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A Book Review by Okey Erinne.
Who on earth hatches a plot to steal a deity? Only Ikechukwu Uzondu!
When Ike, an alumnus of an American University, first reads about Foreign Gods, Inc., he cannot help but nurse the idea of trading Ngene, the venerated god of war of his ancestors, for hundreds of thousands of Dollars.
His first meeting with Mark Gruels, the CEO of Foreign Gods, Inc., doesn’t go as smoothly as anticipated – Mark doesn’t negotiate on a god he has neither seen nor heard of.
A graduate of Economics who has amounted to nothing but a taxi driver in New York for thirteen years, life couldn’t be worse for Ike at the moment. Nothing is working the way he wants; his short-lived marriage to Queen Bee sapped life out of him, no less so the divorce. Selling Ngene for a fortune wouldn’t hurt anyone; the god has outlived its use since the people of Utonki village have not gone to war in many centuries.
He pussyfoots on his plan to heist Ngene until he gets a disturbing message from home. A pastor moves his ministry to Utonki and, in a bid to gain converts, demonizes Ngene. He accuses the god of war of being responsible for the misfortunes that beleaguer the village. Hence, Ngene must be set ablaze. Ike Uzondu, struck with urgency, scrapes his till and buys a ticket to Nigeria to rescue the goose that will soon lay the golden egg.
In a few days, Ike is back in New York, Ngene painstakingly swathed and lying in a suitcase in his living room. Every resistance to moving the statue out of Utonki and out of Nigeria was surmounted. But everything around and about him takes an otherworldly turn. He cannot wait to dispose of the god…to sell it to Mark and dive into fortune.
Foreign Gods, Inc. is a very well penned story, laced with humour. Okey Ndibe demonstrates a rare command of English, and a way with words that is almost unparalleled. Foreign Gods, Inc. is a riveting page turner.
I won’t shy away from talking about a part of this book that is somewhat redolent of Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett. The protagonists in both stories have contrasting fates. Furo Wariboko, hitherto black, and as Nigerian as can be, wakes up one morning to discover that he had suddenly become a white man in Lagos. Henceforth, myriad opportunities are thrown his way, even wealthy women are hankering to date him. Ikechukwu Uzondu, on the other hand, slaves to get an Economics degree in the US, but cannot get a job for a catalogue of reasons, including his accent. This speaks to the reality of how much preference we (Nigerians) have for foreigners over our own compatriots. Isn’t it irksome that we do not enjoy a reciprocation of this trend in foreign countries?
I consider religion a bold theme in this story. I hardly am one to talk about the “opium of the people” for no reason but the intolerance it has suffused society with, and the reality that charlatans are making a living off people’s ignorance. Even though her husband obviously died from poorly-managed diabetes, Ike’s mother believes her only surviving in-laws are responsible for her widowhood, just because Pastor Uka says so. Pastor Uka, proselytizing and prophesying, is not only gaining unsuspecting followers, but also feathering his nest with their hard-earned, measly resources.
Uka is no stranger to the elders of Utonki. They remember not only the life and death of his father, but also the curse placed on his sons. Indeed, Uka is that apple that didn’t fall very far from the tree. The elders of Utonki, devoted to traditional religion, are justifiably filled with loathing for the new religion since its proponents are bent on demonizing Ngene. When the worshippers of Ngene wake up to the disappearance of the idol, they have every reason to bring mayhem on Pastor Uka and his acolytes. And they do. Isn’t that the predictable end point of religious intolerance?
Okey Erinne – The Book Reviewer – is a quintessential logophile and a bibliophage. He is a self-critic and lover of eclectic literature, with an acclaimed bent for works of African origin.
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