Welcome to Lagos, Author- Chibundu Onuzo
My brief sabbatical was over in India as all good things must come to an end and I am back to the grind, my work, no pun intended, in the US
Travel during COVID times, well that needs a separate blog and I need to do it soon but I am sure it will be etched in my memory for a while even when” COVID “ itself would be a memory.
I had read this book a while ago and it was again one of those books which you wanted to reminiscence about it long after. We have come a long way from “Its time for Africa” but the journeys of developing nations are always arduous and trajectories have more” speed breakers” and “Road bumps” than “High ways”.
Authors from the African Continent are no more rising stars. They have contributed immensely to the world of English literature and have made their presence felt in a big way but interestingly, I had never read any relevant book till now.
Author, Chibundo Onuzo, gives us a vivid picture of, city of Lagos, which is an entertaining but equally poignant account of a nation which is still taking its faltering baby steps
She is a young Nigerian novelist who was published at the age of 21 years. Her first novel “The Spider King’s daughter” won a Betty Trask Award and was short and long-listed for other coveted awards. In June of 2018, Onuzo was elected fellow of the Royal Society Of Literature in the “40 under 40” initiative. When I read this book, she was doing her doctorate at King’s College London. I did not read her first novel but it surely is in my bucket list
In the book “Welcome to Lagos “ five very diverse characters representing very different strata of societies are thrown together on their journey to their dream city the “ city of Lagos. They are in denial with their present and try to dream of a better alternative by risking everything for an” unknown better “
Like the “Colonel’s hair spiraling out of the collar cuff “the army is brimming with misconduct, unfair practices, and power misuse. Chike Amoebi who is a soldier in the army with a “wasted biology degree ”witnesses the excesses of his Boss on civilians as “Colonel had broken every one of the codes to deal with civilians” and “Colonel’s wildness seemed barely constrained by his starched uniform”. Amoebi with his subalterns” Yemi “, decides to break loose. The next to join them is” Fineboy”, who is a member of a random rebel group and who has possibly raped the next member to join the group. Fineboy has a hidden talent and nurtures a dream of being a Radio Jockey. Isoken “who is barely a woman” is a vulnerable young girl who has lost her family in the ongoing strife of the country and is seen as easy prey by the society, is taken in the protective fold of this” good meaning group “. Ona, the beautiful homemaker”, “whose husband loved her in the way you loved expensive shoes to be polished and glossed but at the of the end to be trodden “ who meets them on her way to Lagos as she decides to leave her well-ensconced life.
Since the group has no money and no connection they fall in dire straights and have to be homeless for a short while but somewhere cohesive forces develop amongst them and they do not leave each other’s side.
Fineboy, who is resourceful in his own way , comes across an abandoned property which is owned by Chief Sandayo, who is a typical minister of a corrupt nation on the wanted list for economic crimes.
In this property, they come across a sack full of money and here the author’s imagination takes a magical flight where instead of plundering the loot, they concur, that it is ill-gotten money and decide to spend it on up upliftment of education and society, which is the need of the hour, for the country. So one night, when Chief Sandayo walks in to claim what’s presumably his, he is held hostage by the group and is forced into philanthropy with them.
Ahmad, only a journalist child of corrupt and rich parents, another product of the rot, in the society was educated in London but decided to return to Lagos to start his own newspaper and cleanse the system.
As we read the book and characters, situations and plots unfold, I experience that painful “Déjà vu” of being a part of the story of the developing nation. Though the author dares to experiment with a utopian world where the stolen money is used for building schools and buying computers the author” course corrects” into reality and makes us realize that no such miracles are happening yet in the society. An immense volume of evil, immortality, and corruption eventually engulfs the righteousness, and the shameless march over the downtrodden continues.
The first few chapters let you take note of the author’s brilliant skills as her metaphors are clever, dialogues are relevant and humor is prominent but somewhere in the middle of the book, the climactic pull is loosened a bit. In the last few chapters, the plot thickens and realism takes over and readers can end the book with a good aftertaste.
The challenges of developing nations always seem insurmountable but like a “ rising star” the hopes and aspirations of even a small part of the population can always be the” Guiding light “ for a better tomorrow
The” purpose of lives “of these nations are clear and as long as” visions are alive”, it is the best “silver lining” for them
“ Welcome to Lagos “ is a” must-read” and I am excited to have found this brilliant author, who I am sure, would contribute immensely to the world of English literature
Talk to you all soon
Have a good weekend
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