Literature is so significant that it can perform a lot of functions. One of such functions definitely has to be the affective function. Literature can be affective when it aims to produce certain effects on the reader. Having established this fact, it is ideal to state that this essay aims to display the affective power of literature by conducting a pragmatic analysis of the text Chibok Girls.
The text in question has its characters and setting drawn from real life; hence, it can be described as a realistic one. It contains the investigations carried out by Helon Habila in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria. The investigation revolves around the history and causes of insecurity in Nigeria. Because of the presence of the writer at strategic places that have been affected by violence instigated by the dreaded sect, Boko Haram, this text can be described as one which contains first-hand information on the prevalent issues plaguing the country.
The title of the text is significant because it captures the most notable and internationally-recognised crime perpetuated by Boko Haram — that is, the abduction of 276 school girls on the 24th April, 2014, by Boko Haram. This title, however, does not constitute the focal point of this report, rather it serves as an instance which illustrates the ruthlessness of the Boko Haram sect.
Insecurity, as highlighted in the text, is as a result of activities such as terrorism, bad governance, corruption, religious-instigated violence etc. All these issues no doubt are bound to have certain didactic or other forms of effects on the reader. Some of these effects include: pity, fear, anger, apathy, and the didactic lesson of early prevention.
Pity is one of the major effects this text has on the reader. This is plausible because ruthless and despicable acts of Boko Haram on harmless civilians will without doubt draw out the pity of the audience. A good example is how the mother of Riskatu, one of the abducted girls, is made to narrate the painful events of the day her daughter was kidnapped. This instance, surely, is significant because it captures the pain and suffering which the parents and the relations of the abducted girls are going through because of their ignorance on the status of their daughters — that is, are they alive or are they dead? Another object of the reader’s pity has to be the abducted girls who will now serve as wives and concubines of terrorists instead of being with their families and completing their education. Unarguably, the pragmatic effect of pity is brought to the fore through the theme of terrorism.
Another pragmatic effect the text will likely have on the audience is that of fear. Human beings are creatures who fear a lot of things, ranging from known and unknown dangers. In the case of this text, the reader’s fear is justified because of several reasons. One of these reasons has to be the reader’s in-depth knowledge of the activities of this sect, and another reason for the reader’s fear, obviously, is the fact that the reader is a Nigerian; hence, he is not completely safe from the violence caused by the nonchalance of the government towards small and large-scale criminal activities and, of course, violence instigated by religious extremism as seen in the way Yusuf, the elder brother of Shekau, was able to spur his followers to commit several atrocities, and also, through the Maitatsine Uprising, as described by Helon Habila in the text. Hence, one can be certain to say that the themes of violence, terrorism, religious extremism etc., are sure to instigate the feeling of great fear in the reader.
When talking about the pragmatic effect this text has on the reader, one is sure to mention anger. The reader is surely going to experience anger at the government because of their nonchalant attitude towards fighting crime and safeguarding the lives and property of Nigerians. This attitude is captured by Habila in the way he narrates the transition of different government and the way they have all handled insecurity with levity. The focus, however, centres on Jonathan’s regime as president because it was during his tenure that the Boko Haram sect committed their most notable atrocity — that is, the abduction of the school girls from Chibok. The security agencies are also not innocent. Habila, through his report, captures instances where soldiers decided to collect bribes instead of arresting offenders. Surely, the callousness of the government officials and military personnel will surely emit the anger of the reader.
Furthermore on the pragmatic effect this novel has on the reader is that of apathy. Apathy in this sense means disinterest. This disinterest encompasses both religious and political participation. Because of the extreme way in which the insurgents attacked churches, many Christians, especially those living in areas in the north, will, of course, find it difficult to feel safe during church service; hence, they will end up avoiding service to God. An example of Boko Haram’s ruthless way of dealing with Christians is captured by Reverend Madu’s story on how his church was attacked. Muslims themselves are not exempted from religious apathy. Habila reports stories of clerics who were killed because they spoke against the tenets of Boko Haram. All these acts of violence against religious institutions will surely make the readers feel discouraged about religion.
Still on apathy as a pragmatic effect, one can, of course, not gainsay the fact that the activities of Boko Haram has caused a lot of people to become apathetic towards politics. This is evident in that there has been no elections in Chibok for years because of the fears of an attack by the terrorists. This political apathy will surely manifest itself in the reader because they will, without doubt, contemplate their safety during elections, and this will ultimately make them sit at home instead of voting. Another cause of political apathy definitely has to be the Nigerian irresponsible government. Helon Habila does not mince words as he reports how the government both at federal and state level have played huge roles in the current malaise of insecurity plaguing the country. Knowledge of this irresponsibility on the part of the government is likely to make the reader brand everyone in politics as birds of a feather; hence, the reader will surely show nonchalance towards politics.
Finally, the didactic lesson that can be learnt from Habila’s report is that early action by the government towards the prevention of crime is the solution to insecurity in the country. Habila draws attention to this by constantly reporting or emphasising how the various governments in Nigeria have ignored the signs of an uprising until it became out of hand as seen in the Maitatsine Uprising and Boko Haram Insurgency. Because history is deemed as a great teacher, it is expected that Nigerians (both the government and the readers) should learn from past mistakes in order to avoid repeating these errors.
In conclusion, the text Chibok Girls is one which captures the realities of people living in Nigeria. It is set in Nigeria; therefore, it may be regarded as one which will have lots of pragmatic effects on Nigerian readers. Some of these effects have been discussed in this essay; thus, proving that the text Chibok Girls is one which can be defined based on its affective powers on the reader.
Ude, Chiedozie Orji.
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