Oswald’s The Man Who Knew Too Much
“Books let you travel without moving your feet,” notes Nilanjana Sudeshna “Jhumpa” Lahiri, an American author known for her short stories, novels and essays.
That is what you get after reading – even if it is only a few chapters – of Jack Oswald’s debut novel, ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’, a gripping fictional narrative of “a very Nigerian story”.
About ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ The book, published by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc., New York, and comprising 28 chapters and an Epilogue, is set in the Northern and Southern parts of Nigeria.
It is about power and politics, greed and creed, mutual mistrust and distrust between and among power-drunk politicians who will stop at nothing to establish, reestablish, and main the status quo, particularly to keep themselves on top as well as insulate themselves from probe. It also echoes the burning issue of restructuring and ethnic nationality agitation among others.
In ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’, the author tells the story of a Nigerian businessman, Alan Alfred who finds oil in the northern part of the country, specifically, in the Lake Chad Basin.
He has succeeded where the country’s state-owned oil corporation failed, after expending billions of dollars. This oil well was soon in contention by nationalist extremists in government who wielded enormous power as state governors of five northern Islamic states in.
They belong to an organisation committed to Islamic evangelism. Mr. Alfred has more headaches as his friends in the American Embassy who have supported his business over the years insist he gives up the oil wells. The oil from this well will serve to provide petrodollars for a new country to be carved out of the current Nigerian state. It would become Arewa Islamic Republic.
The South would become the Republic of South Oceania. And Alfred would become its first president. Alfred is, however, not interested in any Presidential role, much less the balkanisation of the Nigerian state. But when he re ceives news that his long-time ally and friend, a northern business man who had been crowned Emir six years ago was brutally murdered in his second home in Kano, he has to make up his mind.
Events are unfolding very quickly, and his life, his family and tribe are at risk of death by an invading killer squad. Alfred fights back; and he fights dirty. He is sufficiently angry to fit into a grand plan by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to bring peace to Nigeria by splitting it into two, a plan that would keep Muslims from killing Christians and ensure the North and South are both prosperous.
The story takes the culture of indigenous Nigerian peoples, their frustrations and corruption in governance to a new level, as these themes exist side by side in the twenty-first century. The Americans lose a Consular-General.
Two thousand students are murdered by extremists in the South. Nationwide protests at the outrage of the killings areput down brutally by the last government ever of a united Nigeria. Chapter 1 is titled ‘Terror via sms’, while the title of Chapter 2 is ‘The Half- Man-Half-Spirit’, and Chapter 3 is on ‘Who killed the Emir?’
‘The Oath in the Persian Garden’ is the focus of Chapter 4, while Chapters 5 and 6 are on ‘The Counsel of War’ and ‘Prison Break’ respectively. Chapters 7, 8, 9 and 10 have ‘Screech of Fire’, ‘Oil Diplomacy’, ‘Hell in Kano’ and ‘Hell and A Few Demons In Kano’ respectively; there are other titles such as ‘Cold Government Magic’, ‘American Talons’, ‘Oriental Sleight of Mines’, ‘Oil for Death’, ‘Smash and Grab an Oilfield’, ‘Crime does Pay’, ‘Operation Sahelian Paìx’, ‘From Sierra Leone With Death’, ‘Family Tradition’ and ‘Two Thousand Martyrs’ (Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 respectively).
There are also ‘Gloves Off ’, ‘Two White Horses and a Red Eagle’, ‘A Royal English Visit’, ‘A US Visit’, ‘A Gift of Oil’, ‘A Siege of Mace’, ‘Family Tradition’, and ‘Banana Peels in The Corridors of Power’, as well as ‘Claws in The Skies’ and Market Analysis, including competitive research.
The author also commented on Nigerians and a Global Audience, and Nigerian Literature as well as the Entertainment industry. For instance, the author notes that over four million Nigerians are in the Diaspora, and in the United States alone today, 61 percent of Nigerian-Americans over the age of 25 hold a graduate degree, compared to 32 percent for the US-born population, according to the Migration Policy Institute. ‘
’Among Nigerian-American professionals, 45 percent work in education services, the 2016 American Community Survey found, and many are professors at top universities. The Nigerian community in the United State is emerging of one of the most successful immigrant communities, holding high-paying jobs and influential in their social spheres.
As an oil-rich nation beleaguered by many societal and self-inflicted bills, Nigeria is still looked to as a potential “Big Thing” in Africa and in the Diaspora. It follows that major literary works on Nigeria have been Bestsellers. In 1984, Frederick Forsythe’s “Emeka” pushed over a million copies. “Dogs of War” 1972, by the same writer (in the same time frame) that has a Nigerian actor Olu Jacobs sold several million copies as well.
Recently, the work of a female Nigerian writer, weaned on some of the books mentioned above, Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun has pushed over half a million copies with the Nigerian Civil war as its setting.
Using other Nigerian themes she has sold massively on other works including “Americanah” “Purple Hibiscus” and the “The Thing Around Your Neck.” Riding on other Nigerian inspirations, another female Nigerian writer Nnedi Okorafor is selling and winning awards.
With The “Binti” Trilogy, “Akata Witch”, “Who Is Afraid of Death” and “Ikenga”, she has grown the equity for original Nigerian literary content. From Marvel to HBO, Nigerian content is part of a growing spout for original content. Both women play their trade close to their audiences in the United States of America.
In the music world Nigerian artistes are pushing the limits with Nigerian content. Sinach, a female gospel artiste has over 14 million views on youtube; another Nigeria Afro hip singer Burna Boy’s “Twice as Tall” album has hit 2 billion streams when launched in July 2020, peaking at number one on the billboard. Wizkid, Davido and Tiwa Savage, all Nigerians have hit single digits on the billboard with original Nigerian content.
Currently, Nigeria is in the eye of a global media storm riding on a wave of discontent among the youth with governance and police brutality in the country.
A thriller that rides on the above inertia, coming from a Nigerian will stand out as a different narrative that combines action and adventure, military fiction, suspense, modern fiction and a little espionage thrown in.