A Review of Foreign Gods Inc.
Foreign Gods Inc is a tour de force. Okey Ndibe provided a masterpiece in the work. The novel is a true representation of the tug between religion and culture in a man’s life. The protagonist is forced to choose between respecting and succumbing to the beliefs and traditions of his ancestors or allowing his exposure to a harsh but superior land to colour his views and dictate his decisions.
Ike is a highly educated cab driver navigating the streets of New York, whose attempts to rise above his status have been thwarted by his thick undulating Igbo accent. He is a man at the end of his tether. When we are introduced to Ike, he is working a dead-end job and is recently divorced from a woman who spent all his money. He also suffers from a condition that could be narcolepsy but never seeks to put a name to it, believing it to be a supernatural affliction.
It is a thoroughly depressing life that is illustrated for us and Ike escapes his sad existence by drowning himself in one alcoholic beverage after another, from a store, manned by a man he knows slept with his wife. His debts are piling up sky high and his family back home is in need of money, so Ike decides to steal the god from his village and sell it to Foreign Gods Inc – an establishment that specializes in selling idols. This plan hardly constitutes a heist. There is no high-value security system surrounding the statue; all there is, is an old man who is attached to the god and would protect it with his life.
Foreign Gods Inc goes beyond the telling of one man’s journey and considers the possible reactions of the native Nigerians when the white man came ashore and told them their gods were false; nothing more than toys. It makes real the struggle that the natives must have faced. They didn’t only lose their independence and their rights; they lost their way of life, and their beliefs were taken from them. It mulls over the white man’s superiority over the black man and his disdain for the African man’s culture and practices. It examines the hook culture has on a man’s soul. It contemplates the materialism of individuals who often make choices for the wrong reasons.
“If your own God lives everywhere, then why haven’t my two eyes seen him?”
The interpreter explained the parley to the chief missionary.
“It’s because the true and living God is invisible,” Stanton explained.
For a moment, the curious convert was silent, but his face wore an incredulous expression.
“How can something be everywhere and yet invisible?” he asked finally.
“He’s creator and maker of everything. With him, everything is possible. He can do and undo,” came Stanton’s retort.
“Then he should do to make himself visible,” the convert suggested.
Ndibe gives us a tale that is gripping, funny and informative. It brings our past home, which is necessary for a country without much-written evidence of the things long gone. The words are as much poetry as they are prose. This is a book you should read at least once.