BVs, how many of you remember these timeless African classics?

If you grew up in Nigeria in the 80s and 90s, before the advent of
social media, there is no way you wouldn’t have escaped reading some of
these books. I read most of them, especially those from the classical
African Writers Series and Pacesetters.

Going through the list was a bitter-sweet experience for me because I am
a lover of books, and it greatly reminds me of the gradual death of
literature not only in Nigeria, but the world at large. It also reminds
me of my childhood and the swift passage of time. One minute you’re a
child without a care in the world, and the next instant, you’re an adult
with adult responsibilities…

I grew up reading these books, so lets go on a journey in exploration of these all time African classics.

I will start with my all time favourite:

The Bottled Leopard by Chukwuemeka Ike. I read this book
uncountable times until the rats in my father’s house ate it up, as if
saying “ENOUGH!!”. Lol.

It’s a boarding school story set in 1949, about a boy, Amobi, possessed
with the spirit of a leopard who ran amok destroying things until
African juju chained it up. I remember the main character’s best friend
is an Nigerian-American half-caste boy named Chucks ( or is Chuks?).
Chucks later spread false rumours about Amobi. Very interesting read and
my personal all time favourite.

Time Changes Yesterday by Nyengi Koin. A precocious girl match makes and hooks up her teacher with her widowed dad.

The Second Chance, also Nyengi Koin. Mina and Richard’s unlikely
rich girl, poor boy love story. The story almost made me weep at the
romance and the lovely way it turned out.

One Week One Trouble, by Okoro Anezi. The ultimate boarding house
story. One week one trouble. Wilson Tagbo. I have never seen someone as
beleaguered with mischief as Wilson Tagbo, the protagonist. Lol

Dreammaker by RMD’s late first wife, MEE Mofe-Damijo. Assad
Lawson, Ama St Clair and Kayode something (I forget now). Honestly I can
barely remember the plot.

Another personal favourite, God’s Big Toe, by Obii
Nwachukwu-Agbada. Who remembers Onwubiko? The only son of his rich igbo
dad who previously had several daughters before him. Spoiled rotten, he
was a brat who thought the world was his oyster, until daddy died and
reality came crashing in…

The Virgin by Bayo Adewole. Very funny premise. I’m pretty sure if this story came up on Naija twitter today, there will be war. Lol

An African Night’s Entertainment, by the late and great Cyprian
Ekwensi. All I remember about this book is that it is set in Hausa land,
the main character lost an ear and then went on a very long voyage of
revenge. Very interesting read. Cyprian also wrote the classic Passport of Mallam Ilia, for those who can remember.

The Birthday Party by Segun Adebanjo. If my memory serves me well
the writer used to be a journalist. This babe in the story was a
serious runs girl. Had four guys at her beck and call. All came crashing
when all four sponsored her party. Oh gosh, when they crashed the party
it was a huge mess and scandal, with broken bottles flying and broken
heads as well. Lol

Rich Girl, Poor Boy by the late UNILAG Creative Arts lecturer,
Bode Osanyin. It is about aluta continua and how love triumphed at the
end. I won’t say it is particularly interesting but it was hugely
popular back then,

Ade Oguntoye’s Too Cold For Comfort comes next. Mother-in-law vs Daughter in-law palaver.

Uncle Eddie Iroh with this classic Without a Silver Spoon. If you
schooled in Nigeria, you must have read this. Dirt poor boy is
sponsored through school by his stingy teacher, who he serves as a house
boy. The poor boy goes to the bush to look for palm kernels to break
and eat because of hunger because his honesty wouldn’t permit him to
steal. A classic any day any time.

The Virtuous Woman by Zainab Alali. I can barely remember the
plot, but i know it is about a childless woman searching for the fruit
of the womb. Quite interesting.

Another favourite, The Concubine by the recently deceased Elechi
Amadi. This timeless classic is about beautiful, gap teethed Ihuoma,
wife of a Sea King (spirit husband) who can only be a concubine to a
man, but never a wife. All the men who married or tried to marry her
died tragically. Ekueme her husband,  Madume (that one’s death was
terrible), and Emenike. Very painful, this story, but very interesting.
One of my personal favourites.

Mother’s Choice by Agbo Areo (I wonder where this writer is. I
read so many of his books growing up). This is a story about a mama’s
boy. My memory is so fuzzy…

Buchi Emecheta wrote The Joy’s of Motherhood. It is one of the
most recent in this collection, having being written in the early
2000’s. I never finished because it was stolen by a big eyed thief who I
was never able to catch, but from what I remember, it is about a woman
who worked her back off for her children.

If you remember Ralia the Sugar Girl, you will also remember The Boy Slave and Return of the Boy Slave
because they were all written by the same author, Kola Onadipe. If my
memory serves me well, it is a biblical Joseph the slave kinda story. I
think the protagonist also rose to become a king or something. It has
been so long.
The Drummer Boy  by Cyprian Ekwensi. This one about a blind boy
who lived on the streets. He had a very sweet singing voice, was
affiliated with a restaurant and somehow got mixed up with the wrong

Dear Lailans, which ones do you remember and want to add? Feel free to do so.

Photo credits: @Oladayo01

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