The Nigerian Mafia by Onyeka Nwelue is a noir fictional story based in Mumbai. The MC narrates his life events and shares various episodes that have led to his current state.
Uche Mbadiegwu, a Nigerian actor, leaves his Lagos home and moves to Mumbai. He has big dreams. He wants to be a top Bollywood actor, but landing in Mumbai makes him realise that reality is far different from dreams. Life in Mumbai, especially Bandra, is tough. Despite his unwillingness, he ends up walking the wrong path and befriends other Nigerians involved in a life of crime.
Uche ascends the money ladder at a fast pace, and his descent is equally fast. He spirals into a web of deceit and despair and ends up in a place he had never dreamt of.
The author takes the readers to a part of Mumbai that is filled with crime, murder, gang fights, drugs, prostitution, and sex rackets. He has depicted the contrast between dreams and reality honestly.
As the story unfolds, we learn about the struggles faced by African immigrants in India, the attitude of police and government officials, and their resolve to strive despite all odds. Nigerian mafia, social and class divide in Nigerian society, power play, and the resilience of Africans are well-depicted.
But I wonder why the author has shown Nigerians in such poor light. As an Own Voice author, he could have used this as an opportunity to break stereotypes and not depict them as drug peddlers, mules, or prostitutes.
The book is a work of Crime Action and I was looking for actual action, but what I got was an autobiography. Uche narrates his entire life story and, obviously, it isn’t the same as “watching” the events unfold in action.
The story is slow-paced and devoid of thrilling moments.
Despite the MC’s difficult life and struggles, I couldn’t empathise with him. His tone is off-putting. I didn’t like the manner in which the author insinuates that the reader is not quite intelligent and needs to be repeatedly reminded of past events.
I’ve always liked vernacular English in books written by native authors. However, the Pidgin English used here acted as a barrier.
Unfortunately, this book did not work well for me. The Nigerian Mafia was my second disappointing read this month. It seemed more like a newspaper account and less like a novel.
Wordsopedia Rating 1.5/5
|Title: The Nigerian Mafia||Author: Onyeka Nwelue|
|Publisher: Abibiman Publishing||Publication date: 09 March 2023|
|Genre: Fiction—Crime Action||Format: EBook|
|ISBN: 9781739276775||No. of Pages: 230|
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About the author
Onyeka Nwelue is a Nigerian filmmaker, talk-show host, bookseller and author whose book, Hip-Hop is Only for Children won the Creative Non-Fiction Book of the Year at the 2015 Nigerian Writers’ Awards. He adapted his novella, Island of Happiness into an Igbo language film, Agwaetiti Obiụtọ and won Best Feature Film by a Director at 2018 Newark International Film Festival, and went on to be nominated for Best First Feature Film by a Director and the Ousmane Sembene Award for Best Film in an African Language at the 2018 Africa Movie Academy Awards.
He is the director of the Oxford-based James Currey Society and founder of La Cave Musik, a record label, based in Paris.