The novel's central character is a sixteen year old boy, not named until the last page of the book. The boy does not like school, as he doesn't care for his teacher, Quasi. The boy's favorite companion is a horse, Alhaji.
A businessman named Alhaji Kebba contacts the boy and wishes to buy and/or borrow the horse Alhaji. While the protagonist is reluctant to sell or loan him, the businessman is persistent and uses various methods to try to persuade him, including the use of a prostitute.
Later, two agents introduce themselves to the boy. One is Quasi, who has been posing as a teacher. Another is Nicholls. The men have been tracking Alhaji Kebba's illegal activities. Quasi and Nicholls have a plan to catch Alhaji Kebba, and they recruit the protagonist to help them.
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