Our past is our past, be it gory or glorious. It is the pathway that leads to the future. Literature, as a laboratory where life – past, present or yet to come – is examined, plays a momentous role. The worst thing a people can do is to live in denial. Wars are recurrent features of the history of peoples all over the world. What is most amazing is that love is best engendered by tumultuous situations like wars. In Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo’s novel, Roses and Bullets, published earlier this year by Jalaa Writer’s Collective, war “genesises” both the birth and the death of love.
The lives of many are turned apart by the civil war that broke between Nigeria and Biafra. While things are falling apart, Eloka and Ginika find love in each other. They seal their love when they get married as man and wife. The centre holds until young men start being forcefully recruited into the Biafran army. Eloka and many other young men are recruited. Even young Udo gets a feel of the battle front. With the desire to escape the harsh criticism of her mother-in-law, Ginika attends a gig with a friend. An officer drugs her and has carnal knowledge of her. She gets pregnant for the “faceless” officer. The child dies. Ginika losses almost all: her in-laws; her family and friends; even her love, Eloka. Yet, she doesn’t lose all. She still has the precious gift of life.
One of the most significant attributes of the novel which many readers will live to remember is that it does not have the ending that many other novels of its type would have had. The ending is quite unpredictable. For instance, after professing so much love for Ginika, Eloka does what is least expected; he abandons Ginika, his wife, at the time she needs him the most. This adds to the verisimilitude of the novel. Thus, rather than depicting life as it should be, life is depicted as it is. By implication, the author does not force upon the reader a particular point of view; thence, she reveals her understanding of the fact that every human being is a free agent.
Putting together the book must have demanded a lot of research. This would be to ensure that facts are not misrepresented. Nonetheless, one has to note that literature is not supposed to a mirror-like representation of history, it is must be rightly spiced with creativity which is the ingredient that marks fiction out from history. Adimora-Ezeigbo effectively deplores imagination in the telling of the Biafran story. However, the novel is not yet in the arena of perfection. The first knock on the head of the novel is that leaves little or no room for the comic. The fact that the Biafran story is a serious one does not mean that its depiction should be unrepentantly serious. The second knock on the head for the novel is that the story takes too long a time to build up. The reader has to be patient to enjoy the meat of the story.
Having surmounted the hurdle of publishing, Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo’s Roses and Bullets is not only a chronicle of the Nigeria-Biafra experience; it is also conceived in the womb of one of the life’s greatest mysteries. This mystery is of how the black pot produces white pap. It is of how war is the priest of love. It is the mystery of how Nigeria stands as one, despite being like a house whose pillars are shaky.