Book Review: Be(Com)ing Nigerian by Elnathan John

Published: January 2019 by Cassava Republic

Pages: 149img_5448

Genre: Satire

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The Publisher’s Blurb: In Be(com)ing Nigerian: A Guide  Elnathan John provides an affecting, unrestrained and satirical guide to the Nigerians you will meet at home and abroad, or on your way to hell or to heaven. It is a searing look at how power is performed, negotiated and abused in private and public; in politics, business, religious institutions and in homes. From the exploration of religious hypocrisy to inequality in matters of the heart, the collection is a jab at Nigerian society and what it means to be a Nigerian. Beyond poking fun at the holders of power, it is a summons, a provocation and a call for introspection among all levels of society. As is often said in Nigeria, when you point one finger, there are four others pointing back at you.

This engrossing read is a must-have for Nigerians on how to move beyond shame and arrogance, and for non-Nigerians, a uniquely informative guide on how to accept their awe and envy of Nigerians. It is an invitation for everyone to embrace and rejoice in their inner Nigerian.

The Author: Elnathan is a writer and lawyer living in spaces between in Nigeria and Germany. Mostly. His works have appeared in Hazlitt, Per Contra, Le Monde Diplomatique, FT and the Caine Prize for African Writing anthology 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. He writes weekly political satire for the Nigerian newspaper Daily Trust on Sunday (and any other publication that PAYS him). Except you are The New Yorker, he considers it violence of unimaginable proportions to ask him to write for free. He has never won anything. This record was almost disrupted by the Caine Prize when they accidentally allowed his story on the shortlist in 2013 and again in 2015. Of course, both times, he did not win. He has been shortlisted and longlisted for a few other prizes, but he is content with his position as a serial finalist. It is kind of like being a best man at a wedding – you get to attend the ceremony but you can get drunk, sneak off and hook up without anyone noticing because after all, you are not the groom. In 2008, after being lied to by friends and admirers about the quality of his work, he hastily self-published an embarrassing collection of short stories which has thankfully gone out of print. He hopes to never repeat that foolish mistake. His novel Born On a Tuesday was published in Nigeria (in 2015), the UK and the US (in 2016) and will be available in German in 2017. Now that he is in between books, nobody seems to want to publish his collection of short stories. This puzzles him. He really loves those stories. His agent also swears that if he publishes his Nigeria satire collection, it will interfer with his chances of being established globally as a serious novelist. He really doesn’t care. Elnathan is touchy about his skin and man boobs and isn’t bold enough to grow hair (mostly because he is balding). One day he wants to be able to afford to buy a new, white Golf with shiny rims and a plate number that reads: WRITER. One of his new goals is getting to a weight below his current 100+kg and losing his fast growing beer belly.

My Thoughts: This book was hilarious to say the least. I enjoyed reading every bit of it. What can I say? it’s Nigerian, it’s the truth in your face, it’s your everyday life on paper, Literarily! Elnathan John who happens to have written one of my favorite books “Born on a Tuesday” didn’t fail me this time with this comical yet extremely realistic and bare all satirical piece of work. It examines the Nigerian, from the Pastor to the Politician, from the Journalist to the Police officer, the Lawyer, the Mechanic, even the kidnapper and unfortunately, this is ‘us’, worshiping a version of God that even God himself doesn’t recognize. This book makes you realize how blind we have become as a people to ways that are not acceptable in other parts of the world, how we glorify evil and worship money, fame and ‘Men of God’. How our value system is “MONEY”, not integrity, not intellect, not truth, not justice. Having said all this, I must point out that not all Nigerians are like the people in this book, there is still a ‘remnant’ of sane, normal people who live in this country and are Nigerians of which I am one of them (smiling)….

This is a really good book and a must read, get a copy and enjoy Be(com)ing Nigerian! I will leave you with some of my favorite excepts from the book.

“Watch the food she eats. Especially the meat. Nothing makes a house help grow wings like pieces of meat. Meat has a way of creating a sense of entitlement in a person. Especially chicken. You don’t want that to happen”

“Fitness – Especially if you plan to be a legislator at the federal level, it is important to be fit and strong for the occasional fights that break out. You don’t want to be the one who ends up in the hospital after a fight in a House of Assembly.


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