In 2003, I joined the pre-degree program at the Delta State University, Abraka, and it was during that time that I stayed in a Face-Me-I-Face-You building with my cousin. The hostel was only quiet at about 12:00 AM to about 6 in the morning when the students were asleep, and during the day when a lot of them had gone to class.
Every other time, it was noisy. You have different kinds of music blasting at the same time from different rooms. The passage is always sandy as everyone goes in and out, so you have to ensure you always sweep the front of your room. You dare not leave your bucket or jerrycan of water outside your room else you’d later find that someone has used it. Everyone cooked in the passage, just beside their door, as there was no kitchen. The toilet and bathroom were always like a horror movie to me. While some don’t flush, some just take delight in passing feces on the floor.
Then there was a night I almost got raped by the guy staying in the room opposite us. Now before this time, my cousin and I knew that this guy had eyes on me. I wasn’t giving him face, but all the same, we were friendly with him.
Of course, I reported to my cousin and she called a male friend of hers to warn him never to make an attempt on me again. That incident ended our friendship with that guy.
If you ever lived in a Face-Me-I-Face-You building, then you might just find yourself and your neighbors featured as main characters in Ikenna Igwe’s ‘The Dark Rivers Of Yesterday.’
Living in Lagos in one thing, living in a tenement building, in Lagos, is yet another.
The story in this novel kicks off with Emeka Egwu, the narrator, painting a vivid picture of the Face-Me-I-Face-You building. His description gives one a very good picture of what the house looked like so that during the course of the story, you are able to follow each event like you were there witnessing it.
Then he goes on to introduce himself and his family. And from the introduction, one can tell they weren’t so rich, but they lived in a nice apartment, they ate the best foods, wore the best clothes and even could afford a house-help. Yes, life was rosy until Mr. Edgwu resigned from his job in the civil service and went into business. Business was good for a while, but then it crashed at a time when Mr. Egwu had sold his land in the village, added all of his saving to the proceeds and invested everything in the business.
No longer having enough cash on him to pay the rent or even to cater for his family, his friendly and understanding landlord died, leaving all his inheritance to his only male child who didn’t think twice about selling it off and issuing the Egwus a quit-notice, to be effected willfully or forcefully within two weeks of receiving the letter.
Young Emeka Egwu and his family had no choice but to move into a Face-Me-I-Face-You building, hoping that they would only be there for a few months. However, it wasn’t until 7 years later they moved out from the hellish building and terrible dramas the tenants unleashed on each other almost on a daily basis.
This story captures in a unique way, the exact issues tenants of a Face-Me-I-Face-You building, experience – joining the endless early morning queues to use the bathroom or toilet, rotating turns for each family to clean the yard, endless gossips, lies and betrayal, and then those who feel they’re the lords of the house and can do as they like. With these set of people, you always have to watch your back.
I like the way the characters were introduced, and how their background story follows. It makes it easy for readers to easily connect with the character’s past and how it molded their present and future life choices.
But more importantly is the fact that the evils in a Face-Me-I-Face-You building are limitless. And unless you’ve got a strong will to not be put down or toyed with, you may get caught in the web of evildoers.
This book wasn’t written to teach you about business, customer service tactics, or anger management. But in the experiences of these characters, you will learn all that and much more.
What touched me more about Ikenna Igwe’s ‘The Dark Rivers Of Yesterday,’ is the fact that the experiences here are real. This book, although written as fiction, is a detailed account of a family’s hellish experience in a Face-Me-I-Face-You building, the use of charms to show superior power and much more. How the family ever really left that place in one piece is still a mystery to me.
The writing style is easy to flow with and easy to understand; though I feel the author should have delivered another round of editing particularly to the first few pages of the first chapter. Outside of that, I promise, this book will blow you away, from start to finish. It will keep your attention, make you laugh, make you angry, make you frown in wonder and then make you sigh because you find that you can totally relate to the experiences. Besides, it will make a good companion for your relaxation.
Also, feel free to share this with your friends, you never can tell who may really need to learn from the experiences in this book.