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I Do Not Come to you by Chance

I Do Not Come to You By Chance

Author:            Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

Reviewer:     Carloyn Ride


 An Australian View


Carolyn Ride
Is a reader of
African Writing Magazine. She writes in from
Cooran, Queensland, Australia



A few years ago, I would never have considered picking up a book simply because it had a Nigerian author or an author of Nigerian heritage. Brilliant novels by talented (and frighteningly young) women like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Helen Oyeyemi have changed my mind. So I had high expectations of this debut novel about corruption and email scams, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Kingsley Ibe is a freshly minted engineering graduate from a family that has highly prized education and despised those who chase money instead of knowledge. He’s engaged to the beautiful Oya, and confident that his brilliant results will get him a good job in an oil firm so he can support his and her families.

Sadly, in modern Nigeria, it’s not what you know but who (sound familiar?). Kingsley receives multiple rejection letters, Oya loses faith in his ability to ever provide, and a family crisis plunges the Ibe family from the edge of poverty to its depths. Kingsley can either hold on to the principles that stripped his parents of everything but their pride. Or he can turn to his uncle Boniface, aka Cash Daddy – secondary school dropout turned email scam billionaire – who is happy to help as long as Kingsley uses his big brain to aid his nefarious schemes.

The theme of a good person tempted by circumstances to do bad things is not a new one in literature, but author Nwaubani makes it fresh by plunging the reader into a dizzying new world of 419ers (scammers), mugus (victims), fake companies and real Armani. Her characters are fully fleshed out and three-dimensional. Even the appalling Cash Daddy, who conducts meetings with his minions when he’s on the toilet, is sublimely entertaining. The scene where he impersonates a government minister for an easily awed European mugu is priceless.

I Do Not Come To You By Chance is alternately funny, tender, satirical and sad. Nwaubani’s observations and her dialogue are sharp and laugh-out-loud funny, and the plot is fast-paced. I can imagine this novel as a movie, though hopefully not from Nollywood (the Nigerian movie industry is mercilessly skewered). Kingsley is at times a terrible snob and a sellout, but likable even when he’s sweet-talking naïve Americans out of their life savings.

This is an eye-opening novel, whether about the troubles of everyday Nigerians (hospitals where patients have to buy their own bandages and IV fluids) or the mind-boggling lifestyle of the 419ers. Lastly, if you’ve ever wanted to know what kind of people actually answer those shonky “I am a Nigerian billionaire but my bank accounts have been frozen” emails – and what happens next – look no further than this novel.

Another Nigerian literary triumph and one of my favourite books for 2009.


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