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A Review of the Novel, I Do Not Come To You By Chance – by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

There are some stories, written and yet to be written, that naturally respect gender. Such stories, when told by the appropriate gender, taste like Prawns picked from the barbeque stand and placed on a dinner plate beside some fries. One of such stories is Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani’s I Do Not Come To You By Chance, published under the house of Cassava Republic. If I was allowed to talk, I would have seeded such a story to the male gender, hoping to hear more accurate narrations on the experiences they or their friends have accrued from engaging in today’s popular YahooYahoo. Scam activities have never been a woman thing, but the way Adaobi packaged and presented her debut novel, made me feel the story had originally been written by a repentant conman, whose years of deceit and theft were hunting. I am happy to announce that I Do Not Come To You By Chance – a story about a young man who experienced the normal hardships of many Nigerian homes, was dropped by his fiancé for lack of cash, and finally picked by his Uncle, Cash Daddy, who introduced him into the scam world – was totally written by a female writer. Adaobi has completely stirred the world with her first story, which appears well researched and intriguing.

Having had the opportunity to grow up in a society that popularized these 419 activities, I found Adaobi’s novel almost perfectly sown. From the way she categorized the different kinds of letter sent by scammers to their mugus, and all the documents that may follow up, to the way she allowed the major character – Kingsley – to lead his mugus through the different stages and steps. And when I thought he was over and done with a particular maga, Adaobi pushed him to remind me of new things to say to make any mugu pay. I’m sure that if we insisted to see the end, where Kingsley could no longer convince his mugus to pay, this particular literary work would have had no end.

I have had several experiences, living in a city that hosted several men and women who have rendered virtually all the white men homeless. On one occasion, I was in a renowned cyber café in Owerri, checking my email box and a few online magazines, when a haggard looking young man approached me where I was sitting, in front of a computer. His shirt was not even buttoned up. He tapped my shoulder. “What are you doing?” he asked. I seized my breath to avoid inhaling his bad alcohol soaked breath. Kai-Kai! “What’s your own?” I asked, hoping not to get an answer. I also checked him properly to know if we had met before. I had not met the young man in all my entire life.
“What do you mean by what do I mean?” He was now ranting, throwing his hands in the air. “An old man like you! (normal). You left your house! (one point). Entered okada! (second point). Ran into this cyber café! (yet another point). Bought a ticket! (he was still hitting his points). Sat well, and ALL you came to do is browse facebook (FULL STOP!).” The air was calm before he ended it with “while your mates are here MAKING MONEY!” Everyone was watching. All eyes were on me. All his points were made. I was ashamed. As if they did not notice, a girl sitting at the extreme end of the café let out a big laugh. All the others followed. It was the kind of laughter the pinched the heart. They were all laughing at me. Heavy drops sweat sprout from within me. My eyes reddened. Like that old movie titled Willie Willie, where the soul of the major character, who was murdered, refused to leave the earth, I wanted to disappear. My time had not finished at the café when I logged off and sauntered out of the café. It was on my way out that I browsed through what everyone had in front of him; what they were all browsing. Yahoo – Email Extraction websites – Web Chat – Google Language Translation – New Scam Formats – Logos. I noticed a young man was carefully shielding the monitor, refusing me to see what was on the screen, while he placed a sheet of paper on his lap and wrote down what he saw on the screen. It was when he dropped his head to write that I saw the screen. I only saw a few letters written in bold, MTCN, before he noticed my gaze and blocked the screen again. MTCN is the acronym for Money Transfer Control Number. For me, it was the end of the world.

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani has, through her book, brought back those memories to me. I Do Not Come To You By Chance brought back the memories of teenagers, who were still in secondary schools in Owerri, who were driving big cars on the streets, and building big houses at places only the rich could afford. It reminds me of a few of my friends who have been misled, who have dropped out from school and paid for bulk hours at the popular cafés for their newly chosen profession – Fast Money. Just like Kingsley’s younger brother had wanted to drop out from school, so he could join the fast lane, many of our youths have such plans. I boldly make this statement, “I Do Not Come To You By Chance can never be less timely”.

Kingsley was unraveled in a family where morals were held on high esteem. Paulinus, his father, was an engineer, while Augustina, his mother, was a tailor trained in the walls of the university. Kingsley, parented by two individuals that considered nothing but education, read Chemical Engineering at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri. It was at the university that he met his heartthrob, Ola. Ola was a very pretty girl, who always had her way into Kingsley’s heart. After his national service, and years without gaining any source of living, Ola left Kingsley for an uneducated Igbo business man. Kingsley ran to his uncle, Cash Daddy for help. Cash Daddy was a very successful scammer who commanded the respect of his people. Kingsley was smart enough to swindle his preys in a very short period of time. He became rich; what he needed to get Ola back, and train his brothers and sister. He lived out the real meaning of his Igbo name, Onye-aghala-nwanne-ya (be thy brother’s keeper). But what amazed me while reading Adaobi’s first novel was how things turned out and eventually ended.

This beautiful blue sea of unraveling fiction gives rise to the aged question. Are the Igbos gifted with the gift of story telling more than any other tribe in Africa? With Achebe’s fifty year old wonder, Adichie’s masterpieces, Unigwe’s letters, Nwelue’s India, Umez’s flawless tales, and now Nwaubani’s honesty in unraveling possibilities, we can not but beg for the next Igbo name to be heard. It all shows that natural literature evolves from Africa. The irony in this is that books are considered boring and expensive in a continent that has produced great writers. Yet, writing is our gift from the creator. The black man was busy scribbling in his caves, when the westerners were busy searching for slaves. Adaobi is from the tribe that watched events in the day, and scribbled them out at night. I Do Not Come To You By Chance is a textbook for the westerner who wishes not to encounter his early doom. Adaobi’s first work of fiction is the westerner’s Holy Bible. It is a tale of love, difficulties, heartbreak, family values spiced with regrets. I congratulate the writer for not letting her inner voice surpass the narrator’s voice. Like Adichie, Nwaubani came out fully made.

I proudly announce the birth of yet another Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, at a time we thought it was all over. I Do Not Come To You By Chance answers the question that has been in our mouths, “When will a writer who resides in the shores of the country – Nigeria – ever hit a best seller like those Nigerian writers who reside abroad?” Adaobi hails from the eastern part of Nigeria, which belongs to the Igbos. She grew up in Enugu State, the coal city; the heart of the Igbo man. She gained her education in Nigeria. She speaks her mother’s language fluently. Her first book was published here in Nigeria. Adaobi appears natural in her fiction. No wonder why she got her fair share of the “Common Wealth Prize” cake.

Dear Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani,

I do not come to you by chance. I have not met you, this interesting lady, in person. I only hope to meet you soon. When I see you, Adaobi, I will only ask you two questions.

Why are the ladies still winning the male writers, even in themes meant for men?

Where you, at any time in your life, a Yahoo Girl?

But till then, please keep writing, so that we can keep reading you. God Bless.

Binyerem Ukonu Sam Jr.

This review was written by Binyerem Ukonu Sam Jr., the author of the collection of poetry titled Ekwurekwu – a meal of verse. He is also published online. Binyerem is a member of the Association of Nigerian Authors, and a founding member of The Literary Club, Owerri. He resides in Bonny Island, where he works as a contractor with the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas. His new book will soon be published. Sam Jr. is an architect.

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