Creative fingers in Africa have always held and will always hold sway considering the high intellectual resources embedded in erudite writers like Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, Nigeria’s Chinua Achebe, South Africa’s Marié Heese, Kenya’s Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Ghana’s Ama Ata Aidoo, Nigeria’s Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Liberia’s Wilton Sankawulo and a host of others who have written about various themes ranging from politics, culture, adventure, folktales to other life matters; of which the science of scam popularly known as ‘419’ has not been given adequate attention.
‘I do not come to you by chance’ a book written by a humorous Nigerian writer, Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani captures such theme with an amount of hilarious seriousness.
Winning her first writing competition at the age of 13, the University of Ibadan (Nigeria) graduate of Psychology first came to global recognition when her debut ‘I do not come to you by chance’ won the Commonwealth writers prize – Africa Region.
It is no gains say that Adaobi is a person you cannot get bored with, considering her high sense of humour.
LadybrilleNigeria caught up with the humourous writer and our personality of the month on her book and why she chose to make ‘419’ the focal point. Enjoy our interview with Africa’s award winning Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: The literary world recently applauded the entry of a book titled ‘I do not come to you by chance’ written by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani. Who is Adaobi Nwaubani?
Adaobi: I am all things to all people! Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I voluntarily adjust myself in order to reach a wide range of people.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Going back to the early stages of life, as a child, what was growing up like?
Adaobi: As a child, I always wished that I was somewhere else or living a different kind of life. That might have had something to do with the fact that I read so many books and experienced so many people’s lives, without actually doing much real life traveling. Through the windows of our big house, I’d watch urchins playing in the rain and wish that I was free to do the same; I’d see our house helps folding their clothes into Peak Milk cartons and wish that my clothes didn’t always have to be in a drawer; I’d read about children who missed having their parents at home with them all the time and wish that mine would abandon us once in a while…There was always a different kind of life I wished I were living.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: (Interesting) How did you start writing? Could it be said that writing, for you, is hereditary, considering the facts that your godmother, Mrs. Angelina Ukairo co-authored some books, your mother also wrote but did not publish and the first female black African to publish a novel, Flora Nwapa, was your mother’s cousin?
Adaobi: At first, writing was mainly just something I did in school. I won my first writing competition at age 13 and that was the first of many writing competition wins. But after secondary school, I abandoned the talent. It wasn’t until around 2001 that I made the decision to put this gift that God has blessed me with to better use. That decision is the main factor that motivates me to write today. My extended family also includes Nigeria’s most renowned photographer, Sunmi Smart-Cole, one of Nigeria’s most popular musicians (name withheld), two former beauty queens, judges, politicians, all sorts of other professionals, and also loafers and layabouts. So I had lots of choices—other than writing—if I wanted to simply ape what someone else had done or rely on genes.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: The book ‘I do not come to you by chance’ talks on a contemporary issue affecting the Nigerian foreign image. How and why did you choose such theme for your first book?
Adaobi: Mine was a case where the novel came before the story; I had decided to write a novel before I knew what I wanted to write about. Eventually, I decided to frame my plot around a phenomenon that had always fascinated me—the science of why people do the things they do. The 419 theme simply came in handy to better explore that.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: You grew up under highly educated parents, your father is a lawyer and accountant and your mother is an educationist. How have your parents affected / influenced your writing?
Adaobi: It takes a lot to impress my parents. Other families roll out the drums to celebrate achievements that mine conditioned us to see as natural everyday occurrences. This is probably why there are certain standards to attain before I’m finally satisfied with my work, and why I like to do things that no one else has done, or do the same things others have done but in different ways.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: It is observed that most books on topical issues of such are written with much ‘seriousness’ and with less or no sense of humor, but your book is humorous. Are you trying to make Nigerians and the world laugh over an issue that has brought shame to our National image?
Adaobi: Writing with a serious tone is just a habit African writers have formed over the years, probably a result of desperately wanting to be taken seriously by the rest of the world. We’re quite jovial in real life but it hardly shows when we write. The books I’ve enjoyed most in my life were those laden with humour. I wanted to write in the same style that I preferred to read. I wanted to show that you could still handle the serious issues that plague us in this part of the world without necessarily sounding grave.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: You have written ‘I do not come to you by chance’, ‘Coming to UK’, and ‘We have decided to help’. Which novel are you working on presently?
Adaobi: It’s a secret!
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: (No problem. We will wait) I am not sure you are an obsessive writer, but, apart from writing, what else do you do?
Adaobi: Apart from my editing work with Nigeria’s revolutionary NEXT newspapers, I sing in my Christ Embassy Church choir, and spend a lot of time researching and mapping out plans for certain projects I’d like to embark on in the near future.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Who are your role models?
Adaobi: My pastor, Rev Chris Oyakhilome, is my mentor and life coach.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: A school of thought has it that challenges are stepping stones to greatness. You have faced one challenge or the other, which of them would you love to share, and what has been motivating you?Adaobi: I could write a whole book on this! One of the greatest challenges anyone aiming to achieve anything distinct in Nigeria will face is the low expectations of people around. There is so much hopelessness in our environment that our people are eager to celebrate whatever glimmer of achievement comes our way, but then they become so happy and relieved that the achievement came in the first place, and so don’t expect another anytime soon. Thus, they watch with little faith in whatever you are doing, not making the slightest attempt to hide their scorn. But it’s always a delight to see them proved wrong, to see their pride and eagerness to celebrate reignited once again.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com:LadybrilleNigeria once again congratulates you on the Commonwealth prize which did ‘not come to you by chance’ but was as a result of hard work, commitment and the passion for a better Nigeria. Thank you for granting this interview and for being our personality of the month, Ms. Nwaubani.
Adaobi: It’s been my pleasure.
~Interview by Morenikeji Damola Aanu
Excerpt from the Book Review by the Washington Post
“Dear Friend, I do not come to you by chance. Upon my quest for a trusted and reliable foreign business man or company, I was given your contact by the Nigerian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. I hope that you can be trusted to handle a transaction of this magnitude.”
The feelings that such unsolicited e-mails provoke — impatience, scorn, amusement — make most of us click the delete button daily. Nigerian e-mail scams are so notorious that few of us give them a thought. And yet these missives are an unsung literary form, a river of wheedling, flattery and grasping that flows directly from the desires of the human heart. The young Nigerian writer Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani is determined to follow them back to their source. Her pointed and poignant first novel is a lively, good-humored and provocative examination of the truth behind a global inbox of deceit.
As the story opens, Kingsley, a first-born son, struggles to provide for his beloved family when his ailing father’s income dwindles. Possessed of a fine mind but poorly connected in the corrupt Nigerian job market, Kingsley falls in with his notorious uncle, Cash Daddy, the larger-than-life mastermind of a thousand e-mail scams. A silver-tongued cross between Homer Simpson and Col. Kurtz, Cash Daddy is a conman of blubbery greed, chilling wisdom, offbeat charm and unabashed naked exhibitionism — all delightfully rendered. As Kingsley puts it, “He could probably even talk a spider into weaving silk socks for him.” (Washington Post)