Chimeka Garricks weaves a net of suspense from the first chapter. He drops readers right in the middle of a kidnapping gone wrong and navigates this story past carefully plotted timelines and locations. This enhances the complexity of his characters and the tales they bear. Garricks’ experience in the Nigerian legal system as a practicing lawyer is on showcase in his debut novel, Tomorrow Died Yesterday. The backdrop is the Niger-Delta, a region of Nigeria that enjoyed relative calm until the grand discovery of oil.
A friend mentioned this book in conversation and I happily picked up a copy at Terrakulture’s bookstore as I am drawn to a thought provoking title. As I got deeper into the lives of Kaniye, Amaibi, Doye and Tubo, the 4 childhood friends that this story spins around, I read with a sense of foreboding of what the future would reveal.
Kaniye, the lawyer turned restauranteur and Deola, the prudent NYSC prison doctor deliver a giddy romance laced with delicious food. It comes as no surprise that Garricks intended this to be a love-story from the Niger-Delta. Thankfully, he inadvertently wrote Tomorrow Died Yesterday from a different angle and readers get two for the price of one as the suspense and romance in its pages are ever-present.
Amaibi, the environmental activist and professor is Kaniye’s client caught up in this quagmire of kidnapping, betrayal, greed, and guilt. His wife, Dise is one of the two principal female characters we are introduced to and together they share a secret that Garricks holds out on until right before the book ends.
Tubo, the fourth of this square of friends works for Imperial, the oil company that stops at nothing to keep its refineries fired. Doye aka Doughboy, the Byronic hero and your anti-typical Niger Delta militant has masterminded several kidnappings of Imperial’s expatriates. His most recent act of terror sets the stage for a journey from present to past that Garricks takes his readers on.
The book’s title is referenced when Kaniye calls into question Doye’s violent response to the plundering of oil and the spoils that come with it in their hometown of Asiama. He asks, “What about the future? Our children? Their tomorrow?” Doye replies, “There is no future for the children of the Niger Delta. Their tomorrow is already dead. It died yesterday.”
Garricks would certainly want his readers to take away a more positive message from this novel than the problems of the Niger-Delta are irredeemable, after all he is a son of the same oil drenched soil. From the cultural angle, he brings in depth and an appealing description of the region’s governing system . I enjoyed the short history behind the Amayanabo, a ruling class I didn’t know about hitherto. Also, there is something appealing about the name As–i–a–ma, although, most of the present-day story is set in Port-Harcourt and Lagos. Perhaps, another repercussion of the crises that ravaged this former bubbly,fishing town.
With Tomorrow Died Yesterday, Chimeka Garricks should be mentioned in the same breath with masters of suspense such as Sidney Sheldon. Sadly, some of the most intriguing novels I have read from the African continent have been overlooked by major audiences. There is Araceli Aipoli’s No Sense of Limits, a novel I still get goosebumps from when I recall how every chapter breathed anticipation for what was next down readers’ necks.
Without a doubt, this novel has earned its place among contemporary writing with its story, delivery, and evergreen characters including Wali, the menacing and dubious security official from Imperial, who provides readymade comedy in every appearance as he mispwonounces words (substituting every r with a w). Still, this book needs a reprint. Several typographical errors and a few empty pages left me sighing out loudly in public transportation as I lamented over what I had missed in the blank spaces.
This is one novel that would be a delight to transform into a movie screenplay or better still a series. Those were my friend’s thoughts and I agree.