Set in Kano, Nigeria, Egya Sule’s Sterile Sky is published by Pearson PTR Interactive. Kano in the nineties was a city known for its endless religious violence which left many dead or wounded, houses burnt and a general feeling of distress on its masses. Murtala’s family lived in this extremely hot city.
“Suddenly, screaming garbled voices seized the air. ‘Na dem! Na dem! Na dem!
‘My own don finish o! Papa! Mama! Paaapaaa! ‘Wetin I do you? I beg…
‘Iya mi o! Iya mi o! I don die! I don die! I don….
Tears streamed from Mama’s eyes. My sisters, frightened, huddled beside her. Other voices, really male, were chanting ‘La ila a ila laa! La ila a ila laa! La ila a ila laa! It was an odd mix: the terrifying screams and the chanting. I could no longer see the sun; the sky had gone totally dark.” (pg 8).
The first of seven children with a policeman father and a petty trader mother, Murtala’s family was quite poor and struggled to make ends meet. The situation was not helped by the constant bickering between his parents about their financial situation and the father’s helplessness in dealing with it. Things came to a head after a riot that resulted in the loss of one of Murtala’s brothers. His mother decided that she had had enough of the city’s violence and decided to return to the village. Murtala chose to remain with his father in Kano, a decision which surprised his mother.
Though his father tried to make life as comfortable as he could, this was impossible with the salary he earned as a policeman. It was in the midst of this forced separation between husband and wife that Murtala got to hear his father’s life story and the reason why he vowed never to return to his village. Life continued for father and son when all of a sudden Imatum, one of the Murtala’s sisters who had followed their mother back to the village showed up in Kano. She came with a story of woe about her mother and siblings, and how they were finding it difficult surviving in the village.
Eventually, Murtala’s mother and the rest of his siblings also returned to Kano and the family was reunited. But then, life took a twist after Murtala’s father went missing.