A feast of words awaits any reader who picks up The Ghost of Sani Abacha…No two stories are alike…These stories are told in a deeply humorous way that makes you laugh all through the book, even as you reflect on the fate of the people who fill each page – people who become more real to you because of their flaws. They are so alive you half-expect them to jump out of the pages…” – Ayodele Olofintuade
The Ghost of Sani Abacha is a humorous collection of incisively observed short stories set in a post-autocratic country whose indigenes have varying levels of PTSDs (Post Traumatic Stress Disorders) from three decades of military occupation.
In the title story, a fledgling politician walks a tightrope between a conscience and the inspiration of dictator Sani Abacha’s lifestyle, determined to avoid his mentor’s colourful death in the laps of imported prostitutes.
In Gluttony, a hungry village has one day to eat a beached whale before it rots in a humorous retelling of the Biblical account of Jonah and the whale… In the pages of this writer’s fiction, the revolutionaries are inarticulate (Bullfight), the lovers are cowed – with husbands recruiting wives to brothels (A Roman Job Offer). The characters are as impishly devious as their circumstances are desperate (The Las’ Foolscap, Confessions of the General’s Marabout, A History of Human Servitude). This is a major collection of 26 stories (including 17 appearing for the first time) from a master ironist, in the author’s first fiction book in 7 years.
(an excerpt from the title story) "'Is this it?’ I asked the French Ambassador and he gaped at me through half-inch-thick glasses. He was clearly about to say something diplomatic and quite beside the point so I turned away from him and walked off, looking for someone without that Gimme-Contract glaze to the eyes. That was how I saw you. You stuck out in that party of ministers and hangers-on, with your necktie gathering your oversized collar behind its knot like a noose securing a sack of beans. You looked quite the objective journalist. Not that put out by my billowing bedspread. Hungry all right, but not the brown envelope type of reporter. There was something reticent about the cunning in your eyes. You seemed the type that won’t print everything you overhear today in tomorrow’s edition – perhaps because you were saving the really salacious stuff for your book. But I really don’t give a damn when – or what – you print, you understand? If I can just get a straight answer to my bloody question: ‘ Is this it?’ Take away five years and I’m standing in this cursed hall, a waiter. You won’t believe it, would you? To see me now – or to read my CV. That was the PR company, airbrushing out the bits that didn’t sit well with the profile of senate president. Take five years and three days away and I was getting the slap that changed my life. I can still feel its sting all right, on this right cheek. Never saw a southpaw slapper before. Never saw one since, either. She was easily the most beautiful woman in this hall that night, and she had just received a bribe that she was keen to salt away in her suite up on the twenty-first floor. I was the waiter serving her table and she had me carry the bag. It wasn’t one of those outsized Ghana-mus’-go bags. The bribe was in dollars you see, so the bag, though the weight of a rural health centre (or six days’ ministerial shopping at Harrods) was just a little bigger than an overnight bag. I hauled it and followed her towards the elevator. It was sixty metres away from the table where her American briber from the oil company simpered into his goblet of rosé. I had seen the flash of currency when she inspected the bag, as I sauced her peppered breast of chicken. I could have retired on that bag on my shoulder, but I was not tempted in the least. She was the wife of the minister for oil and steel, you see, and had arrived in a convoy of black limousines. Her black-suited protectors were just a scream away. Her husband may have been as scrawny and as wattled as a cockerel, but her security detail was no impotent joke. All I hoped for was a tip. Yet, that would not have been enough to save my life. She slapped me in the elevator. The temptation of the money had been easy to overcome. Her body was a different thing altogether. Was it the stun of her perfume? Or the bewilderment provoked by her beauty? Was it the hunger in my stomach coalescing with a madness in my groin? Or was it the way she stood with her back to me – and the curious muscles with which she began to tremble her mounds between the eleventh and the sixteenth floors? That was curious, will you not admit? Any other minister’s wife forced to stand with a minion in an elevator would stand shoulder-to-shoulder. She would not turn fully away, leaving her backside to the unprotected glare of a waiter. And emphatically, she would not agitate them so. So I grabbed at them. It was just a brief grab, you understand. I was not altogether mad; not then. And the way I figured it, I was owing Dabo Shogunle a few thousand naira that I could not pay, so I was dead already. Every three or so weeks a Dabo debtor was found in the gutters of Animashaun Street. There was nothing the police could do about it. (Some of the dead were policemen anyway.) I did not see that the black-suits downstairs could punish much worse than Dabo’s boys. So I figured: grab her arse and die and go to Heaven. That was win-win in my book. So I grabbed her briefly, and she turned around, and slapped me hard. And then she turned her backside back to me again.