Representation of War Situations in Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo’s Roses and Bullets

This article would be doing the proper analysis of the selected topic in Roses and Bullets. There would be a thorough criticism of the text using the object of literary discussion which is abundant in the text. Through the experiences and interactions of the characters in the text, the idea of “war situations” shall be fully examined.

1.1 Representation of War Situations in Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo’s Roses and Bullets

Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo is a writer whose texts are thoroughly written with little or no shortcoming. Aside her primary job as a lecturer in English and Literature, she has made a place for herself in the literary world by coming up with thought-provoking texts dealing on pertinent issues. Roses and Bullets is one of her texts that focuses on the matter of war and love, mingling the two together and presenting a perfect symbiosis, an ironical combination really.

In this text, there is a situation of war and despair the characters have to come to terms with. Characters whose lives are destroyed by the activities and actions of war. The main character, Ginika, has a school life damaged by war and violence. From the beginning of the war to the end, her life does not remain the same; she does not get back to who she used to be or who she was.

Just at the beginning of the war, where Ginika had to leave Enugu where she had been in school to go to Ama-Oyi, her hometown, the situations of the war begins to reveal itself. First, there is shortage of food, and then, there is severe violence brought upon them. The narrator presents this situation as this,

Ama-Oyi was bombed again, but this time one person was killed. Ginika heard a loud explosion in the night and ran downstairs. She was followed by Udo, her father and Auntie Lizzy.“Everyone run to the bunker,” her father cried. “Carol, are you awake? Bring your children to the bunker.” Mrs Ndefo and her children were already ahead, racing to the bunker at the back of the compound. (185)

In the above scene, one can feel the despair and anguish that came with the war. Unlike peacetime, the war brings upon the people severe hardship and terror. The country that used to be peaceful and calm, regardless of the minor misunderstanding and crisis between groups and government officials, is no longer the same. The state bequeathed to the people by the colonizers is in a broken system.

1.2 The Issue of Scarcity and Theft in War Situation in the Text

The broken system in the text is further worsened by the war. In another war situation, there are often cases of theft. Since there is no order and no definite government’s presence everywhere, there is increased cases of theft and stealing among the people and government officials. Of course, there is also increased number of refugees, and this caused lack of proper identification and widespread crime, theft included. In a situation presented by the narrator, there is a clear case of theft and despair,

Ginika woke up early as usual. She was sweeping the compound when she saw that one of the windows of Dr Ndefo’s Mercedes was broken. She shouted when she saw that a lot of things had been removed from the car. Most of the clothes and the crockery she used to see there as she passed was gone. The boot was partially open. (188)

Furthermore, the war caused scarcity of resources, things and food which encouraged this theft as the one Ginika discovered. The enemy of the Biafran country realizing the usefulness of some resources the new country’s continued access to the world, proclaims a total blockade in order to hasten the end of the war. As things become relatively scarce, the level of crime increases and there is so much atrocities against the Biafran people due to this. In the representation of this lack of some resources, the narrator writes of one as,

Ginika laughed. “Few people use kerosene now. When I was in my other home, we used firewood or ichere, palm kernel shells.”

“I know. I don’t know where Papa got the kerosene. We have been using it for more than two months. This is the last gallon. (195)

It also has to be noted that as the war progressed, many resources, and indeed, the machinery used in fighting the war is in a continuous fall. As resources are depleting, human resources are being depleted, too. Many men are recruited at the beginning of the war, but are lost along with the progression of the war until men are targeted to be forcefully conscripted into the Biafran army.

1.3 Love, Forced Conscription and the Military as War Situations in the Text

The novel captures the euphoria and fanfare that followed an individual’s entrance to into the army. With the elongation of the war period and the continuous death at the hand of the Nigerian enemy, the Biafrans take up the idea of forceful conscription and men are often target of such raids. In one scenario, Ginika speaks to her husband to avoid it as this,

“Be careful on your way home,” she told him, “I don’t want you to be conscripted by the soldiers roaming in Ama-Oyi and looking for young men to capture.”

He laughed. “If they catch me, I’ll follow them. They’ll save me much anxiety, and I’ll stop looking over my shoulders all the time I’m outside my home.” … “There will be no husband and no wedding if they catch you.” (189)

The idea of these people capturing any young man does not take any factor into consideration, including the idea of an only son getting married. There is a case reported by the narrator of an only son conscripted on his wedding day, and with little or no training, he is sent off to the war front. Even the marriage Ginika and her husband celebrate is devoid of fanfare. It is kept simple at best as given away by the narrator, “after the iku-aka, the rest of the ceremonies which should have taken weeks or even months were compressed into just one visit to her home on a Friday” (193)

In this war situation, ceremony or any form of action that exposes people to danger is shortened, and not tolerated. Traditions and cultures are not followed to the core. Since there is no order, things are hardly done in the proper order. They only have to do it in the fastest way they could get it done with.

Aside the lack of order and resources it brings upon the people, there is also severe hardship and discomfort for the Biafran people. Of course, food is not enough, there are lack of basic things, and most importantly, happiness. This situation makes Eloka lament that “‘The war has taken everything from us. I hope it has not taken the wind and fresh air too’” (201).

However, not largely considering the precarious situation, as the title of the text indicate, there is still love in the midst of the severe crisis. The roses in the text could have multiple meaning; it could be pain and torture, but to some scholars it takes on the role of love. Eloka and Ginika finds a way to love and cherish themselves in spite of the war. They fall in love, hurriedly get married and play emotional love between themselves.

This is a good representation of the situation of the war in the text. It categorically states that some people live their normal lives even at the point of the disaster that is the war. Amid the air raids, shooting and death, there are still cases of love, marriage, religious gathering, play acting and other activities that happened at peace time. The love between Eloka and Ginika is great. In one scenario as presented below it is child-like and intoxicating,

After calling her to the room, he was lying on the bed and leafing through an old magazine. He dropped it as soon as she entered. “I want my wife to be here with me; this is where I belong, by my side.”

“Is that all? Is that why you called me when you knew I was working?” (197)

The love of this couple would have to stand the test of the cruelty of the war. The war brings on so much disaster for the people. Some of these disasters get to play a part in the love life of Eloka and Ginika. The events of such occurrence begin with the enrolment of Eloka into the military right after his escape from conscription.

Eloka, like other young men in Biafra at that point, is in constant flight from Biafran soldiers, who are known for their consistent forced conscription into the military. He had hated the nature of the way he hid from them like a coward. The last situation that pushes him to join the military on his own is represented in this way,

They were engrossed with the birds when Eloka raced into the compound and sprinted into the house. For a second, Ginika had seen his face and the fear written all over it. She froze and stared at Udo. Before she could move, a man in military uniform ran through the gate and halted when he saw Ginika and Udo. She looked at him and saw three bars on his shoulder which told her he was a sergeant. (206)

In this scenario, Eloka runs like a frightened child, too afraid of enlisting in the military, an action he considers as cowardice. Due to this experience, he has to make a decision not to be afraid of similar situation, he takes on courage and decides to enlist, not regarding the fear of his lovely wife or that of his parents and siblings. His enlistment causes a chain of reaction that turns out to be a disaster.

Nevertheless, notwithstanding the disaster and the bad chain of reaction it causes, Ginika and the rest of the family are excited when Eloka returns for the first time after being commissioned a soldier. Just like what is obtained when a new recruit gets home to see his family, Eloka’s family is excited to see him draped in the Biafran army uniform. The despair and anxiety they once had about him joining the military gave way to enthusiasm. The situation is best represented as this,

Eloka was back in the living room in time to watch Ginika and Ozioma jolt into the compound. He had not removed his uniform because he wanted her to see him in it. He watched her as she ran into the house and got up to meet her. Ginika threw down her handbag and fell into his arms. She didn’t say a word at first; she just clung to him, a big smile on her face. (246)

In similarity to the title of this text, this situation can be written to be ironical in this war situation. There is enthusiasm from everyone in the family, near happiness, of the sight of Eloka in the uniform that they temporarily forget the danger they were in or that Eloka was in. This indicates that even in the time of war, there are always some rays of hope and happiness in the midst of sorrow, anguish and pain.

This is the same happiness that some people encounter once they find something meaningful doing or giving them access to basic things as food in Biafra. Due to the scarcity of things, anyone who have access to food and little other resources is considered above the others. This is how bad the war is on the Biafrans. There is a situation of a commoner whose access to food endeared him to people and things he wouldn’t have originally had. The situation is presented thus,

From his enthusiasm, Ginika could see that he loved his job. But who in his right position wouldn’t, considering that the job brought him valuable rewards in the form of relief materials. Ginika knew that many people in Ama-Oyi would jubilate if they had Inno’s job. She was not sure if what she heard was true, but Janet had jokingly informed her than Inno had a pretty girlfriend and that it was the gift of food that attracted the girl to him. (217)

The situation in Biafra is so bad that anyone who have access to food is considered to be way more important than any one who doesn’t. Working in a relief centre becomes a sort of an elevation of status as the person has access to food more than the ones who do not. At a point, food becomes more valuable than the Biafran currency, and Ginika who work at the relief centre at some point is paid with food.  

1.4 Gender-based Violence and Rape as War Situations in the Text

Reverting back to the tumult the love life of Eloka and Ginika encounter, one can detect the pit of sorrow and mishap the marriage falls into in the situation of war. Eloka while away in the war, Ginika is raped in a situation termed unbelievable. Coming at a time when her mother-in-law is clamouring for a child from them, it becomes devastating to be impregnated by a total stranger. This comes to haunt and destroy the marriage. The rape situation is recalled by Ginika as this,

In  the morning, Ginika was sitting on the bed, crying softly when Janet came into the room. Her body was partially covered with the bed spread. Janet asked, “Why are you crying? Are you still ill? It was only a little drink you had.” … There was panic in Ginika’s voice: “I can’t explain it but I think someone had sex with me when I was asleep.” She started trembling. (270)

This rape occurs for Ginika in the hands of a Biafran soldier. The recklessness of the soldier results in a pregnancy, broken marriage, pain and loss of the baby for Ginika. She is never the same. Ginika’s situation is the same with multiple women on Biafran soil as there is rampant rape in the hands of Biafran and Nigerian soldiers.

Ginika is raped again towards the end of the novel, this time by a Nigerian soldier. The second rape is forceful and tormenting for Ginika. She is gang raped in a gruesome way and left in a terrible condition. In this rape case she is wrongly accused for a crime she does not commit, and to the soldier, he is punishing her by raping her. The rape is depicted this way,

‘Hold the witch,’ he barked. And they pounced on her, and held her hands, he picked up his gun, which rested on the wall, and aimed it at her head. ‘I go kill you now,’ he roared. She cried in terror … After he had returned the gun to its former position, he reached for her body and tore off her blouse, exposing her breasts. Her skirt suffered similar fate. (358)

The female body during the war is an object of abuse. This is the reason why Ginika is raped twice. Even Janet, her friend, considers her body as the only way out of her misery of not having enough of eat. So, she has men who she is constantly in touch with that help her out with funds.

The mother of all the war situations as represented in the text is the frequent deaths and disappearance of people during the war. At the height of the war, Ginika’s uncle, Ray, is considered missing, because Nigerians attacked Ikot Ekpene where he is staying. The despair and sadness the family feel awaiting his return is heartbreaking. When he is considered missing is represented as this,

“It’s Ray. He’s missing. No one knows where he is.” She was crying.

‘Chito, my daughter,’ her mother said, ‘I have told you not cry. You are not sure your husband is missing; we only heard that Ikot Ekpene was evacuated and some towns and villages were cut off, but does not mean my in-law is missing? (231)

These war situations don’t entirely go off as the war draws to a close. There are still people missing at the end of the war and the anguish caused by the war still fresh in the memory of the people. Ginika, for instance, does not recover from the tremor caused by the war until six months later. Uncle Ray returns days after the end of the war quoted as, “ten days after the war ended, Uncle Ray returned” (342). It took some years for normalcy to return for the people.

Adimora-Ezeigbo, Akachi’s Roses and Bullets is a good book.

Work Cited

Adimora-Ezeigbo, Akachi. Roses and Bullets. University Press PLC, 2014.

Don't miss out!
Get FREE Stories and Tips!

Get Good Intriguing Stories and LIFE HACK tips sent to your mail for FREE!

Invalid email address
Take action. We don't spam. You can always opt out.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: