Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani: I Do Not Come to You by Chance

This book, the first novel from Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, is hilarious, with moments of pathos, and a fresh point of view.

Amazon.com recommended it to me as I was busy buying books by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; I thought ‘OK, I’ll read a series of Nigerian books as part of my summer reading.

Young Kingsley Ibe is the family’s first born male, and with that status goes many privileges – and responsibilities. After graduating with a Masters in Chemical Engineering, he has no success in his search for a job with an oil company in Nigeria, and consequently loses the love of his life, Ola, to another who has secure employment.

Worse, his retired father has a stroke, and the family discovers that with all the fees required, they haven’t enough for his continued care, so Kingsley must approach his uncle, Boniface Mbamalu, more familiarly known as Cash Daddy, for funds to transfer his father to a long term care facility, and, later, for his father’s funeral.

Serious Kingsley’s eyes nearly pop as he sees the life his uncle is living, cars, women, designer watches, shoes, suits and all the trappings of new wealth. Soon, his uncle makes a convincing case for Kingsley coming to work for him, the better to help out his family of mother, brothers and sister, now that he is the senior male in the family.

Kingsley discovers he has a gift for the work – which is writing 419s, those scam letters which I frequently publish in this column. I loved being on the inside, learning how strong possibility e-mail addresses are netted, how response e-mails are massaged – not unlike fund raising techniques by charitable organizations in the US. Kingsley’s education helps him achieve enormous financial success in a very short time – but he finds that all the cash and designer goods in the word do not solve his problems nor make him happy.

I learned a lot about how successful many of these scammers are, and how the money made is spread throughout the Nigerian communities. The author takes a balanced view, balancing the way the cash makes life easier for people – a lot of people, because the rich man has many obligations to his community, balanced against the disgust, and sick fear felt by his religious mother and aunt, and his one time girlfriend, when they learn the work he is doing. They are disappointed that a man of such promise has sunk to making so much money in a dishonest way. The book also does not deal sympathetically with those who have given or lost money to the scammers, nor, in my opinion, does the ending satisfy.

This is one of the funniest parts of the book – a group of Nigerian scammers is about to meet with a representative of a major US investment firm. He thinks he will be meeting with the Nigerian Minister of Transportation to discuss building a new airport; the reality is that Cash Daddy, in disguise, will be pretending to be the minister. Kingsley protests that Cash Daddy looks nothing like the minister, and Cash Daddy responds:

“Let me tell you something . . . Me, I really like these oyibo people. They’re very very nice people. See how they came and showed us that the ground where we’ve been dancing Atilogwu has crude oil under it. If not for them, we might never have found out. But Kings,” he dragged in his dangling foot and sat up in the tub, “white man doesn’t understand black man’s face. Do you know tht I can give you my passport to travel with . . . Even if your nose is ten times bigger than my own, they won’t even notice?”

It was a fascinating book. I understand better now why 419 scams work. (419 is the section of the Nigerian criminal code making scam e-mails a crime; thus the crime is called ‘a 419’) There are some very funny and very insightful moments in the book. It is no where near the level of literature that you experience with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, but there is more humor, and the book shows a more modern day Nigeria. Not a bad summer read, but not great literature.

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June 18, 2011 - Posted by | Africa, Books, Character, Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Financial Issues, Fund Raising, Humor, Living Conditions, Scams, Work Related Issues | , ,

2 Comments »

  1. I thoroughly devoured Adaob’s IDNCTYBC and enjoyed it so much. I am writing a critical review on it soon.

    You can always visit here to read some of my current reviews on African fiction: http://www.criticalliteraturereview.blogspot.com

    Nice looking blog.

    Comment by Joseph Omotayo | February 15, 2012 | Reply

  2. Wow. Joseph, I am on your book review website right now, and you are a serious book reviewer! I look forward to visiting you often.

    I tried to comment on your blog, but it wouldn’t recognize me.

    Comment by intlxpatr | February 15, 2012 | Reply


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