Disclaimer: In the interest of full disclosure, Nnaziri Ihejirika, author of ‘A Rainy Season’ is a personal friend of mine and a fellow King’s College Old Boy. I have tried to keep this review as objective as possible and hope it appears so to the reader.
Nnaziri Ihejirika’s debut work, ‘A Rainy Season’ is a compelling coming of age novel featuring eight major characters: Hamed, a corrupt businessman dealing with the government; Ekei, a female, unemployed graduate trying to establish a fashion business; Kurdi, a praying and preying, popular pentecostal pastor; Jude, a young pro-government image launderer; Tamara, a divorcee fresh out of an abusive marriage; Mutiu, a security guard shaped by painful losses and abject poverty in his childhood; Nonye, a passionate and idealistic schoolgirl and Elechi, a pubescent teenage boy who has to grow up faster than he thought.
Ihejirika’s plot which is largely set in the dark days of military rule will not be unfamiliar to any Nigerian, or anyone with an eye and ear, living in Nigeria during or prior to the 1990s. Tales of government corruption, sexual harassment and exploitation of women, swindling a gullible people using the opiate of the masses and acts of desperation caused by poverty are hardly novel. However, these eight well developed characters serve the reader like Dante’s Virgil, and with each turn of the page illuminate the dark inferno of General Abacha’s Nigeria which was surely hell on earth.
These eight characters living interconnected lives in the same apartment complex on the Lagos Island are crystallized images of the Nigerian soul – containing both vice and virtue in large quantities. They are all bound by the same desire to “make it” against all odds. Hardly a lighthearted tale, Ihejirika mercifully entwines the plot with dosages of humour, faith, love, lust and hope. These serve as an outlet to get through this hell on earth, both for the characters fighting their personal demons, and the reader who has to absorb it all without being consumed.
A Rainy Season is a good story and since it is written in the point of view of the characters, the reader gets to know them intimately and pick someone to root for. Ihejirika could however have done a better job of giving the characters their own voice. It becomes clear as each character’s story merges with the rest through dialogue that it is he doing the talking in the dialogue structure. Mutiu the hardly educated gateman for instance unfortunately stops speaking pidgin and gets his story ‘translated’ by someone who tells his tale with the same King’s College locution as the other characters. Nevertheless, the author’s ability to well weave the individual stories into a moving tapestry of prose excuses this aforementioned flaw.
Closure is given (albeit a little too neatly wrapped up) to each character. Everyone gets what they deserve in the end. At first I thought it unfortunate. Life isn’t fair and bad things end up happening to good people – especially in Nigeria. Then it occurred to me that perhaps that clouture of merited justice meted to each character is the author’s hope that it finds the average Nigerian someday. If so, I echo it. May that justice which has eluded so many for so long, as well as the author’s next book, come soon.