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Inspiring young africans: T. E. Meniru’s Ibe The Cannon Boy

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This entry is part 8 of 12 in the series Reviews Season Three

T. E. Meniru’s Ibe The Cannon Boy tells the story of adventure, patriotism, hard work, sacrifice and contentment, which Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy believes could inspire younger generations of Africans.

There is this sublime and indescribable feeling of elation I get from reading a well written story and I just felt it again as I turned the last page of T. E. Meniru’s Ibe The Cannon Boy! The short story captures several ideals within its minimal pages and it is the kind of story you would want your children to read, again and again.

Ibe, the only son of a poor widow, is a hardworking boy who–despite his inability to join other children in school because his mother cannot afford the fees–dedicates his life to helping others who are even less fortunate than himself. He becomes the darling of the grizzled members of his village and soon becomes a confidant of the village watchman whose duty is to remain on one of the five hills surrounding the village monitoring the only path leading into the village. The watchman’s job is quite simple, he is to fire the cannon positioned on this hill whenever he senses danger or the approach of enemy forces.

The cannon has not been fired for almost a generation and this means there has been relative peace but the village just won a land dispute against a neighbouring village and they are afraid the villagers might attack. The anticipated attack happens on the day of the New Yam Feast, while the village was dancing and making merry and least suspected one. The enemy infiltrates the hill and attacks the watchman; he is tied far away from the cannon as the path leading to the hill is also blocked off. A message is sent to commence attack and burn down the village while they are busy making merry but Ibe manages to slip through the path leading to the top of the hill where the cannon is before it is sealed off by the enemy warriors. Using his catapults, he shoots a stone to the eye of one of the assailant who was standing close to the cannon. He then struggles to fire the cannon the way he has been taught by the watchman, the sound is deafening; no one expected it and pandemonium is immediately let loose within the village.

The signal puts the king and his warriors in a state of preparedness and they are able to ward off the enemy attack. However, Ibe is taken a prisoner of war by the enemy. The king of the other village is surprised to see that a young boy touted his plans for revenge. There are no missing persons in Ibe’s village after the dust has settled, even the watchman has been found but Ibe is discovered missing and this makes his mother unhappy; she keeps crying and remains inconsolable.

Soon, an exchange of prisoners is done by both villages and Ibe regains his freedom, Ibe’s mother is happy, the people are also jubilant, and the king also is happy, he sends Ibe to school and commands that a statue of Ibe, placing a foot on a cannon, be erected in the village square, thus immortalizing the young village hero.

The story is that of adventure, patriotism, hard work, sacrifice and contentment. Ibe does not have many of the things life offered to his mates but he refuses to be bothered by these and even sought out others who were less fortunate than himself so he could lend a helping hand to them–this explains why everyone feel his absence when he goes missing. The story also shows that greatness is not in the big things we are able to achieve, but the minute things we engage in to touch people’s lives at an individual level. And most importantly, the story shows that superheroes do not need superpowers, there are ordinary humans like you and me, but who have set out to achieve extraordinary things.

In telling the story, I like the idea of adopting the traditional story telling style, albeit set in a moving bus, to tell the story. Also, for such a short story, the use of suspense was well executed. The story’s setting is colonial Eastern Nigeria, and I am sure younger Africans would find the illustrations quite attractive.

The story of Ibe The Cannon Boy would continue to inspire the younger generations of Africans for a long time to come, and it is a story they should read!

© Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy 2018

Series Navigation<< A visit to the forest of daemons: Reading D. O. Fagunwa’s Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo IrumaleAmelia: a review of Nike Campbell-Fatoki’s Thread of Gold Beads >>

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