to expose and correct such self-inflicted ills and for sanity to prevail. Clearly, the author has shown that such desperate quest for power is never for public good, as it is only meant to serve personal purposes. Otherwise, why kill just to gain power? Adewole is on a mission that is at variance with the communal ethos. It is no surprise that his efforts are thwarted in spite of the ferocity with which he pursues it.
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