Troubador Baturi

Released: 23/10/2014

eISBN: 9781784628024

Format: eBook

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Baturi is the story of a British VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) teacher, Matthew Ferguson. He is posted to a poorly equipped training college, attached to the small town of Hadejia, deep in the Sahel of northern Nigeria. As a white British male, he earns immediate celebrity status within the community, virtue of his skin colour. When walking through the town, he is frequently met with cries of ‘Baturi’, in the local language of Hausa this translates as ‘white man’.

It’s the eighties, there are no telephones or internet connections, and Matthew’s only communication with the rest of the world is via letters and the local grape vine. Visitors to his house are mostly unannounced; one such unannounced visitor is Chantel. She is an attractive Canadian volunteer, working as a nurse, and based in a town some 50 miles away. Her first visit to his house is brief, and clinical, but after she leaves, her striking image won’t leave his thoughts.

In a quest to develop his relationship with Chantel, Matthew leaps at an opportunity to accompany her on a holiday excursion. Expecting to join a gathering of fellow volunteers, they travel to a small town on Nigeria’s eastern border. By the time he returns to Hadejia, he is alone, and wanted by the police.

He has acquired a potent secret, which he discovers has embroiled him in a plot to over throw the Nigerian government. Although he survives to tell the tale, his thrilling, and often terrifying adventure, is driven more by his friendships, than his plans.

Kirkus Reviews

The Bookbag

The Bookbag

Through a series of unfortunate and ill thought out events, Matthew finds himself on the wrong side of the law, unsure who we can trust and uncertain how he's going to get out in one piece. You can imagine the state of law enforcement in Nigeria at that time, and it's a scary position to be in. The plot unfolds quickly and I noted the way things seemed to go round in circles because that epitomises life in countries such as this, nothing is straight forward, everything is convoluted, and sometimes you have to wave cash in someone's face to get them to do what you want. Of course as a VSO you have very little cash, which only adds to the fun (for the reader) and frustration (for the volunteer). Anything goes in these situations, and it was refreshing to have little clue how the story would end because if there's one thing you learn as a white (wo)man in Africa, it's that for you at least, nothing is predictable.

The descriptive passages in the book are excellent and easily paint a picture of a place few readers will have experienced. For those who have been there, done that though, it's a real blast from the past. When Matthew talks about his furniture I remembered the foam sofa and chairs that were made new for me, all covered in a matching garish fabric. When he mentions the bundle of twigs that serve as a broom, I recalled trying (and failing) to do much sweeping with my own version. The observations on local life are equally telling. Nigeria in the 80s was a corrupt place by all accounts, and he neatly observes that only the corrupt would get ahead, for it would be unsafe to grant opportunities to anyone who had not demonstrated their penchant for unethical ways, lest they rat out those at the top when they joined them up there.

by Zoe Page - The Bookbag

This book has everything you could want from fiction; a brilliantly engaging style that beautifully evokes a visceral Nigeria; characterisation that really makes you care, a shift in pace that is completely compelling and a rollercoaster narrative that makes you question the value of....things!
I really enjoyed this read, from the gentle, winding scene setting of the start to the adrenaline fuelled, action packed and riveting conclusion, this story is well equipped to entertain. It is testament to the author that even when articulating the mundane, the prose is so alive that it keeps you engaged - every description is unique and each turn of phrase its own metaphoric journey, and for me this was as much a part of the book as the core narrative. If you appreciate well crafted works as well as compelling plots, you would be well served by Baturi.
I have never been to Nigeria, but having read this, I feel I nearly have.

by K Alty

This novel gives you an overwhelming sense of life in Nigeria, from it's first descriptive passages of Mathew's lifestyle to it's rapidly exciting action/adventure storyline. A good mix of geographical accuracy and good scene description of the life of a VSO in the beginning, building to a crescendo with the situation the main character finds himself in, on the run from the authorities with a large amount of money, as he finds himself no more than a victim of circumstance trying his best to survive. Poses some interesting moral questions and says a lot about friendship and the will to survive against the odds.
Gave this four stars due to the first passages of the book being a bit slow to get going.
All in all an enjoyable read as an unconventional adventure story. Something unique and different from the normal action adventure stories.

by R M. Rowlands

An interesting introduction to the life of a VSO working in Nigeria during the first half of the book, tailed with a dramatic change of pace with the improbable involvement in a near coup through the second half. The characters in the story are interesting and the bonds are well tested as the drama unfolds

by Andy

Psychologically thrilling and dramatic, vivid and completely engrossing.

Fantastic read. The introduction paints a vivid picture of life as a foreign teacher in Nigeria, lulling the reader in to a false sense of security, as things take a dramatic turn as the novel evolves into a fast-paced thriller, keeping the reader engulfed and engaged in this exciting scenario. Would definitely recommend this book and advise readers to 'just wait' until it really kicks off.

by Simon

Great read and very interesting book. The descriptions of 1980s Nigeria were fascinating and gives the reader a real insight into VSO life in Nigeria. The characters are interesting and the plot is captivating making you want to carry on reading

by Fabian Taylor

A rash decision thrusts a young British volunteer into the middle of a Nigerian military coup in a debut novel inspired by the author’s own time in Africa.

Twenty-four-year-old Matthew Ferguson is a math teacher in the small town of Hadejia in the northern sector of Nigeria in the 1980s. He’s been in the country for 18 months, working with the British Voluntary Service Overseas, and he’s begun to acclimate to its climate, food, and culture. However, he’s not comfortable with the seemingly built-in “respect” he’s accorded, solely for being a “baturi” (white man). Readers meet him just before he dismisses his training-college class for a three-week school vacation. He’s emotionally in flux; his girlfriend back home has ended their relationship, and he’s struggling with doubts over whether he’s imparting anything useful to his students. He’s also ambivalent about an impending visit with friends during a planned trip to Bama, near the Cameroon border, because he’s broke. It’s during this journey—which is derailed before he ever reaches Bama—that Matthew gets himself into more trouble than even his active imagination could have envisioned, as he finds himself in the midst of an attempted revolution. What follows is a two-week, improbable adventure that offers moments of great exhilaration (including a car chase that will remind readers of scenes from the 1968 film Bullitt), close calls, and plenty of angst. For good measure, there’s also a budding romance with an attractive Canadian woman named Chantel. The story may be on the far edge of credulity, but it’s fun.

Those who come to the narrative seeking merely excitement, however, will need patience, as the action doesn’t begin until about two-fifths through the book. Still, the early sections contain some of the most evocative passages, and they lay the groundwork for the real focus of the story, which is the people of Hadejia and the lessons of true friendship. By the time things really start to get rolling, readers will be well-acquainted with the main characters and the terrain they travel. In narrator Matthew, Stephen creates a likable, self-effacing protagonist who ably imparts the warmth and generosity of the people he meets, as well as the poverty, corruption, and constant heat of Northern Nigeria: “I could feel rivulets of sweat growing under my hair. Sweat began to trickle down my chest and down my face. Drops began to drip from the end of my nose.” Every walk he takes is an opportunity to reveal something about a country on the precipice of financial collapse: “I reached the mournful site of an unfinished town gate. Like so many things in Nigeria, it had failed to reach completion before its finance reached exhaustion.” Matthew’s fun-loving British helicopter pilot buddy, Bob, provides a good foil for the novel’s more reticent hero, and the Nigerian carpenter Koli is so touching and steadfast that readers will remember him long after they turn the final page.

Initially slow, but enjoyable and more complex than its more madcap shenanigans would suggest.


Matthew Stephen

I was born (1962) in London. Educated at Leighton Park School, Reading. In the mid-eighties, I took a British Voluntary Service Overseas post in northern Nigeria, as an Electrical Instructor. For most of my career, I have worked in the software industry, my work including public speaking, sales and blogging.

Matthew Stephen

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