The Wretched Billionaire: A Review
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The Wretched Billionaire: A Review, was first published on thisdaylive.
The novel masterfully draws from the rich resources of literature, the peculiarities of prose and the genre of the novel to present a crossbreed of the thriller and the canon.
In the novel, Obaigbo is able to include elements from the various types of the novel—ranging from the romance, the picaresque, incident, character, manners, sensibility, psychological, historical to the sociological—in this one bomb of a novel that explodes many times over in the face of the reader.
Aoiri’s detailed presentations of incidents, character depth and mastery of the English language, his determination to examine the grey areas of life in expert discussions not only leave him as a writer who sets out to instruct, entertain and inform his reader, but also a chronicler of his age who garnishes irresistible socio-political substance with a peculiar artistic flavour in linguistic presentations of measured accuracy.
Aoiri Obaigbo’s The Wretched Billionaire is a rich 24-chapter capture of a refreshingly told narrative that begins in the air and ends in the air. It opens with a war-like situation when a power-drunk retired military officer—General Seriki Kura Dialo, stupendously wealthy and powerful—orders his private pilot to fly low over Liberty University with the lights of the aircraft turned off. This dramatic opening is symbolic of the siege laid to the universities by the rich and powerful as they ravage the young girls in satisfaction of their sexual appetites.
Dialo, himself, says to his pilot: “Fly at 100 feet over Liberty University. This was our grazing ground when I was commandant of the brigade in this city. We were young rampant officers in those days.”
This war-like action of the plot marks the university out as a battleground and hence, foreshadows the tragic events that follow later in the novel caused by this same General Dialo, the wretched billionaire.
Set in LibertyUniversity, which clearly bears closeness to the University of Benin, by the mention of real places like Hall One, Dot, Ekosodin, etc, the story begins with a frustrated and bereaved female character, Faith weeping profusely and bemoaning her abject state of poverty.
In a take that expresses feminist undertones, A mysterious lady introduced as Eve, a wealthy law student moonlighting as a sex worker teaches Faith to jettison her age-long beliefs, some of which are her traditional views on the sanctity of marriage, submission to men and morality.
Eve intoxicates Faith with her lifestyle and social commentary and Faith soon loses her commitment to Ibadan, her new boyfriend who rescued her from a near-death situation and from the clutches of her lesbian-lover Joe Macho.
Dialo shows interest in her and the medical student finds herself in the midst of affluence. But Ibadan fastidiously holds on to his love for Faith, continually laying declarations of love. Believing he has lost his love, Ibadan finds escape through weed consumption and soon finds himself an addict of the antidepressant.
For a while, he makes a turn- around from the scholar and introvert that he is to an outlaw, mixing with those he had earlier shunned for their provocative lifestyles. After Ibadan rescues Faith from kidnappers, her love for Ibadan is rekindled and they seemingly get back together.
However, at this point Faith is so far intertwined with the general, she can no longer break free. Her greatest undoing is when she opens the door into SKD’s bathroom without warning, only to stumble on the secret that the generally feared, respected and powerful General-turned-billionaire has no genitals. The general forces her to become his fifth wife to ensure that the secret of his lost genitals is never revealed.
Eventually, Faith has a baby for Ibadan but is condemned to wearing chastity belts to ensure no man or woman is ever able to make love to her.
Ibadan is missing after years and cannot be found. Faith is convinced that her husband, SKD is responsible for Ibadan’s disappearance. When she confronts him, she is promptly advised to be careful as “the smile of a serpent is not a sign of repentance.”.
The disappearance of Ibadan draws a link in characterisation between the writings of Achebe and Obaigbo. The tragic end that attends would-be heroes in their writings is evident in the likes of Okonkwo, Ezeulu, Obi in the case of Achebe and of Ibadan and Aurora in Obaigbo’s Novel.
This love story is what holds the novel together. Between the encounters of the lovers, Obaigbo holds the reader’s attention quite firmly with other historical, socio-political sub-plots and anecdotes. His concern for verisimilitude and a better society shows him opening into the diary of time in the history of Nigeria and making authorial comments that tend to explain a common past. His narrative style is detailed, as he does not leave out any gaps.
Obaigbo does not let a fly wing across the table without capturing it in its full colour, size, speed, likely age and destination. He commits time to actualise his images into cinematographic pictures like in a movie.
He describes Ibadan’s experience as “Ibadan kept running in the rain, tearing through the jungle and getting his clothes and skin rent by the creepers and thorns in his way.”
His use of sound and sense runs through the entire novel, where he is able to connect very minute details in far-flung parts of the novel to create a rare kind of unity.
In narrating his story, Obaigbo easily turns philosophical to drive home his point. While hinting at the tragedy that is soon to befall Ibadan, he turns a philosopher when he says “Anyway, its a great joke giving men eyes. Eyes that indulge us in the grand delusion of knowing where we are going. We cannot see beyond our eye-balls. If only the man who is happy today can see ahead of the factors that would ruin that happiness. We grope in the blackness of time, simply hoping that we don’t fall into some gap in the ground.
Obaigbo’s rhetorical renditions form a major part of his narrative technique. He says in page 198 for instance, “Why does love not just dry up like last year’s Valentine’s day flowers? Why is it stubborn like the reed in the wind bending but not breaking in spite of stark reality? Bending low like a praying saint but coming up to breathe when the wind relents? Why is love unreasonable like testosterone on the thirteenth day of a woman’s circle?”
Most of the characters in the novel are shrouded in mystery. Eve is presented as unknowable. Ibadan springs from deep African traditions. He has dreadlocks at birth, is introverted and always having dreams that are complex. In the end, he is declared missing. He simply disappears, never to be found.
It currently has a 4-star rating on Amazon books.
For international readers, this book can be purchased on Amazon.com here
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