AUTHOR: PEMII BEN
RELEASED: Aug 18, 2018
I have spent the last couple of years, spanning over a decade, working with a lot of Non-Governmental Organisations which work cut across some of the most sensitive fields ranging from girl-child education, women in politics, rehabilitation of victims of human/sex trafficking to environmental issues.
One of the most vital tools for functionality in the NGO job is vibrant resource material capable of total transformation. PEMII BEN’S THE SOMBRE YEARS is one.
The work, with an amazing opening from Ito’s mum who, literary, upbraids her young daughter on the ills of a dehumanizing trade that has sent many to untimely graves, epitomises the rarity of decency in the act of prostitution and its sister vices. With graphic statistics that pierce to the heart and citing international agencies that have gathered the numeric of the women/girls lured into prostitution, Ito’s mum cautioned against her daughter’s involvement in the trade in the future.
Her young mind troubled by the inroads of her mother’s persistent sermonization against prostitution, Ito had to take her inquiry about “how the odd trade starts” to her school teacher, who, rather than answer the young student’s question, gave a slap on the back. The inhibition the teacher’s spank caused Ito would have remained a lifetime scar but for the woman who visited her school from an organisation called Society Against Prostitution and Child Labour in Nigeria, SAPCLN.
The woman in question, seeing the inquisitiveness in Ito’s eyes insisted the young girl should ask her a question. Then she let go of the question: “…are good girls sometimes the victims of the odd trade?” That is how the question that merited Ito a spank from her class teacher fetched applause from the visitor who generated fresh presentation from the young Ito’s question.
The fresh presentation rammed into the history of the odd trade tracing its roots to the attitudes of Penguins and chimpanzees. In other words, that trade practiced by humans is actually bestial, that is, animalistic. It’s no wonder then, how the trade dehumanises the human species.
The fresh presentation also debunked the popular notion that prostitution is the oldest profession in the world when it factually proved that nursing is rather the oldest profession in the world since humans were first born, raised and then became adults to enable them (humans) make decisions and choices.
A thorough perusal of the work reveals succinct facts seamlessly woven into a text delivered through some of the liveliest literary conventions knit into identifiable characters such as Ito, who is the protagonist.
A wandering slut, Ito inherited her late mother’s trade even when she was at an advantage not to have done so following the awareness seminar she had attended in school. She plied her trade from Benin City, Edo State capital to Delta State, then to Rivers State and later on Kano, Abuja, Kaduna and later found her way to Lagos.
Aided by her friend Lina whom she met in Port Harcourt, who introduced her to the “oyibos” in Onne, Rivers State, Ito had her first international encounter with the sex trade there, where she serviced some expatriates who worked there in their numbers. Irked by the nuisance created in the wake of militancy and kidnapping in Port Harcourt that led to the evacuation of expatriates, she had no option than to pull out of the area.
Ito’s exploits in Delta State took her to Asaba and later to Abraka where she had mix feelings about the trade. Though she also plied her trade in Awka and Onitsha in Anambra State, these were no places to remember.
Well versed to explore Ito launched out into Imo State where snatched a customer from another sex worker though in an effortless manner. Her mate in the trade simply asked for a higher sum while Ito, the moment she got the opportunity to bargain, accepted something less and so she won the client over.
Fortunately for her, the guy was a Local Government chairman who had more than enough money in his coffers. Ito lured him to sleep and then made away with his ten million naira. This is an act that will later backfire and send her to jail and also rob her of her marriage. Ironically, she didn’t stop the odd trade even after she hit this unwholesome money.
In Lagos, she made good money, bought two cars, established hair dressing salon with employees, and then started off her part time studies with the University of Benin. Yet, she didn’t pull out of the sex trade. Obviously, hers got to the point of addiction.
Ito beastly recounts how unpleasant it is to secure a decent job in Nigeria. She gives clear narrative of her odd experiences in the banking sector when she eventually found a job. She was reintroduced to prostitution but this time, on a more organised scale. In the course of doing that work, she met some Nigerian ladies who plied the sex trade in Italy and she got connected.
But that was after she had had a feel of the trade in the West African subregion where she held sway as the queen of the terrain. She plied the trade in Togo, Cotonou, Benin Republic, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, the Cameroons, and finally took off to Italy.
In Italy, she had what appeared to be pleasant experiences until it was time for her to marry. The council chairman whose ten million naira she had stolen was an intimate friend to her fiancé and he was going to double as the groom’s best man. Having been fully briefed of the odd outing by this former council boss, Ito’s fiancé was also on the watch with his friend to fish out the culprit.
A meeting was scheduled for introduction of his fiancée. Lo and behold, it was the culprit who showed up! Both guys couldn’t believe their eyes and ears. Former council boss confirmed that his friend’s fiancée was the culprit while the fiancé could not believe his ears. It was a straight arrest that landed Ito in jail and loss of her marriage.
She ended up a successful regret, warning other young women and even men not to venture into the trade.
THE SOMBRE YEARS becomes all the more interesting as it is a practical investigation and that means it is a true story that deals with the social evil that plagues us on daily basis. It also presents the narratives of some other women who have exited the odd trade and their dire warnings against getting into the trade. The chaptering is one of the most innovatively creative approaches to the presentation of a literary masterpiece. The author didn’t use the traditional chaptering approach that uses chapter 1 etc. The author rather lined the chapters along the line of the commencement of tertiary education. That explains why the introduction is the “Orientation”.
THE SOMBRE YEARS is an irresistible intellectual pie that satiates every intellectual hunger!
(Eunice Okam is an experienced and versatile NGO worker whose works have produced regenerated women and girls within and outside Nigeria. She sets up her NGO soon)