Trafford author O.K. Oyenekan has just won the Eric Hoffer award in several categories for his book, Karamba. The book received the following awards for 2017:
Winner: First Horizon Award
Winner: Legacy Fiction
Grand Prize Short List: Finalist
About the Book
Karamba (the title character), a long-distance truck driver, AIDS patient, and health education advocate, teams up with his friend and physician, Dr. Cinzano, to educate the largely ignorant populace via the media about AIDS. Unfortunately, the media itself was not only ignorant of the issues involved in AIDS, but was only looking for an opportunity to feather its nest, exploit Karamba, and sensationalize his predicament for mercenary purposes. The government encourages it, seeing that the media stance covers up its ineptitude and corruption, even as top government officials divert funds provided by international donor agencies into their own pockets.
Cinzano, a government-employed medical practitioner, steps in on the side of the AIDS’s patients to expose the corruption, deception, and exploitation. But alas! He seems to have taken up a fight against a Behemoth, with a very slim chance of success. He loses his job in concocted circumstances, but keeps on fighting a fight which soon assumes a national dimension and attracts the attention of the donor agencies and the international community, both of which promptly stop further funding.
The resulting violence eventually leads to spurious allegations sponsored by government against Cinzano, aimed at delisting him from the register of licensed medical practitioners. The process starts from a panel set up by government to publicly probe him using beneficiaries of government contracts as members. Unfortunately for the government, the public inquiry takes a turn that exposed the government in more ways than one.
The story’s landscape is that of an impoverished African country firmly held in the throes of the AIDS pandemic, amidst widespread poverty, ignorance, and exploitation by the privileged. All this is under a climate of repression and the government’s confusion about how best to tackle public health issues like the AIDS pandemic and empowerment of the poor through self-employment. The story is a revelation of the real current issues faced by many African and developing countries as they grapple with the complexity of curtailing the ravages of the Slim disease (AIDS). The story might have indirectly suggested why it seems the international community is losing the war against AIDS on the African continent. In summary, Karamba is a metaphor for the government’s manipulation, exploitation, and gross neglect of the mass of its citizenry by a privileged few in the system.
About the Author
O.K. Oyenekan is a former reporter/journalist who had reported for many newspapers in Nigeria. He also edited an evening newspaper in Benin City, in the southern part of Nigeria, before changing the direction of his career, which has seen him working in the public health programs of The Carter Center/Nigeria (an international NGO) for the past 18 years. His profound knowledge of the workings in government and program minefield that international donor agencies and NGOs operate in, coupled with disastrous consequences of the government’s nonchalance, is evident in Karamba, rendered with compassion and aplomb.
Oyenekan attended Baptist Academy, Lagos, Nigeria, and later took an honors degree in English Studies at Nigeria’s premier University, University of Ibadan. He also trained as a journalist at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism in Lagos. Oyenekan has attended many management courses both inside and outside Nigeria, including Management in International Public Health conducted by CDC/Emory University in Atlanta in the fall of 2008. He combines his experience as a reporter and his deft literary skills to tell this story in a way that constantly makes the reader oscillate between tears of laughter and tears of compassion.