Agony Of Road Not Taken In Nwachukwu-Agbada’s Dance Of The River Song
A child is a wonderful gift of God, and naming a new-born baby one of great import, for in the name lies the character and singular emblem of the child, a wish of the gods for a bright and fulfilled future: the prospective story of a man’s life, all of it.
In Dance of a River Song (University Press Plc., Ibadan; 2012) we have Makuochukwu, a baby about to enter the world, in his village of Achalla, with his mother, Ojimma, who expects the world of him. Makuochukwu can be rendered ‘fall on God’, ‘hold fast to him’, ‘he is your pillar, your support, your strength’.
We can then ask, has Makuochukwu lived up to his name – the child in the man? Up till the time he leaves Achalla, his supposed fiancé expects him to start and conclude the marriage rites, and he assures her nothing would separate them or keep him from coming home for her. The first chapter is replete with questions meandering into apparent mysteries waiting to be resolved.
In Dance of the River Song the beginning returns in the ingenious end. Voices – call them Spirits, call them Masquerades – speak for us. We are being led into a story and we start early to construct our own tale.
Voice seemingly speaks our mind. Early in the story we receive the innermost onion rind and our job is to find the outer layers and reconstruct the onion in one marvellous piece.
As T.S. Eliot tells us in Four Quartets: We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.
Makuochukwu leaves for the National Youth Service Corps and at work he exhibits the makings of a hero. To his ruin, however, there is one pervading and commanding impulse in his life: sex, unbridled.
Makuo begins a friendship with his student, Toyin, a main character in the book, and this leads to lurid interactions culminating in pregnancy.
And try as hard as she could, Toyin could not get her fiancé, Yinka, to go to bed with her and thus create the illusion that he was father of the child.
How then does she explain to Yinka that she was expecting a baby? Nwachukwu-Agbada shows his vibrant skills in plot development and quick transitions from one character to another.
The author masterfully creates a story immersed in a manuscript written by Makuo’s friend, Pako, with the tale that Toyin and Makuo had been lovers, a sordid betrayal of their presumed friendship.
Toyin now despairingly and insidiously dumps the manuscript on Yinka’s laps and thus with total abandon reveals the source of her pregnancy. Through some wise explosive words of Ojimma, on the rotten social order in the country, the author surreptitiously leads us to his vision for our society.
At the same time, he leaves us in no doubt as to where his loyalty lies – a child is expected to fulfil the dreams of its parents as these relate to the parents’ wellness and to wholesome living in marriage that is noble and desirable to the good of the community.
Nwachukwu-Agbada returns with a fictive narrative fit for a reading feast. • Professor Mark Nwagwu is of the Department of Biological Sciences, Paul University, Awka