Discourse:PROSELYTISM AND GIMBA’S FICTIONS (I) - Abdullahi Ismaila Ahmed.



             
INTRODUCTION
Abubakar Gimba wrote a total of sixteen books while he was alive including the one that was published posthumously. Nine of these are creative works, while seven are essays of which two are in letter form. The creative works are: Trail of Sacrifice (Novel,1985); Witnesses To Tears (Novel,1988); Innocent Victims (Novel,1988); Sunset for a Mandarin (Novel 1991); Sacred Apples (Novel 1996); Footprints (Novel,1998); Inner Rumblings (Poetry,2000); This Land of Ours (Poetry,2000); and A Toast in The Cemetery (Short Story,2003); The essays are: Once Upon A Reed (1999); Letter To The Muslim Fundamentalist  (2004); Why Am I Doing This? (2007); Thought of Yesterday, Letter to The Unborn Child, A Matter of Faith (2012); and Oh, Uhud Thy Haunting Spirit published posthumously in 2016. Some of the essays like Letter to The Unborn Child and Oh, Uhud Thy Haunting Spirit are laced with fictional features which makes reading them fascinating. 

PROSELYTISM AND GIMBA’S FICTION 

A common thread runs through all his books. Here I mean all categories of his works. This common thread I like to term proselytism or proselytization. It is easy to come up with this concept as the dominant leit motif of Gimba’s writings particularly because of his impeccable personeity. In life and in his writings Gimba is avowedly a preacher, a committed proselytizer, who earnestly seeks to convert or win over people to his perspective or opinion without being uppity. It is this unmistakable voice note of a preacher that subtly underlies all his works, especially his fictions. 

The concept of proselytism is rooted in early ‘Christianity or earlier Gentiles to refer to the attempt of any religion or religious individuals to convert people to their beliefs or any attempt to convert people to a different point of view, religious or not’. Although this concept is no longer fashionable in the Christendom, it is nonetheless useful as a prism through which to assess a subtle literary attempt to preach or proselytize without appearing to do so. In all his works, creative and essays, Gimba slickly attempts to win readers to his perspective, whether on religious or political matters. 

One of Gimba’s abiding convictions about writing is his attribution of the role of a peacemaker to a writer. According to him, as a peacemaker, a writer must
            Have the finesse, dexterity, and patience of a diplomat
over issues of  great controversy. Yet he must also have
 the fearless courage of a lion to tell the truth or to be
conscientiously honest and frank without being abusive
or insulting. 

A peacemaker must necessarily preach, must win converts. It is in this regard that Gimba’s writings offer subtle proselytization in matters of religion, national development, nation-building, family and societal values, and other ideologies. In doing this, he adopts God’s injunction to Muslims in Surah An-Nahl, Verse 125, where God says:
                        Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom
                        And beautiful preaching; and argue with them
                        (non-believers) in ways that are best, and
                        Most gracious, (leave judging them) for your
                        Creator knows best, who have strayed from his
                        Path, and who receive guidance. 

The wisdom in Gimba’s proselytisation is, in his own words, “in order to see the good side of anything, you ought to see the other side” (Ismaila, et al:2008). This strategy works well in the creative works, especially the fictions, which often thrive on the seamy all side of life. Gimba’s fictions are a nudge to abhor the other side of things in order to appreciate their good side. This way he uses morality as an instrument of social change. According to him,
I have used these novels to contribute towards
the social  discourse of re-emphasizing morality
… in order to bring out the level of morality in
Society, you have to take a critical swipe at
some political and social institutions. Morality
 is understood from such practical terms. 

To understand proselytism in Gimba’s fictions, we have to view it from two perspectives-Islamic religion and political matters. On Islam he states that, “I don’t have any grouse with the principles of Islam but I have problems with some people who use the religion to satisfy their whims and caprices. These are people who are doing things which are at variance with what the principles of Islam teach” (Ismaila, et al: 2008). He therefore sees himself as a teacher who corrects the mistake of his pupils. That is why he uses his works to attack or react to the way Islam is being practiced or portrayed by some people. On this score he looks into the family set-up, the marriage institution and children upbringing. 

On the political matters, Gimba concerns himself with the issues of citizenship, national unity, political stability, nation-building, corruption, leadership crisis, and the economy. According to him, “Nigeria means the hopeful realization of my most cherished ideal --- I cherish the fundamental ideals of freedom, equality and fraternity” (Ismaila et al:). 

Gimba’s first novel, Trail of Sacrifice, professes the virtues and values of the National Youth Service Scheme, referred to in the book as National Objectives Fulfillment Brigade (NOFB). The lead character, Sadiku, is led through tortuous road to self – discovery and growth. The novel attempts to allay the fear of potential Corp members who are wont to see the scheme as a threat to their lives and culture especially at the time it was introduced. The novel is therefore written as a voyage imaginaire.
In the words of Gimba, the lead character, Sadiku, is imbued with:
New cultural vista and as he progresses in his voyage
                        through those landscapes and cultures, he makes
cultural and sociological rearrangement, absorb
those cultural discoveries which he can accommodate,
marvels at those that are at par with his personal cultural
experience … in fact, the whole journey is one of cultural
discovery. 

In this novel, Gimba reifies the importance of national unity, of national service as a sacrifice, and the need for cultural understanding. He states that the story of the novel serves as a basis “for Nigerians to cultivate the habit of living together in harmony” (Ismaila, et al: 2008). This is the important political message he preaches in the novel, and to which he wants to rivet our attention or win converts. 

Gimba’s second novel, Witnesses To Tears (1998) is a scathing attacked on not only the greedy and corrupt public office holders but also on the hypocrisy of people who practice the religion of Islam. These are people who will stop at nothing to get what they want including sacrificing human beings and engaging in diabolic ritual practices. The lead character, Lahab, is the evil incarnate. As the Vice Principal at the Cabral High School, Lahab’s taste for exotic materials and lust for power push him to engage in occultic ritual practices. In the novel, Gimba seems to convey the message about the futility of poaching life through insatiable craving for material satisfaction, the consequence of which is akin to the curse God placed on Abu Lahab in the Qur’an in Surah Al-Masad to the effect that:
            Perish the two hands of Abu Lahab perish he! His
wealth and his children will not benefit him! He
will be burnt in a fire of blazing flames!

The second part will be published. 

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