Novel review – Welcome to Lagos

Welcome to Lagos is the second novel of the author. Chibundu Onuzo is of Nigerian heritage, and most of the book is set in the very populated city of Lagos.

Novel was written by Chibundu Onuzo

Why I picked it up

I found this novel in a local library in South London, and that was when I first read it. This review is coming after I read the book for the second time. At the library, the first page drew me in. And I thought this might just be another fiction piece I would like. If you know me and look at other reviews on this blog, you’d know that I kind of like adventure-themed / sub-urban set stories. That was seen from the first page, and I borrowed this book from the local library.

About the book

Welcome to Lagos follows the lives of Oma, Chike, Yemi, Isoken and Fineboy. Each character end up in a situation that becomes the cause of their travel to Lagos. Some to start a new life, others to run away from war or abuse. At this point, the novel introduces a number of thought-provoking themes. For example, Chike a junior officer posted to somewhere in the Niger Delta, along with Yemi his subordinate, have to choose either to risk their lives and abandon the force or participate in extra-Judiciary killings perpetuated by the commander.

The characters backstories and subsequent themes give the story more depth. Compared to Onuzo’s first novel The Spider King’s Daughter, there is improvement and more effectiveness in the story telling. The novel was written in chronological order. It had flashbacks here and there, but those shouldn’t affect the reader’s understanding of what’s going on.

Chike, the main character, becomes the leader (of some sort) of these fugitives as they try to find a place in the chaotic city of Lagos. They contend with agberos (local parlance for hoodlums and touts) and their leaders, criminals, corrupt politicians and their hideouts. Yes, the novel becomes fast-paced as the reader goes along. The book might start as slow for some readers, but it wasn’t a problem for me as I found the use of imagery and other figures of speech interesting.

Night had come and with it, the sense that Chike could be anywhere…The militants would be out in the creeks tonight, piercing the pipes that crisscrossed the region, sucking out oil, insects drawing on the lifeblood of the country.

Pg 5, Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo

There’s also the story of Ahmed, a journalist, and the conflict between him and his father, who is in the corridors of power. I didn’t follow much of Ahmed’s story, as I was more interested in the other characters. Perhaps, whenever I read the novel again. We also meet Chief Sandayo and his loot, who becomes a somewhat benefactor to the five.

Welcome to Lagos is a depiction of the friendship of strangers, of loyalty, of greed in the governance system, of an unworking society and how it affects its inhabitants. I’ll rate it an 8/10.

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