Having a relative in Europe or in the US is normally a source of pride for many families, particularly in Africa. This is reinforced by the fact that these relatives occasionally send much needed money back home.
To these people it does not matter what their loved ones do out there as long as the funds keep flowing. In her book Eyo, Nigerian author
Abidemi Sanusi addresses an issue many African families, with relatives abroad, would rather not talk about. In fact human trafficking and child prostitution is an issue many governments are very shy to talk about.
Eyo is the name of a 12-year-old illiterate Nigerian girl, who is taken to the UK with promises of a good job and education. For a girl used to hawking ice water in the heat and sun of Lagos streets, this would seem like a dream offer, right?
Wrong. Eyo would rather she remains in the lawless Ajegunle Slum than leave her four-year-old sister Sade in the amorous hands of her father. There is a secret understanding between Eyo and her father that he would only leave Sade alone if she continues to satisfy his sexual needs.
She lands in the UK and into the hands of a Nigerian couple Sam and his wife Lola. While the couple has no problems having Eyo take care of their children, who are almost Eyo’s age, they are also not averse at turning her into their punching bag. That’s not all. Sam seems to have found a source of relieving his perverted sexual desires.
He, in the process, discovers Eyo’s ‘expertise’ learnt through her father back in Nigeria. It is this expertise that makes the poor girl a favourite at Big Madame’s – another Nigerian – brothel among clients looking for ‘special care’. This is after Sam is finished with her.
Eyo eventually ends up prowling the streets, trading in her body under the watchful eyes of Johnny, yet another Nigerian, her abusive boyfriend cum pimp.
When Eyo is finally rescued from the streets and taken back to Nigeria, she discovers to her horror that her father eventually made good his threat of turning Sade into his sexual object, the moment she left for the UK. The mother knows this all along but will not do anything about it as it is the duty of a woman ‘to endure’.
Abidemi admirably uses fiction to open the lid on the sensitive subject of human trafficking and more so child prostitution. Today, it is an open secret that child prostitution rings continue thrive worldwide, while authorities continue to look the other way.
Through her narrative style the author manages to bring out the readers’ anger at the cruelty of it all. However, as the story unfolds the anger paves way for helplessness. The helplessness starts creeping in as it gets increasingly apparent that the perpetrators of this vile trade are getting away easily. The fact that they are able to manipulate the law to their benefit goes to show child prostitution is not about to be brought to an end.
The book ends on a rather dark note as Eyo, faced with despondency and poverty back in Nigeria, considers going back to the UK and back to prostitution. Perhaps this is the author’s way of saying that the African girl child will continue to be an endangered species for a long time to come.
Eyo has been nominated for Best Book in the 2010 Commonwealth Writers Prize.
The book is published by WordAlive Publishers