WHEN THE GODS ARE SLOW TO ACT: A Review of Friday John Abba’s Alekwu Night Dance

Title: Alekwu Night Dance
Author: Friday John Abba
Publisher: Write Words Consulting
Number of pages: 115
Year of publication: 2013
Category: Play

A member of Council, a supposed pillar in the land, is driven by nothing short of envy and malice to the point of contracting a lunatic to deflower the belle of the land. But things go awry and the agent ends up killing her after taking her life. This sacrilege sets off the dark music that forces Alekwu, the deity of the land, to a macabre dance.
Convinced that the accused person who was caught at the crime scene is innocent, the Chief of the land stonewalls the clamour for the former’s execution. But it is only a matter of time before the Chief’s own name is woven into the conspiracy theory. In the end, the raging mob subjects both the Chief and the accused to jungle justice.
It is said that love endows even the dumbest of us with the heart of a poet. In Alekwu Night Dance, sorrow dyes the people’s tongues in poetry. This dyeing is so thorough and the resultant poetry so rich that it is bound to tickle the sadist in the reader.
The book depicts a society with a crumbling structure. It is a fact that once faith or trust in (whether human or spiritual) authorities is lost, laws crash and anarchy is inevitable. As I pointed out elsewhere, there are basically two reasons why people abandon their gods: (a) when the gods under-supply peace and prosperity; (b) when the gods over-supply peace and prosperity. An instance of the first case is in Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God where the people of Aninta destroyed their deity, Ogba, when it stops doing what it is looked upon to do. The Old Testament section of the Bible is full of accounts where the people become lax in their devotion to God once they begin to enjoy peace and prosperity for so long. But for whatever reason, once the gods are put away, calamity is bound to befall the people to the delight of the abandoned God(s).
The problem is in knowing the mind of the gods; in knowing how long is reasonable to wait for them to act. In Alekwu Night Dance, the people of Ol’ano eventually begins to feel that they have given the gods more than enough time to act, and then they take matters into their own hands.
Typical of the African traditional setting, vital information dumped at the grapevine is accessed through roadside exchanges, market place gossips and drinking house banters. It is through these mediums that the reader gets the hint that the Chief of the town had wanted the victim for a second wife and may have arranged her death because she wouldn’t ‘co-operate’.
This book is among other things, a cultural statement. Apart from the content, it is not a coincidence that the book cover is done in red and black which happen to be the Idoma cultural colours.
In summary, Alekwu Night Dance comes as a shock to even the closest confidants of Friday John Abba, who could have sworn that the latter knows nothing about play-writing, much more producing a work that could make the NLNG 2013 shortlist. The playwright’s ability to sustain a charged atmosphere from start to finish, and his employment of music, background sounds and a flexible stage direction makes the drama play out before the eyes of the reader.
A number of issues remain unresolved till the end. For example, after the member of Council gets confined to his deathbed by a mysterious illness, he confesses to having a hand in the crime but never says what the motive was.
No doubt, Alekwu Night Dance is written for the stage and Friday John Abba continues to do his readers grave injustice the longer it takes him to see that the play jumps out of the pages of the book to an actual stage.

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About Uchenna-Franklin

I am Uchenna Ekweremadu (with/out a middle name ). I write. Poetry and prose, mainly. Nonfiction too. My works have appeared in Grub Street, Coe Review, Saraba Magazine, Imitation Fruit Journal, The Write Room, Wilderness House Literary Review, A&U American AIDS Magazine, Kalahari Review, Sentinel Nigeria Literary, Flashquake and elsewhere. I have interests in music, history and photography.
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