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I Do Not Come to You By Chance

How an upright, idealistic young Nigerian was recruited into the world of e-mail scams.

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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.

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.


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