By Anote Ajeluorou
Wings of the Night is the new prose entrant into Nigeria’s literary space. Its author, Azuka Onwuka, is brimming with exciting ideas that could cause a new way of thinking and writing prose fiction. Wings of the Night was written some 22 years ago, when its author was an undergraduate at University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
But like most authors, Onwuka took his time. Now is the time, he felt, when the idea is ripe. And come sometime in September, he will formally announce himself as a novelist quite apart from his other portfolios in the business world.
In a brief encounter last week in Lagos, Onwuka told how he started writing Wings of the Night in 1989, and has had to rework it to a finished product only recently for publication. Now, the weight of 22 years of seeming experimentation are over, Onwuka is excited that the literary world would be the better for his creative efforts.
Wings of the Night operates on two levels. First is the belief that everything that happens to a man is predestined, whether good or bad, particularly bad things, and that there is no armour against fate. In this work, the protagonist is set on a path that seems rto debunk the claim of just deserts to every misfortune that befalls a man.
Also, the author examines Africa’s cultural past before colonial periods, in the mould of legendary Chinua Achebe, to try to unearth what it was to be African, and how much present generation miss in being disconnected with that glorious past. Without being a romantic, Onwuka makes the point that present generation of Africans, for being so enarmoured by everything Western, have abandoned the need to know or trace their geneology the way Western man does to unearth the beauty of the past and the place of his ancestors in it.
So indeed, Onwuka’s Wings if the Night will force introspection on his readers for them to re-evaluate their Africanness, their roots and pay particular attention to it as a necessary handmaiden t oplaying their part in a globalised world order. The alienation that currently plagues most Africans, the author seems to be saying, can be found in the rootlessness that is so pervasive on the continent. It’s indeed a work of rethink.
“A people need to know their geneology, their ancestry,” he noted, “for our people to find our roots as a source of rejuvenation. Only when you use what you are best at that you can be your best. It is a story that combines the old way of living with the modern one for one continuum, a linking of the past to the modern ways, for a proper synergy to be formed in our march towards the future. We should know about our past so we can project into the future. I’m, in love with Achebe’s Things Fall Apart for invoking the past to define the future.
“I want to tell the rich history of our people, the wornderful aspects of our culture so our younger generation can understand what it was to have lived in the past”, with a view to reinventing the future for a better society.
But encapsulated in the old is a seeming new style of writing that Onwuka believes writers should pay serious attention. Onwuka, who has long had a forray in advertising, a brief stint in banking and now in image-making, stated that the chronological sequence of character development usually adopted by most writers was no longer in vogue. Instead, he argued that Nigerian writers should adopt the style of crime writers’ racing style to make “for fast-paced reading so as not to bore the readers, especially in this age of so much clutter.
Onwuka, who was to study to become a doctor, studied English instead to the chargrin of his parents. But he has no regrets. And having traversed the world of advertising and image-making, he has returned to his first love, writing. Wings of the Night is but a first taste of his creative muse.