The Other Side of Michael Afenfia’s The Mechanics of Yenagoa: A Review

By INETSOL EYAL ORU

About The Author: Michael Afenfia is a writer, social commentator and public intellectual, now residing in Canada. While pursuing a passion for writing, he holds a Law Degree from the Rivers State University of Science and Technology and an MBA from Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife. He has authored a number of critically acclaimed novels: When the Moon Caught Fire (2010), A Street Called Lonely (2011), Don’t Die on Wednesday (2014), Paxoid (2017) which he co-authored with his then 12-year-old son, and The Mechanics of Yenagoa (2020). He has also published a number of nonfiction writing, including a biography.

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Michael Afenfia’s prose is coloured in simple language, leaving little traces of a story that will be thrilling, but intentionally leaving no complete hints. And this is because the story had been sustained for months by a wide audience who looked forward to the weekly online episodes of ‘’The Mechanics of Yenagoa’’ on michealafenfia.com. So, for anyone who had followed the series, flipping the pages of Masobe’s fine masterpiece would feel like being reintroduced again to a story – exciting and familiar.

The pages slip into another as Michael Afenfia sets the pace of the story, with the character of Ebinimi, a trouble-filled auto repair guy, who has just discovered money in the trunk of a client’s car on the same day that his girlfriend brings unexpected news that she is pregnant. While slipping humour through the lines of this edgy story, Michael Afenfia reveals his ability to add subtle humour to his writings. With sentences like, ‘’you think say na this your rice without meat love, correct guys, commissioners, permanent secretaries, special advisers, supermarket owners and even bank managers dey line up for my shop to spoil me with better money’’.  His Nigerian humour is revealed in parts and characters through Saka – the comic relief of the entire ensemble of characters. Saka, the almost figure head apprentice whose love for music – Nigerian music brings entertainment to the auto repair shop, his boss, colleagues, customers which eventually gets him, local and national fame.

One thing is sure, Michael Afenfia has a very flexible way of revealing things as if unintended, but nonetheless inevitable. It is the way he expresses Ebinimi’s character and through him introduces the entire world to the life of Ebinimi Jacob. Ebinimi Jacob – a Sagbama born son – orphaned at birth whose passion for auto repairs earned him a career and brought him in contact with the people who together brought colour, a sense of belonging, pleasure, love, pain and eventually his downfall.

In the opening chapter, Michael Afenfia ambitiously opens with his intentions and what he actually wants to write about, Ebiakpo his sister – and her relationship with Reverend Ebizimor and the Jerusalem International’’. The story starts in unpretentious language, the type that would slip out of an average Nigerian, with a particular environment Yenagoa. It becomes an embodiment of what it is, – the story of Ebinimi, living a normally problematic and melodramatic life as a mechanic in Kalakala Street, Ovom, with his apprentices – Saka, Broderick, and BRD, his sister – Ebiakpo and his girlfriend – Blessing as the catalysts to his everyday troubles.

It is his never ending pursuit of a solution that drives him into the mercy of a Bayelsa politician, Aaron Barnabas Treatment – the same man who promised to make his troubles go away, if he just did a few favours for him. And let’s face it, favours that were pretty easy since Ebinimi himself wasn’t a man with a high moral standing, and also because his best friend too had supposedly betrayed him by collecting his ‘’other’’ girlfriend. He reacted by agreeing to hide guns in the trunk of his best friend’s car, who happened to be the son of another big man. An act of revenge, not thought through, became the slow catalyst behind Ebinimi’s downfall.

Even though both Michael Afenfia, and Ebinimi assert that, it was in fact the pregnancy – Blessing’s fake pregnancy that set the motion of events, it was Ebinimi’s fate that led him to all of his troubles. It is a complete wonder that Ebinimi, a plague of troubles survived that long, without actually facing the true consequences of his actions.

The story will however, be incomplete without the mention of Ebiakpo, Ebinimi’s sister, who for fear of losing her man and marriage, slept with her brother’s friend to conceive and for which Reverend Ebizimor, her spiritual mentor exploited to the fullest extention; and Blessing, whose time with Ebinimi, proved effective in leading him to his downfall. In fact, the only good thing that walked into Ebinimi’s life is Oputari, whom his philandering abilities made him lose.

Michael Afenfia showed through Ebinimi’s character how vulnerable a city Yenagoa is – a small state in her 20’s struggling with youth negligence, dependency on drugs, crime, and the impending leadership problem.

Finally, Michael Afenfia narrated the lives of ordinary men coming in contact with others, and validating the existence of the web of life that brings people together, for two purposes only, to survive and love, and to die. And if you are Ebinimi, living in Yenagoa, you can never do all of it at once, you have to choose one or the other or else, your life will be left to fate, which is exactly what Ebinimi’s life was left to – fate.

ABOUT NUNRITECINE

Nunritecine is a digital storytelling platform on the Niger Delta exploring, expressing and redefining identities and stories through literary, art, culture and film lenses. We are a community of young and devoted creative artists passionate about distorting narratives and changing perceptions about the Niger Delta.

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