Saturday 13 April 2013

Heroes, 1986, Festus Iyayi ****

During the the Biafran War, Osime Iyere who was a journalist sided Nigeria. According to him, the Biafran soldiers were rebels, whose main and only purpose were to loot, plunder and destabilise the country. However, after the Nigerian federal troops gruesomely murdered his landlord, he realised it was time to start seeing the war in a new light. Certainly, it was six of one, half a dozen of the other.
Heroes is a reflection of war. Was the (Biafran) war necessary and justifiable? Then, I sincerely ask myself, was there ever a necessary and a justifiable war? The plain truth is "No".
"This is not a war. This is an investment in blood and destruction by those at the helm of affairs with expectation of profit. This war is the great excuse of our natural vices... But in time of war, there are no law, when we misbehave. We are strictly on our own, we are answerable to ourselves then. And see what happens. We loot our neighbour's property, we set fire to his house because we say he is on the other side. We loot, we burn, we rape, we murder, lie and steal. We exhibit our vomit then, we show ourselves up for what we really are. And what we really are is ugly and slimy and poisonous and dark and weak".
Despite the fact that all Nigerians no matter their ethnic groups lived together in harmony, they loved and married among themselves. Suddenly, they started to kill one another, on account of the fact that they were told that a man from one of the ethnic groups, let's say Igbo, who was previously, perhaps a student, a farmer, a worker or simply a trader, was now a rebel and needed to be shot dead. The Igbos were equally told to do vice versa. Sheer madness.

Osime's aim in this novel was to recruit a third army, starting with himself, who could realise that the war was a spiteful one. That certain people in high running positions used the ordinary people against each other for their selfish ends. That the real enemies were neither the Biafran rebels nor the Nigerian soldiers, but the politicians, business men, generals and colonels of both sides. That the war was never for the benefit of the people but to take advantage of them. That the working class were deliberately swindled into the war, so that the ruling class can confortably scavenge with impunity. Unfortunately, the people failed to face up to the facts and instead, they were too eager to massacre themselves, rape each other's women, kill each other's children and destroy each other's homes and farms. Whereas, their respective generals have their family safely kept somewhere outside the country.

Even though Heroes is an erudite work of fiction, it is absolutely an eye-opener and and a great insight into the Nigerian civil war (Biafran war). Suprisingly, I realized that most novels I have read so far regarding the war were written from the view point of the Igbos. For that reason, reading Heroes gave me a whole different perspective. Don't expect a light or heavy reading, but a heart-rending and a sorrowful one that gave love a place. Love in times of war

Festus Iyayi is the first African writer to win the Commonwealth Writer's Prize for Best Book Overall, in 1988. That was how I came about reading his novel. With regards to this Prize, I have a thought to share, which will be posted next week.
Iyayi is also the author of Violence, The Contract and Awaiting Court Martial, of which I look forward to reading. Finally, I would like to know your opinion if you have read any of his novels.

I highly recommend, food for thought.


  1. Excellent review, Mary. I enjoyed reading it. I've come across the name of the author but never read any of his books. Will be on the look-out for one.

    1. Afua,I think Festus is one of those writers that makes you think twice about situations that mainly affects the working social class. To read between the lines and etc. A defender and a fighter of social rights in societies.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. I received the book as a gift while in primary school. Prior to this, I had read several books on the biafran war but sincerely speaking reading this book with my young mind gave me a very different and balanced perspective of the war. Its worth reading, the title just stuck in my head.

  3. well i have just started reading this book i would like to know more about it because i'm sure that there is so much things going on between the lines. i'm asking those who have already read it to share the findings plz

  4. thanks so much that was a very helpful review. i have just started reading this novel and i know that what is writing between the lines is much complicated than what appears in the surface. so i'm asking those who have already read it attentively to prevent me with their opinions about it.thanks again

  5. I am going to adapt this book to make a movie some day, I sincerely think this story has to be told in a bigger way, not in any way undermining this beautiful work of Festus Iyayi (rest his soul), my aim is to tell this story to anyone who cares to listen and watch, for them to see what war can do. All this clamour for segregation and independence is fuelled mostly by the appellation to the ignorance of the ignorant, and at the end of the day the ignorant will suffer while those doing the fuelling will go Scot free, every head honcho on both side is guilty still. This is the story I want to share and this book is the perfect avenue to show this. reading this book I was Osime, always the skeptic and stickler for hope in the goodness of humanity until you realise that those who claim to lead so called humanity are even more barbaric than those being led.


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