Welcome to Lagos brings together characters that would normally have nothing to do with each other and breathes life into their relationship. It follows a couple of soldiers gone AWOL, an ex-militant with a fake American accent, a runaway (battered) housewife and a girl missing her parents as they travel from Bayelsa to Lagos for various reasons.
I loved how seamless the meeting of these characters came about. Nothing felt forced and it just made sense that they would all stick together. Of course, they didn’t know that. Everyone thinks they’ll get to Lagos and find their own way, but the city has its own ideas. The group soon find themselves with limited resources and no roof over their heads. Soon they find themselves engaging in the top activity of the city: Hustling.
It’s in this process of finding greener pastures, that they find themselves in the middle of a political scandal involving a disgruntled/jaded education minister and several millions of dollars.
Up to this point, the pace was fast and so engaging, I didn’t even notice the characters were described by their personalities and not physical attributes. Which was interesting and calls into question the value of physical appearance vs character but I digress. Or that there’s no sign of the time this book was set in. It sounds like it’s recent but feels like the ‘90s.
The story started out well but seemed to lose direction the instant the group comes in contact with the minister and his loot. They take on a project that is unrealistic, to say the least, and would have made more sense if it was part of a dream sequence. Then there’s the minister whose personality seems to change with the weather. The character we met in the early chapters didn’t strike me as someone in a thieving frame of mind.
Fortunately, of the legion of characters in Welcome to Lagos, only the minister has a personality disorder.
I’ll admit I started skipping pages towards the end of the book. 2 weeks later I don’t remember what happened and I can’t be bothered to go back to it at the moment. The book does take on identity crises, the quest for purpose in life and work, Nigerian politicians and their peculiar mental illness beautifully. I also enjoyed the role spirituality played in the story.
The novel is entertaining enough. It presents a Lagos that rarely makes it into literature, as far as I’m aware. A view I found fascinating even though I was born and raised in Lagos.
Chibundu Onuzo has a talent, exposure and a way with words that I can’t help being envious of considering she’s only a couple of years older than me.
Author: Chibundu Onuzo
Published by: Faber and Faber
Date of Publication: January 2016
When army officer Chike Ameobi is ordered to kill innocent civilians, he knows that it is time to leave. As he travels towards Lagos, he becomes the leader of a new platoon, a band of runaways who share his desire for a better life.
Their arrival in the city coincides with the eruption of a political scandal. The education minister, Chief Sandayo, has disappeared and is suspected of stealing millions of dollars from government funds.
After an unexpected encounter with the Chief, Chike and his companions must make a choice. Ahmed Bakare, the editor of the failing Nigerian Journal, is desperate for information. But perhaps the situation is more complex than it appears.
As moving as it is mesmerising, Welcome to Lagos is a novel about the power of our dreams for the future and the place of morality in a sometimes hostile world.