Monday, 3 October 2011

'Roses and Bullets' by Akachi Adimora Ezeigbo


Amidst the strafes and flaks contending for national unity and advancing of the new Biafra nation is the swayable love of Ganika and Eloka. The love Ganika is deprived of in a strict father, Ubaka, is salvaged in the arms of Eloka and the attentive nature of her brother, Nwakire. Ganika’s dream of nuptial bliss with Eloka is riddled with the invincible force that characterizes the war. Ganika will hope of returning to school when the civil contention stops. She will also nurture the faith of reuniting with her lover- turned-soldier when Biafra finally gains independence. As the characters of Ganika and Eloka are bedeviled with these marshy hopes and murky circumstances, only the flailing consequences of war will define who they eventually become.

Though the book is wrapped around the hackneyed story of the Biafra war, it does not aim towards achieving reckoning of the horrible civil struggle as many have been wont to. Roses and Bullet successfully attains closure of the grim realities of the Biafra time; which, I think is far applaudable to the unbiased views that skew the objective narratives of some.  As an academic material of information, which is one of the snags in the piece, it irritatingly drip-feeds an unaware reader with the nuances and intricacies of the Nigerian civil war. That alone makes it slow-paced that it tries the patience of an uncommitted reading so dearly.

Hard as it may be to agree, Biafra issue has been overbeaten to mundaneness in the country’s literary genres. There are deluges of books on the subject. Each time, these books only realize different actualizations in various opinions without offering new perspectives. At times you wonder if what you are reading is not a copy-paste of another familiar book written on the same subject. The similarity of events and thematic organizations in Biafra-majored pieces are easily noticed and quite predictable. The fallout of this is the subtle boredom that creeps on the reader. Roses and Bullets is infected with this malaise as it overmuch comes across with similitude of events with other Biafran novel. For a book of this thematic predictability to at least hold its own and be worth reading, the narrative has got to leave the precipice of telling the war to showing the dawning burdens the victims are left with. In that regard, Roses and Bullets creatively fits in. In reflecting the civil struggle that once threatens the country’s unity, Roses and Bullets packs much writing ardour in recreating fresh pains from decades-old cadavers of the civil mayhem. It encloses the worn-out with the imaginative creativeness that unburdens the reader from the ordinariness that is likely to seep out from the main theme. In the imagery thought impossible, memories long forgotten are juggled.


Advancing the Biafra; Battling the Vandals


Conscription of Fate:  Ganika can walk the length and breadth of the Biafra boundary without fearing sudden conscription to fight for the land’s defense. It is true she does not have to surmount the attacks of the vandals (the Federal soldiers) at the war front. But the helplessness created by the loved ones taken abruptly from her will redirect the course of her life. After Nwakire, her brother, joins the Biafra troops to further the noble cause of Biafra, Ganika struggles to live under her uncaring father (Ubaka) and her nagging stepmother, Lizzy, who is a semblance of a caring mother. Ganika later finds comfort in the loving arms of Odunze Eloka. That is not to last too. The cocoon Eloka’s love ensconces her with is torn when Eloka proudly enlists himself into the Biafran force. This triggers the origin of Ganika’s definitive sorrow as she battles with tearing challenges from her mother in-law. In her resilience to overcome her multiple pains, she is defeated by the unbridled semen of a Biafran lieutenant at Nkwerre. {p371-376}

Eloka and Nkwere (Ganika’s brother) might have indeed outplayed forced call-up into the army. As the only choice of honour, Nkwere and Eloka answer the patriotic beck of the new nation. What their contemporaries do in conscription they undertake in voluntariness. The horridness war does to humanity change their destinies with irredeemable taints. {p502-504}


Hypocrisy of War: During the civil feud, Nigerian government’s campaign of unity is carried out through mass pogrom and distortion of its citizens’ psychology in the new Biafra nation. I wonder how the flicker from Ejike Okoro’s lantern becomes the spotlight of an armed camp of Biafran soldiers. Ejike Okoro does not deserve what he encounters. He is innocent just like those being internally displaced by the war. He is no rebel. He hasn’t ever been to the war front. {p263-265}

What Ama-Oyi habitants only seek for is a safer and secluded region to continue the practice that makes life sustainable to them. They defile sacredness, moving their Orie market into the forest to avoid the attention they might call from an armed jet. It turns out their course of action isn’t well thought out. They fail to remember that anything Biafran in the glimpse of a Federal Government’s jet plane is a rebel that must be droned for unity to live. {p207-212}

It is just the end of war. Ganika’s only desire is to redeem her marital honour when her husband, Eloka comes home. She hopes for forgiveness when Eloka listens to her woes. She doesn’t need the love of Sule Ibrahim to be whole. All she hopes for is the unfastening of the burden that weighs her soul. That Sule Ibrahim circumcises himself before she gives him attention is just a scarecrow she puts up to remain Eloka’s own {p473-475}. Why should she be violated by the FG armed men who have come to request the blood of Sule Ibrahim from her {p491-496}? She has no hand in his death. Sule Ibrahim is a subject of his foolery. Why should he have been driven by infatuation to circumcise his genitals at his age?


Definition of History: The civil war established a new facet of history for the country. Ethnic incompatibility came to be more threatening than before the war. The act of the Federal government during the war became the blame of the tribe that dominated the armed forces of the country. The repatriation of malnourished Biafran kids from neighbouring countries of the continent immediately after the war gave birth to a new set of embittered generation. The inundation with horrors the war forced on the innocence of people brought new evils.  The war may have been subdued and the shadow of peace achieved for the whole country. The new breed of atrocities the end of the civil conflict exhibited is the battle that would take a long time to win. Eons after, these evils still perpetuate themselves as the norms of our society.

Udo and Ganika are the perfect allegory of the psychological torture children were subjected to in the war. Udo’s experience at the battle front robs him of his puerile innocence. After the war is declared done, the hunger and horror Udo witnesses will make a new being of him.

The discomfort of Amina Yaro, a northerner in Ganika’s class, signals the cut of the taunting rope of the seemingly unity between the North and the East. Amina Yaro can’t bear the conversation the portended civil war is generating. Out of self-volition, Amina stops coming to school. She perceives herself as a threat to the East. She returns to her homeland. {p169}



As A Reflective Piece

Literature is good for one thing: it gives equal honour to people to tell their stories. In narrating a story, they are different sides each sub-story of the main story presents various individuals. Roses and Bullets shouldn’t be condemned for being reflective of the stitches of wounds that scarred the bodies of many in its own way. My contention however is on the stickiness of a region’s literature to one side of a war that has been so written to wear and tear. There are other issues in the war people are not writing about. One should know that out of the large heart of any war principal are some selfish interests hypocritically nurtured. There were scores of fragile lots who would never be the same again after the war. There were many too who sacrificed everything for the war they least know about. It is not enough to write about how they went through physical and psychological damages, more helps will be done if other sides of the war are explored to offer fresh discussions. 

To do this in some way, concerned writers could take up the responsibility to uncover the weakness of the man who declared the war and later jetted out with his immediate folks few days to the end of it. That would stir up new diverse analyses on the war. Let’s write something refreshingly different about the war. It’s when that is done, that the writing terrain can be relieved from the usualness of one sided narration of the civil war. 

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