Wheel of Destinity, Nkama Mba, Bizmark Ventures, pp. 128, 2018
“What’s gonna be’s gonna be; what goes up must come down… Ain’t is (and there’s) nothing you can do about it.” That fatalistic refrain by Nigeria’s one-time widely-acclaimed soul singer, Bongos Ikwue, (now Evangelist Ebenezer Ikwue), in one of his songs, is what Nkama Mba has, using characters like Ikem, the well-to-do but self-centred brother of Onyemaechi, a poor village man, and his children – Chukwudi, Chukwunonso, Chinenye, etc; his sister, Grace, kinsmen like Ichie Okoro, Mr. Uba, and places like Mbaamaonyenta, Umuelu, to build affirmative ring around its existential truth, with this debut novel. “The WHEEL OF DESTINY…cannot be changed,” the blurb-writer notes on the back cover of the book.
The truth hinted at by both Bongos Ikwue’s song and the blurb-writer, is borne out by the unexpected twists of events that sees Ikem’s family becoming pauperised overnight following his unexpected death while Onyemaechi’s becomes rich, thanks to fortune smiles on Chukwudi and Chukwunonso. The story has a painful tapestry to it though – when the patriarch and matriarch of the family died through suffering, sickness and hardship, long before the celebrating party kicked in.
In fact, Wheel of Destiny is one that turns on several wills, and, to some extent, will-o the wisps: they include that of people of Mbaamaonyenta that serves as major locale or setting for most of the events that took place in the novel, Ikem, the moneybag and his poor brother, Onyemaechi and his family.
The story of Onyemachi, Ikem’s brother, who suffered abject poverty and, later, died from an otherwise treatable sickness, owing to his poor family’s inability to pick the mounting hospital bills, while his wealthier brother refuses to come to his help, reflects poorly on the bond of humanity and brotherliness that we all need to share together.
All through the novel, you find ennobling and reprehensible values, represented by characters and events, clashing with each other, from page to page: materialism versus morality; communalism versus individualism; honesty versus hypocrisy; selflessness versus selfishness; humanity versus bestiality; respect versus disrespect; admiration versus resentment, empathy versus disdain and city life versus village/rural life.
Mba exhibits commendable level of literary mastery with his employment of fascinating imageries to drive home his points. Samples: “a group of birds with beautiful plumage…dived and maneuvered through the air with a free-fall style like a parachute regiment” (p.7); “wind detached from the sky above with a plume of clouds”(p.22); “snoring like a pig”(p.30) and “he sobbed throughout that night until his eyes became as red (dish) as coals of fire” (p.43).
His listing, at the end of the novel, of glossary of Igbo expressions, used in code-switching conversations by characters in the novel, plus their English translations/explanations, will, no doubt, help to make his message more accessible to non-Igbo speakers, than otherwise would have been the case, as well as, help to enhance their understanding of events and characters that shape socio-cultural developments within its pages. It reminds one of similar glossary of Igbo words in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.
But for surreptitious creeping in of some grammatical errors (“loose (lose) focus”, (p.47), “twist her waste (p.49) “cross roads (it’s always written as one word)”, p.55), and Nigerianisms (“handwriting (writing) on the wall” (p. 42), “Chukwudi would have seen his ears with his eyes” (would have suffered severely for it), p.72) which, hopefully, a more meticulous re-editing can help to take care of, if the author is thinking of a re-issue, most readers are going to find the novel a good read.