About the book
The Road to Kaibara deals with a government faced with dissension, coup d'etat and civil war after thirty years of authoritarian rule. It chronicles national events at the micro and personal levels through the lives of two men following their failed hopes in their post-independent country. Each of them undergoes exile: Desmond Johnson flees Kaibara and Borbor Pain embraces insanity within its borders. The violence of the civil war brings them the chance to take formal power but with far more ambiguity of personal and political purpose than they had thirty years before.
About the author
Gbanabom Hallowell holds a PhD in Leadership & Public Policy Studies and an MFA in Creative Writing from the Union Institute, USA. He is the Director-General of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation.
BOOK REVIEW by Prof Jonathan Peters
Read some pages of the book...
This is a story inside a story. My name is Desmond Johnson and I've been in exile for thirty years now. I suddenly developed an intense urge to return home to Kaibara. However, my muse told me that I first needed to fill the gap of absence by seeking a narrator to inform me about happenings in Kaibara since I left for exile.
The narrator I saught prepared me to accept that his account was going to be a long story. A man who has been gone for thirty years would need to know not only the history he did not witness but the roles he did not play leading to why his history is what it is.
According to the narrator, this account is a combination of what I already know of the political history of Kaibara and what I have missed these thirty years. The opening account was delivered in a big sea vessel in the middle of the Atlantic, an appropriate location separating the land of my birth from the land of my exile.
He looked deeply into my eyes and began:
In the dry season of 1986 the second president of Kaibara since independence announced by radio that he had failed the nation. Kaibarans struggled to understand what side of the bed he had got up on that morning. His announcement came four years before the war broke out and five before the coup that drove him from the seat of power.
A young captain in the beleaguered army had marched from the battlefront two hundred and fifty miles from the border town of Radu to the capital of RoMarong and overthrew the president, the commander who had sent him to war.
The first reaction to the president?s broadcast came from a man who, with a baton in hand, hopped about under the cotton tree which stood in the center of town. He called for the president to be treated in the perspective of his broadcast. He raced from under the cotton tree and looked at the sun as though it was behind schedule for an appointment they both had set.
Pointing his finger at it, he challenged its burning rays.
?Ra!? he said.
It was little more than a gasp with hardly any esoteric propinquity.
The man stood six feet five inches. The mop of hair on his head ran down his jaws, all the way to his bushy, gray-haired cheeks. Occasionally, he passed a brush through it. He loved to have his hair hanging over his chin. He was meticulous enough to pick out and uproot any black follicle that popped up in it. It had to be gray and silver all the way, he would say. He carried a Socratic posture about him. His tatters hung loosely on his body, free of any patches, proudly proclaiming his hunchback.
Everyone called him Borbor Pain, and most people believed that he was mad. Going round the cotton tree three times and coming to the full view of a small crowd that idled around him, Borbor Pain squatted. He thrust his left hand forward, indicating that he wanted passage to the end of the street.
The crowd parted, and within seconds he was crisscrossing the traffic.
Dipping into his tatters, he brought out a dilapidated radio. Looking around cautiously like an animal suspicious of danger in the heart of a jungle, he leaped into the air, mindless of the flowing traffic. He stood still in the middle of the street and stared at the pedestrians as though he expected them to engage in something other than their normal going about.
He then returned to his audience.
Unprovoked, he told them they ought to be ashamed of themselves if they had no stand-by-me radios in their possessions. He reminded them that he was not referring to their big furniture gramophones they had left behind in their homes, whose bottoms had to be fired by electricity, which their government was not prepared to provide for them, even if they paid all the taxes in the world.
According to Borbor Pain, real radios were the ones to take to all places one went because only radios that could be carried about protected one in what he called ?these turbulent times.?
?In this day of our Lord, a radio is a political condom!? he shouted.
He hollered to his audience again to treat the president in the perspective of his broadcast! However, no one in the crowd knew what he was talking about. He told them how much he pitied them for not bothering to be alarmed over presidential blunders such as the one he had just heard broadcast over his radio.
The audience burst into a frenzy of laughter.
He was finished with them, those doubting Thomases. He beat his breasts three times and left the crowd wondering as he walked toward the marketplace.
At the marketplace he attracted greater attention because there, with a staggering display of candor, he accompanied his demand for the president to be treated in the perspective of his broadcast.
No sooner was he identified as the familiar man under the cotton tree than people began returning to their personal concerns, waving a backhand flag at his ranting.
Still they had already been struck by his utterance.
?Is he not the madman under the cotton tree?? one woman inquired trying not to pay attention to him. ?He?s always got something new!?
?Did you say ?a madman??? someone questioned.
Even among those against whom he railed, not everyone thought Borbor Pain was a mad man. He was largely perceived of as one of those religious zealots known to be clad in rags along lonely paths, beating their breasts and chanting in parables long before the war broke out. However, when they looked about to see what Borbor Pain would do or say next, they saw that he was already lost in the crowd.
The president?s broadcast had been made that afternoon without warning. Rumors of it had started like a comet that had passed unnoticed by most, but as the day faded around the square, Borbor Pain could be heard in drifting crowds again calling for the president to be treated in the perspective of his broadcast.
His words drifted on the wind.
Like a scent, it went down the marketplace and resurfaced in multiple versions. Some maintained that if indeed the president had uttered that he had failed the nation, he had certainly meant his words as some sort of rhetorical figure of speech, such as a wise man might use.
To others, the president had only been quoting his detractors who sat in the comfort of their homes conjuring doom for the nation. Still others felt that, after all, it was time the president realized he had really failed the nation.
With the high cost of living, which had made it difficult for parents to provide square meals for their children, hadn?t the country become a victim of the dump of expired European foodstuffs that kept sending able-bodied men to their deathbeds as quickly as a famine?
Were diseases not taking their toll on the population?
Hadn?t children been deprived of much needed education because parents couldn?t afford the fees?
Were men and women not idling about for lack of jobs?
Borbor Pain?s advice mixed with the rumored news. It had followed groups into crowded buses, along footpaths, into mosques and churches, and into media houses, wherever the tributaries of survival flowed with a crowd.
Word about the broadcast suddenly echoed in dark alleys. Not many people had heard the news when it had been first aired that afternoon. Afternoons were not proper times to listen to radios because people were busy searching for their daily bread.
Ten o?clock at night was the usual time the Government owned broadcasting service went over daily presidential events, and then it went over them again before the station shut down for the day at 12:00 a.m. A final broadcast would be set for 9:00 a.m. the following day, and that would be the last time for the business of educating the people for one day on the relentless efforts of their government to provide for their welfare and protection.
That evening, 10 p.m. came and went with the indecipherable jazz of a little known Duke Ellington in the air. Twelve a.m. struck with a somewhat inadvertent link with the BBC.
By the morning, many people believed that the crap was one of the usual tall tales fit only for the early hours of April fool?s day. The morning radio had mentioned nothing about the speech. Instead it had played a jamboree of musical escapades featuring the top BBC and VOA musical charts. The only hope for anyone wishing to learn about the president?s speech was the independent print media. The next morning a tabloid carried a headline about the confessional broadcast: