Vanguard August 31, 1997
The question has often been asked. “ Why do wealthy people always insist that their offspring marry children from wealthy homess? Perhaps to ensure that their generations maintain affluence in perpetuity.
When the decision of a particular child to marry a heartthrob of whose background does not measure up to their set standard, a crisis, sometimes, very serious, would brew.
Shuaib’s Nightmare for the Rich is, perhaps, a protest against this statue quo. A protest, because the parents of the protagonist, Sunusi, drive him to an early grave in an effort to force him out of a relationship with Bilki, daughter of a beggar.
The fifteen chapter tragic novel tells the story of Sunusi, the undergraduate son of Alhaji Gamba and his wife, Alhaja Maryam has been the pride and joy of the family until time comes for his marriage.
Sunusi is the apple of the eye of his parents and his accounts for their insistence that he must not take up hostel accommodation, thus making him an off-campus student.
Sunusi has no reason to complain, afterall, he has a good car and a retinue of house helps to do his domestic chores, thereby leaving him with more time for his studies.
As soon as Sunusi reaches what his parents consider “the right age for marriage” his parents present him with a horde of girls with wealthy backgrounds from which to choose.
While this is going on, an encounter with two beggars - mother and daughter - adds a twist to the entire story.
Sunusi has just snubbed Bilki, a teenager and her blind mother Inna, when asked for alms. But thereafter, the duo finds a purse. They open it to discover its owner and his address.
Determined to remain honest even in her poverty, Inna insists that the owner be traced and the purse returned. Thus, with the help of Bilki, a secondary school dropout, they trace Sunusi’s home. The gatekeeper refuses them entry as they ask to see Sunusi.
Even when Sunusi receives the message of his strange callers, he comes to the balcony only to return inside almost immediately, not wanting to see them
In spite of these aspersions, Inna insists the purse be sent to its owner through the gatekeeper, as she leaves with her daughter.
Sunusi loses control of himself at the rare gesture of the beggars and sets out to search for them. All the documents and cash in the purse are complete. He feels he has to apologise and reward them.
He finds them after a long search but they refuse his reward.
The innocence in Bilki tickles something in his inner being.
To Sunusi, the best option he conceives is to marry Bilki. His parents notice the growing interest and insist on not having anything to do with it. To no avail, however, they try to discourage their son.
When their attempt at persuasion fails, they arrange for the kidnap of Bilki and her mother. But with the assistance of Inspector Nkonkwo, Sunusi finds them in another town. He brings them back to town and rents an apartment for them.
Rather than Lagos, Sunusi elopes with Bilki to a Fulani settlement far away from town.
However, determined to rescue their son, his parents organise a team of policemen who mistakenly shoot Sunusi dead in the operation. The tragedy marks the very core of the thematic structure of this new novel.
Reviewer: Olayiwola Adeniyi
The Guardian October 1997
Nightmare for the rich by Yushua Abdulhammed Shuaib, at first sight, gives the impression of that which propagates the Marxian dialectic of an ultimate dislodgement of the bourgeois class by a revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat.
Rather than this ultra-leftist position, however, the author, in a simple but refreshing manner, examines the well-known theme of social conflict between the rich and the poor from a liberal humanist perspective.
His thesis is that, no matter one’s social status, the basics of human relationship should be love and respect.
Set in an unnamed northern town, the story revolves around Sunusi, the son of Alhaji Garba, a multimillionaire merchant. Being an only son, the parents are eager to see him married, therefore, they continually pester him about bringing home his fiancée who, of course, must belong to the class of the nouveau riche. Sunusi’s repeated response is “God’s time is the best," while he sulks in private.
Predictably, these parental pressures affects his demeanour as he becomes less friendly and withdrawn. He thinks he has come of age to make his own decision. His protest is, however, subtle, sometimes giving the impression of what he wants. Fate is soon to help him resolve whatever his personal conflicts are.
In one of his usual runs around town, he meets a blind woman who is being led by her young, albeit petty daughter, Biki. As is typical of the arrogance of many members of the aristocratic class, he treats the “filthy beggars” in a condescending manner. His alms for them are insults for being so unkempt.
Unknown to him, this meeting is one that would change his life completely. He again meets the duo and characteristically treats them with disdain. While trying to get into his car, his wallet drops and Bilki picks it, thinking that it is some good fortune for them but her blind mother insists that the money be returned to the owner. This single act of honesty which triggers off a chain of action and reactions.
In no time, he finds himself falling in love with Bilki whom he finds quite intelligent. Unfortunately, this is not the dream of his parents. Bilki is neither Balaraba, the daughter of Alhaji Isa, the motor dealer nor Sakinat, daughter of the emir. To them, their only son is about to commit class suicide. Hajia Maryam, his mother, is the most piqued about this.
“Remember that . . . ‘beggars’ disease is worst (sic) than any contagious disease. They live under the blazing sun, often under unhygienic conditions, hence their health and mental balance are disturbed. Even many of them cannot be cured for life, even if they look normal, their children would inherit their abnormalities.” She immediately sets the machinery in motion to stop the “wilful suicide.” Luckily, she finds in Jatau, her staff, an invaluable tool. He begins to trail Sunusi, and Bilki up to the point of having her abducted and taken to a remote village. But having been bitten by the love bug, Sunusi would not let go. He goes in search of his lover and her mother until he finds them. Each time there seems a respite, Jatau and his group inflicts a reign of terror on the hapless Bilki and her mother. There is also no moment of peace for Sunusi who is urged on by two factors—love and the strong determination to break off the parents’ apron strings.
As Jatau and his group, later joined by the vindictive uncle of Bilki, continue their hunting and haunting, the love between the two waxes stronger but like all things good, sacrifice must be made. The first is Bilki’s mother who is seriously injured in a determined effort to save her daughter. She dies later.
After a while, Sunusi elopes with Bilki to where he thought they could not be seen. The son of a rich man, all of a sudden, becomes a cattle’s rearer, all on account of love.
One day, the need arises for Sunusi to get some drugs for his expectant wife, so he makes for the city in disguise but he is soon found out and arrested to be taken home. Sunusi will not cooperate. He bolts away and gets to the village only to discover that Jatau and his men had registered their presence there. They not only killed Jauro, their kind host but also Yahaya, a neighbour. Bilki is also at the mercy of her devilish uncle when Sunusi gets there. He is able to rescue her but not without being seriously wounded.
The police come to his rescue and finally his parents agree after seeing what their son has gone through, decided to embrace Bikil as a daughter-in-law. But the damage had been done, Sunusi could not survive the bullet wounds and while holding on to his wife, he gives his parting shot which reflects the whole essence of the work.
“I cherish our friendship, our love, your understanding, caring, the whole adventure and its tragedies. I’m afraid I’ll miss you . . . I wish this is my contribution in this battle for the restoration of dignity and equality of Men . . . battle for the recognition of the less fortunate in society . . . ” This lesson of Nightmare for the Rich goes beyond just the issue of marriage; it is relevant in all facets of life and human interaction. It sure makes an interesting reading and though targeted at young adults. It’s a book also for parents.
Also, the author attempts to teach that no matter how hard the battle, good, definitely will always triumph over evil.
In the book are also implied commentaries on certain social vices like bribery, especially by those expected to defend life and property.
February 21, 1998
This first novel is the story of the tragic Sunusi Gamba, son of a rich man, and his girlfriend Bilki. The two meet in a chance encounter when Bilki and her roaming, beggar mother return the handsome young man’s lost wallet to him. Finding it difficult to see him because “he has no time to entertain beggars,” Bilki, who is a school dropout, leaves a moving note for him as well as his wallet.
Touched by the beggar girl’s erudition and taunting tone, Sunusi embarks on an arduous search for her. And, when they eventually meet, he is struck by her beauty and falls in love there and then. That’s the beginning of the two youths’ painful romance. They face stiff opposition from both sides of their families. Sunusi’s parents had been pressuring him to find a girl with a rich background to marry. The discovery that he is infatuated to a vagabond commoner, daughter of a homeless blind beggar, shocks them. They, therefore, mount a campaign to stunt the relationship.
Sunusi’s first relief comes in the form of acquiescence by both Bilki and her mother, after much dithering, so much so that he virtually becomes a member of the beggar family. He stays more with the two women than with his own family and school. He lodges them in a hotel even as the moralistic Inna, Bilki’s mother, doubts the efficacy of the class differences.
His parents vehemently spurn any move to persuade them to accept the beggar as a proposed in-law. His mother in particular uses Jatau, the thuggish Man Friday in the Gamba family, to eliminate the detested beggars. Jatau kidnaps and hides them in a remote village when Sunusi, with the help of a good cop, finds them, he accommodates them in a personal bungalow of his.
He faces his parents’ anger and his exams boldly, having received Bilki’s solid support. It’s long, however, before the wily Jatau who investigates Sunusi’s movement, finds out that the rebel has reconnected with his love. Inna is killed in a Jatau-led invasion meant to kidnap her. A Maigadi is also killed.
When Hajia Maryam, Sunusi’s mother ‘s attempt to bribe the girl fails, she reverts to her tactic of violence. Sunusi is disowned by his parents. Worse, Bikil runs away. He soon catches up with her and, together, they seek new life in a bush where they are hosted by a Fulani nomad, Jauro. With Jauro’s assistance, they marry at an informal ceremony. Still, the indefatigable major domo, Jatau, finds them and leads a group attack on Jauro’s backwater homestead. In the melee, Jatau is killed by Jauro who, in turn, is gunned down by Bilki’s uncle. The evil uncle is also killed by Sunusi.
A relief would have ensued with the eventual recapitulation of Sunusi’s parents who are pressurised by the visiting Gogo, Hajia Maryam’s mother. Sadly, however, it is too late as Sunusi dies in a hospital from the injuries he sustains in his fight with Bilki’s uncle. He leaves behind a pregnant Bilki whose life is “now a mixture of sorrow and happiness” (p.123). She delivers a baby boy who is named Sunusi Junior. The lesson from the story as contained on p.120, is highlighted in Gogo’s sermon to her daughter and son-in-law: “We are in an era of undue materialism and we must put an end to such unscrupulous attitude. I don’t see any reason why innocent youth should be made to suffer just for being in love with a person from a different social class.” Yushau Abdulhammed Shuaib’s theme is familiar enough. He captures one aspect of our life, which worsens the painful stratification of our society based on class. In these tough times when no one seems to learn any lesson, Nightmare for the Rich is a great reminder that rich people shouldn’t remain obsessed with class differences. Sounding like an Indian movie romance, the story borrows from the indigenous Hausa-Fulani culture to make its point most memorable. It will certainly appeal to the youth and young-at-heart, but it should also interest the rich whose insistence on their children marrying only from families of similar status usually causes a lot of heartache on both sides.
Shuaib’s story, however, is marred by excess typographical and even grammatical errors. The book should have been properly edited before publishing. The author has a gripping tale; he has promise of becoming a fine writer. With adequate encouragement, this promise could be realised.
Born in 1969 in Kano, Shuaib holds a 1992 bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from the Bayero University, Kano. A winner of a series of extra-curricular prizes, he is at present the Personal Assistant to the Finance Minister of State in Abuja. He wrote Nightmare for the Rich in 1991 when he was in school.