Mirroring the slippery grounds of Nigerian 419 ‘con-text’ in Ernest Bhabor’s Legacy
ALMOST everyone loves a story with a good ending, and when the story is infused with the usual rags to riches narrative, it is thrilling. This is because in a country like Nigeria, life seems to be a long stream of sorrow, punctuated with cataracts of momentary joy. The harsh realities that stare Nigerians in the face is one that calls for an escape, real or imaginary, from a land of deferred dreams. A land where the Legacy of corruption; the legacy of the 419 scam assumes different names and colours depending on the location or the profession of the actors involved.
Bhabor’s narrative is styled like a movie script. Each of the twenty chapters is titled with a focus on the main character or event that informs the story. Even the descriptions, actions and conversations read like lines from a movie. He even employs the Prologue-Epilogue pattern adopted for stage plays. All through the novel there is a deliberate attempt to install a screen in our minds while the author holds the remote control and presses the “play” button. The author’s concern with the 419 scam is such that makes him mirror the situation in so many slices of life ranging from examination malpractice to advanced fee fraud.
The novel paints the 419 con-artistry in so many shades like an artist on a canvas. The relation between the Protagonist Frank and friend John is likened to the friendship that exists between Robin Hood and Little John in any of the Robin Hood series one is familiar with. John is mostly involved in the dirty work while Frank smoothens the rough edges on the other side of the table. The scenario that plays out between Chief Oturugbeke and John a.k.a. Tom Anuku is one example that home-bred Nigerians are familiar with− A fictitious business deal that always requires some form of advance payment. In the case involving another victim of the 419 scam, Mr. Hans Ludwig, the attempt that was made by the Commissioner of Police to nab the actors in the crime is foiled by political stalwarts like Chief Femi Badamasi. Here one sees how political interest stands justice on its head. Amidst the labyrinth of corruption and injustice is yet a good side to these men. They value friendship and family, they posses those heroic qualities that make them larger than life. However, they are raised in a country where most people appear in many colours depending on their habitat.
Con-Artists are generally known to be slippery in their ways and their words, be it spoken or written. The Author aptly reflects the intrigues and ruses that conmen deploy to deceive gullible people who venture into business enterprises with profit margins that are too good to be true. Remarkably the author highlights how these fraudsters infiltrate social media to attract greedy and gullible users who are quick to latch on to “rare” opportunities. In a country where everyone has become a government to themselves, outsmarting the other person becomes a norm. Money must be made by all means seems to be the prevailing motto. The last chapter of the book sums up the situation when it says that: “This is especially so for the African continent because the supposed leaders continue to rub the people blind, and leave the populace to devise their own means of sustenance”.
While the author should be commended for his portrayal of the Nigerian predicament, many parts of the novel are laced with too much information that oftentimes becomes distracting. Some of the information given on certain names, objects or people could be written as a footnote or a glossary. One example will suffice to drive home this point. The introductory part of chapter thirteen gives an extended diatribe on the Nigerian mobile police popular known as “Mopol”. About twenty-two lines are used to lecture the readers on the mopol, their job description, and the degrading position of personal body guards that Nigerian politicians have used them for. It reads more like social commentary. It would be better if he goes on with the story rather than punctuate it with needless annotations.
In all, Ernest Bhabor’s Legacy will remain a Sanskrit to be decoded by people of different cultures and races, especially those who have been directly and indirectly affected by the bad Legacy of our parents who were fortunate enough to witness a better Nigeria.
- Nwabuokei is a conflict analyst