A Holistic Review of Elnathan John’s On Ajayi Crowther Street – By Adewumi Samuel Ayomikun
The first time I read a story by Elnathan John was around five years ago, during my first year studying English in the University. His first novel “Born On A Tuesday” that explores religious extremism and fanaticism, from a Northern Almajiri boy, Dantala’s point of view, had been recommended to complete our reading list for a course, and the lecturer would occasionally walk into the lecture all to provide detailed analysis to them.
Later after graduation, I was able to lay my hands on John’s second novel, “Becoming Nigerian”, a satirical constitution which contains definitively sarcastic guides to living and surviving as a Nigerian. To put frankly, after reading “Becoming Nigerian”, I thought John was done with satire and that there was nothing spectacular to expect from the stream of satire he has discovered, until he decided to shock his devout readership with the publication “On Ajayi Crowther Street” in late 2019.
In this masterpiece, Elnathan John has teamed up with Alaba Onajin to produce a graphic novel detailing the mendacious lifestyle of a Nigerian Pastor, Akpoborie and his family. The story basically centers on the question for moral uprightness, depicted through the spectrums of homophobia, sexual molestation, suicide and pregnancy outside wedlock.
On Ajayi Crowther Street explores majorly the life and deeds of Reverend Akpoborie and his family while at the same time relating it to the societal occurrences inherent in this part of the world- Africa.
To begin with, Pastor Akpoborie is presented as a spiritual hypocrite who takes massive pride in deceit, and in his numerous religiously arranged miracles. Akpoborie’s assumed piety is firstly engaged in his usual Sunday morning ritual of causing a furor with his car honk, all with the aim of readying his family members for church. However, the underlying reason for this is to boast to the community on how overly devoted he is to the things of God. This unrepentant attitude of his continued so long enough until it got finally questioned by other dwellers of Ajayi Crowther Street in one of their landlord meetings, of which he reluctantly agreed to quit.
Going further to expose the quackery that has clouded the religious jurisdiction Akpoborie represents, Elnathan John reveals one of the despicably heinous things clergies indulge, all in the name of getting fame and garnering more members, as found in the character of Akpoborie. In the 22nd page, Pastor Akpoborie and his assistant Pastor, Diego are seen discussing plans of having a crusade, in which series of fake miracles will be staged. Akpoborie is sighted, revealing to Diego that he doesn’t like the boys he got for the previously done miracle services, as seen in the following conversation:
Akpoborie: “…yes, the guys you brought the last time cost us too much money”
“I am sorry about that, Daddy. I will negotiate before I bring anyone else,” Diego replies.
Beyond that, in the same scene, Akpoborie goes further to justify his crookedness with the Bible, even though he made a very striking and relatable statement in the same page. He says “…But people need to be helped to believe.” As controversial as this statement may seem, it no doubt reveals a precise truth about the state of an average ‘believer’ in this part of the world, today. Coincidentally, this corroborates several revelations that have graced the news in the past, about people falling into endangering snares of these self-acclaimed men of God, and who have been made to go through heinous things, all as prices to be paid for salvation.
Beyond doubt and whilst reading through this story, what this scene creates in the minds of the readers is a thought as to whether that is, in the same manner men of God gather to select, sieve and arrange miracles to be dramatized in the various crusade programs. This, done by John, is not without an intention and it most likely aim to expose the quackery that has grossly permeated the Nigerian religious purview.
Elnathan goes further to expose how morally degraded Pastor Akpoborie is. He presents him in pages 66 and 67- where Akpoborie forcefully has carnal knowledge of Kyunta, their Housemaid – as someone whose deeds are directly opposite of what he truly stands for.
Also, as John wouldn’t want the blame finger be pointed at Pastor Akpoborie alone, he presents other Akpoborie’s family members; all, having individual dark secretes- secretes they would prefer remain hidden forever. Godstime- Akpoborie’s last child and only son in the family- struggles with making open his sexuality for fear of rejection by the remaining family members. Godstime is presented as having a sexual taste for someone of same gender and engaging homophobic practices with Onyeka. From the introduction of his character in page 15, he has been struggling to conceal his sexual preference, even when Sikirat made advances towards him.
Noteworthy is the fact that Godstime is not the only member of the family struggling to contain his sexuality. Mary, Pastor Akpoborie’s second daughter too, is asexual. In several passages of the text, when her not-being-in-a-sexual-relationship gets questioned by her family members, all she does is prevaricate and avoid the conversation.
Under a similar stretch of secrecy is Keturah, Pastor Akpoborie’s first daughter, and her romantic, yet undocumented relationship with Pastor Diego, which later led to her unpremeditated pregnancy (Page 207). This, likewise, is a field for contention regarding the moral uprightness of the family Pastor Akpoborie leads.
In all, that Elnathan John is a pundit of satire is an incontestable truism. Complimentarily, the graphical route the story takes serves as a needed catalyst in aiding easy perception and comprehension by the reader, making it extremely relatable to our everyday-living.
Featured Image Credit: @elnathan_john/Twitter
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