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Pains From Bullet Wounds After The War

Posted: Jul 26, 2015 at 12:02 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Title: The Forest Dames

Author:  Ada Okere Agbasimo

Reviewer:  Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

Publisher:  Third World Series

No of pages:  205

The suffering that war elicits has engaged the minds of novelists all over the world. The female aspect of war somehow depicts in its starkness the cruelty that bloody fighting engenders.

Book AdaOkere Agbasimalo in The Forest Dames brings to bear on the devastation of war a motherly compassion in a manner that puts deep wounds in the soul.

According to Chief (Mrs) Justina Anayo Offiah (SAN) in the Foreword, “Fictionalising issues as serious as wars is easily the best way to expose the horrifying consequences of war situations, which usually manifest in the complete absence of peace and fairness; and the palpable presence of gross suffering that may continue long after the war.

To drive home the point in a most vivid manner, the author AdaOkere Agbasimalo exhibits the mien of a gladiator, not of war, but a gladiator with a peace mission, armed as for war but channeling all her energies to the pursuit of peace and fairness. History the world over has shown that only fairness and equity can guarantee peace and progress.”

In this haunting fiction we are initially fixated in the present time of September 2000 as “the presence of The Companion became overwhelming” around the semi-conscious self of the protagonist.

In no time we are taken into wakefulness and going into the past “engrossed in an engaging chat with her long time Pal and Companion, and they both took a trip into the past, rolling back the scrolls of history, spanning over three decades.”

The Forest Dames is a rites-of-passage depiction of the questing and intelligent Deze who can be seen as the alter ego of the author. The “forest dames” of the title include the four growing girls, namely Gonma, Deze, Sofuru and Lele.

Deze, the youngest of the girls, is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Buno, and she with her colleagues become endangered species at “a period when, according to texts found in the great author, Chinua Achebe’s books, the center had failed to hold and the people were no longer at ease because things had fallen completely apart.”

At a time of the massacres in Kaduna and most of the North families had to flee for safety. People were indiscriminately taken out of trains and brutally murdered.

The outgunned Biafran soldiers had to make do with the Mark IV “one-man-one-bullet” rifles “against the more sophisticated machine guns used by the vandals.” It was a time of debauchery as the poem of the Prologue limns:

“They stripped us and savoured our nakedness went in and out of our women like needlework…”

Deze and her people then had to undertake the long trek from Ogwa to her hometown of Nekede near Alaowerre.

Peace time comes with the twenty bucks ex gratia payment to the ex-Biafrans. The changes after the war were quite remarkable: “The Endanjas worked laboriously like ants to ensure that everyone lived under a roof once more, albeit in mud houses with thatch roofs.

Amazingly, two years after the war, almost, if not all parts of the Endanja land had been rebuilt with cement blocks and corrugated iron sheets. Five years after, big architectural designs sprawled the Endanja landscape.”

Deze would eventually pass out of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Scheme, but then The Companion from the beginning strikes once more.

As an addendum, the Leader of the Nation (LON) suggests as panacea “state burial for victims of religious, political, ethnic and extra judicial killings.”

Here is the final word: “But our government may also consider requesting a sovereign dialogue with the then colonial lords, with a view to rolling back the scroll of history and remedying mistakes of the past. It might be as simple as just issuing the reversal word.”

AdaOkere Agbasimalo is indeed quite passionate in her engagement with the traumatic consequences of war and the rebuilding of the nation along the lines of fairness and equity. There are editing errors such as putting full-stops inside quotation marks instead of commas.

Even so, in a land where committed writers must perforce go to great expense to get their voices heard AdaOkere Agbasimalo deserves consummate attention. Her positive attention to gender is a measure of the new age.

The Forest Dames by AdaOkere Agbasimalo points to the way forward that the nation should never ever again succumb to the deadly recourse of war.