I Do Not Come to You By Chance
How an upright, idealistic young Nigerian was recruited into the world of e-mail scams.
A few years ago The New Yorker magazine chronicled the true story of a Massachusetts psychotherapist who had fallen prey to a Nigerian 419 e-mail scheme. (The name 419 comes from the antifraud section of Nigeria’s criminal code.) The story was simultaneously horrifying and fascinating.Skip to next paragraph
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How had an intelligent person been taken in – to the point of self-destruction – by so obvious a fraud? The answer, it seems, was fairly simple: greed.
And now, for those curious to know something about the other side of the equation – who are these ruthless, anonymous cyberscammers? – a debut novel supplies a few clues. Nigerian author Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani has created Kingsley Ibe – loving son, self-sacrificing brother, disappointed lover, and savvy 419er – who is the protagonist of I Do Not Come to You By Chance.
It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way for Kingsley. His utopian, bookish parents raised him better.
Kingsley’s father is a poor but honest retired civil servant. His mother is a small-time entrepreneur who would rather starve than pocket a crooked cent. And they’ve inculcated their children, especially opara (eldest son) Kingsley, with their values.
But nothing seems to be going right for Kingsley. Despite high marks and a degree as a chemical engineer, he can’t find a job. His girlfriend, the lovely Ola, decamps as soon as she meets a man who can afford to buy her a Dolce and Gabbana wristwatch and Gucci slippers.
Then his father dies and as opara, Kingsley needs to find a way to pay the all-important school tuitions of his younger siblings. So he turns to 419 schemes.
It doesn’t happen immediately. First, he goes to his Uncle Boniface simply to ask for help. Boniface, once the ill-educated lout of the family, has since reinvented himself as Cash Daddy – king of the 419ers.
Cash Daddy, his considerable girth stuffed into Versace jeans and Yves Saint Laurent shirts, swaggers about town these days, hollering at retainers, savoring beautiful women and fast cars, and consorting with buddies with names like World Bank International and Pounds Sterling – men who, Kingsley notes, all suffer from “elephantitis of the pocket.”