Comprehensive Summary of JAMB's New Novel, 'In Dependence' by Sarah Ladipo Manyika

Comprehensive Summary of JAMB's New Novel, 'In Dependence' by Sarah Ladipo Manyika
Are you aware that JAMB has introduced a new novel for Use of English? You don’t need a soothsayer to tell you that English Language remains a constant in UTME irrespective of your subject combo or the course you will be studying in school. According to JAMB, direct entry candidates will be tested on the old novel, The Last Days at Forcados High School while candidates for the UTME will be tested on the new novel, In Dependence by Sarah Ladipo Manyika. The new novel will be given to candidates at the cost of #500 as they register for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).

Click here to see the new date for the 2017 JAMB mock examination and how to reprint your new mock exam slip

As a lover of success, I decided to post a summary of the novel and other things you need to know about it in order to introduce you to the underlying message of the novel. The essence of this summary is to facilitate your understanding of the novel as you read it. Therefore, it is important you read the main novel when you get it in order to confidently answer the contextual questions that will be asked in JAMB’s Use of English.
Sarah Ladipo Manyika was raised in Nigeria and has lived in Kenya, France, and England. She holds a Ph.D from the University of California, Berkeley, and currently teaches literature at San Francisco State University. Her writing includes essays, academic papers, reviews and short stories. Her second novel, Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun was published April 1, 2016 by Cassava Republic Press (Abuja-London). Her debut novel, In Dependence was published by Legend Press (London) and Cassava Republic Press.

About the Novel

In Dependence was published in the UK in 2008; in Nigeria in 2009 and in the US in 2011. It is Sarah Ladipo Manyika’s  debut  novel. The novel begins in the early 1960s when Tayo Ajayi meets Vanessa Richardson, the beautiful daughter of an ex-colonial officer. Their story, which spans three continents and four turbulent decades, is that of a brave but bittersweet love affair.  It is the story of individuals struggling to find their place within uncertain political times – a story of passion and idealism, courage and betrayal.

Although, In Dependence can suitably pass for a love story, it is far more than that, as it also traces the journey of the political history of Nigeria; the military coups, the bad and deceitful leadership and its experimental steps towards democracy/civilian rule. 

Also, it brings the social realities of Nigeria into light- a situation where the poor get poorer everyday without any improvement. With the events surrounding Tayo’s life, Sarah Manyika brings to limelight the effects of bad governance on the country’s tertiary institutions (universities) and the ensuing massive brain drain that Africa has experienced. There are also issues of racial discrimination and cultural dichotomy and we see Tayo, Vanessa and other characters live their lives amidst these issues.

Outside the political spheres, In Dependence is Tayo and Vanessa's story of a brave but bittersweet love affair. It is the story of two people struggling to find themselves and each other - a story of passion and idealism, courage and betrayal, and the universal desire to fall, madly and deeply in love.

Furthermore, it is a convincing narrative on the price we pay for the decisions we make in our lives, whether right or wrong; and life sometimes is just about doing what makes you happy regardless of people's opinions. Unfortunately, most of African cultures reject such philosophy. For us, life is not only about the individual but also about family, relatives, communities, tradition, culture etc.

Through an authentic and objective voice, the novelist ensures that all these realities that characterize Nigeria and Africa at large are adequately portrayed in her story. 

Summary/Plot Account of the Novel

Sarah Ladipo Manyika novel which showcases the love affair of two main characters (Tayo and Vanessa) begins with these lines:

One could begin with the dust, the heat and the purple bougainvillea. One might even begin with the smell of rotting mangos tossed by the side of the road where the flies hummed and green-bellied lizards bobbed their orange heads while loitering in the sun. But Tayo did not notice these – instead he walked in silence, oblivious to his surroundings.

It is the early-sixties (1963 to be precise) when a young Tayo Ajayi sails to England from Nigeria to take up a scholarship at Oxford University. Nigeria has been independent from British colonial rule for just 3 years and Tayo is part of the newly educated generation eager to take up educational opportunities abroad so that they can return to their country and help it become successful. With high hopes for the future of Nigeria and confident in his own ability to make a difference, Tayo throws himself into Oxford life, but a romantic attachment to a white English girl, Vanessa, derails his plans. In this city of dreaming spires, he finds himself among a generation, high on visions of a new and better world. The whole world seems ablaze with change: independence at home, the Civil Rights movement and the first tremors of cultural and sexual revolutions. It is then that Tayo meets Vanessa Richardson, the beautiful daughter of an ex-colonial officer and a racist. When they first meet, Tayo and Vanessa are drawn to each other, him to her because she's different than women he knows in Nigeria; her to him because she seems to have a fascination with all things from the continent of Africa. 

As their relationship progresses, it seems that her love for him is also rooted in antagonizing her conservative, colonialist father who is also a racist. Their love affair faces lots of challenges with racism as its major challenge. It could not survive the pressure of racism from passersby, policemen and especially Vanessa's father who is a self proclaimed racist.

Tayo also worries about whether his own family will accept Vanessa, and whether she will be able to live in African society. On her part, Vanesa begins to wonder if she is simply something for Tayo to do until he meets a Nigerian woman, as she has witnessed with friends of his.

Many of the problems, however, are of their own making - they hold back from saying what they feel, they miscommunicate, misunderstand, lash out and they are unfaithful. Then, fate and politics intervene at crucial points - as Tayo is about to propose, he gets a telegram saying his father is dying and he has to return to Nigeria. Tayo leaves England with every intention of returning to Vanessa but first, he is delayed by his father’s illness and then a military coup. Much later, he is about to visit Vanessa in England but is arrested on his way to the airport. Consequently, Tayo resigns himself to staying in Nigeria and marrying a local woman. 

Vanessa hopes for two things: marry Tayo and return to Nigeria with him and also become a respected journalist. Unfortunately, things didn’t happen the way she has hoped and due to circumstances beyond her control (and her stubbornness in some part) she ends up marrying an older white man and adopting the child of a Senegalese friend. She does, however, become the respected journalist that she has hoped to be.

Tayo later meets with Vanessa many years later and this meeting provides him with an opportunity to rekindle his romance with her, but just like their earlier encounters, it feels stiff and wooden.

Tayo and Vanessa end up living their lives independent of each other but no matter what they did, and where they were, the thoughts and love they had for each other lingered on (even though the other didn't necessarily know). I guess love really does stand the test of time. 
Role of Some Characters
1. Tayo
Tayo is the protagonist/main character of the novel. He is an intelligent man but he always seems to do wrong. He tries to do the right thing, never wants to hurt anyone but in the end he does, especially the women in his life - and there are quite a number of women in his life that he hurts.

2. Vanessa
Vanessa, on the other hand, dreams of being a journalist writing on African issues, marrying Tayo and moving with him to Nigeria to start a new life. Unfortunately life gets in the way and a host of things prevent most of her dreams from coming true. She does end up achieving one of her dreams - being a world renowned journalist on African issues.

3. Christine
Christine is the Nigerian woman that first caught Tayo’s eye. Christine is shown as an opinionated woman that does not shy away from engaging men in intellectual conversation. However, this character is killed off too quickly in the novel and the reason for her death—suicide, was not very convincing. It was hard to picture Christine as a love struck and defeated woman who would kill herself.

4. Jane
Vanessa’s cousin who is quite outspoken about her sexual encounter.

5. Vanessa’s Father
He was a colonial master in Nigeria before 1960. He is against Tayo marrying his daughter and has refused to accept Vanessa’s adopted half-cast son. He seemed more racial against half-casts earlier in the novel confronting Tayo about his fears for a half-cast grandchild. It was later understood that his hatred for the blacks was as a result of an affair his wife had with a black man during the colonial era.


1.    Omotayo Oluwakayode Ajayi also known as TY.
2.    Inspector Adeniyi Ajayi : Tayo’s father who was once a court servant and an interpreter in the native administration before joining the police.
3.    Mrs Elizabeth Richardson: Mother of Venessa.
4.    Mr Edward Maximilian Barker: The one who welcomed Omotayo prior to the letter given to Tayo by Mr Faircliff.
5.    Headmaster Faircliff: Tayo’s Headmaster.
6.    Mr Clark: Tayo’s Mathematics Teacher.
7.    Mr Blackburn: British empire history teacher.
8.    Bisi and Remi: Siblings of Tayo.
9.    Modupe: Tayo’s Lover before going to Oxford at age 19.
10. Uncle Bolu also known as Uncle B: Tayo’s uncle who loved drinking and women. And women also loved him in return.
11. Uncle Oluwakayode Ogundipe: A Big Man in Lagos, who lived in a luxurious, a senior army officer before leaving for France to study Engineering.
12. Helen: Uncle Kayode’s wife.
13. Aunty Bayo: Former girl friend of Uncle Kayode.
14. Mr Lekan Olajide from Ogbomoso on a voyage.
15. Mr Ibrahim Mohammed from Kaduna on a voyage.
16. Mrs Isabella Barker: An attractive young Italian woman who preferred to be called “Isabella”.
17. Mr Ike Nwade: A student of History.
18. Mr Bolaji Ladipupo: A Law student.
19. Christopher Okigbo: A poet and Omotayo’s teacher.
20. Gita from Kenya: An English student.
21. Pat: A Physicist.
22. Charlie and Mehul: (whites)
23. Simon: The president of west African Student.
24. Francis: From Ghana who was with the idea that independence came far too early for Africans.
25. Maynes Keynes: Venessa’s grandpa was in the colonial service Juma and Saratu
26. Lord Lugard: was once the governor of Hong kong before coming to Nigeria and he also became Nigerian governor in the year 1914.
27. Nancy Murdoch and Mr Murdoch.
28. Uncle Tony: who had s*x with Jane.
29. Madam Pagnole.
30. Chinua Achebe: Author of “Things Fall Apart” and “No longer at Ease”.
31. Nkrumah: The first president of Ghana and Senghor of Senegal Kenyatt.
32. Tunde: The cousin of Tayo who works in the bakery.
33. Yusuf Abubakar: who works in the hospital. He believed white women were only meant for friendship but not for marriage with his genuine reasons.
34. Joyce: Yusuf’s white girlfriend who said he hasn’t heard Yusuf speak Nigerian before.
35. Mr and Mrs winter: across the road at Bradley
36. Joy Williams: The black WOMAN Yusuf got married to.
37. Anais Nin: The first British erotic writer.
38. Nigerian coup d’etat and Biafran war.
39. Salamatou: A hairstylist in Dakar, Senegal who died in an auto accident
40. Jean Luc: A French who had promised to marry Salamatou but ran away after he got to know she was pregnant.
41. Miriam: A nurse, whom treated Tayo’s father and got pregnant for Tayo. Got married to Tayo and gave birth to Kemi.
42. Kemi: Daughter of Tayo and Miriam
43. President Shagari.
44. Mr Akin: A carver.
45. Wole Soyinka: Okri the Booker.
46. Aureol: Shipping Company.
47. Dogun: Dutse Mobile station.
48. Samir: From Bradford.
49. Suleiman: Salamatou’s son hence Venessa’s adopted son. He became a Muslim and a drop out from Cambridge Univer.
50. Abdou: The driver who was taken Tayo to the airport before an accident occur.
51. Laurent: Kemi’s boyfriend.
52. Danjuma: The gardener.
53. Professor John Harris: He is the man whom Kemi introduced to his father from the University.

Discussion of the Predominant Theme

Although love exists as a theme in this novel, the theme that runs through the novel is racism, consequently making it a predominant theme. Sarah Manyika showcases this theme in different forms.

During Tayo’s life as a part time lecturer in Sans Francisco, Manyika used a scene to unbolt some deeper issues of racism. She pointed out the racist ties between the African American and the pure African. These issues she raised apply everywhere even within Nigerians. A Yoruba would refer to an Igbo as a greedy money monger and dubious monster, and in turn the Igbo would refer to the Yoruba as a dirty, loquacious and foolish personality who spend all he earns on parties and alcohol. It had to be understood that racism was one those existences that would live for a long time as far as misunderstanding between people existed.

There are also lines that are coated with humour in this novel but could be called racial remarks. Young black Yusuf came clean in his conversation with Tayo. He said white women were for sex treats while black women were for decent relationships that could lead to marriage. He added that a white woman looked so old when she turned thirty. This in its entirety showcases the idea of racism.

The battle against Tayo and Vanessa's love is instigated by racism with Vanessa's father as the instigator. He is the worst racist in this book. He was a colonial master in Nigeria before 1960. He is against Tayo marrying his daughter and has refused to accept Vanessa’s adopted half-cast son. He seemed more racial against half-casts earlier in the novel confronting Tayo about his fears for a half-cast grandchild. It is later understood that his hatred for the blacks is as a result of an affair his wife had with a black man during the colonial era. Manyika, whose picture shows she is perhaps a half-cast, is able to make a point here. She draws a difference between being black and being a half-cast (brown). This would have been quite a storm for her to write about because of the racial wind against the brown people living in whitely dominated regions. In contrast to a pure black country, half-casts are seen as beautiful which Manyika failed to point out. In fact in the black continent, the typical black man may feel inferior to a half-cast. 

Hope this helps. Use the comment box to state your views. 

I guess by now you should have finished reading the novel. If you have, try  answering these questions:

1. How is Suleiman related to Vanessa
(a) Biological son
(b) Adopted son
(c) Nephew
(d) Nibling

2. Vanessa's Mother known as ______ died of cancer in what year.
(a) Mrs Baker, 1975
(b) Mrs Elizabeth, 1976
(c) Mrs Baker, 1977
(d) Mrs Elizabeth, 1978

3. Vanessa was eventually married to who?
(a) Professor Peters
(b) Professor Tayo
(c) Professor Edwards
(d) Professor Trevor

4. What is the nature of Christine's death?
(a) Murder, overdose
(b) Suicide, overdose
(c) Accident
(d) Cancer

5. Uncle Kayode later pursued a career in _______
(a) Teaching, London
(b) Businessman, France
(c) Engineering, France
(d) Sailor, London

6. Professor Tayo was given an honorary award in
(a) Music
(b) Civil Law
(c) Science
(d) Literature

7. How many honorees were awarded a doctorate alongside Professor Tayo
(a) 3
(b) 4
(c) 5
(d) 6

8. Tayo's cousin, Tunde is the Pastor of
(a) a great Catholic Cathedral in London
(b) a Nigerian protestant church in London
(c) fastest growing Nigerian Church in London
(d) a Baptist Regional Church in London

9. Kwame had been teaching in the ______ before Tayo's arrival
(a) California University
(b) Oxford University
(c) London University
(d) San Francisco University

10. For how many years has Kwame been teaching in the University before Tayo's arrival.
(a) Six
(b) Seven
(c) Eight
(d) Nine

11. The name of the driver accompanying Tayo to the Airport when he had an accident is
(a) Audu
(b) Ahmed
(c) Abdou
(d) Alfeez

12. Mrs. Elizabeth seemingly had an affair with a slave while in Nigeria named?
(a) Daudu
(b) Danladi
(c) Danjuma
(d) Dende

13. Pick-up-your-stick-and-sandals marriage was a phrase popularly used by the ______ according to Vanessa
(a) Igbo
(b) Yoruba
(c) Hausa
(d) Europeans

14. Salamatou is the biological mother of Suleiman, but she died of
(a) Cancer
(b) Car accident
(c) Brief Illness
(d) Heart attack

15. Vanessa married to Professor Barker on
(a) July 14th 1975
(b) July 15th 1976
(c) July 16th 1977
(d) July 17th 1978

16. Suleiman was ______ years old when he dropped out of the university
(a) 17
(b) 18
(c) 19
(d) 20

17. Vanessa Richardson is an Africa Journalist who writes column for 
(a) Washington Post
(b) New York Times
(c) The Guardian
(d) Daily Times

18. Akin, the carver, had a great uncle, who was a servant to ______ during colonial periods
(a) Colonial officer Jonathan
(b) Mr Nancy Murdoch
(c) Sir Hugh Trevor
(d) Lord Lugard

19. Tayo lied to Vanessa that Christine was his 
(a) Sister
(b) Friend
(c) Cousin
(d) Enemy

20. Kemi (Tayo's daughter) has a boyfriend named ______, who works as a _____
(a) Charlie, photographer
(b) Laurent, chef
(c) Richard, chef
(d) Metuh, photographer.


I am sure with the chapter by chapter summary and what I have provided here, you are good to go but still read the main novel in order to be well grounded. Thanks!