By Henry Akubuiro
Too late for Anything, Obioha Oti, Harmony Publishing, pp. 225,2020
The whodunit element, in the hands of a schooled storyteller, is a sumptuous meal hard to put down. Mystery beclouds a murder or robbery case; as the minutes tick away, nerves are frayed; the reader is kept on the edge of his seat. Obioha Oti’s Too Late for Anything makes you scream wow!
David Udensi, aka Deacon Davy, the protagonist of the novel, is a pitiable fall guy. A dedicated Christian destined to the top, he becomes a laughing stock, all of a sudden, for playing the Good Samaritan to a distressed sister in the church, Hannah. Unknown to him, it is a setup to rubbish him. When you are caught in a web of conspiracies, the best of deeds becomes a mere bagatelle, as we find in the fall of Udensi.
Devoid stratagems abound in this work of fiction. Pulling the strings are Hannah, Deacon Davy›s sweetheart; Pastor Dan, the holier-than-thou man of God; and Mrs Evelyn Osifo, the scheming wife of the business magnet, Mr Osifo, who has a way with fawning adorations of soft targets. If you feel the misery that Deacon Davy feels all through the novel, the author›s resolution with his traducers will give you some relief.
Interesting as the story sounds, the author deploys jawdroping techniques. The first gambit that catches the eye is foreshadowing, needless to say, stream of consciousness, epistle, etcetera. When the plot opens, the tailend of the story is brought to the fore. Davy is in handcuffs in a dark cell. He tells Akpan, a prison warder: “I’m suffering all these things just as a result of my own mistakes, deceits and betrayal from people I came to love and respect. But it’s too late now to start regretting them… I have no other choice than to remain here and take what’s coming to me —death by firing squad…” (p. 3).
The sudden appearance of Mrs Ben on a visit to Davy offers us insights into how the deacon’s ordeal was masterminded by her as a means of settling a family feud dating back to the days of her late father, Rev. James Ikedi, whose Davy’s father worked under but fell out with, and conspired to remove him from the ministry, as she claims, “and subsequently killed him and rendered my mother useless until she died two years later” (p.11). That made her swear to get back on the innocent David and his mother, leading to many evil designs.
The final plot to nail David begins with Hannah as a bet in the Sunday school English class taught by him. A virgin at 29, Davy was made to surrender his virginity in order to save her nagging belly ache.
This novel exposes the moral bankruptsy in today’s churches. The plot to rope David tees off with the prophecy of a sister suffering from a two-year belly ache (Mrs Benson obviously uses that pastor for the fake prophecy). The relationship between David and Hannah grows by the day, and when she is unable to seduce her, a medical doctor is used to trap David to make love to her, the latter thinking he is doing her a favour and trying to save her life (getting rid of the tumors in her belly).
Then comes a blackmail by a planted photographer in his house, who milks him dry, as well as a big scandal leading to the loss of face by David and his subsequent relocation to Lagos to work as Mrs Osifo’s driver, with Pastor Dan an “angel” striving to end the hoodoo. The author shows his mastery of intrigues by unleashing a cliffhanger in the last part of the narrative: Mrs Osifo bribes Davy to steal some important documents (company registration and marriage documents) and pieces of diamonds from the husband’s Diamond Strong Room; she murders her husband, but evidences point to Dave for passing through the spot of the murder incident while trying to escape from the aborted mission upstairs with incriminating blood stains.
Expectedly, the court pronounces him guilty of the murder of Mr Osifo and stealing his diamonds, sentencing him to death. There is however, a let-off for Dave as Pastor Dan confesses to his conspiracy against Dave before his death, days before Dave will be executed. Most shocking is the letter from Hannah that she never loved Dave but was merely playing along to the bidding of Mrs Osifo. What a wicked world!