Revelling in history that entertains, refreshes

A review of Lanrewaju Akinsola’s Echoes Across the Niger: Historical Tales of Contemporary Events in Nigeria ASCO Publishers; 562pp; 2018.

READERS know him as Onigegewura, but his real name is Lanrewaju Akinsola. He is a lawyer passionate about history and the owner of the famous historical Onigegewura Blog.

In his recently released book, ‘Echoes Across the Niger: Historical Tales of Contemporary Events in Nigeria’, history takes wing and flies. It becomes animated and converses with the reader delightfully.

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For some people, history can be tedious; they perceive it as an anachronistic course that has no utility for modern times. But they are mistaken; history lives. Besides, it provides a firm foundation for both the present and the future.  Everything does not begin and end with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — history matters. The poor perception of history perhaps accounts for why an administration in this country took it out of the school curriculum before sanity eventually returned with the resolution to start teaching it again in schools.

Fittingly, Akinsola’s 562-page book published by ASCO Publishers is not dissimilar to Peter Frankopan’s impressive ‘The Silk Roads’, a pacy and breathtaking new history of the world that reads like a novel.

In Echoes Across the Niger, the author relives topical incidents in Nigeria’s contemporary history in beautiful prose as if they happened right in his presence to educate the reader. The story of Ejigbadero, the king of land grabbers in Lagos of the 1970s and how he got his comeuppance; how the Emir of Kano and former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II sanitised Nigerian banks in 2009 and the story of the late first civilian governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha are all in the book.

Bet you don’t know the intrigue involved before the late Basorun M.K.O Abiola became the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland in 1988 and the starring role played by the legal luminary, Chief Afe Babalola? There’s also the shameful tale of the cement armada of 1975/76; the Wetie crisis in the old Ondo State, as well as how the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, almost lost his wig and town.

That’s not all. The rich book doesn’t neglect milestones including the Aba Women’s war; the martyred miners of Enugu and how it took some three years and civil disobedience from Oyo people for the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, to ascend the throne of his ancestors.

It’s not just controversies, personalities and events that occupy the Onigegewura. There are also beautiful stories on the late Apala musician, Ligali Mukaiba, better known as Baba Lepe; Haruna Isola; the maverick Ayinla Omowura and his unfortunate end and how the relationship between the late Chief Bolarinwa Abioro of TYC Records and King of World Beats, Sunny Ade soured.

Indeed, Echoes Across the Niger is like the proverbial Adepele’s teeth that are legion. The stories in the book are many, enriching and best enjoyed by reading the collection oneself. After all, the taste of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating.

However, what’s most interesting is that the book started as an experiment to use social media to document historical events before it took a life of its own.

“I started Onigegewura Blog to provide young Nigerians with a digital platform where we can learn about our history and culture,” the man who trained as a lawyer offered by way of explanation in the preface.

But from being a social media experiment, the “Onigegewura Blog soon became a resource centre where people regularly converged to learn about their history and culture. I was pleasantly shocked to hear from many young readers that they were learning about historical events that shaped our country for the first time on the Blog,” he further explained.

Akinsola added: “it is to preserve these historical tales that I embark on the task of publishing this book in your hand. It is, therefore, my modest attempt at preserving some contemporary events in our recent history for future generations.”

If you have never visited the Onigegewura Blog or don’t have a copy of ‘Echoes Across the Niger’, you will do well to check it out or buy a copy. It is not dull history; these are lucid, fascinating historical events that leap right at you from the pages. It is a most enjoyable read that eminent judge, the Honourable Justice Olubunmi Oyewole of the Court of Appeal, Enugu Division also endorse.  “The delivery style is racy, pacy, ecstatic and educative at the same time. The research is deep, reflective of painstaking attention to details. Coming at a time when the nation is seeking for direction with competing forces in the perpetual struggle for its soul, this series cannot be more timely,” he note in the foreword.

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