Books | A Review of Tafa Osisiye’s “Sixty Percent of a True Story”

60 per cent of a true story by Tafa OsisiyeGROWING UP in the 21st century can be fun, especially for the young and vibrant. Different people approach the fast-paced life in the city differently. Some folks are more adventurous than the others.

Tafa Osisiye’s “60 per cent of a True Story” is a confessional spiced with as many elements of fiction as possible to shield its author and other characters from outrage and judgment from the prude and censorious. It captures select portions of the life of a brilliant young man, sometimes too curious for his own good, who navigates through life in the big city that is Lagos.

Osisiye starts out with vivid recollections of childhood far away from Lagos – a distant memory that establishes him as an ever-curious soul. “Am I too short to be in the university?” the teenager asks his elder sister, often changing topics once he perceives intolerance in the disposition of the subject of his torture. The talkative boy soon morphs into a Political Science undergraduate at the University of Lagos from where he eventually graduates top of the class at age 21. Amidst experimentations with sex, booze, clubbing, advance fee fraud and what not, he gets called to be part of a Presidential candidate’s cracker team of young vibrant strategists.

The narrative is sublime and swift. It keeps you glued to the pages as the writer introduces interesting people he encounters in the university. “If people were colours, my roommates were a kaleidoscope,” he writes. “You meet Sir Henry the short and compact man who had been married twice and liked to make long calls at night. Brawn, six feet tall, sports an afro, has bowlegs, walks in carrying a large bottle of 501 Brandy, and has a guitar strapped across his back.” Brawn would introduce Osisiye, “a simple lad from Akure” to weed smoking and other vices: “I met people who smoked the substance and were very intelligent or claimed to use it for creative purposes like making music,” Osisiye muses.

Osisiye battles to understand faith and the religious folks. He tries to keep his sanity as depression forces him to seek help. He learns, unlearns and relearns; always moving with the ‘bad’ guys, yet wriggling out of tight corners and living on the fast lane.

The story begins to fall apart towards the last 40 per cent as the story shifts to the voices of some other key characters – Korede the eccentric and Chris the wealthy – to whom he dedicates entire sections to. The engaging dialogues from the first half of the book begin to give way to lengthy narratives that struggle to hold the reader’s attention. While these sections could have been better strewn together, Osisiye somehow gets the reader moving along.

The shortcomings notwithstanding, “60 per cent of a True Story” is a brilliant documentary of the realities of a young man’s life in contemporary Lagos. It documents the UNILAG that I also attended between 2006 and 2010 from interesting angles. It also reminds one of a similar book – Phil Adel Leigh’s “Diary of a Jambite,” which I read several years back before UNILAG.

Originally published in The Guardian Newspapers.

Books | A Review of Chude Jideonwo’s “Are we the turning point generation?”

Are we the turning point generation?

Title: Are we the turning point generation?

Author: Chude Jideonwo

ISBN: 978-978-52058-7-9

Pages: 187

Publisher: Kachifo Limited (Under its Kamsi imprint)

Year of Publication: 2014

Category: Non-fiction – Essays, Leadership, Governance, Nation building

Everyone has said something about Nigeria’s numerous problems and opportunities. There’s nothing new under the Sun. Nevertheless, for the ignorant, the forgetful, the curious, the historians and the curators of knowledge, Chude Jideonwo has written a collection of short, engaging essays, speeches if you like, that his generation, the one before, and the ones to come should take seriously.

In “Are we the turning point generation?” Chude – arguably one of Nigeria’s most influential young people below 30 – x-rays the past of our beloved country with boldness and wit beyond his age. He borrows a leaf from some of Chinua Achebe’s most important works; highlights Lee Kuan Yew’s narrative on Singapore; plus stories from Israel and China. He is unashamed and fearless to tell the truth.

“Government is the single most important force for change in any society – print that and paste it on your door if you want to do something to change your country,” he writes. That’s a simple, sound and insightful piece of advice. It took me several years to realize how the wrong people in government can sabotage the most brilliant of ideas from private and non-governmental initiatives.

Chude acknowledges the relevance of activists, freedom fighters, the opposition, radical lawyers, dogged journalists and progressive clergymen in governance; nevertheless he emphasizes the equally crucial need for competent and vision-driven individuals with the capacity to transform the government from within. “Many capable leaders will be flawed and will have undesirable attributes, but Bola Tinubu need not be flawless if he could create the political environment for a visionary like Babatunde Fashola,” he argues.

“Nations are not changed by the innocent and the unscarred, and people who have an unblemished record. In reality such people do not exist…”

He questions the existence of “the Nigerian dream” – whatever that means – and cautions against neglecting the country’s peculiarities as a nation and the dangers of outright transplantation of ideas and solutions from other parts of the world.

“How is it that perfectly reasonable and principled people get into the Nigerian government and suddenly begin to speak in tongues that normal people cannot understand? How come what is crystal clear to everybody else is not at all clear to those who make and drive public policy? Governance should be made unattractive to those who only want the easy life. Our government is one continuous owambe party, and it’s time for the music to stop.”

Chude is sharp and crisp as he sets aside sentiments whilst highlighting the failures and successes of some of our country’s past and present leaders. “Mr. Ribadu was clearly not a politician and didn’t have the skill set to convince, to persuade, to influence, maybe even to inspire. It was like watching a train wreck… the failure of his candidacy was spectacular. Mr. Ribadu was a fine public official, a model for effectiveness in service that has and will inspire a whole new generation – that much remains.”

He draws important lessons from these examples as he urges Nigerians to continue to ask the right questions and identify and support people with an agenda for our country – one of competence, development and nation building.

The headline question remains: Could our generation, Generation Y, be that critical generation in which Nigeria takes a decisive turn and step into the reality of the ever-elusive dream of a Nigeria that works like the most advanced of economies? “The young have it in them to be as clueless and as corrupt and as close-minded as the old. Our social media savvy and general openness to technology will not by itself save us.”

Chude does not pretend to have all the solutions. He presents a 52-point road map for incremental change as an alternative to forceful radical change. However, the onus lies on each one of us to step up and save our nation. “We are all we’ve got, and this should be the turning point generation. Let’s keep faith. If we stumble, let’s rise. When we fall, let’s rebound. Let’s refuse to let Nigeria go; let’s insist that it must work.” I agree.

Originally published on BellaNaija.com.