By Osa Mbonu-Amadi, Arts Editor  

The book, “If the rain comes” by Sunny Eze, published in 2022 by Kraft Books Limited, is perhaps the first ever extensive account of the horrible custom of killing twins prevalent in the erstwhile primitive society of Eastern Nigeria.  

After opening with the first hint of father and son on a mission in a dangerous place, and having kept the reader guessing what the story is all about, the author gradually begins to let us in with this sentence in chapter 3: “The judgement to send the son of Inunka to the hill for failing to bring out his twin babies was something they jointly passed earlier in the morning.”

Expectedly, a society that kills its twins must have both those who hold fast to the primitive custom and those who oppose it and therefore seek to abolish it. Those two groups of characters in this book are best represented by a man the author chooses to call Zone 12, and Ikemba, respectively.

While Ikemba addresses the council of elders saying, “several years ago, the land of Umudike was at the same point where we are today, but they saw reason and decided to move forward”, Zone 12 throws up the most retrogressive thinking of all times that has prevented the society from casting off its mental shackles: “We cannot afford to break this age-long tradition…we must stand against anything that challenges who we are.”

Being an extensive literary offering, it will be difficult to exhaust in one review, all that need to be discussed about If the rain comes, hence the choice here to highlight and appreciate more the poetic lines that run the length and breadth of the work like a band of rainbow across the sky.       

The author, generally, and especially in describing an albino in Chapter 5, displays a rare combination of prosaic and poetic prowess reminiscent of the skills of master storytellers and wordsmiths like Chinua Achebe:

“Some areas on the right side of the man’s face were mottled; an interlace of purple and red patches that splattered on the majority of his pale skin. It was as if nature had at the last minute remembered that she was sending him to the black world and in that frantic rush of one who had forgotten to put salt in a soup, had thrown in a few crumbs of black shades here and there.”       

In three lines of rendition that can pass as the thematic preoccupation of the entire work, the author’s poetic sense can also be seen straying into his prose in the same chapter where he describes with solid images the scene at the local midwifery:    

Her daughter had just been delivered of twin babies

and the men had immediately dragged them to the hill.

As always, they had gathered for the kill.

The author deserves more commendations in Chapter 18 for his skillful plotting of the seemingly chance meeting between Erinma and Amaechi, the mole in the midst of Umuikemba. The reader only realizes the significance of that chance meeting when Erinma gets home and comes in contact with Ikemba and Unachukwu while the two men are still trying to figure out who the mole is:      

Erinma breathed hard, trying to hold back the tears welling up. “Hasn’t it been decided already? Nobody wants to talk to me. I saw Amaechi, but he was avoiding me. Nobody wants to talk to me.”

“You saw who?” Ikemba asked and sat up. He knew that it could not be. There was no way the man would still be in the land. I sent him to Umuchu for the boat. “Did you say you saw Amaechi? Where?”

“I saw him with Ogbuefi Uduma.”

Ikemba’s head reeled. “With Uduma? Where?”

The woman stood still.

The old man calculated. What other motive? Then it dawned on him. It was the oldest of passions, and people did kill for it. Power.

If the reader, however, is looking for typical or exemplary prosaic paragraphs in the book that encapsulate the theme, there is one in chapter 5:     

The chief priest ignored all the pleas and quickly emptied the fluid into the mouth of the babies, one at a time. The twins gave a smile as they licked their lips. Perhaps they thought it was breast milk. It had happened quite fast. The babies were fast becoming history. Poor little things, their smile had quickly faded within split seconds of the spell hitting their palate. Before Ekwitos could rush close, the twins jerked and slept on. One of their eyes remained open with a lip turned up as if trying to ask what had happened to them. ‘You are not dead. No, this can’t go on,’ Ekwitos cried on. But she knew it was all a wish. She had no power to stop them. She was running to latch on to the chief priest, but the man had quickly picked up his materials and disappeared into a tiny hut in the middle of the hill. 

The author, Dr. Sunny Eze, is a University of Port Harcourt trained medical practitioner with national and international recognitions. In November 2021, United Nations gave him award as the Overall National Best in Community Empowerment following some landmark projects he carried out within Nigeria.

In addition, he bagged the Presidential Honours Award from President Muhammadu Buhari as the Overall National Best Youth Corp member in Nigeria for the 2019 service year. Also in December 2021, Dr. Eze emerged Overall National Best in a leadership program organized by Nigerian Prize for Leadership, an organization dedicated to creating credible successor leadership.

He currently works at the Department of Public Health, Federal Ministry of Health headquarters, Abuja, Nigeria. 

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