FICTION AND POLITICS I grew up knowing there was something wrong with my country At least that’s what my father made me believe. The political landscape was riddled with unreasonably men and caustic policies. A bunch of corrupt statesmen was how he constantly described the government. But you couldn’t speak too audibly because several activists had gone missing for speaking out and several more abducted by the state for ‘acts related to treason.’ One unlucky fellow even got a bomb in the mail. But that didn’t stop my father from venting. He would rant at everything and anything. The postman was late in coming and he would attribute it to the government. A local thief caught in the act was translated as a result of abandonment by the state. I grew up this way. Seeing a conspiracy in everything the government did that I didn’t quite understand. The passing of a bill, donation towards a fledgling course or a government contract awarded to a suspicious construction company. The political climate had changed considerably though, the regime of the ‘dictators’ had slowly faded away. Democracy was the in-thing. It had a nice ring to it. A promise of good things to come. The economy was gearing up for an overhaul and the high-placed corrupt politicians were on their way out. How wrong we were. Nothing really changed. Except maybe for the way the new leaders dressed. In fact it was almost like the national issues had taken on a more refined form; registered under a new name. The good part about all the happenings was that news agencies had gotten more brazen with their reporting- They were actually reporting the truth. The citizenry was now being made privy of certain things like misappropriation of funds, embezzlement scams and logistic errors in government. The populace began to rally round, condemning acts by the government and enlightening even more of the people. I grew up in the midst of all these political sentiments and I really wanted to get involved. I wasn’t much of an orator (I had an embarrassing episode in a debate team when I was younger) so whipping up a motivational speech wasn’t going to work for me. All I could really do was tell stories. I had two choices here. Bring out my political arsenal and attack the government directly as the others were doing and hope my voice gets heard or device a more subtle means to help inform the masses about the issues playing out in the country. I chose the latter. Then I chose story-telling as the medium. I have always been fond of stories of fiction. They were for me an escape from reality. The perfect hiding place. A world in a book. I even tried my hand in writing a few short African fiction stories. Sharing life from a rural African perspective was a comfortable writing trend back then but I soon discovered that I wanted more. I wanted to arm people with the truth. Meanwhile the socio-economic climate of the country wasn’t getting any better, if anything it was growing worse. Every ideology and policy proffered by the ruling government was tainted with Gerontocracy. A back- breaker for me was when a few years back, the ruling political party in the country proudly installed a sixtyyear old stalwart as its youth leader. What kind of a youth is a 60 year old? I started writing stories. Fictional stories. But within the narratives were hard facts about the situation of the country. Politics was my arena, my pen was my weapon. I would create a compelling narrative about a fictional occurrence in the country but cloaked within the stories were details, statistics, true situations, prevalent ideologies and recent trends. My escape route was fiction. At least no one could fault me on that. After all fiction was supposed to be unrelated to real life situations. There was a catch though. At the end of each ‘fictional ‘story, I would place an author’s note stating the particular things included in the stories that were real. A deteriorating school building in a particular local government area, a caustic government policy, an abandoned road project. They all got subtly mentioned. The focus wasn’t just on leadership errors or government oversight. I would also point out commendable projects like infrastructural development or peoplefriendly economic policies. I started out writing short stories and gradually grew into developing longer narratives that could capture whole concepts in its volume. I began to study similar writers like myself to get a better feel of what I was passionate about. The genre of my kind of story telling was called Political thriller writing. I recently published my first political thriller book in the US and it’s been a dream come true. A cause and a career melded into one. When people start asking questions about the book and my writings, engaging in conversation and using my stories as a reference point for national issues, then and only then would I be convinced that my passion to affect the way things are done in my country has just begun.