I do not come to you by chance. Upon my quest for a trusted and reliable foreign business man or company, I was given your contact by the Nigerian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. I hope that you can be trusted to handle a transaction of this magnitude."
Kingsley Ibe is a 419-er. He is skilled in the modern-day art of writing emails that persuade targets to advance sums of money in the hope of eventually obtaining millions of dollars. He is undaunted by the many who ignore his pleas for help, buoyed by the one or two mugus who are trusting - or foolish - enough to reply to these email scams. He is a master at the cock-and-bull story, but Kingsley did not start out in life meaning to be a conman.
I Do Not Come to You by Chance begins by tracing the path that Kingsley, or “Kings,” as everyone calls him, takes toward his life of crime. His parents, both holders of Master’s degrees from overseas universities, have long drummed into their children the necessity and the power of education. But his father's illness means a schedule of expensive medicines and diet, and his mother's dress shop is barely able to support their family of six. Kings, the opera or eldest son, tries to use his degree in chemical engineering to obtain a job at an oil company in order to support his family and to pay the bride price for his girlfriend, Ola. In a country where jobs are scarce and 'long-leg' or the right connections are needed, Kingsley's job search goes unfulfilled.
He falls in, at first reluctantly, with his Uncle Boniface - aka Cash Daddy - who offers him a job. A mastermind of the con, Cash Daddy is filthily, excessively rich and shows it off in every way he can. He lives in a mammoth mansion protected by an electric fence and comes to the family's aid with wads of cash. Kings initially calls him "a barrel of bile. An authentic devil in disguise," but he soon succumbs to the thrill of the con, and stringing his targets along becomes an addiction. At first uneasy with his newfound wealth, he reconciles with it when he sees the benefits for his family: "For a change I was giving. Not taking."
The cons start out small. Kings first takes a woman in Wisconsin for $4,500: "Soon we were on first-name terms. It was almost like staying up to watch a dreadful movie simply to see what happened at the end." Then he joins Cash Daddy in his overseas missions - often impersonating officials - to daringly reel in their marks, who offer up millions of dollars in the name of greed.
I Do Not Come to You by Chance is a brave and commendable first novel with an intriguing and timely topic. Nwaubani has obviously put in a lot of research for this novel, but it doesn't weigh the story down. Instead, the novel is entertaining and fresh and at times funny - often at the expense of the poor victims of the email scams. She admirably brings her characters to life, and in the case of Cash Daddy, larger than life. While the book is, unfortunately, let down by some awkward phrasing and pacing, Kingsley's life is incredibly addictive, much like the scams he chases.