With blatant cynicism, he presents the book as a mock instruction manual for getting acquainted with the “Nigerian situation.” John holds a mirror to the mundane and weightier flaws of society in modern and easy-to-understand prose.
Under major headings: Introduction, Spiritual, In Sickness and In Health, Working Class, Working hard, Law and Law Enforcement, Politricking, International Connections, Saviours Local and International, When In Nigeria… Notes for the Foreigner in Nigeria, Appendix and Travel Advice, John delivers deep, direct punches in a cocktail of horatian and menippean satire exploring the Nigerian ‘normal’ and its various expressions of dysfunction. His expert use of comic relief channels the brilliance of The Daily Show and Ola Rotimi’s Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again.
Its introduction, In the beginning, mimics biblical writing that entertains and schools the reader right before the writer takes a plunge into the hypocritical lives of political and religious leaders, the tragedy of being a ‘second class citizen’ and dying as such. John pretends to write to his kidnapper in How to be a Kidnapper, revealing the nation’s insecurity. He explores the struggles of the journalist, lawyer, and activist whose one-shot might be setting up an NGO. He does not spare his kindred – Nigerian Writers – nor does he mince words in exposing the inadequacies and often, arrogant oppressiveness of Nigerian governance and politics.
Nigerians are not alien to the themes in the book and Be(com)ing Nigerian is not the first time a Nigerian will take jabs at the Nigerian state; from Eriaba Irobi’s plays to twitter threads, the concern is the same, but what gives John’s book its appeal is the clarity of language that reveals its thoughts, albeit in ironical terms. It is easy to judge the book as a targeted read for the Nigerian audience, based on its title alone. Still, in reading, one understands that, like George Orwell’s allegorical book, Animal Farm, Be(com)ing Nigerian can serve as a force for introspection for people of other nationalities. It can speak to the consciences of every human to push for social change.
Many a reader may consider the themes hackneyed, but with that thought, should realize how deeply we have internalized dysfunction. The writer could, however, have condensed some subjects like How to be a Pastor and How to Fly Private under one subchapter, but the book’s themes, humour, and overall brevity are its saving grace.
Elnathan John is not a Black Saviour, but with his Be(com)ing Nigerian, he has done one thing -tickle his readers into introspection that will hopefully set them on the path to making reforms in whatever corner they occupy as members of society.
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