A tale that won’t forgive silence: Review of Okey Ndibe’s “Arrows of Rain” at 20 — Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

Arrows of Rain by Okey Ndibe; Bookcraft, Ibadan, Nigeria; 20th Anniversary Edition 2021; 230pp

Okey Ndibe’s acclaimed debut novel Arrows of Rain was published in Year 2000 as one of the last titles of the esteemed Heinemann African Writers Series. 

The 20th anniversary edition published by Bookcraft has a foreword in which the author gives the context of how the novel was birthed. Okey Ndibe offers kudos to Wole Soyinka’s prison memoir The Man Died and Ancient Greek playwright Sophocles’ play Antigone for inspiring him.

Soyinka’s statements such as “The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny” and “Justice is the first condition of humanity” together with the defiance of the title character, Antigone, of Sophocles’ play are ready grist to Okey Ndibe’s creative mill. 

It is little wonder then that in Okey Ndibe’s novel Arrows of Rain a principled grandmother tells her journalist grandson: “A story that must be told never forgives silence.”

Set in the fictional country of Madia – read Nigeria – Arrows of Rain by Okey Ndibe sets the stage in which brutish power tries all it can but cannot grind committed dissent into silence. Bukuru, a larger-than-madness character, is arrested and charged to court with murder as the last person who spoke with a young prostitute who ran into the sea and drowned. Bukuru serves as his own attorney and implicates not only the armed forces of Madia but also the country’s president whom he charges with rape and murder. 

In the drive to silence him forever, Bukuru is sent back to prison. It takes a daring journalist who adroitly gets into Bukuru’s gaol for them to lay bare the woes of the decades of the protagonist’s life that mirror the evil history of the Madian nation.  

Okey Ndibe has earned profound accolades as a political columnist who spares neither principalities nor powers, and he has somewhat upped the ante as a celebrated resourceful novelist. The 20th anniversary of Arrows of Rain is a sure pointer that Okey Ndibe’s voice will continue to carry for years on end, and silence can never be his portion.     

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