I Do Not Come To You By Chance by Adaobi Nwaubani
Published by: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Year of Publication: 2009
Kingsley is fresh out of university, eager to find an engineering job so he can support his family and marry the girl of his dreams. Being the opara of the family, he is entitled to certain privileges – a piece of meat in his egusi soup, a party to celebrate his graduation. But times are hard in Nigeria and jobs are not easy to come by.
For much of his young life, Kingsley believed that education was everything, that through wisdom, all things were possible. But when a tragedy befalls his family, Kingsley learns the hardest lesson of all: education may be the language of success in his country, but it is money that does the talking.
In desperation he turns to his uncle, Boniface-aka Cash Daddy-an exuberant character who suffers from elephantiasis of the pocket. He is also rumoured to run a successful empire of email scams. But he can help.
With Cash Daddy’s intervention, Kingsley and his family can be as safe as a tortoise under its shell. It is up to Kingsley now, to reconcile his passion for knowledge with his hunger for money, to fully assume his role of first son. But can he do it without being drawn into this outlandish milieu?
“My taste buds had been hearing the smell of my mother’s cooking and my stomach had started talking. Finally, she called out from the kitchen and my siblings rushed in to fetch their meals. Being the opara of the family, I was entitled to certain privileges. As the first son, I sat at the dining table and waited. My mother soon appeared carrying a broad plastic tray with an enamel bowl of water, a flat aluminium plate of garri, and a dainty ceramic bowl of egusi soup.”
This first paragraph made me scoff at the thought of any child of mine expecting special treatment based on their gender. However, I forgave Kingsley’s mother for upsetting my sensibilities and I am glad I kept reading.
I would never have thought a story about ‘yahoo boys’ or 419ers, could get me thinking about life this much. I do not come to you by chance is the first story I have come across that tackles the issue from the twisted minds of the culprits.
What lengths are we willing to go to make money? After all, money cures all ills. In the face of unemployment and extreme poverty, what is an intelligent enterprising and incredibly hungry young man to do?
Especially in a culture where your perceived success is directly proportional to how much money you can spray at parties. Where you are guaranteed a chieftain title once you can buy cars for the chiefs in your village. Where nobody cares how you got rich as long as they can spend your money with you.
In I do not come to you by chance, Kingsley meets his mentor, Cash Daddy, at the lowest point in his life. He has discovered the deceit that is a university degree: It does not guarantee you a job in an oil company. He is old, by recruitment standards, broke, freshly dumped by the love of his life and his family is slowly sinking in debt.
Then there’s ‘Cash Daddy’, his good for nothing uncle who barely made it out of secondary school, swimming in cash. I love Cash Daddy by the way, he couldn’t be bothered to pretend to be polished, unless he’s eyeing your bank account. He is a generous soul. It’s easy to be when spending someone else’s money… and he decides to show his naïve nephew the ‘way’. Like my Pastor would say; “The greatest gift you can give a poor man is not money but wisdom”.
So is this a temporary arrangement so Kingsley can provide for his family? At what point does the thrill of the hunt overshadow his need for money? Is it worth alienating his family? Kings definitely found himself in quite a conundrum. He enjoys the process of swindling money out of people: Lonely, Greedy, Naïve, Gullible… and he is very good at his ‘job’ until shit starts to get real and he has to decide if this cake is really worth having.
I enjoyed reading I do not come to you by chance, though there were a number of low points and unnecessary drama. It still provides an interesting perspective to a controversial subject. The characters are colorful and beautifully developed, even the greedy oyinbo man who thinks he can come and chop out of our National cake.
The only issue I had was the tendency for whole thoughts to be repeated verbatim. I’m not sure of the right way to describe this. But it made reading an otherwise interesting story kind of stressful. I do not come to you by chance is Adaobi Nwaubani’s first novel. So I could chalk it up to the learning process.
P.S. I came across a rather scathing review of I do not come to you by chance after i had written mine and it’s really amazing how your perspective can be blurred when you pay more attention to the positive side of things. I don’t disagree with the author on any of his points but i still managed to view things from a different perspective. If you are interested in a second opinion, you can find the article here.
“Good mothers know all about patience. They know about lugging the promise of a baby around for nine whole months, about the effort of pushing and puffing until a head pops; about being pinned to a spot, wincing as gums make contact with sore nipples; about keeping a vigil over a cot all night, praying that the doctor’s medicine will work; that even when patience seems to be at an end, more is required. Always more.”
“I always find it funny when people say that money makes people proud. If you check it, poor people are some of the proudest people in this world.