Most chronicled accounts of people’s lives are more hagiographical than they are biographical, lionizing the individual to a degree of fulfillment a few odd strides short of sainthood; this book on the other hand gives a more humanizing reference to a life well lived. The six-section affair that is Antoinette-Rita’s biography of The Late First Lady, Mrs. Stella Obasanjo is a detailed survey into the contributions she made as an individual and as a part of the global collective.
Structurally, the book paces you with its sectionalized spread of personal accounts, from people who knew The Former First Lady personally to people who assorted with her from a distance; the primary resource keenly tapped into in this instance being the inclusion of numerous narratives, which aid the reader, granting a more holistic backdrop to the kind of life the former First Lady lead.
The book sets off with the foreword by Jaki Shelton Green, an overture to the introduction given by Antoinette-Rita herself, serving as a personal walk-through from an external perspective, because although Antoinette-Rita claimed not to know the First Lady personally, her second-hand account winged as an introductory anecdote equally rich in insight and exclusivity when paralleled with in-family accounts given by The First Lady’s relatives, siblings, and children. A praise poem is affixed right after Antoinette-Rita’s contribution, preceding the mosaic of accounts featured subsequently. Varied perspectives chuck out the element of personal bias and subjectivity which a few biographers are guilty of, making the exercise more candid and all-inclusive. At points in the book, the accounts feel like the diaristic musings of The First Lady herself, written in second person, lending an almost intrusive feel to it. Oddly, the presence of different voices doesn’t make the book feel adrift or discrepant, narratively; rather, it makes for smooth cohesion by dint of the unanimity of opinion the contributors held of The Late First Lady.
Antoinette-Rita is an established lawyer and writer, more at home with poetry than any other genre, but here she manages to exhibit an admirable level of prowess in the field of prose and fluid narration. The book itself possesses few shortcomings which are either typographical or rhetorical in make. Shored up by its simplicity, it projects a skeletal quality with its economy of words and to-the-point presentation.
One particular account I made to look out for was that of her dear husband and former President, General Olusegun Obasanjo. Despite the succinctness of delivery he employs, his account touched off as reservedly emotive, evenly borne upon by the tinct of nostalgia. Its clipped length well-nigh coming across as a deliberate effort to avoid the wistfulness that accompanies fond rememberances, so as not to overcompensate with bathos, but adequately supply the narrative with optimal measures of sincerity and feeling.
The unassuming qualities of the book itself push it to be less an attempt at deification and more an attempt at humanization. Overall, Antoinette-Rita delivers in her anthological presentation of life of The Former First Lady of Nigeria, Late Mrs. Stella Obasanjo. A light-read which is neither burdened by the strain of bulk nor the drudge of bad-telling.
Copyright 2016, by Chukwuemeka J. Ojeh. Chukwuemekaojeh@gmail.com