An Analysis of Alex Agyei-Agyiri’s Unexpected Joy at Dawn

Introduction: Alex Agyei-Agyiri is a Ghanaian writer and legal practitioner. Unexpected Joy at Dawn (2004) is one of his published novels. The novel dramatises the problematics of the Nigeria-Ghana relations over the years and the implications that the relationship has had on the individual citizens in the two West African countries. The background to the novel is seen in the distortion of the Pan-Africanist vision of Kwame Nkrumah and other African thinkers who believed that Africa would only grow if her peoples were united in brotherly love, working together to liberate themselves politically and economically from colonialist chains. The fostering of colonial boundaries through negative nationalist ideologies that are inimical to the growth of Africa as depicted in the novel is detrimental to the pan-Africanist ideals just outlined.

 Nigerians were expelled from Ghana in 1969 by the Kofi Abrefa Busia administration because there was a general mis/conception that the presence of Nigerians deprived Ghanaians of employment and other economic opportunities. In 1983, Nigeria returned the favour when the civilian government of Shehu Shagari signed an executive order that saw to the deportation of over 3 million Ghanaians from Nigeria. Agyei-Agyiri in Unexpected Joy at Dawn recounts the human cost of such political decisions in personal and existential terms.

Synopsis: Unexpected Joy at Dawn narrates the story of two long-lost siblings, Nii Moses Tackie and Mama Olu Orojo, who were separated by political circumstances and now live in Ghana and Nigeria, respectively. Their forebears had migrated to Ghana from Nigeria and had lived there for years until the Alien expulsion of 1969. Nii Moses Tackie was a baby at the time and could not undertake the perilous journey across the Ghanaian border to Nigeria. Hence, he was left in the care of a friendly neighbour. Only Mama Olu Orojo, then a girl of about eight, survived the journey; her parents died on the way and were buried by the roadside alongside many other unfortunate travellers. By the time the novel begins, several years had passed and Mama Orojo is now a wealthy business woman in Lagos. She owns a construction company and a confectionary store. She is also a devout Christian with the Amen Kristi and often goes a-preaching with her friend and church member, Ibuk. But her life is far from being complete; she is yet to marry and has no family to call her own. She has also not seen her brother Nii though she believes he is still alive in Ghana. She makes plan to go to Ghana in order to search for him.

Nii has grown up to be an accountant currently working at Expense Bank in Accra, Ghana. He is married to a 22-year old woman by name Massa, who is sick right from the beginning of the novel and later dies while being taken by Nii to a spiritual home known as God beyond Science. The panic economic measures adopted by the revolutionary government of Ghana have brought untold hardship on the citizens, and Nii is no exception. Though he is the Assistant Manager at the bank, Nii cannot afford a decent apartment and has to augment his income by taking a part-time teaching job in a secondary school.

 The government of Ghana has withdrawn the 50 cedi notes from circulation and has frozen the bank accounts of persons who have 50 thousand and above in their accounts. Individuals can only withdraw from the accounts if they have the authorisation of the Attorney General, and that can only happen after they have accounted for how they earned every penny.

It is also difficult for entrepreneurs to get loans to fund creative and imaginative projects like the Ant Hill Bricks project of Aaron Larshibi, because the banks are mostly driven by profit and can hardly afford to waste time on projects that might not have quick turnover and large profit margins. The only option left for most people in Ghana at this time is to flee to the neigbouring countries where there are better economic opportunities. This is the step taken by Nii when Massa finally dies. Aaron Larshibi also takes the same step when Expense Bank rejects his loan application and the government officials denounce his innovative building ideas. It is the same step that the Chairman of the Suru contributory scheme has taken after he had misappropriated the money contributed by the market women.

Mama Orojo’s travels to Ghana in search of her brother Nii are full of adventures. First, she is defrauded by a man she meets on the plane. He sells her a fake gold ring for 2000 cedis and then disappears. The man is by name Tally O and is known in the criminal world as I-put-it-to-me. After reporting the fraud at the police station, a corporal at the station trails Mama and offers to help her buy genuine gold. He takes Mama to the Beyeeman building complex, where she meets with Joe Boye, a kind and generous gold dealer and business man. Together with Tally O, the Proprietor at the Beyeeman Restaurant and others, Joe is into illegal gold mining and his gang is called the Daga group. Of course, their mining of gold is only illegal because the government was yet to regularise and regulate gold mining in the country for private businesses.

Mama buys gold from Joe and soon leaves for Nigeria without being able to meet Nii. In fact, it is by ill chance that Mama fails to see Nii who is leaving the bank for the last time that day for his annual leave in order to take Massa to the spiritual home. It is at this moment that Joe, Mama and the corporal come down to eat at the Beyes Restaurant. But they fail to meet as Mama does not know that her brother is working there. Neither does Nii know how his sister would look like after all those years.

When Mama returns to Ghana a few weeks after, Nii has already left for Nigeria. She intends to buy more gold and diamond this time. She has found the gold business to be very lucrative. Joe proves a faithful business partner but he has already begun nursing romantic feelings for Mama. His intention is to get married to Mama. Mama had got information from the village that Nii works in a bank in Accra. Joe, who knows Nii, takes Mama to the bank where they meet with the bank manager who tells Mama that Nii is on leave and could not be reached. He also gives Mama a strange letter from a hospital in Koforidua about a corpse that Nii must have deposited there. Nii had deposited Massa’s corpse at the hospital and left for Nigeria in search of Mama. A messenger is asked to take Mama and Joe to Nii’s house. Mama is shocked to find out that Nii lives in a slummy area of town. Nii is nowhere to be found but the neigbours report that Nii had lived there with his wife Massa until some days earlier when they left for God beyond science.

Mama and Joe head to the hospital where Massa’s corpse was deposited. They are able to retrieve Massa’s corpse for burial in Sampa, Massa’s village. It is shortly after the burial that Joe is able to finally propose to Mama. Mama soon accepts Joe’s marriage proposal. Then they head to God beyond Science, where they obtain information that Nii had said, among other things, that he was going to Nigeria. Mama intends to return to Nigeria with the hope of finding her brother. Joe would join her later for the marriage rites.

Meanwhile, Nii and Aaron are passing through hell in Nigeria. They have had all their cash and valuables taken from them at the border. They are eventually arrested by Officer Paleo, the immigration official, and taken to Illere area to work in Paleo’s farm at Miliki. Nii’s claim of Nigerian origin cannot be substantiated as he has no documents and cannot speak any of the Nigerian languages. Paleo seizes Nii’s identity card and papers when Nii insists on his Nigerian identity. Henceforth, they will be working in Paleo’s farm at Illere, among other chores. Paleo says that this is better than taking them to prison which is already overcrowded with illegal immigrants. Nii, Aaron and Abbey have no choice other than to slave for Paleo until Nii can afford enough money to go in search of his sister, whom he learns from one Tom Monday that she stays in the Ijase area of Lagos.          

Nii has a brief but stormy relationship with Marshak, a Ghanaian lady who survives through prostitution in Nigeria. However, Nii allows the ghost of Massa to interfere with his relationship with Marshak. The relationship ends with the unfortunate death of Marshak, whose cause of death is either abortion or suicide. With the money that Marshak gives him, Nii leaves Illere with Aaron and Abbey to find his sister, Mama. They meet the kind Kwaku (KK) at the bus station who helps complete their fare. When they get to Lagos, they stay with other immigrants over night at a wooden compound in Ngoni, a slummy area of Lagos, that usually houses Ghanaian immigrant workers, but which is now used as a resting post before leaving for the border. But they soon had to move that night when the house catches fire.

Not long after leaving the wooden house at Ngoni, Nii and the others are arrested by the soldiers and taken to Hajj Camp where illegal immigrants are kept after the expiration of the deadline for their departure from the country. There Nii meets with Linda, the typist at his bank in Accra who had wanted Nii to have an affair with her in return for acting as her husband so that she could get a visa to reunite with her husband in the United Kingdom. Nii also meets with the Chairman of the Suru contributory scheme who now finds it difficult to return home to Ghana because of the huge debt he had incurred back home after squandering the suru money. The inhumane condition at the camp forces Nii and Linda to plot a revolution through protest. Nii uses his blood to inscribe his protesting words on a placard and makes a rousing speech that touches on Pan-Africanism, patriotism, self-love and human dignity. There is a riot when it is reported that a soldier tried to seduce a pregnant woman in the camp. Nii and other immigrants use the opportunity to flee the camp. Linda heads in the direction of the airport hoping to travel out, having been able to get her visa finally in Nigeria. She had finally found a Nigerian male to play the role that Nii, out of principle, integrity and love for Massa, had refused to play back in Ghana. Nii with Aaron heads to town hoping to find their way to Ijase to continue the search for Mama. The Suru Chairman, meanwhile, has committed suicide outside the camp.

Mama and Joe are now in Nigeria preparing for their marriage. The marriage has met with stiff opposition from the church council apparently because Joe is a Ghanaian and a non-member of the Amen Kristi. They even recommend that Mama should marry Tom Monday, whose proposal came too late. But Mama is prepared to marry Joe even without the consent of the church. She finds their arguments against her union with Joe to be against the beliefs and teachings of the church. However, when Mama saves the church Chairman’s life during the Sahm Brotherhood riot at Egba, the Chairman relents and approves the union. Ibuk is unfortunately killed in this riot.

At Ijase, Nii and Aaron try to find work at a construction site, not knowing that the site belongs to Mama. Aaron is injured when a wall under construction collapses on him. In the midst of hunger, poverty and despair, the duo contemplates death. Aaron dies when he jumps from the uncompleted storey building they have been sleeping in while trying to flee from an approaching mob who consider them, Aaron and Nii, as thieves. When the mob finally appears, it turns out that Mama is one of them. This is the scene that captures the title of the novel as Mama unexpectedly meets her long-lost brother.    

 Setting: The setting of Unexpected Joy at Dawn spatially alternates between Nigeria and Ghana. Some of the Nigerian place names captured in the novel are Lagos, Illere, Ibadan and Ijase. The novel is then mostly set in Western Nigeria within which was the capital city of Nigeria at the time. Some of the Ghanaian place names in the novel are Accra, the capital; Sampa, where Massa is buried and Awisa where Mama goes to meet with Bela Akaumah (Cola Cola), her childhood friend and schoolmate. God beyond Science is located at Gomoa Dago. Makola is noted to be a place that exists in both Nigeria and Ghana.

The temporal setting of the novel is in the early 1980s. The novel opens with the expulsion of Ghanaians from Nigeria. Historically, this event occurred in 1983.

Point of View: Unexpected Joy at Dawn adopts the third person narrative viewpoint. There are instances of the deployment of stream of consciousness in the novel.

Themes: Among the themes demonstrated in the novel are political instability, poor/visionless leadership, pan-Africanism, xenophobia, the need for love and unity among Africans, marriage and love, intolerance and discrimination, death, poverty and suffering arising from rushed and rash government policies, fraud, incompetence, destruction of young people’s talents and nationalist prejudices and biases among Africans.

Language and Style: Unexpected Joy at Dawn is written in contemporary English. The language is normatively prosaic and novelistic, which makes it suitable to the genre it serves. It is also simple enough for the averagely educated person to understand. Apart from this, the novelist also deploys pidgin, proverbs and some local idioms and expressions to provide local colour and flavour to spice the narration. An instance of the use of pidgin is when Idem says of Nii: ‘Omo Ghana no go go ooo (p. 50). Words that help provide local colour in the novel include ‘damfo’ (a type of bus in Lagos), ‘ekaroo!’ (a form of greeting in Western Nigeria) and ‘aplanke’ (a bus conductor in Lagos). There are also epigrammatic statements like: ‘Caution is the first order of security’ (60). This statement is made by the Manager of Expense Bank to the careless Clerk and driver for conveying money without taking the necessary security measures. Another epigrammatic expression utilised in the novel is: ‘We keep our heads because we know where to plant our feet’.

Other aspects of language and style observed in the work include the use of symbols, characters as symbols, irony, dark humour, prefigurement or foreshadowing, paradox and the quest or journey motif.

A Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis of Alex Agyei-Agyiri’s Unexpected Joy at Dawn

Alex Agyei-Agiri’s Unexpected Joy at Dawn is organised in two parts. Part 1 is made up of 21 chapters, while part 2 comprises 23 chapters plus an epilogue by Mawuli Adjei, which serves more as a critique and interpretation than a fictive conclusion to the novel. It should be noted that the plot of the novel is episodic and non-chronological as events alternate between Nigeria and Ghana.

Part 1

Chapter 1: It is Monday and it is 4 a.m. in Accra, Ghana. This chapter dramatises Massa’s illness and how Nii is devoted to caring for her. Massa is 22 years old, but the narrative voice says that she looks like a grandmother due to how the illness has severely impacted her body. It is also revealed that Nii and Massa had been married for two years before Massa’s illness began. They had been to several hospitals but there was no proper prognosis. The last doctor said that Massa had few days to live. Nii is now considering the unorthodox option, suggested by a friend, of taking Massa to ‘God beyond science’, which is a nickname for a famous spiritual home in Ghana run by one Odeefo Nkansah and located at Gomoa Dago. The significance of God beyond science is seen in the fact that the average African believes in the duality of existence, one physical and the other spiritual, with the two affecting each other. Thus, whenever anything defies logic, as it is the case with Massa’s illness, an attempt is made to appeal to the spiritual.  

Nii is happy that Massa is alive after it appeared initially that he had lost her as she was lying still when he enters the room. Concerned neighbours come to enquire about Massa’s health after they overheard Nii’s screams. Note the paradox in the description of Massa’s state: ‘. . .she was lying still but alive. . .’ Massa’s illness is a metaphor for the state of things in Ghana at this point in its history, as nothing seems to be working in the country. The country is sick and is not making any progress.  

The love between Massa and Nii is equally illustrated in this chapter. It is said that Massa calls Nii the young banker. There is an instance of litotes in when Nii says ‘Nothing unusual’ in response to Massa’s question about what the last doctor said about her illness.

Massa and Nii’s blank background is also hinted at in this chapter of the novel when Nii soliloquizes that ‘it was all ill luck that Massa could not point at any living relation. . .’ and when the narrative voice equally states that Nii knew of no blood relation in Ghana. This illustrates that both husband and wife are lost in terms of identity. Indeed, this theme of identity crisis will be demonstrated throughout the plot of the novel.

Nii’s financial status, which is in bad shape, is mentioned in the novel. He is indebted to the bank where he works. He has spent most of his savings on saving Massa’s life and due to the economic crisis in the country occasioned by inflation, bad government policies, low salaries and high cost of living, he has had to take a part-time job as a teacher in a secondary school, to augment his income.

The state of insecurity in the country is demonstrated when Nii hears gunshots coming from the railway station when he goes outside to empty Massa’s sickly fluid. He thinks that it must be the security agents of the new revolutionary government going around to round up thugs or it could be armed robbers fighting among themselves. The chapter ends with Nii sleeping out of exhaustion despite his determination to stay awake and watch over Massa.

Chapter 2: This chapter is set at Illere in Lagos, Nigeria, where Mama Orojo and Ibuk have gone for evangelism. Both are members of the Amen Kristi. Both Mama Olu Orojo and Ibuk are trying to jump over a bridge. Mama notices an immigration officer and suddenly becomes uncomfortable. When Ibuk asks her about it, Mama says that anytime she sees an immigration officer, she is reminded of her past. This suggests trauma, a psychological wound which is triggered when memory tokens are brought into the focus of the mind to remind the victim of past horrors.

The conflict between Christians and the Sahm Brotherhood is alluded to in the novel and will be expatiated as the plot evolves. The incident where Ibuk bit the cross during her initiation ceremony at the Amen Kristi is also recalled and it constitutes an instance of humour in the novel. It is also mentioned that the white gown worn by members of the Amen Kristi is sewn at Scalp Boutique. Another piece of information gleaned from this chapter is that Ibuk’s husband does not want to join the Amen Kristi as he had vowed not to join a church whose founding date is younger than his birthdate. This forms part of the conflicts in their marriage.

Mama Orojo informs Ibuk about her brother in Ghana. It has been 15 years since Mama arrived Lagos from Ghana. As she tells Ibuk, ‘I came to Nigeria because I was considered an alien in that country [Ghana]. The government of Ghana passed a law asking all aliens without resident permit to regularize their stay in the country. You see, my great, great grandparents had migrated to Ghana several years before, and regarded Ghana their home. . .’ Mama had returned to Nigeria at the time of the civil war. She narrates to Ibuk the horrors of the journey; how many people died on the way, including her parents. This explains why Mama Orojo does not have a relation in Nigeria at the moment. All alone, she had to fend for herself in the new country. The only relatives she has were her grandmother who refused to leave the Ghana, and Nii who, at the time, was too young to travel. He was left in the care of a family friend.

  Mama is planning to return to Ghana to look for her lost relations. She is depicted as a successful woman who established herself through hard work and creative thinking. She has a construction company and a confectionary store.

Mama and Ibuk are now at the gate of the Miliki building, which is said to be owned by one Ima Sidi, and they are met by Tom Monday, an elderly man. The decaying infrastructures in the country is referenced when Tom Monday says to Ibuk and Mama that ‘The bridge is in a bad shape today and I’m afraid we may be cut off from the main town any moment’. Tom Monday mentions to Mama and Ibuk about his daughter who is wedded to a man who is member of the Sahm Brotherhood – a politico-religious organisation that holds far-right and intolerant views. The daughter that Tom Monday refers to is about 28 years old. She is reported to be now under the influence of her husband’s wild and intolerant ideologies. Everything indicates that Mama and Ibuk have come to preach to Tom Monday. There is, however a brief moment described in the novel when Mama and Tom Monday make eye contact and a sense of awkward affection seems to pass through them. ‘She [Mama] looked up to make a statement and their eyes met. His generous look affected her and she smiled’.

Chapter 3: This chapter is set in Lagos, Nigeria. It depicts the campaign to rid the country of aliens. The campaign can be heard on the CBS news: ‘Aliens! Aliens! Aliens! Illegal immigrants! . . . We’ve got to get everyone of them out of this country!’ The two officers who are committed to ensuring that aliens are made to leave the country are Inspector Paulo and Immigration Officer Paleo. Historical allusion is seen in the bill board inscription ‘Way Against Total Waywardness’ which recalls War Against Indiscipline by the military government in Nigeria in the early 1980s. Aliens have been given up until the 25th of the month to leave the country. They have five days left. There is a huge crowd of immigrants on the road moving towards the border. They are not less than 3 million. Even Officer Paleo is overwhelmed by the crowd as he is being driven through the road in a bid to enforce the repatriation order. Paleo is fanatic about deporting those he considers as aliens. He is one of those who believe that these Ghanaians were those holding the country back from progressing. He concludes that when they have all left, a new Nigeria will emerge. The sight of immigrants leaving the country is described thus: ‘Many of those passing were carrying folded mattresses, bags, television sets, boxes, sewing machines and several other items’.

The scene shifts to Ghana where Nii and Massa can be seen recalling their early days and first meeting. They met at a cocktail party during their student days. It is sadly ironic how Nii refers to the plate of porridge that he now places before Massa as cocktail special. He informs Massa that the dough used in making the porridge was given to him by Linda, a colleague at the office where Nii works.

Chapter 4: It is Tuesday in Accra, Ghana. The time is 10 a.m. It is reported how the bad immigration policies in the Ghana of the early 1980s led to the loss of experienced hands in the running of the country. The young people who filled the vacant positions were inexperienced and ill-equipped for their jobs though they compensated for this with ‘an abundance of youthful idealism, exuberance and enthusiasm’.

Nii is depicted in his work place at Expense Bank, where the Branch Manager is telling him why the Ant Hill Brick proposal by one Aaron Larshibi cannot fly. Aaron is a building technologist, a scientist and an academic who once lectured at the University of Ghana. He wants to revolutionalise affordable housing by using locally available building materials. But he does not have the support of the government and the bank. As the bank manager tells Nii, ‘. . . banking is pure business. And the shareholders! I know you’re aware of their expectations; profit, plus profit upon profit!’ It is apparent that Nii sees huge prospects in the Ant Hill Brick project and has been urging the bank manager to recommend and support it.

Nii Moses Tackie bi Akrong na bi is Nii’s full name, and he is said to be of Ga origin. He is the Assistant Manager at the bank. Linda is a female coworker of Nii. She is a typist at the bank. She shows Nii a newspaper report on the alien question in Nigeria and other places.  She then makes a statement about how Ghanaians are treated as aliens in other countries like Togo and Ivory Coast when there are also aliens in Ghana living comfortably without anyone lifting a finger at them. This statement seems like an innuendous attack on Nii since Linda knows about Nii’s Nigerian background, as it will later be revealed in the novel. Also, by Linda’s statement, it is obvious that Linda is not a student of history, otherwise she would known that Ghana once treated Nigerians as aliens.

When Linda reports that, according to the newspaper reports, Ghanaians in Nigeria who had their complete documents had their papers destroyed, the angry bank manager says, ‘these Nigerian fools!’ with hands pointing at Nii. It is obvious that both Linda and the bank manager are creatively using innuendoes to get at Nii. The manager goes on to say that if he had his way, he would sack all aliens in Ghana. To this, Nii silently replies, ‘Xenophobia!’ It is right to say then that Nii’s is a toxic work environment, where passive aggression and gaslighting thrive.

It is reported that though Nii is of Nigerian parentage, he was born and brought up in Ghana. This is what makes him a Ghanaian. All his documents bear his Ghanaian name and identity. Nii recalls to himself how Ghana sacked aliens 15 years ago, and the indigenisation programmes that followed. Now Nigeria is returning the favour. At the project manager’s office, Nii reads a newspaper report that puts the number of those deported from Nigeria at 3 million.  

Linda requests Nii to visit her. It appears she has a romantic interest in Nii, though it is obvious that Nii does not like her affectionately. Linda has been Nii’s coworker for two years. Their relationship has been strictly professional and formal. It is reported in the novel that though Nii is admired by female colleagues, he is committed to Massa. But Linda has been persistent with her requests, and Nii finally agrees to visit her, at least to know her residence as she demands. But Nii would decide the day and the time to visit her when he is ready.

Chapter 5: Nii leaves the bank. He is on his way to where he normally teaches part time to augment his income. Nii comes across a new story building under construction. However, work on the building had ceased long before. This building can be interpreted as a metaphor for postcolonial Ghana at this point in its history. It is supposed to be a work in progress but all work has stopped. The reader should notice that it is drizzling at this point in the novel. It tends to rob Nii of the joys of the walk, or it compounds the stress of the trek. Indeed, everything usually happens to deprive Nii of the happiness of the moment. In his thoughts, Nii recalls his secondary school days; how he had got a poor ‘O’ Level result and had to register as a private candidate for both the ‘O’ and the ‘A’ Level examinations, as well as how he passed in flying colours. It is also reported that Nii studied accounting at the university. The narrative voice reports that ‘With little experience, he [Nii] became Assistant Manager of Expense Bank,’ playing into the earlier narrative of how the indigenisation policy of the Ghanaian regime had suddenly created vacancies in public service that were filled by less qualified but youthful individuals. Is the author sustaining the traditional view that youth should be equated with inexperience and incompetence?

It is unfortunate that being an Assistant Manager does not guarantee that Nii could pay his bills. And despite taking a part-time job, Nii is still indebted to the bank and the hospitals where Massa had been taken to for treatment. One of the options that suggests itself to Nii, given the harsh economic realities in the country, is for him to travel to Lagos to search for his sister. But Massa is not comfortable with the idea of travelling to Nigeria. Besides, she is too ill to undertake the journey.  

Nii’s trek reveals the decaying infrastructures in Ghana, which is the same thing that obtains in Nigeria. The road that Nii walks along is untarred and dusty. Nii has to trek five kilometers to the school where he teaches. He is late for his class as usual to the frustration and disappointment of the headmaster and the students. The headmaster reprimands Nii for missing three lessons within the week. Nii complains of the distance and the need for the time table to be altered to make it more favourable for him. The headmaster is mildly upset with Nii for missing his periods that day because he does not want to lose more members of staff as he had lost experienced hands to due to the indigenisation policies of government.  

Nii soon leaves the school for the market after sorting things out with the principal in his office. The market is not full of people as would have been expected. A woman that Nii complains to attributes it to the drought, which implies that there are no goods and produces to be sold in the market. This drought can also be seen as metaphoric, implying moral, political and economic drought in the country. As the woman tells Nii, ‘There is no petrol and you know the roads are bad. You see, the drivers also complain. Only few vehicles manage to go to the hinterlands these days. And of these, only a small number are able to make it safely back.’

The withdrawal of the fifty-cedi denomination from circulation by the Ghanaian government has equally affected the traders at the market. A man laments to Nii how he had lost 10 thousand cedis because they were in 50-cedi denomination. Nii finds it hard to console the man who vehemently curses the new revolutionary government for its harsh economic measures.  It is also reported that a market woman by name Auntie Joe has died. Her death is attributed to heart break occasioned by the loss of 40 thousand cedis to the 50-cedi note policy.

Nii usually collects 10 cedis per trader as ‘suru’ (contributory scheme), but today he decides to suspend the collection until he has met with the head of the suru union. Ten traders have requested that they be excluded from the scheme because of the tragic turn of things. Nii soon finds out that the suru union leader had left Ghana for Nigeria. He had left without accounting for the people’s money. The man’s wife also informs Nii that the secretary of the union has also fled the country. Nii has no option than to gift the chairman’s wife his last 10 cedi as he leaves to at/tend to Massa at home. So far the novelist has been able to depict the poor state of things in Nigeria and Ghana; the decaying infrastructure, bad government policies, poor education system and the lack of morality and accountability in public and private life.

Chapter 6: The setting of this scene/episode is in Tom Monday’s house at Illere where Mama and Ibuk had gone a-preaching. Tom Monday’s affection for Mama is seen in how he stares at her. Mama Orojo is conversing with Tom Monday. Tom Monday wants to arrange for Mama Orojo to have a contract after learning that she had had a contract from Telecom Interlast before. But his condition is that Mama’s company should be able to pre-finance the contract. Tom Monday is surprised that Mama Orojo could finance the contracts that she wins. At this point, Tom Monday’s admiration for Mama Orojo increases to the point of considering marriage. But then, for him, Mama sounds too religious and this discourages him from proposing to her at that moment. He would find the right opportunity to propose. Ibuk then continues with her gospel about how the death of Jesus breached the spiritual divide between the Jews and the gentiles. When Tom Monday asks why people die even after Christ’s death, Mama replies that sin is the cause and that death signifies the presence of sin. To Tom Monday’s disbelief, Mama maintains that man has the seed of eternity in him.

Tom Monday’s daughter enters and listens to the discussion for a while and later leaves without a word, to the relief of all. Tom Monday says he will be in Lagos that week to handle the contract issue. He is happy about how his interaction with Mama is progressing.

The significance of this chapter is that it, among other things, illustrates Mama’s religious commitments, her industry and humanity. The chapter also provides a prelude to the Sahm brotherhood’s intolerant ideologies that would lead to conflicts later in the novel. Tom Monday’s affection for Mama is used to highlight Mama’s admirable attributes, but it also presents him as an opportunist who mostly wants to marry Mama because she is rich.

Chapter 7: This chapter is set in Ghana. It starts by depicting Aaron jogging in the street and Nii calling out to him without a response. Apparently, he does not hear Nii calling. He must be lost in thought, what with the economic circumstances in the country.

The Kantamanto market is depicted as a shadow of its former self; it lies in ruins and has lost its former glory and status as the melting pot of all African peoples and cultures in precolonial and colonial days. This is why the narrative voice says that the market was once an expression of African unity. It is reported that the market was gutted by fire in 1967. Is this date significant in Ghanaian history? It should be noted that a coup had taken place in Ghana the previous year which saw the overthrow of President Kwame Nkrumah, whom the coup leaders referred to as a dictator. Perhaps, this is the revolution that the author speaks of in relation to the Kantamanto market. In Nigerian history, 1967 marked the beginning of the civil war. Thus, it can be seen that the market is being utilised by the author as a metaphor and symbol for Ghanaian and Nigerian history, as well as illustrating the absurdity that characterises political revolutions in Africa. They do not last; neither do they bring lasting solutions to Africa’s problems. This history is necessary because the author has already anticipated the futility of the current revolutionary government in Ghana, which is tagged ‘a revolution to end all revolutions’.

This part of the chapter is presented through the use of stream of consciousness, as the narration proceeds from Nii’s mind. The narrative voice reports that ‘each time there has been a change of government, walls were broken and these became monuments of changes of regimes’ and that ‘the cracks told of a nation in labour’. The broken walls of the Kantamanto market also symbolises the ruptures in African unity, which has created the kind of history among Africans as the one that forms the subject matter of Unexpected Joy at Dawn.

It should be noted how the author follows Nii on his walk through the decaying landscape beginning from the Korle Lagoon whose drainage system has become a dustbin ‘for all kinds of waste, including solid matter’. The decaying landscape does not only speak of the infrastructural ruins of the Ghana as a consequence of failed leadership, it also speaks of the decay in moral values of the nation. Public defecation adds to the disgusting decay of the landscape and constitutes a metaphor for the corruption in the moral landscape of Ghana at this time in its history: ‘Dried faeces was scattered all about. A few little mounds of the stuff that were quite fresh could be seen as well’. This is an instance of postmodern vulgarity in the novel. Notice how Nii also engages in open defecation and the idea that where responsible people act irresponsibly in public spaces, there must be present a case of general deterioration in leadership and morals. The absence of public toilet must be the reason for this act of open defecation.

Nii meets two young men smoking around the Korle Lagoon. This is an escaspist activity that signifies the frustration of the young nation of Ghana and its people because of failed leadership. Nii’s use of a student’s answer sheet to clean his buttocks symbolises the rot in the Ghanaian education system, as its education, at this point in her history, is seen to be worthless and substandard. It might also connote the failure of the neocolonial education system in Africa.

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27 thoughts on “An Analysis of Alex Agyei-Agyiri’s Unexpected Joy at Dawn

  1. This analysis promises to be a helpful companion indeed for SSCE candidates. I will refer a handful of them to this post.

    1. This is good and also self explanatory. It’s indeed makes our students to have more idea and satisfaction about the text. also it’s looks a lot of effort . thank-you

  2. A critical analysis you have done here. I trust this will give a helpful insist in understanding the prose better. Nice work Sir.

  3. thank you for simplifying this novel to the fullest ,it taked time and dedication It has been really helpfull ,thanks again

  4. Well details ….l will like to see the summary of parts two … chapter by chapter.. please

  5. It is rare for me to discover something on the internet that is as entertaining and fascinating as what you have got here. Your page is lovely, your graphics are outstanding, and whats more, you use source that are relevant to what youre talking about. Youre definitely one in a million, well done!

  6. nice one here please am a researcher and a blogger, and I don’t know if you can give me assess to this work, I want to use it for research work on “Conflict and Identity Crisis in Alex Ageyi’s Unexpected Joy at Dawn”

  7. You’re so awesome! I don’t believe I have read a single thing like that before. So great to find someone with some original thoughts on this topic.

  8. Great information shared.. really enjoyed reading this post thank you author for sharing this post .. appreciated

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