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I Do Not Come to You by Chance

April 15, 2012

There are some books that make you go “Oh yes, I remember that” or “That’s exactly how it is.”  They change your perspective.  One such book is I Do Not Come to You by Chance, the debut novel by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani. 



Already I am on the hunt for her second novel, which she is still working on.  Hurry up, Ms Nwaubani.

I Do Not Come to You by Chance narrates the story of Kingsley, a chemical engineer graduate, struggling to find a job, any job in this Nigeria where one needs to have “long-leg”, i.e. “know someone, or someone who knows someone”.  Since he knows no-one and his parents don’t either (they abhor corruption), Kingsley is having to do with hand-outs from his mother; a situation which he finds degrading.  After all, what kind of first child is he?  But as if that is enough, Ola, “the sugar in his tea” has started wearing Gucci shoes, which Kingsley definitely did not pay for, his father is ill and there isn’t any money for his medical bills.  In fact he needs to pay money before being admitted to the hospital.  Enters Kingsley’s uncle, Cash Daddy, kingpin of “the fast-money world of email scamming”, commonly known as 419, so named after Article 419 of Nigeria’s Criminal Code Act.

Although she is dealing with the tribulations of this young man as well as other bigger issues, the author does it with such humour that you don’t feel as if you are being preached at.  In fact, you are not being preached at.

For instance, when Cash Daddy asks him to join him in the 419 email scamming business and Kingsley tells him that he studied Chemical Engineering and even has ambitions to do a Ph.D. (basically, he can’t do such a job!), Cash Daddy’s response is to guffaw and then proceed to ask Kingsley:

“Do you know how to write one million naira?  Do you know how many noughts it has at the end?”

“It has six zeroes,” I (Kingsley) rattled off without even thinking.

“Apart from when you were using a calculator in your classroom, have you ever written down one million naira in any single transaction before?  Have you ever calculated money you wanted to spend and it came to a total of one million naira?”

And Cash Daddy carries on with the rhetorical questions: how many people does Kingsley pay?  The clothes he wears.  The clothes his mother wears.  The gluttony of his sister, etc. The result is that finally Kingsley joins the 419 scamming industry.

Some might say, “but those are not the reasons for which one goes to school, or to university.”  Between the theory of life and the realism of life however, there is usually a big gulf; something the author presents wonderfully without bearing judgement.  She illustrates that point throughout the book and especially so in the scene where Kingsley meets an old friend, Andrew, back to Nigeria for his sister’s wedding.  Andrew gushes about how much he loves his country and how wonderful it is to be among one’s people; until his passport is lost and the American accent he’d been affecting is lost.  Before long, the nationalism has vanished.

“This country is unbelievable!”

I could go on, but I will not, lest I give the plot away.  What happens to Kingsley and his PhD dream?  What was his family’s reaction?  If you are yet to read this book, please buy it, borrow it.  I would say “steal it”, but I will not be the one to lead anyone into perdition.  Read it and gasp – read it and laugh.  Out.  Loud.  Read it and see life from another perspective.



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