By Peculiar Chimnonso Okolie
In The Name of our Father by Olukorede Yishau is a typical example of what literature depicts. The author highlights disturbing issues in Nigeria ranging from deceit to greed. What is most beautiful about
this fictional piece is how the author succeeds in bringing to the spotlight topics people shy away from. For example, the ill-treatment of Nigerian journalist, religion and fraud (ie. fraudulent religion).
These two issues are delicate topics in the Nigerian society that can cause an uproar if addressed, hence, the attitude towards them. However, in subsequent paragraphs, this essay shall be examining these
themes and others in the text.
The novel, In The Name of our Father, tells the story of a Nigerian Journalist whose manuscript puts him in a lot of trouble that would have claimed his life. Justus Omoeko gathers his findings on a popular
religious leader after one of his members reports him for his fraudulent acts. He proceeds to publish the story as a novella when he starts receiving threats. The information in the novella is dangerous ones as it can tarnish the image of the religious leader in question, Prophet T. C. Jeremiah.
As a way of fulfilling his threats, the Prophet reports the journalist to the Head of State accusing him of planning a coup alongside other military officers. Justus, who initially did not understand why he was
being manhandled, was arrested by the Head of State and charged for planning a coup he knew nothing about. He survives countless near-death experiences and eventually comes out of it with a better
knowledge of the country he lives in.
A major subject of this novel has to be the Hunger for Power. The hunger for power pushes everybody – religious leaders and military leeaders – to do anything possible to retain what they have. This makes the saying “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely” true. The very moment Alani changes to Prophet Jeremiah is the very moment
his hunger for power becomes evident. The thought of being in a spiritual position of leadership is already intoxicating. We can see this just immediately after his initiation when he strongly corrects Pastor David to refer to him as Pastor Alani. And even at that, he
wasn’t still comfortable being referred to as a Pastor, he insisted on being called a Prophet instead. “You’ll add Pastor in front of it? No, I prefer Prophet” (pg. 38). This shows how hungry he is to be in a
position of power.
Worst still, Pastor David and other members of the brotherhood see the religious system as a business. They realise the power that they can get from occupying the position of a spiritual leader. It’s a whole new level of power to be a hearer and representative of God. The power
that Alani’s concubine believes in, relies on and could pay for when she was pregnant for him. “There is a pastor at Agbelekale who can help us…the pastor has one spiritual soap like that. Once I bathe with the soap, the pregnancy will become history” (pg. 15). The power Prophet T. C. Jeremiah possesses that makes him get away with sleeping with members of his church and convincing them that it was all done
“in the name of our father” therefore, it is not sin. The members of the brotherhood show the extent to which they are ready to seek for more power and the maintenance of the one they have already.
Moreso, the situation where power-hungry men meet power-hungry men for power is the scenario that plays out in the Prophet’s relationship with political leaders. He had so much power that he could foresee if a staged coup would be successful or not. He could even work it asuccess for his clients. His clients were also power-hungry people like General Idoti. General Idoti, the C-in-C, would do anything to “silence forces of opposition” (pg 204) to remain in his position as the C-in-C. His hunger for power got him his position as C-in-C; “every other coup
d’etat saw him playing an active part…the man he had overthrown was a civilian puppet…in which he was the secretary of defence” (pg 113).
And his hunger for power was what made him consult Prophet Jeremiah, who has a reputation of causing good things to come to people. He performs a lot of miracles especially for women seeking the fruit of the womb. Ironically, he did not have a child from his union. And unfortunately, despite how much he tries to hoard his power, he eventually lost it.
A greater part of the book reveals the fraud in religion. While religion is supposed to be engaged in out of free will, religious leaders like Pastor David, engage in deceit and diabolical powers to
manipulate and hypnotise their members. Religion is now considered a business such that when Alani realises he has hit rock bottom, he turns around to be a Prophet and his social status elevates. And just
like every business, there must be proper planning and back up. He joins a cult that promises to protect him from being discovered. In the cult are “many important people in society…the Head of Police.
Head of Army. Head of orthodox churches. Some Chief Imams. Chief Judges and Chief Justices. Men of timbre and calibre. The ones who mattered in society…” (pg 93/94). In a cult-like this with the
happening people as members, members have as much backing as they would ever need. Also, on his initiation day, he is given two instruments that would aid his “ministry”. One for “whatever you decree shall come to pass” and the other “you’ll have a lot of members in your minister”. With that, all he was to do was to say the right things and behave just like every other Pastor.
The spiritual leaders also get involved in a manipulative sexual relationship with the women in their denominations. This was the situation Alani met Pastor David when he came back to Lagos. “By now
Pastor David was staring lustily at Aduke. And in no time, their lips were married…Pastor David yanked off her blouse and fed his hungry mouth with the orange-like breasts…”. They invite the women to their
office under the pretence that they were coming for spiritual counselling and prayers and afterwards start making sexual advances to them. These fraudulent relationships are what brings the downfall of
Prophet Jeremiah. He asks to have a sexual relationship with one of the leader’s wife in his church. She reports to her husband and they
leave the church with an underlying threat to reveal his crooked ways to the public. Even when it seems like he got away with it with the help of members on the board, karma still catches up with him.
One won’t be discussing this book without mentioning the situation of journalism in Nigeria. The story of Prophet T. C. Jeremiah is a novella inspired by a report given to Justus about a real prophet.
Angels Live in Heaven carried deep information about the Prophet and so, the Prophet would do anything to ensure it doesn’t get to the public. So, it was this information that put Justus in the trouble he
got into. In order to fulfil his threats, the prophet “uses his contact with General Idoti to implicate him in the coup plot” (pg.227).
Apparently, he had written an article some time ago titled The Coming Coup. The article had expressed his fears of another coup. This is very similar to George Orwell’s 1984 that foresaw some happenings in 1984 and yet was published in 1949. However, the C-in-C did not take it likely, not considering the possibility that it might be fiction. This exposes us to the kind of risk Nigerian journalists and writers
are in for displaying their intellects. The arrest of Justus would definitely send a message to other journalists that if they want to keep their lives, they should keep their pen. Justus was to waste all
the years of his life for a crime he never committed. Just because hispen predicted it.
In The Name of our Father is a book that highlights Nigeria’s major problems, religion and the government. Although it may not be considered as a feminist novel but we can’t but take note of the
helplessness of the female characters in the novel. Unconsciously or consciously, the author has used two of the female characters in the novel to take revenge for all others. Right from the very beginning,
we can see how Alani handled Tosin pregnancy. She was left on her own to evacuate the pregnancy when it takes two to tango. Even when she dies, he cannot man up and accept that he is the cause of her death,
rather, he runs away. So much for the love, he proclaims to have for her. He abandons his wife after the death of their son and goes to start a ‘new’ life. After which, he gets married again to a “daughter
of the night” and still cheats on her with a female worker in his church. All these attitudes reveal how much men regard the feelings of
As long as it went down well with him, her feelings didn’t matter..Even the manner in which Jonny, Nkechi formerly poor ex-boyfriend, comes to ask her out does not sit well. He lives her with no choice
and gives the impression that women would only be with you when you are wealthy. Although Nkechi as a character is of that kind, however, Jonny could at least be more polite and respectful of her feelings and decisions.
To repay for all of these moments, the author crushes Prophet Jeremiah by the actions of women. First of all, the baby he had with Nkechi, which was supposed to be the reason he’ll leave his wife, was not his
child. His wife also left him, not just for any man but to a gentlemanly non-Nigerian man. His presence in her life was like a gift for all the difficult times she has had in her previous marriage.
The themes in Olukorede Yishau’s In The Name of our Father are real. Things that happen in our everyday society. Everyday people pray for
more money which equals more power. This is what Alani’s character reveals and we’re forced to ask ourselves if he really wanted money or
he wanted power or power is just the extra package he got with his quest for money. From chapter two to twenty-four we are exposed to how religion, a sacred practice, has been abused and everything about it
is now fraudulent. And then we come to the knowledge of how corruption has eaten deep into the Nigerian system that even the media (ie. Journalists and writers) is no longer as independent as it ought to. Patriarchy and all it represents are not left out in Olukorede’s novel. All of these and more open up the Nigerian system to our understanding.
Okolie, a student of the University of Lagos, was runner up of the In The Name of Our Father Essay Prize organised by FinishedWorks’ Reading