A debut memoir explores life in Nigeria from the earliest days of independence to the present.
In this volume, Vegha takes a third-person approach to his personal history, telling the story of Zak, beginning with the day the protagonist, from one of Nigeria’s ethnic minorities, is forcibly retired from his job as a pilot. The author then traces Zak’s life, from childhood through primary and secondary education, professional training in the United States and England, career development, and unsuccessful marriages. Vegha links the character’s experiences to Nigeria’s evolution as an independent nation and reflects on the past (“Growing up in pre-independence rural Nigeria was like standing by the entrance of a room with the door shut, hearing the noise of activity within but having no idea what might be going on in there”). Zak confronts trials ranging from dictatorial teachers during his school days to prejudice in professional settings, retaining a clear sense of his own purpose while acknowledging the toll the adverse situations take on him. His champion throughout is his mother, who makes frequent appearances as his advocate and as a force for stability. The author also presents corruption as a serious problem for the nation, detailing many cases of unethical behavior that Zak observes and has to deal with. The writing is uneven, a mix of insightful and vivid description (“This young man was known to be a yam-and-beans major and could sweep triple rations without mincing”) and excessively wordy prose (“Zak was neither a banker nor an economist, yet he could not fail to observe the aberration in the environment that spelt economic crunch for the teeming population but mounted humungous profits for the banks even as industries lost capacity and many were folding up or moving out of the seemingly unhealthy business environment”), making the book far longer than necessary. Vegha, clearly passionate about Nigeria’s future and the obstacles it faces, presents a detailed portrait of daily life in a country and culture that will be unfamiliar to many U.S. readers. (A glossary identifies and defines the many geographic locations and regional terms used in the book.) Although the volume loses focus in many overly long sections, it offers a thoughtful and impassioned analysis of the post-colonial experience through the context of an individual life.
An engaging though excessively wordy examination of Nigeria and the challenges facing the nation.