The Novelist and His Moral Vision: A Long Review of Idede Oseyande’s Warri Nor Dey Carry Last

Theme Quote

‘The most important human endeavour is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depend on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life’.

  • Albert Einstein

Title: Warri Nor Dey Carry Last

Author: Idede Oseyande

Town of Publication: Not Stated

Publishers: Derolad Publishers

Year of Publication: 2019

ISBN: 978-978-57458-0-1

Pagination: vi+224 = 230 pages

Price: Not Stated

Reviewer: Eyoh Etim, PhD

Introduction: Idede Oseyande’s Warri Nor Dey Carry Last is a novel that explores the moral ethos of the Nigerian society. It tells the story of Okiemute, its protagonist, whose journey from Warri, his home town, to Lagos, is not only about making ends meet for himself and his family, but also a quest for self-discovery and self-reassessment. The novelist masterly deploys prosaic tropes like suspense, humour and engaging narratology to keep the reader hooked to the plot as we follow Okiemute through his interview at Furlong Technologies, where his computer application is being assessed and later bought by the company, the intrigues of his relationship with Sandra, a co-worker at Furlong Technologies, and how they together negotiate the weird and stringent company rules to keep their relationship under the radar. The novel seems to be raising the question, how far can an individual go in life without being armed with the weapon of morality and common sense? Even in a clime like Nigeria where the inversion of certain core human values appear to be the norm, Okiemute has to learn his lessons that what goes around comes around and that even the most seemingly innocent but morally bankrupt actions can have far-reaching consequences. The importance of friendship is emphasised in the relationship between Bola and Okiemute, as well as Oghare and Okiemute. In all, Warri Nor Dey Carry Last is a didactic novel that dramatises for us lessons in proper human conduct, hard work, discipline and ethical practices at work and in life. Yet the ending of the novel leaves a deep moral gash and a question mark on its moral vision. Okiemute had apologised to Pa Uzor for taking his change on the bus. How do we then explain his subsequent attempts to beat or subvert company policies in order to sustain his romantic relationship with Sandra? Does such a relationship have the right moral foundation to take off? Or is all fair in war and love? These and others are the questions that plague the reader as the novel comes to an end.

Author’s Background: Idede Oseyande is a Nigerian writer, Public Commentator, a Social Crusader and an entrepreneur. He is a graduate of Mining Engineering from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State. Among his published works are What is Left for What is Right?, Your New Code and The Portrait of a Revolutionary Leader. Oseyande is an advocate for the actualisation of a better Nigeria as can be seen in the moral vision that he has in Warri Nor Dey Carry Last.

Background to the Novel: Warri Nor Dey Carrry Last is written against the background of the ebb in the moral values of the post-postcolonial and post-postmodern Nigeria. In recent times, Nigeria has been viewed both locally and internationally as a site of moral bankruptcy especially with the rise in the incident of internet love scams, money rituals and yahoo-yahoo phenomenon, leading to a situation where innocent and honest Nigerians are profiled as fraudsters by the police. For instance, in the novel, when the trio of Bayo, Ken and Okiemute introduce themselves as computer tech guys, the police officers quickly profile them as internet fraudsters who are going out at night to enjoy the money they defrauded people during the day. The tendency for people to think that they can only be considered wise or intelligent if they outsmart others is seen in the character of Okiemute when he steals Pa Uzor’s change because he wants to demonstrate that Lagos cannot defeat Warri. I believe the author’s vision in this subtly didactic novel is for every Nigerian to assess themselves and reexamine their core values so that society can be a better place for everyone.  

Subject Matter: The subject matter of Oseyande’s Warri Nor Dey Carry Last is the need for one to shun all corrupt practices as one goes through life because all our actions tend to come back to haunt us. When Okiemute took Pa Uzor’s change on the bus and disappeared, little did he know that a time will come when a concatenation of events, together with his conscience, will cause him to confess and seek forgiveness. The novel focuses on the Nigerian moral landscape, beaming its searchlight on all facets of the Nigerian life and urging each person and institution to change their ways. The novel also illustrates the idea that scamming others does not make one smart, but rather it is a sign of stupidity because the really smart people are law-abiding and responsible since they know that the law of karma exists and that every action and inaction will be rewarded in due cause. The character of Housemaster, Pyole Johnson, also serves to illustrate this.

Plot: Oseyande’s Warri Nor Dey Carry Last has a chronological plot structure though the events are rendered using episodic plot format. It begins as Okiemute Oghenekokwo, a graduate of Physics Education from Delta State University, is travelling to Lagos to be interviewed by an IT firm, Furlong Technologies. He had developed a software that interests the company and the interview opens up all the possibilities that his life could enjoy if he is successful. He will become a millionaire, be gainfully employed and be well-positioned to transform the lives of his family members – his mother, elder brother and younger sister, especially. In Lagos, Okiemute lives briefly with his childhood friend and schoolmate, Bola, as he prepares for the interview. After a rigorous interview, his software is accepted and he is employed by the company after being made to sign a contract with stringent terms and employment policies which include not having a romantic relationship with a coworker and not getting married till after serving the company for a certain number of years, five years precisely.

Okiemute is to live at one of the company’s staff quarters at House 97, Feriyan Estate, Lekki Phase 2, alongside two other male coworkers, Onifade Adebayo (Bayo) and Nnamani Kenneth (Ken), all who are given an official car for them to share. The 28-year-old Okiemute’s success at Furlong Technologies is attested to by the success of his team at developing an educational application for the Lagos State Government. When he receives the five-million-naira first installment of his app sales from the company, he is able to complete his late father’s house in Warri, support his poor mother, brother (Okpako) and his younger sister’s education. He is also able to fulfil his dream of taking a flight from Lagos to Benin and then taking a chartered cab to Warri, which, for him, is a metaphor for a successful and stress-less life.

However, Okiemute has a number of moral bends to negotiate during his stay in Lagos. He had arrived in Lagos with the mindset that as a person from Warri, he cannot be outsmarted by anyone in Lagos. When Bola, his friend, asks him to secure his belonging on the bus as he heads for the interview, Okiemute replies that ‘Warri nor dey carry last’, an expression that signals the creative title of the novel, as well as an imaginative way of representing the moral vision of the author in the novel. From this point onwards, Okiemute behaves based on the Lagos-Warri dialectics, determining to prove that nobody in Lagos can outsmart him. This is how he disappears with Pa Uzor’s change on the day of the interview. This is also how he devices all means to get round the company policy on love and romance. He creates an application that allows Bola and his girlfriend, Beatrice, and Sandra and him to communicate without being detected by the company. In real life, Bola pretends that he is dating Sandra while Okiemute fronts Beatrice as his girlfriend. On the App, they assume animal identities to communicate with one another – Sandra with Okiemute, Beatrice with Bola.

When Okiemute’s mother dies shortly after having a family dispute, Sandra and Okiemute are set to take the plunge in their relationship. Sandra sees the burial ceremony as an opportunity for her to know Okiemute’s place before getting the chance to decide ‘if it would be a Yes or a No’ (186). The burial is also a milestone as Sandra and Okiemute consummate their relationship; Housemaster is revealed to be a liar and is made to refund the monthly stipend that he had been receiving from Okiemute on the pretext of taking care of his ailing mother, who, as it is revealed on the journey back to Lagos, had long died. Beatrice had got a job in an insurance company and is set to be married to Bola. Okiemute has to act fast so that his cover with Sandra would not be blown, even as Sandra is pregnant for Okiemute. Okiemute moves out of the company quarters after taking over from Mr Agbaje Dakuku, who had been posted to head the new Abuja branch of Furlong Technologies. Sandra is promoted and posted to the Abuja office as Human Resource person and will be reporting to the Head of Human Resources in Lagos. The marriage preparation between Sandra and Okiemute is on as the novel ends. Though these arrangements remain a secret to the company and the other workers, we know that it is only a matter of time before all things would come to light.

Setting: Warri Nor Dey Carry Last is set in contemporary Nigeria, specifically, Lagos and Warri, two cities in Southern Nigeria. Among the important Lagos place names mentioned in the novel are Lekki, Iyana-Ipaja, Yaba Market, Obalende, where the CMS bus station is located, LASU where Felicia, one of Ken’s girlfriends, schools, Third Mainland Bridge and Ikeja area of Lagos, where Bola lives. In the novel, Lagos is said to have a population of 20 million people and is known for its horrible traffic situation, crowds at every turn as the place never sleeps, or wakes up too early. Warri, on the other hand, is presented as the foil of Lagos; people do not wake up early and there are no large crowds everywhere one goes. Indices of contemporary Nigeria are seen in the mention and use of sophisticated technologies like mobile phones and computer sets. The year 2019 is mentioned in the novel; actually, Okiemute’s interview at Furlong Technologies takes place on the 1st of April, 2019, which is normally known as April Fool’s Day. The day is significant as things are not likely to go completely according to Okiemute’s wishes. It might also imply that things would happen in ways that will surprise him. It should be noted that the temporal setting of the novel is the 21st century Nigeria.

Point of View: The novel is narrated from the third person narrative point of view. An excerpt from the scene where Sandra, Okiemute and the other selected members of staff, visit a rundown public school in the suburbs of Lekki during the company’s week of corporate social responsibility helps to illustrate the point of view of the novel: ‘Okiemute could see the disappointment in Sandra’s face as the students made such statements. She must have questioned her judgement to have him deliver the key lecture in a school like this’ (172, 173). In the excerpt, words like ‘Okiemute’, ‘Sandra’, ‘she’ and ‘him’ indicate the third person narrative point of view. The novel also makes use of stream of consciousness. An instance is seen when Okiemute thinks to himself, ‘See as dem wan make a whole Warri carry last before, but God pass them. . .’ Okiemute makes this statement when he tries to copy the gentlemanly table manners of Bayo and Ken in order to hide his own predatory table manners. He, however, runs into trouble when he does not know that he is supposed to press the knob on the flask for the water to come out. He has to observe Bayo closely again in order to learn that. This scene is part of the humour that spices up the novel.

Themes: Warri Nor Dey Carry Last has many themes such as rural-urban migration, moral decadence or poor moral values, police brutality, tribalism or ethnic prejudice, love and marriage, reward for hard work, death, love, friendship and trust, religious hypocrisy, team work, the burden of taking care of family members, official corruption, cultism, homosexuality and sexual assault or abuse of young boys.

Characterisation: The novelist uses characters to enhance themes and ideas in the novel. Some of the important characters in the novel are Okiemute, Bola and Beatrice, Pa Uzor, Mr Whyte, Mr Agbaje Dakuku, Sandra, Bayo, Kenneth, Chinyere, Housemaster (Pyole Johnson), Idongesit, Ufuoma, Oghare and Okpako.

Okiemute is one of the central characters in the novel. He is the hero-protagonist. He is from Warri, the Southern part of Nigeria. A young man of 28 years, who is struggling to make it in life, he is portrayed as intelligent, creative and charismatic. He wanted to study Computer Science but he was given Physics Education at the point of admission at Delta State University, Abraka, Delta State. Despite this, he did not give up on his dream of being a software developer as he took extra lessons in computer science while in school. He is able to develop an App that will change his life and that of his family members. The App is worth 20 million naira when he signs a contract with Furlong Technologies in Lagos.

Okiemute is a round and dynamic character; he regrets taking Mr Uzor’s change after Bola spoke to him on the significance of his action. He prides himself on having the ‘Okiemute effect’ especially on ladies, whom he likes to flirt with. He hates a regimented lifestyle which explains why he did not enjoy his NYSC orientation exercise. He shares his childhood experience about being sexually assaulted by one Aunty Sikira, a girl of 14 years, when he was about 7 years old. Okiemute’s life, and indeed the life of the other characters in the novel, shows that we are shaped by our experiences.

Okiemute has the optimistic spirit of the average Nigerian youth; he sees possibilities where others see problems and obstacles. This is how he devices means to circumvent company rules when he realises that Sandra has feelings for him. His willingness to make mistakes, apologise and correct them is part of what makes him a hero, apart from his story of rags to riches in a clime where everything is set up to work against the dreams of the youth.

Bola is Okiemute’s friend. He stays and works in a highbrow private school in Lagos where there are also stringent rules regarding student-teacher relationship and relationship with co-workers. He is depicted as selfless, kind and considerate. He is a good friend to Okiemute. He corrects Okiemute when he goes wrong and acts as his moral conscience. Bola’s character highlights the theme of friendship and trust in the novel, which illustrates the idea that one can hardly go far in life without having good friends. In the University, Bola acted as Okiemute’s guiding spirit or angel, as his words and pieces of advice kept Okiemute out of trouble most of the time. For instance, he advises Okiemute against attending an after-party meeting at a beach which turned out to be a cult initiation ceremony. He also warned Okiemute against dating a girl who turned out to be the girlfriend of a cult lord who wanted to use the girl to lure Okiemute into the cult.

 Bola does not only take Okiemute in when he needed a place to stay in Lagos and prepare for his interview at Furlong, he also provides materially for him, and advises him on how to live a good life in Lagos. Bola’s generosity is seen when he is visiting Okiemute for the first time in his new apartment at Lekki. While Okiemute is worrying how he is going to entertain his friend, Bola appears with ‘. . . three different flavours of juice, different packets of biscuits, a bottle of red wine, packets of chewing gum, two bottles of groundnuts, bars of chocolate, boxers, three pairs of fine shorts and t-shirts, a pair of slippers and the clothes he got from Yaba. . .’ (97). Bola is in love with Beatrice, a lady who works at the same private school with Bola. Like Okiemute, he also has to navigate the school’s policy on love and relationship among coworkers, which explains why he finds the Okiemute’s communication App worthwhile. Bola is one of the principal characters in the novel.

Beatrice is Prof Essien’s niece. Prof Essien serves as Vice Principal Administrative in Bola’s school. Beatrice is Bola’s coworker. Both Beatrice and Bola later fall in love but the school rule does not allow their romance to thrive until Beatrice gets a job with an insurance firm. When she and Bola are caught by Idongesit kissing at Feriyan Estate while waiting for Okiemute to return from his mother’s burial, Beatrice realises that it is time to change tactics. She advises Okiemute to move out of the Estate so as not to blow Sandra’s cover.  

Pa Uzor is the old man whose change of two hundred-and fifty-naira Okiemute stole on the day he was going for an interview at Furlong Technologies. Okiemute later meets the man through Chinyere, the daughter, to apologise. Pa Uzor is happy that Okiemute had turned a new leaf and was even advising other young persons to lead morally upright lives. He refuses to accept Okiemute’s restitution in the form of five thousand naira, which is given to the other security guards at Pa Uzor’s work place. Pa Uzor is a minor character in the novel.  

Mr Clay Whyte is the Managing Director of Furlong Technologies Nigeria Limited, where Okiemute signs a deal for his software and where he works in Lagos. Okiemute gets to meet Mr Whyte shortly after being employed at the company. He is described as having ‘a giant size, dark complexion, red lips, a soothing voice with a fine British accent’ (68). He is known as a foremost developer in the country who has, through hard work and discipline, developed Furlong to its current height and glory. He welcomes Okiemute to the company and re-emphasises the company’s rules and policies to him. He explains why every worker is a partner in progress and why the rules on marriage and relationship are necessary. According to him, ‘. . . discipline will crumble when those saddled with the responsibility are in bed with those they are supposed to correct and discipline’ (69). When Bayo, Kenneth and Okiemute are arrested by the police at night while on their way to Eclipse Night Club, it is Mr Whyte’s chance appearance who saves them from the brutality of the police. He just happens to be driving by at that time and spots the company car which attracts his attention.

Mr Agbaje Dakuku is the Director Research and Innovations at Furlong Technologies. He is one of the persons who interview Okiemute, alongside Linda Bassey, Director Human Resources and Logistics and Timi Frank, Director of Operations. He is an important character in the novel. He is a tough interviewer and asks difficult and almost threatening questions which tend to scare Okiemute. He leads Okiemute’s team in the company. He is depicted as a principled worker who keeps the ethical standards of the company. Towards the end of the novel, Mr Dakuku is posted to head the Abuja branch of the company that has just been opened as the company expands its operations.

Sandra is the Secretary at Furlong Technologies. She is very attractive and gets Okiemute’s attention in an unusual way. She is principled and efficient in the performance of her duties. But when love knocks on her door, she has to revise her plans. Eventually, she and Okiemute would get into a romantic relationship that will result in a pregnancy. It would take a stroke of luck and ingenuity from her and Okiemute to keep everything away from the company until the end of the novel.

Bayo (Onifade Adebayo) and Ken (Nnamani Kenneth) both work at Furlong Technologies. They are Okiemute’s officemates. Okiemute goes to meet them at the company. Bayo is from the southwestern part of Nigeria while Ken is from the southeastern part of Nigeria. Bayo is described as thin while Ken is chubby. They are known for their sarcastic comments and teasing of one another, and it only gets more interesting when Okiemute joins them. The three do have their moments of disagreement but they love to stay together and discuss after work in their residence at Feriyan Estate. When Okiemute shares the sexual assault story that results in his being a womaniser, he is surprised that it gets to the office so fast especially when Sandra teases him about being a ‘lover boy’. Okiemute then learns the hard way how to relate with those two.

Ufuoma is Okiemute’s younger sister. She stays in Warri with the mother. She later moves to Lagos to stay with Okiemute after her National Youth Service. She is a minor character.

Oghare is Okiemute’s childhood friend. He, like Bola, is depicted as quite supportive and trustworthy. He helps Okiemute to complete his father’s house in the village through money given to Ufuoma. He is one of those that the interview panel calls to ask questions about Okiemute. He confirms to the panel that Okiemute is the owner of the software. He, however, has the ‘Warri’ mentality because he thinks the strange call number is from a scammer. He is the one who takes Sandra to Okiemute’s room in the village after the burial of Okiemute’s mother. Oghare’s experience at the police cell helps to highlight the brutality and the irony that characterise the Nigerian policing system. It also enlivens the dark humour in the novel.

Housemaster (Pyole Johnson) is an interesting character in the novel. He keeps the quarters where Bayo, Ken and Okiemute stay at Feriyan Estate. He impresses Okiemute because he speaks good English despite only being educated up to secondary school level.  When Okiemute asks about his biography, he lies that his mother lost his legs in an accident and is need of help. This makes Okiemute to place him on a monthly stipend. When the truth is revealed, he is made to return the money.

Okpako is Okiemute’s elder brother who is not doing so well in life. He is said to have impregnated the same girl twice during his time as a welding apprentice. He is now an assistant to a welder. It is hoped that Okiemute’s success would rub off on him as he is gradually seen to be well-behaved towards the end of the novel.

Idongesit is the cook who runs the kitchen at Feriyan Estate. She is the one who catches Bola and Beatrice kissing, reports to Ken who then informs Okiemute because they believe that Okiemute’s best friend had cheated with Okiemute’s girlfriend, Beatrice. This is an instance of dramatic irony in the novel. 

Language and Style: Warri Nor Dey Carry Last is narrated in simple but imaginative English. The multicultural and multi-lingual nature of the Nigerian milieu are illustrated in the novel. These are part of the sensibilities that make the novel distinctively Nigerian.The aspects of language and style in Warri Nor Dey Carry Last include the use of pidgin, proverbs and epigrammatic statements drawn from the Nigerian environment, humour, suspense, foreshadowing, irony, the use of songs to define social reality and the quest motif. Most of the youth characters in the novel speak pidgin, some of which even shows regional accent and features. For instance, the taxi driver who wants to take Okiemute to Furlong Technologies on the day of the interview is from Ebonyi State. He says to Okiemute: ‘. . . you go give me five tazand naila?’ He also uses the word ‘stlong’ in place of ‘strong’ when he says, ‘I know say una matter dey stlong well well’ (13).

Some of the epigrammatic statements in the novel are made in pidgin. For instance, Okiemute tries to convince Bola that he will find a way to navigate the stringent rules of Furlong Technologies in the following statements; ‘Leave matter for Matthias’, ‘. . . at the appropriate time, ‘Ogolo’ must jump’ and ‘. . . Warri nor dey carry last’ (45). All these are consoling expressions, sayings and adages that Okiemute uses to resolve the contending issues in his conversation with Bola.

Humour is an important narrative technique in the novel. An instance can be seen when Okiemute teases Bayo about his thinness despite eating delicious meals, ‘I wonder why someone will eat this kind of meal for a month and still look thin’ and then Ken teases both Bayo and Okiemute that: ‘. . . No amount of food would make a dolphin become a shark’ (81).  Another instance of humour is when Okiemute suggests that he takes Sandra out for ‘a table for two’ after being given a generous bonus by the company for the computer application developed for the Lagos State government. Sandra replies, ‘And the next envelope would be your termination letter. . .’ (137). When Housemaster’s lies come to light and Okiemute finds it hard to believe that he had been lied to, Bayo says, ‘E be like say Warri don carry last for this one’, stating that Housemaster is the ‘real area’ (202, 203).

Suspense is used to sustain the reader’s interest in the novel. The reader wants to know what will happen to Okiemute when he gets to Lagos, whether he will succeed at the interview or not. Later the reader also wants to know if Okiemute will be able to keep to the weird company policies on love and romance with coworkers. Finally, the reader wants to know how the Sandra-Okiemute relationship would pan out. Most times, the author withholds these pieces of information while feeding the reader with other details to whet their appetite for the story.

Foreshadowing is seen in Ken’s statement, ‘the matter that you don’t want your father to hear, it is your father that would eventually settle it’ (94). Ken makes this statement when Okiemute refuses to divulge what he discussed with Housemaster. It foreshadows the moment when Housemaster’s lies to Okiemute would be exposed later in the novel.

It is ironic that Sandra who was one those dictating company policies to Okiemute is now in love with him, joining him to covertly break company rules. It is ironic also that Okiemute now lives in Lagos, a city that he used to describe as the worst in the southwestern part of Nigeria. Bola goes to Yaba Market to buy ‘first grade’ clothes for Okiemute. It is ironic that ‘first grade’ refers to used clothes (49).

Warri Nor Dey Carry Last is novel of songs. A good instance of the use of songs to interpret reality in the novel is seen when Bola makes Okiemute to listen to Erigga’s song ‘Kettle,’ which has the name ‘Okiemute’ in it. It is a newly released song whose subject matter is a man by name Okiemute, who travels to Ghana after selling family land but does not work hard in Accra instead he likes partying and wasting away the money. The song is didactic and teaches hard work and contentment. Bola tells Okiemute that the song depicts Okiemute’s exact character of wanting to achieve the best and be on top of his game but that he must be careful and should be ready to defend himself against any attacks.

The Quest or Journey Motif is central to the narrative texture of the novel. The whole novel should be viewed not only as a physical journey, but also a psychological quest in search of moral sanity in society. The fact that the novel ends with a moral question mark implies that we should keep searching.  

Evaluation: Warri Nor Dey Carry Last is a suspense-filled novel that takes us on a long journey during which we have experiences that make us look inward in order to examine our conscience in line with the events lined up before us. Like Okiemute, we must come to a point where we have to realise that without the right set of values, it will be difficult to make any meaningful progress as individuals and as a society.

The novel’s production is artistic and creative. The fonts are legible, the cover is attractive and the title is imaginative and interest-arresting. There are no typographical errors in the novel, to the best of my knowledge. The language is lucid and the average educated person can read and understand. The novel is didactic – it guides readers to make informed moral decisions, especially in a society like ours that is very much in need of a moral compass.

Conclusion: Warri Nor Dey Carry Last is a contemporary Nigerian novel that has been creatively packaged for the enjoyment of all readers, as it depicts issues that have a universal appeal. A close examination of its elements indicates that it compares with such African novels as The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah and Chinua Achebe’s A Man of the People in terms of their moral vision of society.  I do not, therefore, hesitate in recommending this novel to both local and international readers of fiction.

Recommendation: I hereby recommend Oseyande’s Warri Nor Dey Carry Last to all lovers of fiction around the world, especially to the Nigerian audience both at home and abroad, who are interested in how literature could shape the moral landscape of society. Happy reading.

Related Posts

6 thoughts on “The Novelist and His Moral Vision: A Long Review of Idede Oseyande’s Warri Nor Dey Carry Last

  1. No one has ever understood the inner drive that birthed the book than you.

    I cannot explain it better!

    We have to keep searching until we all purge ourselves from the various ways we contribute to the moral decadence in our society.

    Please reach out to me directly

  2. Sir please your social media handles to follow for your good analysis of literary pieces related to academics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!