Most chronicled accounts of people’s lives are hardly ever presented sans embellishment, where, usually, the author lionizes the individual to a degree of fulfillment a few odd strides short of sainthood; this book on the late Mrs. Stella Obasanjo on the other hand, offers itself as a more humanizing reference. The six-section affair that is Antoinette-Rita’s biography of the late First Lady 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 sectioned spread of first-hand accounts, from people who knew the former First Lady personally to those who associated with her from a distance; the primary resource tapped into, in this instance, being the inclusion of numerous narratives, which grant a more holistic backdrop to the kind of life the First Lady led.
The book sets off with the foreword by Jaki Shelton Green, an overture to Antoinette-Rita’s introduction, which served 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 “diary-ised” 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, in its narrative; rather, it makes for smooth cohesion by virtue of the unanimity of opinion the various 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 nature. 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 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 and hindsight. Its brevity well-nigh coming across as a deliberate effort to avoid the wistfulness that accompanies fond remembrances, precluding any bathos, and adequately supplying the narrative with optimal measures of sincerity and feeling.
The unassuming qualities of Stella push it to be less an attempt at deification and more an attempt at humanization. Overall, Antoinette-Rita delivers in her anthology-like presentation of the life of late Mrs. Stella Obasanjo; a light read, which is neither burdened by the strain of bulk nor the drudge of bad telling. ♦
Author: >> Six
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