The scandal that could rouse people into action did not yet exist. There would be uproar and then things would die down, as they always didChief Sandayo
Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo.
This book review is long overdue, as I’ve had it in my drafts since June, but never got round to finishing it. My last book review was in March and I’ve been itching to do another one.
Welcome to Lagos as the name suggests indeed welcomes you to the madness that is Lagos. This book was published in 2017.
It begins with the story of 2 runaway soldiers; Chike and Yemi, who are fleeing the Nigerian army after been asked to kill innocent civilians and in the Ogoni land of Niger Delta. On their route of escape, they meet the unlikely trio; Fineboy, Oma and Isoken. Fineboy is a militant who has dreams of becoming a renowned radio OAP with an American accent faked from listening to radio. Oma is a woman escaping from a toxic marriage to a rich but abusive husband, and 16 year old Isoken is just trying to make it back home after getting separated from her parents while on their trip to the village to find herbal cures for her mother’s cancer.
There’s only one destination in mind: Lagos. They get on the next bus to Lagos with no connections and barely enough money to survive, and find quickly enough that Lagos is not sugar. They move from living under a bridge, to the hideout home of a Nigerian politician. They become accustomed to life there, but wake up one morning to the politician wondering who these strangers in his house are. The politician- Chief Sandayo is on the run after looting millions of dollars from the government. The group refuses to let him go after the money is discovered, and embark on a mission to give back to society. As with all things concerning stolen money and the government, it doesn’t end well, as they are eventually discovered. The chief is murdered by the hands he bit, and Chike and the ones who have become family resort to life in Makoko.
I enjoyed every minute of this book even though I found it a bit slow at first (personal opinion). The cover alone had me wanting to know more because it depicts Lagos as the fast paced hustling and bustling city that it truly is. Welcome to Lagos had very central themes on the government, Lagos, and a bit of religion. I enjoyed the fact that the author brought in a sense of morality in the fact that she made out Chike to be the patriotic Nigerian who discovers government money and decides to re-distribute for a greater good. In the Lagos I know, at least 70% of the population are willing to let the chief go for just a small cut of the money. Afterall, we should be eating out of the national cake. But in bringing in morality, she was also sure to show that most would prefer to be given the money as we can see the hesitancy of the group to distribute it.
She also brought in themes of religion, as it’s so customary for Nigerians to “pray” everything away. Bad roads? Pray. Terrible government? Pray. She painted a very vivid mental picture of Lagos, and how no one plays big boy in the hustle to survive, and still showed that Lagos though brimming with opportunities can be a very harsh place for low and middle income earners.
She highlighted corruption in the Nigerian government through the perspective of Chief Sandayo the politician. She referenced corruption decisions such as occupation of seats of power by underqualified people, godfatherism in politics, bribery as the order of the day and the favouritism and nepotism that has sunk its claws deep in the Nigerian system. Chibundu did not paint a Lagos of the movies where everyone had cars and serviced apartments in Surelere or Lekki. She showed us this Lagos we see every day while we sit in traffic, the Lagos of homes under bridges and of people who are just trying to make it through each day.
As someone who loves to read and throughly enjoyed reading this, I’d give this a 7/10.
That’s all I have for my book review on Welcome to Lagos. I found a short Igbo poem in the book, and I recited it 🙊😂. So if you’re up to listening to me speak Igbo, listen HERE.
How have you been keeping?
Have you read this book? Did you enjoy reading?
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