By Mercy Oghoghomena Adediran
Chimeka Garricks’ book ‘Tomorrow Died Yesterday’ centers on people of the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. First published 2 Nov. 2011, the 381-page book tells the story of a people’s trouble in what should ordinarily have been a gift.
I felt a close-nit connection with this story that was written when I was only eight years old; of course, because I have a connection with the Niger Delta – so, it is like a story about my people.
The book is rich with history shared through a brilliant power of storytelling; a wonderful way of engaging the reader from start to finish. Garricks makes use of so much personification, which gives the story a touch of reality and what can be identified with.
Reading this book made me realise that my ancestry is important, looking back in time and learning the stories of where you come from is a task everybody should do — but it turns out that it is the writers of a family who are capable of doing this, and more importantly, capable of grasping how necessary this task is.
I have always only connected with being Yoruba — being that my father is Yoruba and I live in a Yoruba state and a patriarchal society. Although I have a Delta name, all my siblings have one each, but I am the only one of them to be actively called a Delta name at home and eventually in the high school I graduated from. My first name is an English name; it’s a nice name, but I have always had more of a connection to my Delta name because it’s unique and beautiful.
We need to look at the places — the physical land of our mothers and fathers, where their own mothers and fathers come from and so forth, to get a true grasp of who we are as individuals and why we are the way we are. “Sometimes, we have to go back, so we can go forward,” writes Garricks (P.53). It is something about identity; and Garricks highlights identity so cleverly in this his novel.
The main characters Doye a.k.a Doughboy, Kaniye, Amaibi and Tubo all have impeccable and precise characterization. When we get a look at how they were conceived and even named (for example, Tubo’s name meaning “Who?” (P.57)) and the personality of the parents who raised them, we see a pattern that shows how they got to where they are in the story.
The shifting first-person points-of-view from a number of characters further give us insight into the personality of the characters. We learn how Doye relishes the fear of men, how soft and kind-hearted Amaibi is, how Kaniye is brilliant and entrepreneurial, and how Tubo is fun, mischievous and also cunning — and how their personhoods interrelate.
After reading this book I felt reconnected with a side of me that I had never really understood. The part where I am a writer, I mean I have always processed my feelings by writing them out. But now I see that I am meant to tell the story of my family and that is why I have a Delta name as a middle name, a Yoruba last name and then an English first name.
This book also showed me how there is something innately spiritual about people from riverine areas. When I look at it, I realise that the transfer and even theft of culture happened through water — the American ships that stole Africans from their homeland to be used for slavery and unethical study; the European ships that brought in our colonisers and stole away our artworks, etc. And we haven’t even got to the part about the draining of the oil in the riverine peoples’ waters — we’ll get to that.
There is also something about women and water — and when we observe African mythology we see that there are a lot of goddesses that rule over certain rivers. Garricks has given everybody that has Niger Delta roots a gift with ‘Tomorrow Died Yesterday’, especially the young generation who may not necessarily enjoy reading about history from textbooks or in a “boring” way.
Garricks has given us the gift of his storytelling which sheds light on the energy we carry on as a people from our ancestors and how that transcends to modern day life. We are a people of natural gifts, a people who others see and perceive as quality which they don’t understand. You can never really understand water. Even till date, scientists and researchers say that there is a massive volume of the world’s waters that has not been explored. You can never really understand water. It is spiritual and that is why people of this background have deep cultural practices that stand out in traditional culture.
Now, let’s look at the part where the white people came to the Niger Delta and set up camps to drain oil from the people’s land. How they manipulated the gifts of the water and made it so that the riverine peoples’ lives were forever changed.
‘Tomorrow Died Yesterday’ has shown me the energy of the Niger Delta, the struggle involved in having a natural resource that the world eyes —in having quality that is powerful and maybe even magical — and having that drilled from you with imposition, without adequate care and consideration of the water and its environment, being forced to move out to travel away to lands that feel safer and far less violated. Islands were ruined and the people just had to deal with it. – July 2022.