Ike Oguine’s brilliant and funny A Squatter’s Tale is about Obi, a young high-flying Nigerian financier who decides to travel to America to seek greener pastures after the finance company he works for suddenly collapses. As a little boy of ten, his mother’s younger brother, Happiness had visited them from America displaying a show of wealth which registered on young Obi’s mind. Little wonder then, that when Obi decides he must leave the country, it is America he chooses.
On getting to America, Obi has to stay with Happiness, because his friend ‘Hook’ who was supposed to host him, doesn’t show up at the airport. The Happiness Obi meets is a totally different one from the one that came to show off years earlier in Nigeria. Eventually, unable to take the hard life with Happiness, Obi leaves and goes to stay with Andrew, another friend from his University days. There, Obi gets a job as a security man and meets quite a few funny characters in his job.
Months after settling down in America, Obi’s friend, Hook – the one who stood him up at the airport, suddenly shows up apologising for his behavior. Hook offers to make it up to Obi by taking him to a club, and getting girls for him. And Obi, happy that his months of celibacy are finally over, is more than happy to take the offer.
On getting to the club, Hook excuses himself for an important business meeting, which is the last Obi sees of him. Robo, Obi’s girlfriend in Nigeria later tells him that Hook has suddenly appeared back home in Nigeria. Apparently the CIA was onto him and his gang, and his escape was actually a lucky break.
Back in the US, Obi hooks up with a family friend from home who introduces him to Vivian, a nurse, who has been hurt too many times by men. The friend strongly warns Obi against dating Vivian unless he plans on being serious with her. Despite the fact that he has a girlfriend, Robo, whom he loves dearly, Obi still decides to date Vivian. In turn, Vivian spoils Obi with gifts and attention, which he gobbles up. But when Obi receives a letter from his girlfriend, Robo, telling him that it is all over, he is devastated. Too late, he wakes up to the mediocre existence he has been living since coming to America, even, moreso, when he discovers that Vivian, his new girlfriend is actually married.
In the end, Obi decides to move on with his life, and accepts that, like his uncle, Happiness, people change to become what they did not want because of the unfavorable circumstances they find themselves in.
In A Squatter’s Tale , Oguine humorously exposes the African immigrant experience – the lies that many Africans in America are forced to tell their folks at home in order to save face, and the challenges that they contend with in trying to settle and get accepted into American society. In a sense, as the title suggests, many find themselves, like squatters, caught in the middle – not belonging in either their new world or their old society back home. A Squatter’s Tale was published in 2000 by Heinmann.