By Julius Bokoru
City of Memories follows the ill-timed love affair of the children of two rivalling political colossus, Eunice Pam and Ibrahim Dibarama, in the north central state of Plateau. The book is set in an alternate reality where there is a junta in present day Nigeria.
The feud, spanning for decades, between these titans would catch up with their hapless children – the conservative Faruk, son of Ibrahim Dibarama and the idealistic Rahila, daughter of the powerful Eunice Pam – consequently leading to the subtle, yet explosive scheme of things that make up City of Memories.In this book, the first of its kind in Nigerian literature, Richard Ali mirrors how religion has become a weapon for people with a lust for contemporary relevance and political power. The warring sides in this book are armed in one hand by a sword and the holy book (Bible or Quran) and in the other hand, by love. Against a backdrop of ethno-religious sentiments and political skirmishes, Richard Ali makes love the central theme in this book. Beautiful. The love between Eunice Pam and her daughter Rahila, between Ibrahim Dibarama and Faruk, between Rahila and Faruk. Then, a different kind of love is introduced by a virtuous Bolewa maiden, Maryam Bazaar, a love more fated than Romeo and Juliet’s.
But that is not all that there is to love in City of Memories. Our story begins from the little town of Bolewa, a town which have somehow managed to discard a history which otherwise should be haunting. Richard Ali painted this little northern town so dreamily that I find myself these days punching ‘Bolewa’ into a search engine. Ali’s intricately woven story of love begins from Bolewa, the original city of memories, where the protagonist, Faruk, must find out how love destroyed his mother Ummi Al-Qassim and nearly brought Bolewa down in an inferno. Faruk must pick the fragments of his mother’s tragic life and piece it together with recent developments to answer the Nigerian question.
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