Unexpected Joy at Dawn – Summary and characters

Unexpected Joy at Dawn 3

Unexpected Joy at Dawn – Summary and characters

Have you heard the saying, “Ghana must go?” Maybe you have seen the bag called Ghana must goUnexpected Joy at Dawn has inspired by the events that birth the saying.


Unexpected Joy at Dawn 2

Unexpected Joy at Dawn – Summary and characters

Unexpected Joy At Dawn is a novel by a Ghanaian poet, novelist, and legal practitioner, Alex Agyi-Agyiri. This novel won the Valco Award for Literature in 1988.

Unexpected Joy At Dawn is influenced by the events that unfolded from 1969 to 1983 in Ghana and Nigeria. The two countries have several things in common, although they share no borders. They were both colonized by the British and once united under the same British colonial system in West Africa, making it impossible for them to shun each other completely. Millions of Nigerians began to troop into Ghanian territory after its independence from Britain in 1957, at the time Nigerians were resolving to have theirs.

In 1969, under the government of Kofi Busia, several Nigerians were declared ‘aliens’. They were seen as a threat to jobs meant for the native people of Ghana. Nigerians were regarded as job grabbers, so when Kofi Busia emerged as the Ghanaian president, he initiated obnoxious laws that saw the perceived aliens, comprising mainly Nigerians, deported. Busia went against the principles of Pan-Africanism, which had always aimed to banish borders in Africa and unite every African under one administrative system. He brutally ejected other Africans of non-Ghanaian origin out of their country, despite Pan-Africanism being pioneered by a Ghanaian independence hero, Kwame Nkrumah.

Nigerians in Nigeria seemingly resented the deportation of their brothers, who had to some extent, regarded Ghana as their home. Consequently, in 1983, Nigerians began to feel like Ghanaians before 1969. Millions of Ghanaians had relocated to Nigeria during the oil boom era of the 1970s as the Ghanaian economy had begun to witness a setback. In 1980, oil began to lose value, affecting the Nigerian economy solely driven by oil. The oil decline pushed millions of Nigerians out of jobs, and fingers started pointing at Ghanaians as the cause of their woes, culminating in the deportation of over 2 million Ghanaians by Shehu Shagari in 1983.

Plot Summary 

Unexpected Joy at Dawn is a historical fiction that chronicles the lives of two siblings: Nii Moses Tackie and Mama Olu Orojo, who were separated by unfortunate political circumstances. Their parents migrated to Ghana sometime after Ghanaian independence. They have lived in Ghana for decades and regarded it as their native home. However, the change in the Ghanaian political landscape in 1969 resulted in the massive expulsion of Nigerians from Ghana. The “Alien Compliance Order” requires every undocumented migrant in Ghana deported to their various countries.

The law won’t spare Nii’s parents, so they choose a day to leave a country they called home for Nigeria that’s now strange to them. Nii was only a baby and couldn’t follow his parents and sister to take such a dangerous journey by road to Nigeria, where their mother country was. Therefore, he was adopted by a benevolent neighbor who changed his name to reflect his. Nii retained the new name throughout his life in Ghana.

Mama Olu Orojo survived the journey, while her parents died along the way and were laid to rest by well-wishers. Mama Olu Orojo is just a young adult, 18, at this time. She settles in Lagos, where she establishes herself as a strong businesswoman. She managed businesses ranging from confectionery stores to construction companies. She doesn’t play with her faith as a Christian member of Amen Kristi. Besides her enormous wealth, she feels empty without her brother, whom she strongly believes is still alive in Ghana. How to visit Ghana to see her brother has been dominating her thoughts.

Meanwhile, Nii Moses Tackie has finished his university study as an accountant with the name given to him by his adopters. He worked at Expense Bank as an Assistant Bank Manager and married Massa, a 22-year-old girl from Ghana. Massa was sick from the beginning, and Nii had exhausted his financial strength to bring her back to normal.

Because she showed no improvement, he decided to withdraw her from the hospital to a spiritual home known as God Beyond Science, where he hoped she would be cured of her strange terminal disease.

The new Ghanaian government has initiated harsh economic measures meant to curb corruption; however, it ended up crippling the masses’ means of livelihood. The government ordered the withdrawal of 50 Cedis notes from circulation and froze accounts having up to 50,000 Cedis. The owners of such bank accounts could only withdraw on the consent of the attorney general, who will request them to give sources of their money.

This caused the people untold hardship. Nii got a part-time job to survive, despite being the Assistant Manager of Expense Bank.

Banks no longer give out loans to individuals for business start-ups, leaving the masses with no option but to flee to nearby countries with more economic opportunities. Nii decided to relocate to Nigeria after the death of his wife, Massa. Aaron Larshibi concluded to leave Ghana after Expense Bank denied him a loan and the government rejected his innovative plan.

Mama Orojo wished to reunite with his younger brother, Nii, who her parents left behind in Ghana while leaving Ghana after the implementation of the Aliens Compliance Order by the Ghanaian president. The law made every undocumented immigrant an alien’ who must leave Ghana by their will or be forced out of the country. Mama settles to travel to Ghana in search of Nii. On her way, she encountered swindlers, corrupt officials, and others with immoral behavior. On one of the occasions, Tally O, a notorious fake gold seller, tricked her into buying adulterated gold. When she found out, she reported him to the police. Hence a police officer directed her to a store where she was able to buy an original gold from Joe. Joe is an illegal gold miner in Ghana. His business is illegal because the new government is yet to regularize gold mining in the country.

Mama could have seen her brother, but a twist of fate denies her that priceless chance. Nonetheless, she hasn’t given up on searching for her biological brother.

She returns to Ghana some weeks later to buy gold from Joe since the business is lucrative in Nigeria. Joe was a reliable customer, although he had begun to harbor love feelings for her in his mind. 

Mama Olu Orojo has already gotten information about where Nii works and used the opportunity to go to meet him. Joe, who as well knows Nii, escorts her. In the Expense Bank, she learned her brother had gone on leave and was unreachable. She also received a letter about a corpse Nii had deposited in a morgue at Koforidua. Someone directed them to the morgue; they withdrew Massa’s body for burial. Afterward, they head to God Beyond Science, where Nii had gone for spiritual remedy when Massa’s health worsened in the hospital. At God Beyond Science, they learned Nii had decided to relocate to Nigeria.

Joe, sometime later, proposed to Mama Olu Orojo, and she happily accepted. He moved with her to Nigeria to do her marital rites.

In Nigeria, Nii and Aaron were going through a rough time with the border officials. Their valuables and money were seized by corrupt border officials. They were arrested by the official Paleo and forced to work for him on his farm. Nii Nigeria’s origin is doubtable since he has a Ghanaian accent and behaves like them. His inability to speak Nigerian languages knocks out his claim of being a Nigerian.

After securing a release, Nii finds love in Marshak, a Ghanaian lady who works as a prostitute in Lagos. She unfortunately dies and leaves Nii with some money.

Mama Olu Orojo is now in Nigeria with her lover, Joe. Her church is fiercely against their marriage as Joe isn’t a member of Amen Kristi. The church instead recommends Mama marry Tom Monday, but she sees Tom’s proposal late. Mama insists she marries Joe against the church’s rule and wishes. When the church sees she’s unready to give up her plan to marry Joe, they let them marry.

Nii and Aaron try to find a job in a construction company at Ijase, unaware the site was managed and owned by Mama Olu Orojo, Nii’s sister. Aaron died after he jumped from the uncompleted building while trying to flee from the mobs that mistook them for thieves. Mama and Joe were among the mobs, so Nii was saved when he quickly recognized Joe. The novel’s title – Unexpected Joy at the Dawn – is pulled from this scene as Nii got to meet his sister again.



“Unexpected Joy at the Dawn” is set in two West African countries, Nigeria and Ghana. The events in the story happened in the 1970s and 1980s. The most important places mentioned in the novel are Lagos, Nigeria, and Accra, Ghana.

“Unexpected Joy at Dawn” is filled with characters; some played minimal roles in the story. So, this article will focus on the main characters, like Mama Olu Orojo, Nii Moses Tackie, and other notable characters in the novel. 



Read also:



Nii Moses Tackie 

 He is Mama’s biological brother, who was only a baby when the Alien Compliance Order made him an alien in the country he was born into. While his parents left Ghana for Nigeria, he was kept under the care of neighbors, who changed his name to reflect theirs. He’s left behind in Ghana because he was deemed too young to partake in the dangerous journey from Ghana to Lagos, Nigeria. Despite being born and bred in Ghana, he was often reminded of his Nigerian heritage, even in his place of work. 

In Nigeria, he was addressed as ‘Omo Ghana’ even with his tribal marks, the same marks that marked him an alien in Ghana. Despite Nii speaking like Ghanaians and bearing their name, he still wasn’t not fully embraced by Ghanaians. While his tribal marks earn him the evil ‘alien’ badge in Ghana, the things he came to Nigeria with deprived him of a position he had anticipated to enjoy in Nigeria, consequently making him unwelcome in the two countries.

Nii and his sister Mama Olu Orojo are the novel’s protagonists. He grew up to study Accountancy and worked at the Expense Bank. He married a 22-year-old Ghanaian lady, Massa, who died of a terminal disease. At the time of her death, Nii was preparing to relocate to Lagos, Nigeria, his place of origin. When his wife died, he dumped her corpse in the morgue and embarked on his journey to Nigeria. The discouraging economic situation of Ghana at this time was caused by several economic reforms initiated by the revolutionary government. Nii had to take a part-time job to survive.

At Nigeria’s border, he encountered corrupt immigration officials who took his valuables and money. One, Officer Paleo even enslaved him to work on his farm. After getting released, he meets Marshak, a Ghanaian surviving as a prostitute in Lagos. They get enamored with each other, only to be separated by Marshak’s sudden death.

Nii, with his Ghanaian fellow, Aaron, continued their journey into the hinterland of Nigeria. They sought work at a construction company owned by Mama Olu Orojo without knowing the owner. He learned this fact when a mob came after them. Aaron tried to escape lynching by the mobs and jumped over from the uncompleted story building; he died as a result. Nii was saved by recognizing the face of Joe, a Ghanaian gold dealer who had followed Mama to Nigeria for her marital rites. Nii united with his sister, Mama, in this scene. This brought unexpected joy dawn to his face.


Mama Olu Orojo

She is an industrious and charming woman, a devout member of Amen Kristi. She is Nii Moses Tackie’s sister. They lived apart after the Aliens Compliance Order forced her parents to relocate to Lagos, Nigeria, from Ghana. Mama ventured into confectionery and construction businesses in Lagos, enabling her to become wealthy. However, she needed someone to help her manage her large-sprawling business empire – a reason that made her desperately wish to meet her brother, Nii.

At a point, she decided to visit Ghana to search for her brother after 15 years of them living separately. On the plane, she met a man known as Tally O, who specialized in selling fake gold. Mama purchased gold from him and discovered later that they were fake. She reported to the authority and was linked to Joe, a gold dealer from whom she purchased real gold. She learnt that the gold business was lucrative, hence returned to Ghana for more of it. A twist of fate denies her the opportunity to meet her brother.

Joe, the gold dealer, found love in Mama. He proposed marriage to her, and she accepted. This led to Joe following her to Nigeria to do her marital rites.

In Nigeria, the Amen Kristi strongly opposed inter-faith marriage. However, Mama chose to marry Joe.



She’s the 22-year-old Ghanaian lady Nii married in Ghana, who died of a strange disease. She’s a staunch Pan-Africanist and maintained her belief till her death that Nii should never be coerced to visit Nigeria. Nii exhausted from keeping her in the hospital, withdrew her to God Beyond Science, a spiritual home where she eventually died. Nii deposited her remains in the morgue and left for Nigeria without burying her. Mama Olu Orojo, during her visit to Ghana, learns about her. She withdrew her body from the morgue and buried her.



He’s a Ghanaian illegal gold miner who saved Mama from gold swindlers on her visit to Ghana. Joe accompanied Mama to the bank where Nii used to work. He was attracted to Mama’s beauty and industrious nature. He proposed to marry her. This relationship brought him to Nigeria to do her marital rites. In Nigeria, he had to face forces against his relationship with Mama.


Aaron Tsuru

A Soil Scientist and founder of the Anthill Project, Aaron saw himself as an unfortunate Ghanaian who gets no ounce of support from the government to harness his potential. When the revolutionary government canceled his project and Expense Bank denied him a loan request, he had no option except to join his friend, Nii, on his journey to Nigeria. Unfortunately, he died when he jumped from a story building in Nigeria while trying to flee from mobs who regarded him and Nii as thieves.


Tally O

He’s a dubious character with multiple names – a means to remain unidentifiable. He sold fake gold to Mama Olu Orojo in Ghana and disappeared.



She’s Nii’s colleague at Expense Bank. She developed a liking for Nii after learning he’s Nigerian. She wanted to leave Ghana for Nigeria, where she thinks she has more chance to travel to the UK, where her husband resides.



She’s unfortunate to fall onto the list of people the revolutionary government expels. She relocated to Nigeria, where she survived through prostitution. It’s the business she was into when Nii met her. Marshak’s mother faced the same fate as her. Her mother lived in Cote D’Ivoire and as well survived through prostitution. Marshak is always irked by Nii’s mistaking her for Massa. She died, and Nii blamed himself as the cause of her sudden death.


Tom Monday

He’s a businessman and widower. He’s a devout member of Amen Kristi with Mama Olu Orojo. After the church opposed Mama Olu Orojo’s relationship with Joe, he proposed to Mama Olu Orojo, but she rejected his marriage proposal.


No Comments

Post A Comment