|Eghosa Imasuen, author of To Saint Patrick and Fine Boys|
Eghosa Imasuen was born in Nigeria in 1976, and grew up in Warri. His first novel, To Saint Patrick, an Alternate History murder mystery about Nigeria’s civil war, was published by Farafina in 2008. His second novel, Fine Boys, is, in the words of Binyavanga Wainaina, ". . . the first African novel I know that takes us deep into the world of the children of IMF: those post-Berlin wall Africans, like myself, who came of age in the days of The Conditionalities, those imposed tools and policies that made our countries feral; the days that turned good people into beasts, the days that witnessed the great implosion and scattering of the middle classes of a whole continent. Fine Boys takes us deep into the lives of the notorious gangs that took over universities all over Nigeria in the 1990s and early this century. We saw our universities collapse, and we struggled to educate ourselves through very harsh times. It is a beautifully written novel, heartfelt, deeply knowledgeable, funny, a love story, a tragedy; an important book, a book of our times; a book for all Africans everywhere."
Buy the Kindle edition of Fine Boys here. Read reviews of the novel here and here. Read interviews with the author here and here. Fine Boys is available in bookstores across Nigeria. For inquiries about the book, visit here. Published below is an excerpt from Chapter 17 of the novel. Read another excerpt here.
|Excerpt from Chapter 17 of Eghosa Imasuen's Fine Boys|
Who heard? Who cared?
In Nigeria’s first match on the world stage we trashed the Bulgarians three-nil. Wonderful day it was. No one, not even those who maintained a fashionable aloofness when it came to football, could resist the euphoria. Banners of green-white-green, made with bed sheets or cheap plastic, flapped from the doors, boots, and bonnets of cars. We spent the evenings, as we waited for the matches to air, playing faux-match-ups between that night’s teams on our video game consoles or on the small pitch in the middle of Estate. It was the first World Cup I would actually watch.
The bloody Americans were six hours behind us and this made the match times particularly horrendous. Bleary-eyed from an evening of drinking we would stay awake until two in the morning for an 8PM match, east-coast time. Thank God, the Nigerian team was based in Boston. Eastern Time was easier to anticipate.
The armoured personnel carriers still stood at the junctions in school. The student leaders still ranted and raved. Nobody paid much attention. Democracy was having a hard time competing with football.
The days before Nigeria played Italy were fun. There was this real sense of yes-we’ve-arrived in the air. We had been telling them abroad that we were the funkiest, coolest Africans and it was true. Did you see Finidi and his doggy-style celebration in the Greece match? Or Amokachi and his funky groove, matched only by his funkier goal?
Tambo came back. He had been thrown out of Bulgaria and we added a short-lived suffix to his already long moniker. He was now Clement ‘Oliver-Tambo’ Unegbu of Sofia, Bulgaria. Considering the fact that he had spent his time there in and out of sleeping bags, he looked quite good. He smelled of jand; that supermarket/new/hotel-room smell that Johnny-just-comes had. And Tambo milked this for every kobo it was worth. At the late night drinking sessions before watching matches in which the Nigerians impressed and the Cameroonians embarrassed themselves, Tambo would be seen with two girls on either arm, his pockmarked face grinning ear to ear as he told them how clean Sofia was; how lovely the streets were. Streets that he had only glimpsed from behind wire mesh fences. But he was allowed to get away with it. After all, Nigeria was in the World cup. Everything was forgiven, wasn’t it?
I ran into Tommy just before Nigeria versus Argentina. NEPA had taken light and we had gone to Jowitz to watch the match at around two that morning. As Maradona and his compatriots stretched the limits of fair play at the expense of our countrymen, Tommy came up to me and asked how I was doing. I said fine. Then, just as Siasia scored, he said he wanted to talk to me about something. During the half-time break, we strolled outside.
“Your father owns a Bureau de Change?”
Well, in the past, he had proven that he did not waste time. “Hmm,” I replied. I knew where he was going.
“I get this guy. Very cool chap. But his father is such an arsehole. I was wondering if you could do him a favour. For me. You see the guy papa has this bag of hundred pound sterling notes that the boy can have access to . . .” He paused when he saw the smile on my face, one of disgust, of sadness.
“Tommy stop. Why do you do this to me? I have always respected you, haven’t I?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Tommy, there is nothing like a one hundred pound note. And even if there was, I wouldn’t switch anything with the real stuff in my father’s office. Just take am say I no fit.”
“You never even hear wetin I wan’ talk.”
“I no go ever fit, Tommy.”
He walked silently away, murmuring something about my not appreciating everything that his friendship could do for me. I thought nothing more of it and went back to watch Nigeria lose to two quick goals from the Argentines.
We still qualified for the second stage though. And everywhere in school the tension was palpable. We were going to play the Italians. Dirty sons-of-bitches who thought nothing of the odd dive here, the dirty tackle there; we knew that at the end of everything, like that British commentator said in the ’82 World Cup, “Skill will always prevail.”
At times, my mind went to the country itself. Nothing was happening. No strikes, no student riots, nothing. Ejiro had come back to school after less than a week at home, complaining of the boredom. They said that the winner of last year’s election had been abandoned by his friends. His running mate was serving in the junta as the Foreign Affairs minister. Governors, recently stripped of their offices, and from both political parties, were busy hustling for contracts outside the offices of the Military Administrators of the states. One little heard and even less listened-to rumour said that MKO was back from exile and that he was going to declare himself President of the Republic the day before Nigeria played Italy. Talk about poor timing.
Nigeria played Italy and we lost. Nobody knew that MKO had been arrested and thrown into detention a day before. That morning the rumours began filtering in. Not about MKO, no. They said that seven - I remember the number - Italians were drug cheats. Italy had been disqualified; Nigeria was going to meet Spain in the quarterfinals.
Yes! Good news!
But it was a fib. The euphoria disappeared quickly. We passed the Student Union leaders shouting from podiums at the school junctions beside the Military vans and finally stopped to listen.
What! They arrested MKO? For what?
I dodged the demonstrations when they began. They lasted for two days and the only hint we had of them in our flat was the smell of tear-gas filtering in through the windows. At night, when the students had been chaperoned back to the hostels and the town was quiet, my flatmates and I strolled to Estate, to Harry’s room, and listened to gist about the wahala.
“O boy, if you’d seen what Soalim did. That guy is a mad man,” Ejiro said. Soalim was a lunatic who passed for normal because he was so articulate and was always impeccably dressed. He went to FGC Owerri and was currently a Year Two Law student.
“What did he do?”
“If I did not see it, I would have thought it was a lie,” Ejiro answered. “I’m telling you when the tear gas canister landed right beside us, I thought I was dead. If you hear the odour. But Soalim, with a kerchief over his nose, just picked it up, danced around in front of the shocked policemen and threw it back. If you see how the policemen pick race helter-skelter. It was so funny.”
But it had been hopeless. The nice officers were replaced by korofos from the army barracks and these fired shots in the air. The students remembered that they had mothers waiting at home praying for their safe return, and ran. The moms’ prayers were answered. No one was hurt.
[The author retains copyright to this excerpt. Do not reproduce without permission.]