Michael Li was a man of few principles. He was driven by two things: making money and making even more money. The son of UK immigrants, he was sent to boarding school from the age of seven to eighteen by his ambitious parents who wanted to ensure that he mingled and nurtured what they hoped would be the lifelong relationships with the finest of English society that money could buy.
Michael mingled with the finest, all right. He mingled with the finest offspring of Burmese army despots. He mingled with the children of English aristocracy whose education was mostly funded by their grandmothers. He mingled with the sons of Bollywood royalty and with the sons of Africa’s finest. Somewhere, in the midst of all his mingling, he concluded that he preferred his African connections.
In the early 2000s, when China began making noises about developing Afro-Chinese relationships, Michael emerged as the natural middleman to negotiate the vital contracts that would secure Chinese interests in the region. He didn’t ask for much, just 1% of the contract worth.
Right now, he had other, bigger dreams; he wanted to develop the gambling industry in Nigeria.
Michael Li wasn’t interested in the lottery. Every country had a national lottery, which, for Michael was the lowest form of gambling. It lacked finesse and glamour. His dreams were much bigger; he wanted to build the kind of casino that would attract people from all over the world. He envisioned a kind of Vegas, but bigger and better. And he knew exactly where he would build it. Somewhere in the northern part of Nigeria. He batted away security concerns with a single sentence: “Even terrorists worship money.”
And this is how I introduced Michael to the readers. As the (completed, yay!) manuscript is still in its raw form (I finished it a few weeks ago and I haven’t started editing it, yet), his entree might change.
Looking for Bono is a satire, and loosely based on my observations in the field as a human rights worker. So yes, Michael’s character as a Chinese man in Nigeria was intentional; one can’t write a book about Africa without writing about Chinese involvement in the continent – it’s impossible.
I must admit that I was unsure about Michael’s character all through the writing process, and I still am. Let’s just say that with him, things are rather nebulous – nothing is set in stone.
Michael’s character has also helped me to explore Afro-Asian relationships with something akin to anthropological zeal.
In the book, he has a relationship of sorts with a Nigerian woman. Inter-racial relationships in Nigeria, much like the rest of Africa, are not uncommon. However, it’s rare to find one with an African woman and Asian male. It’s usually the other round.
The relationship threw up all kinds of complications for me, not just in terms of developing their characters, but also had me questioning myself on why I wanted them to have the relationship in the first place. Only time will tell if the relationship makes the final edit, because I’m still not sure if it works with the story.
This is my last post on Looking for Bono, for now. In a few weeks, I’ll start working on my new book, I, Joshua. Creatively, I’m loving this stage of my writing life. I’m writing without restriction and
it’s a great feeling it’s freaking amazing.