Chibundu Onuzo’s sophomore novel, Welcome To Lagos, was a telling of things to come. The novel was a foreshadowing of present happenings in our nation’s fight against corruption. Secret apartments housing government funds, this young writer predicted it. Chibundu Onuzo might as well have been sent as a herald to prepare us for these things. But how were we to know back then? The novel is painted against the backdrop of corruption in our political system. The illusion of a free press. And also touches on the high-handed and overbearing nature of men in power – both uniformed and otherwise – amongst other things.
Welcome To Lagos follows the lives of five main characters whose paths cross by fate or happenstance. They stumble into each other and for some cosmic reasons have to stick together following that. Chike Ameobi, the perceived leader of the group, is a dissatisfied soldier who deserts and is fleeing the Army. Chike is joined by Yemi, a private who shares his sentiments on the abuse of power in the military. On their escape, they are joined by Fineboy, a freedom fighter who decides to leave that life behind. Along the way, Isoken, a lost and recently orphaned teenager is added to the pack. And finally, Oma, an abused housewife who is on the run for her life joins the group. The bulk of the group is running away from something. And they all believe Lagos would be a safe haven for them.
Other major characters are Ahmed Bakare, the founder and editor in chief of a struggling newspaper, the Nigerian Journal. And there is Chief Remi Sandayo. He is the serving Minster of Education who finds out that his appointment is about to be terminated.
The novel is divided into three parts 1. Zombie 2. Monday Morning In Lagos 3. Water No Get Enemy. The first part of the novel focuses on how this unlikely team of Chike, Yemi, Fineboy, Isoken and Oma come together. Also, we are introduced to the journalist Ahmed Bakare. Chief Remi Sandayo, also gets wind of the imminent termination of his appointment in this part of the novel.
The second part of the novel shows the difficulties this group of “misfits” experience with settling into Lagos. Armed with nothing but hope, they struggle to survive the harsh realities of the city. It is in this quest for survival that their path and that of Chief Remi Sandayo cross. Chief Sandayo, in reaction to news of his dismissal, elopes with ten million dollars. Ten million dollars from the World Bank approved Basic Education Fund. However, on his planned escape to Ghana, he makes a detour to his underground apartment in Lagos. It is here that in an unexpected turn of events, he finds himself in the custody of the group. Unbeknownst to him, his secret apartment has been discovered and is now been habited by the group.
The third part is the culmination of the novel. What is the fate of the minister of education in the hands of the group? Now that they have the minister and ten million dollars in their custody, what do they do next? Does Ahmed welcome this opportunity to expose another case of corruption in government? If yes, what are the ramifications of his actions? Does the pack find their happy ending? The answers to those questions, you will have to find out for yourself.
Welcome To Lagos was an interesting read. A well-paced novel. I think being a Lagosian made this novel even more enjoyable. This is not to say it takes being a Lagosian to appreciate the story. Lovers of a well-rounded story would definitely enjoy this one. The imagery of the novel was vivid and powerful. The writer’s descriptions jumping off the page making one feel more like a partaker and less of an onlooker. Like one had been thrown in the mix and was now sharing the experience with the characters. Like one had actually become a member of the group.
The characters in the novel are also very believable. A Soldier with a conscience and a tender heart. An uneducated private. A frustrated abused housewife on the run for her life. An ex-freedom fighter now chasing his own dreams and an orphaned child who must now fend for herself. A journalist being hounded for sticking to telling the truth and exposing lies and secrets. They are all everyday people.
I also love how most of the characters had a part to play in the resolution of the novel. It is one thing to have multiple characters in your novel. It is another thing to find a way to link their stories without it feeling forced. Chibundu really impressed with the resolution of the novel. The relationships made throughout the novel turning out to be very handy in its coming to a resolution. I would definitely recommend Welcome To Lagos.
Author – Chibundu Onuzo
Title – Welcome To Lagos
Publisher – Faber & Faber
Publication Date – January 7th, 2017
Pages – 368