BOOK REVIEW: Fathers of Nations

Front cover of Fathers of Nations, a novel by Paul B. Vitta. PHOTO/Courtesy.
Front cover of Fathers of Nations, a novel by Paul B. Vitta. PHOTO/Courtesy.

Title: Fathers of Nations 

Author: Paul B. Vitta

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Year of publication: 2013

Revised edition: 2021

Reviewer: Bonface Otieno

Fathers of Nations is the current compulsory novel studied by current form three and will be first tested next year, 2024, in Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE). 

I recommend to every teacher, student and literature enthusiast that before you dig into reading book guides, consider reading the text itself in totality. 

This review is detailed to make it quick to grab the storyline and major concerns raised in the text, characters, language and style.

However, reading and reading the text with a sense of ownership, confidence, and enthusiasm will enlighten your comprehension of this masterpiece.

About the book title 

Fathers of Nations by Paul B. Vitta is a novel about African states, their leadership and development agenda, and factors that hinder their political systems and governance, as well as a way of restructuring their development growth. 

The title of this novel is a satire of its contextual usage besides its relevance and aptness. 

In most African states, dignitaries like presidents or high office representatives regarded as driving forces behind the establishment of a country, state, or nation are obligatorily branded “fathers of nations”. 

This has to do with their role of pushing for the betterness of the people’s welfare, leading their countries, fighting for fundamental freedoms and rights, and streamlining political systems and economic strategies. 

They are obliged, as the fathers of their nations. 

For instance:

Julius Nyerere is known as the father of Tanzania for his role in the country’s independence movement and his vision for a united African continent. 

He led Tanzania to independence from Britain in 1961 and worked to build a socialist society that promoted equality, education, and self-sufficiency. 

Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana is considered the father of Ghana for his leadership of the country’s independence movement and his contributions to Pan-Africanism. 

He helped lead Ghana to independence from Britain in 1957 and worked to establish a socialist government that promoted economic growth and social justice. 

Jomo Kenyatta is known as the father of Kenya for his leadership of the country’s independence movement and his efforts to build a modern, democratic nation. 

He helped lead Kenya to independence from Britain in 1963 and served as the country’s first president until his death in 1978. 

In the same light, Fathers of Nations can relatively be associated with post-colonial Africa, used to refer to their role in the independence movement as a source of legitimacy and used as paternalist symbolism as a source of continued popularity. 

This title is satirical. 

Fifty heads of state, herein fathers of the nation, have met at Banjul Gambia. 

The agenda of the summit is unclear. 

However, it is only knowledgeable that the heads of state are here to approve Way Omega, which will then be a universal economic development strategy if adopted. 

The debate is directionless and disorganized. A rival group is determined to override the Way Omega strategy and replace it with its Path Alpha strategy, which they deem suitable for solving African problems. 

All the heads of state are clueless, visionless, selfish and corrupt, aspects that corrupt their decision-making and critical review of the two important documents that propose their future development strategy. 

Satirically, they have to devise a method to choose between Way Omega and Path Alpha. 

Synopsis 

The story revolves around the lives of four men from different parts of Africa. 

They are Professor Kimani, Comrade Melusi, Engineer Tahir, and Pastor Chiamaka.

 All of them have either had ruthless encounters with their governments, injustices imposed on them, or economic jeopardy. 

They want African heads of state at the summit to ratify and adopt the document that could transform the continent’s economic structures. They are all checked in at the Seamount Hotel, Banjul, in different wings and floors. 

“They don’t know each other except for their guide,” who knows them all. They have suffered initially in different ways under the current political systems in their respective countries. 

Back cover page of the Fathers of Nations novel. PHOTO/Courtesy.

This is a motivation against their respective governments hence the urge to press for possible changes. 

Dr. Afolabi Abiola is abandoned by his American wife Pamela. 

Professor Kimani from Kenya has lost his wife, Adiyo Omondi, to Newborn Walomu, a former university colleague who is now a politician. 

His daughter Tuni dies in a fatal accident. Pastor Chiamaka is a fierce man who is jailed for his outspokenness against the government. 

He is deterred from preaching too. Comrade Ngobile Melusi, once a big-time politician, suffers at the hands of the new head of state, loses his wife Ziliza in a massacre, and his Ndebele people are ruthlessly suppressed and murdered by the head of state’s direct order. 

In addition to the four men, Engineer Seif Tahir, a nuclear bomb expert, and Mr. Thaddeus Longway are also dissatisfied with the African leadership. 

They are assisted by the VOA journalist Fiona McKenzie and Nicholas Sentinel, who, in one accord, plan to front their agenda contained in a rival document, Path Alpha, against Way Omega before the heads of the summit held in Gambia’s capital of Banjul. 

Fifty heads of state invited to Banjul capital of Gambia, are expected to assemble and get accommodation in the Pinnacle Hotel with their entourage. 

Their mission is to adopt the Way Omega ideology, which advocates for a common growth strategy of the citizens that will enable the donors to continue supporting the African nations through aid and grants. 

The ideology is fronted by Minister Zinto, who claims that the strategy was well thought out by experts. 

Most heads of African states seem to be aged and have overstayed in power. 

Led by President Didier Bangoura, who is depicted as senior; Dibo Dibonso, who had ruled for forty years; King Jemba Jemba IV, a king for life, and President Wasi Wasi, who has committed all sorts of atrocities, including authoring many coups, many African countries are led by dictators, old leaders, or poor political systems.

Path Alpha, a counter ideology emanating from AGDA (Agency for Governance and Development in Africa), championed by Mr. Tad Longway, finds its way into the summit and is engaged by the heads of state. 

From the onset of the story, Mr. Longway mobilizes the lines of Prof. Kimani, Comrade Melusi, Pastor Chiamaka, Dr. Afolabi, and Engineer Tahir to use “the trick” to table the ideology before the summit to counter the Way Omega.

Path Alpha, as a strategy, advocates for minimizing civic or public discounted into the will to change. 

This strategy is to solve the problems some present heads of state find difficult to solve. 

The advocators of Path Alpha champion the strategy because they want to solve the problems and owing to the fact that they have also suffered the ugly state abuse and do not want to suffer anymore.

The summit comes to a close in an unprecedented way, whence “the fathers of nations” set up a committee to bring the long debate of adopting Way Omega or Path Alpha to a conclusion. 

The committee is set and named “Method Committee” and is chaired by President Bangoura. 

The president seems to be terribly confused because of senility. 

He uses two ways to decide on which strategy to be ratified. The simple Matrix by a toss of a coin and choice matrix. 

Ultimately, Dr. Afolabi, Mr. Zinto, and the summit chair confirm as witnesses an exercise that sees the Path Alpha strategy carry the day.

Dennotatively the win of Path Alpha is a sign of victory to the ordinary citizen. 

Themes or societal issues

Fathers of Nations is a spellbinding and thought-provoking, satirical novel tackling contemporary issues set in contemporary Africa. 

The author uses sarcasm through humor to enlighten the reader on social, economic and political wrongs in the African continent. 

African states are still affected by post-independence problems as below.

  • Poor leadership 

African leaders cannot give a sense of direction to their countries.

They are experimenting with various ideologies with which they cannot take positions. 

They cannot read or rather have no time to read the development strategy proposals in order to make informed decisions.

The heads of state look dysfunctional, confused, insincere and out of touch.

They mistrust each other and hold on to greed, brutality, oppression and laziness. 

  • Poverty 

It is pointed out that African countries are clinging to survival at the international imperialistic networks of control. 

They have been captured and imprisoned by meaningless loans from international financial institutions. 

Development loans are unrealistically on demand. 

Prof. Kimani’s wife leaves for a richer member of parliament, abandoning her husband because he looks poor and miserable. 

Kimani is honest and satisfied with his work as a teacher, which does not pay much. 

Comrade Melusi cannot foot his bill after eating at Chaminuka restaurant.  

African leadership is poor in innovative and creative ideas that would spur economic growth among the African states.  

  • Corruption 

Corruption has become a disastrous enemy to African economies.

Wars and organized criminal networks distract the development of some countries.

There is the rigging of elections. Comrade Melusi was dissatisfied with the election results in his country. He strongly believes it was rigged.

The police demand a bribe from the driver of Ms. Fiona McKenzie. 

Mr. Tad Longway, in his submission to Dr. Afolabi, says that Africa in its present state is driven by corruption and Impunity. 

Other major themes include: Betrayal, the plight of women in society, neocolonialism, suffering, oppression and death, and change or transition. For instance, Path Alpha will be a strategy of change and birth of better African states. 

Styles and Language use

Vitta indulges most into styles like: Dialogue, Rhetorical questions, Flashback, Vivid description, Story within a story, Irony, Use of borrowed language/ local dialect, Sarcasm, Similes, and Metaphors, among others, to bring to the book the contemporary concerns highlighted above. 

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These styles also ensure a painting of various personality traits of African leaders and citizens through character and characterization. 

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Mr. Otieno is a Literature enthusiast, an English/Literature teacher, a writer, poet, playwright, and novelist. He is the President of the Bleeding Ink Global Writers Society, a detail-oriented columnist, and a literary critic. His contact: bonfacetieno551@gmail.com

27 COMMENTS

  1. It is the best it helps me doing my work faster. Am in form three and the book review is helping me more faster than the book itself

  2. A fairattempt.However,other element sof a book revieww tha I feel should not have been left out include:
    main characters
    the target audience of the book
    strength of the author
    weak points of the author
    own personal assessment of the book
    then note that in broader genres of literature,similes,metaphor and vivd description are not dealt with as styles in Isolation.Rather,they fall under the blanket style (Imagery)

    Otherwise,I applaud your work.

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