Realism and the African Novel. A study of Ewan Alufohai’s The Moto-boy.

Oct 21, 2016by Miriam David1

moto-boyBook Review: The Moto-boy

Title: The Moto-Boy

Author: Ewan Alufohai

Length: 217 pages

Genre: fiction.

Publisher / Safmos publishers

Source: Ik bookshop

Rating: 4/5

Why I Read It: It proffers direct solution to national challenges.

Date Read: 15/03/2015

Review Written by: Omoh Bright Sado


Realism and the African novel have become holistically married on the platform which is the African novel. However, in the process of this unification, the novel has been infused with African traditional aesthetics and factual experiences of the African society. This adaptation generates the possibility of employing the African novel as an acclaimed tool for the examination and cross-examination of Africans. Critical self-examination comes right after the African novel is employed as a tool for rehabilitating the African culture, due to the collapse it suffered in the hands of the colonial masters. However, it serves as the only literary measure to be engaged, since the colonialist left Africans with options of activities, which if engage in, would unveil various magnitudes of disillusionments.

The portrayal of Africans and their activities in the African novel has become so much that it is seen as a moderator of the activities of Africans. However, it also serves as a platform for stating the ills in the African society and proffering solutions to them, as in The Moto-Boy.

The oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines realism as "a style of art or literature that shows things and people as they are in real life (971). On the other hand, Agho Jude in his book ; The Novel in Africa and Selected Discourses defines the African novel as "any extended narrative, not only written by an African, but which must be about Africa and Africans, conceived from an African point-of-view and reflecting an African worldview; (4). Also, in defining realism and the African novel, it is therefore defined as any long extended narrative which portrays Africans as they are real in life, bringing to light their ways of life, stating their challenges and probably helping to proffer solutions.

Chinua Achebe’s fiction is regarded as the supreme example of African literary realism, especially his novel Things Fall Apart (1958). Achebe’s fiction can also be described as historical realism, especially when he seeks to recover African past from its suppression in colonial discourse.

According to Onoge, realism in African literature can be further subdivided into critical realism and socialist realism. The first which is evident in the work of Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and a host of other African writers is principally characterized by an accurate description of the condition of modern Africa, but without proffering, a clear solution to the problems identified.

The African realist novel is a depiction of the socialist literature. The emergent literary and critical works show the dawn of a new literary phenomenon. Deconstructive critics such as Kwame Appiah argue that realism is the artistic expression of African nationalisms’ superficial resolution of the underlying difficulties facing Africa. What Appiah describes as post-realist is also part of the general trend referred to broadly as non-realist modes of representation, but more specifically as magical realism, the best example of which is Ben Okri’s The Famished Road (1990).

This type of writing, involves the deliberate violation of the conventions of realism, for instance, the transgression of the boundary between the real and the fantastic. Some critics feel uncomfortable about this label as it suggests African writing imitating alien forms. Others argue that the worldview depicted in such texts is inherent in contemporary African writings in which the elements of traditional African culture coexists with those of modernity. It is a way of emphasizing the indigeneity of the form that Harry Garuba substitutes it with the term ”animist realism”.

-Textual analysis of The Moto-boy

The Moto-Boy is a Nigerian, West-African and Post-colonial novel. As such, it bears the aesthetical trappings of Nigeria and Africa, a feature that adds to its realism. Above all, it is a realist novel, one which paints the Nigerian state in words, employing Nigerian names, settings, culture, characters, problems and activities.

Names such as ”Jiba” the protagonist, ”Iyajiba”; his mother and ”Jejeagba” his father, are all Yoruba names, from the western part of Nigeria. However, these names help in the establishment and sustenance of the reality of these characters. Furthermore, the polygamous family setting in which Jiba is a member is an example of a typical African family setting. The marriage of multiple women to a man is an attribute of the African culture, and in most cases, it is characterized by competition and jealousy.

These characterizations, however, stimulate rifts and friction amongst children of various wives and further the sight of family members as enemies. All of these are captured in the novel when Jiba begins to envisage himself as a ”Moto-Boy” (apprentice), after his primary school education and decides to venture into the sector. However, his mother sees this as a backdrop, as she sees the advancement of his secondary school education as progression. Seeing that the children of her mate kept at advancing their education, while her son Jiba opts to be a Moto-Boy, she asserts that her mate, Jiba’s half mother has bewitched him in order to torture her. This also furthers the hold of Western education by Africans, in high esteem and the desire of African parents backing their children in the acquisition of education at all cost, even at the expense of their children’s actual desire of career.

Moreover, it shows the influence of African parents over their children’s choice of profession. Jiba eventually has his way, as Iyajiba against all expectations, concedes to her son’s choice of career, as she, however, agrees with terms attached. She, however, entrusts her son under the tutelage of his maternal uncle, Mr.Ademeji, the chairman of Sogunte Park in Lagos. The movement of Jiba from village to the city of Lagos typifies the movement of so many Africans from rural to Urban settings in search for greener pastures. Set in Lagos state, western part of Nigeria and a Yoruba speaking state, Lagos state is a beehive of activities. One which citizens term ”no sleep state”, being that it signifies the Nigerian nation as a whole, from a single section.

Due to its dense population, it embodies to a large extent, varieties of activities majorly profit making, one which the haulage business falls under. However, this business involves the transportation of goods by road. By implication, vehicles used for such operations make use of roads. The way and manner which drivers of these vehicles operate on these roads determine the safety of road users in Nigeria and Africa. However, as a matter of reality, trucks of haulage businesses contribute massively to road accidents in contemporary times. In Nigeria for example, Dangote’s heavy-duty vehicles which transport varieties of Dangote company Limited’s goods contribute to major road accidents, some of which I have witnessed. Also, The Nigerian Observer rates it as a major contributor to major road accidents in Africa.

The real attitude of a great number of African drivers is also portrayed in the novel. Expressing the nonchalant attitude of drivers towards road rules, this is basically owed to confidence these drivers bestow on diabolic pieces (charms) which they procure for the purpose of safety. However, this fact remains concrete as witnesses of road accidents have attested severally to the disappearance of some lorry drivers when their vehicles are involved in road accidents. However, the ineffectuality of such charms is showed in the novel, when on Jiba’s first trip to Kano, northern Nigeria, attached to Duduyemi, another driver named Kabiru, who has protective driving charms, is involved in an almost fatal accident. This occurrence in the novel truly expresses the absence of maintenance culture, generally in Africa and Nigeria in particular. This also holds solid, the assertion that the non-maintenance of roads by the African government contributes greatly to the occurrences of road accidents.

Jiba, however, functions as a momentum of change, refusing to subscribe to diabolism, as in the use of charms. He, however, maintains discipline and character, as a man of principle. This materializes as he is never involved in any accident, showing to his colleagues the need to operate in line with road rules and standards. This actually is the real portrayal of the "change" all Africans crave for, to the extent that Nigerians voted President Muhammadu Buhari on the platform of the ”change gospel’.

Alufohai’s use of language captures realism as an indispensable linguistic tool to x-ray the realistic view in The Moto-Boy. One of the most captivating linguistic varieties used in the novel is how he expresses his view through the use of Pidgin- English to arrest the reader's linguistic hormone. For example; ”Man Must Wack”.

(3). This helps the reader relate to the story from the African context. He also uses

native Nigerian-African names, such as; Jiba, Iyajiba, Duduyemi and lots more, to paint the African reality in realism.



Bright Sado Omo hails from Benin city, Edo state. He graduated from Ambrose Ali University. His first published work, In the struggle was adopted as a text by three Universities. He has won the short spam award for literature in 2012 and Edo State Pen Awards for Plays.

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