The Rainbow Book club members once again gathered at the le meridian Hotel Ogeyi Place in Port Harcourt to review Elechi Amadi’s ‘The Great Ponds ‘which was the club’s book-of-the-month for May.
In The Great Ponds two communities, Aliakoro and Chiolu, go to war to settle the question of ownership of the great fishing pond of Wagaba. Okehi the Eze of Aliakoro alleges that his grandfather told him they were the true owners while Eze Diali of Chiolu, the current owners, believe the ponds are rightfully theirs. What starts off as a clash of egos results in a terrible loss of lives and livelihood.
The story is set in Eastern Nigeria, at the beginning of the 18th century just before the advent of European influence, a time when it was ones prowess with a machete that made them a man and decapitating a body in battle was the ultimate high.
Amadi does not spare the reader the gory details of war with his intimate narratives of the bloody encounters between the Chiolu and Aliakoro warriors with Olumba and Wago as their respective leaders. Olumba and Wago are pitied against each other time and again with Wago displaying incredible prowess in battle. Each time the other party thinks he has finally been cornered, Wago somehow manages to escape. His uncanny ability to manoeuvre out of tight spots serves as a constant thorn in Chiolu’s flesh.
In the end, Olumba is forced to swear an oath on his life that the pond of Wagaba belongs to Chiolu. For a man of whom it was said ‘…he would rather fight a whole village single handed than defy the weakest god’, Olumba was at his most vulnerable after taking the oath. From then onwards the battle for Wagaba is taken to the sprit realm and from then, everything is interpreted as either a result of the gods’ anger or favour. It later transpires that what was wiping out the communities of Aliakoro, Chiolu and those beyond had nothing to do with the gods, it was the Great influence of 1918!
As for the fishing pond of Wagaba? Wago’s last act of malice (commiting suicide) is the deepest cut yet, as neither Aliakoro nor Chiolu can enjoy the fish for which so many have died. A heartbroken Eze Diali reveals to his people that, ‘it would be an abomination to fish in a pond in which someone has committed suicide’
The book is filled with mystery, suspense and action which keeps you at the edge of your seat and ensures you keep turning the pages.
BY DANIELLA MENEZOR