Nigeria is indeed a home of possibilities. Nigerians, particularly Lagosians, were stupefied when a picture cover of a book titled “My Service to Humanity” surfaced online. What was shocking was the fact that it had the name of Musiliu Akinsanya, popularly known as “MC Oluomo”.
Anyone who is familiar with the name knows that it racks up the imagery of brute force and political hooliganism. He is regarded as the king of the streets: one who lords over thugs and an instrument of destruction for politicians.
When he was made the chairman of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), many were miffed by the move. How can a person with a highly debatable profile, with very limited education lead such a vibrant union in the state? His invitation to give a keynote address at a symposium organised by the University of Lagos (UNILAG) on the transport sector further generated a lot of fuss online.
Nevertheless, this man that never fails to stamp an impression decided he wasn’t done yet. He picks up the very “practice” associated with men of letters, and pronto he serves us a book! MC Oluomo is going to be an author!
Many doubted and still doubt this possibility. In trying to come to terms with this shocking reality, some gave the move away as a scheme for the 2023 elections. His advisers must have told him that if he can try and have a book to his name irrespective of what it says, then it doesn’t make him any less different from an educated person. This will make him viable for more elevated positions other than NURTW boss. Others also opined he is only trying to save his face or launder his image. Someone was quoted as saying that, “even if he writes a million books, he is still the illiterate and the popular thug we all know and can’t be elevated to the rank of nobles”.
MC Oluomo’s media aide, Jimoh Buhari, has however refuted claims that the forthcoming book by his principal is about politics. He confirmed that MC Oluomo would be publishing “My Service to Humanity” on the occasion of his birthday:
“The book is not yet ready but should be launched around March when MC Oluomo’s birthday will be held.
“The book is just about MC Oluomo’s experiences, his history, and his life story. There are many misconceptions about him and the book gives him the opportunity of clearing the air on many issues.
“It is certainly not about 2023 politics. There have been rumours about his intention to contest but right now, he has no such ambition.”
As mixed reactions continue to trail MC’s Oluomo’s forthcoming book, the whole scenario deserves critical introspection.
An uneducated person writes a book and everybody goes berserk, casting stones and aspersions. But how many educated or successful personalities and dignitaries have a book to their name let alone a book detailing their life’s experience?
Nigeria undoubtedly is replete with successful men and women in various fields, but how many have written a book profiling their individual experience to inspire the present and coming generations?
Renowned African and Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe, said that, “a man who does not know where the rain began to beat him cannot say where he dried his body”. This illustrates that telling our stories are very important because they provide context and history. They serve as monument of history, acting as a link between the past, present and future. They offer insight, transfer wisdom and serve as inspiration. The stories we share by capturing them in print/digital forms are very important for personal, national and social development.
Equally important are the stories that are not shared: many see it as the highest form of selfishness that enlightened individuals can keep others from accessing valuable information and experiences that can lead to a better society.
Can we imagine the impact it will make if every former head of state, governor, CEO, political, business and religious leader in Nigeria documents his experiences for the coming generation to learn from?
The effect of not profiling one’s personal experience has proven to be very damaging to the growth of our society as a whole. This is because this simple action has the potential to impact the larger society as well as change the lives of millions in the society.
Many successful personalities have made the world a better place by profiling their peculiar experience.
Semi-biographical works like “Think Big” by successful retired American neurosurgeon, Ben Carson is a typical example. By detailing the struggles of his personal life and success, Ben Carson through that book changed the lives of over a million people across the world.
As the saying goes every story has two sides. The Holy Bible elucidates on this as it states that “the first one to speak sounds true until you hear the other side and they set the record straight” (Prov. 18:17).
With the many connection to him as a thug and a puppet in the hands of politician, MC Oluomo has decided to tell his own side of the story.
It is not just the fact that he has decided to tell his own side or the story that is the crux of the issue. It is the fact that he saw the need to do that through a book, to the shame of the elites keeping mum in the society.
This action is characteristic of the astuteness of men of letters and even for this alone, MC Oluomo irrespective of his background deserves some commendation.
This is typical of what informed the making of the African classic, “Things Fall Apart”.
Foremost critic and writer, Chinua Achebe, wrote what is now regarded as the template for African literature, “Things Fall Apart” as a response to correct impressions about Africa. “Things Fall Apart” was inspired by the poor and false depiction of Africa and her people as illustrated in Joyce Cary’s “Mister Johnson”.
Chinua Achebe saw a need to change the grotesque African narrative which equally contributed and made for the false impression the Western world had about Africa. By telling the African story from an African point of view, Chinua Achebe was able to change perspectives. This simple action transformed the life of the author and the African society as the book has translations in over fifty languages.
According to Bobette Buster, “stories not told can become like an evil genie left in a bottle. When they are finally uncorked, their power to destroy is unleashed.”
Profiling one’s peculiar experience also challenges others to share theirs. With this, the history and literature of a country can abound. Oftentimes, many renowned Nigerians have the view that they don’t have experiences worthy of being captured in a book. So they withhold their stories.
Irrespective of such personal feelings, every story, as well as every experience, has a place in the society.
This is where professional biographers exist to offer advice. Posterity will only remember what is captured and those who are brave enough to embark on that journey down memory lane.
Psychologists have also revealed that the practice of going down memory lane is therapeutic as it creates an avenue to relish prized moments. For the reluctant ones who feel they will be revealing their flaws, admitting them removes burden and eases the mind. Far from making us feel better, embarking on this journey helps the individual understand themselves better: how and where they missed it at certain points in their lives as they look back in retrospect.
Before now, writing of diaries, memoirs and small pieces of info detailing peculiar experience was the common practice. The diaries, memoirs and the rest were for personal edification and provided an outlet for the purgation of emotions. In societies with this culture, storytelling and book writing evolved to an impressive level. Such environments were filled with the numerous writings of men of old.
These days it is not so much as people are now caught up in the hassle of modernity. The modern culture is taking that away with people relying on the faintest details of what they leave on the media space to relive and relish their memories.
Most importantly, if the educated and successful do not tell their stories, the uneducated will tell theirs and it will constitute part of the history and literature of the country.
Nature abhors a vacuum. If someone like MC Oluomo can consider the idea of detailing his life experience in a book or deploying it to change perspectives, then the joke is on the many educated and successful dignitaries in the country, who do not even have a common poem to their name.
It is not enough that a stark illiterate will be elevated to the position of NURTW boss when there are a thousand and one million qualified graduates. But when this illiterate outclasses literates by using a book to his advantage, it speaks volumes.