A review of Niran Adedokun’s ‘The Law is an Ass’. Narrative Landscape Press; 2021
Writer, public relations practitioner and lawyer Niran Adedokun released ‘The Law is an Ass’, a collection of short stories published by Narrative Landscape Press in 2021. The Grammy award-winning artist Burna Boy (Damini Ogulu) released his single, ‘Last Last’ in May 2022. Both creative works, however, have one thing in common: ‘breakfast’. If you do not know, ‘breakfast’ in Nigeria’s street lingo means heartbreak.
While Burna Boy soulfully laments his heartbreak in the famous number this way: “E don cast/Last, last/Na everybody go chop breakfast/ Have to say bye-bye, oh/Bye-bye, oh/ To the love of my life”, it’s the characters in Adedokun’s anthology of nine stories that experience heartbreaks in various forms.
But the worst would appear to be the main protagonist, Ladi, in the collection’s first story, ‘From Dubai with Love’. Like Ian Fleming’s ‘From Russia, With Love’ where the Soviet counterintelligence agency, SMERSH, treacherously dealt with James Bond, it is Ladi’s wife of 10 years, Remi and his best friend and benefactor, Adams, who deal him a bad hand. His plight is one that no man should ever experience. Sadly, his won’t be the last as socio-economic pressures continue to bring out unfathomable cruelty in people who previously professed undying love for each other.
Daniel, the main protagonist in ‘Right from the Cradle’, got his version of breakfast from the Oyide family he tried to show kindness. But then, maybe he would have avoided his fate if he had controlled his libido and let the family’s 17-year-old daughter, Ochuko, who grew right up in his presence alone. Ochuko’s taciturn but deadly father set a trap with the beautiful lass, and he fell. He was played and then served breakfast.
The third story, ‘Just like a flash,’ is about getting one’s just desserts like Halima, the young thief, did. Sadly, her plight left her friend disconsolate. The title story, the fourth in the collection, is also about heartbreaks and cautions about hubris. The young lawyer Alade’s arrogance and conceit proved deadly for himself and his client, Alhaji Mukthar.
In ‘The Money or the Child’, Adedokun Xrays the cruel ways of some members of the Nigerian Police through Kehinde Olawunmi, a hitherto bright boy who lost his soul in his bid to escape from poverty. Initiated into the seedy underbelly of the Police by some seniors, he outshines his mentors in greed and callousness. But unlike in the previous four stories where the protagonists account for their actions or are made to pay, Adedokun lets Olawunmi go free.
The author looks at unhappy marriages and returns somewhat to the breakfast theme in ‘Once Upon a Night’ through Stanley. The latter, out of lust, marries the beautiful and shapely Ada. Sadly, she can’t fulfil all his sexual fantasies, and he carries his cross stoically.
‘Devil’s Table’ shares some similarities with Sidney Sheldon’s ‘Rage of Angels’. While the young female lawyer, Jennifer Parker, crosses to the dark side in Sheldon’s fictional work, Stanley, an upright and crusading journalist, does so in ‘Devil’s Table’ by joining the Governor’s team. All his morality disappeared in the face of previously unimaginable riches; he joined in sharing the proverbial ‘national cake’. His comeuppance was shattering when it came!
The last two stories in ‘The Law is an Ass’ are unfortunate and show Adedokun’s budding gifts as a fiction writer. Though some would make their debut fiction feel-good stories with happy endings, the author resists this temptation and goes for practical narrations that toy with the reader’s emotions. Adeza Usman and Yemisi’s plights are sad but true. May misfortune never be our lot.
Though Adedokun’s turn of phrase might not set the heart racing, all the stories in ‘The Law is an Ass’ are competently treated. They are realistic and relatable. They also reflect issues in Nigerian society that people deal with. The author’s infusion of well-translated Yoruba proverbs in the stories, particularly in ‘From Dubai with Love’ and ‘Right from the Cradle’, is masterful. He acknowledges his friend, the writer Toni Kan in one of the stories, ‘Devil’s Table’ by referencing his ‘The Carnivorous City’. Though slim, ‘The Law is an Ass’ is a good read and a commendable debut effort from the syndicated columnist.