In Nigeria, a new novel about the AIDS pandemic went on sale today (Thursday). It’s called “HIV/AIDS – The Unwanted Inheritance.” The author, public opinion and political analyst Dr. Chuks Osuji.
The novel takes place in the fictional African community of Ashiango, where attempts to fight the disease run headlong into tradition and culture. Dr. Osuji says Ashiango could be any community anywhere in Africa.
"Nobody would know that that book was written by a Nigerian. Everybody would think it was written by somebody from central, eastern or southern Africa. I aimed it at a continental audience, not necessarily to Nigerian readers," he says.
The main character – Chief Atakum – is an “ex-serviceman and a local champion,” who despises anything connected to the white man. In this case, AIDS prevention efforts.
"An ex-military man was the only person who could have the courage, the guts, the commitment and the stamina to stand against intrusion into the tradition and culture of the people of Ashiango," he says.
Dr. Osuji says Chief Atakum believes AIDS is a white man’s sickness – like stroke, diabetes or cancer. Africa has its own diseases – malaria, TB and especially hunger. Chief Atakum mistrusted AIDS prevention programs the way he did family planning programs years earlier.
"He said that the white man had used several means to reduce the population of Africans – First World War, Second World War, slavery, influenza, and now they have come with the idea of family planning. That this is a catalog of plans to reduce the population of Africa," he says.
Chuks Osuji is founder of Opinion Research and Communications in Owerri in Imo State, Nigeria - and the author of thirteen books. His chose to tell his tale of ignorance and eventual enlightenment in novel form to reach a wider audience.
"The approach I adopted by using a novel is to make sure that the book gets into the hands of a group that is more potentially vulnerable to the AIDS pandemic, particularly the young men and women. You know that a story is a window to the mind," he says.
For the principle character chief Atakum, Dr. Osuji writes, “The inevitable was imminent.” Resistence meets reality when he comes face to face with HIV/AIDS. Instead of condemning AIDS prevention efforts, he leads them.
At the close of “HIV/AIDS – The Unwanted Inheritance,” Chief Atakum still believes it’s a white man’s disease, but he sees it’s killing both black and whites alike.