July 19, 2024
Review

A few critical lessons from Anietie Usen’s ‘And It Came to Pass’

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  • June 25, 2024
  • 9 min read
A few critical lessons from Anietie Usen’s ‘And It Came to Pass’

By Udeme Nana

AND It Came to Pass (Parresia Publishers, Lagos; 2024), the third book by Anietie Usen, tells the story of how a Qua Iboe/United Evangelical Church Deacon turned an Apostolic Church Pastor/All Nations Christian Ministries International Founder, Eket, into a state governor. It is also the story of how a hospitality industry self-styled ‘Governor’ actually became an executive governor of a state in Nigeria. In that respect, Ken Caleb Olumese, Governor of Niteshift Coliseum must be green with envy!

Looking at it from the perspective of a journalism teacher, this book seems to be the longest feature story ever written by a Nigerian journalist. And It Came to Pass could be described as an experiential utobiography/biography, because the writer comes away as an active witness to the unfolding history. The author, at a point, became an active participant – a participant-observer who was embedded in some of the scenes in the unfolding drama.

Autobiographies and biographies have the power to reveal someone’s life in raw form. From the struggles they witnessed to the hurdles they jumped over, this genre covers it all.

And It Came to Pass reminds me of another great journalistic tour de force written by two outstanding American journalists – Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward titled All the President’s Men. Usen’s book is delivered in simple, down-to-earth, clear, concise, captivating prose. It is detailed, well-researched, racy, gripping. Usen has, through this book, defended his best in class status among journalists of his generation in West Africa.

And It Came to Pass is the first ever blow-by-blow account of an electoral contest from the search, selection, ‘anointing’, presentation, endorsement, nomination, litigations, campaigns, victory, assumption of office and strides of an elected governor in the first year in office. This reviewer has followed politics in Nigeria since 1979 and that submission is from one’s observatory. What is more, this book is written and published in record time – within four months: February through May, 2024!

Lessons

A curious reader gets to know that the former governor, Udom Emmanuel is a man of courage and strong convictions; a man, who, once he sets his sights on a goal, goes all out to pursue and achieve that goal. There’s a lesson in focus, determination, sel-confidence, self-belief, strategic planning and a display of unapologetic mastery and control of his environment. On page 270 of the book, Emmanuel Enoidem, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria ( SAN ) and a former National Legal Adviser of the Peoples Democratic party (PDP), is quoted as describing former Governor Emmanuel in the following words: ‘He may not look intimidating and threatening, but he is not only courageous but a great strategist. If you underated Udom Emmanuel’s strength in strategic planning, it is at your own peril.” As submitted by Assam Assam, another Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Russia, “Even for daring to bring a pastor as a successor, a man without political sophistication… and declare that this Eket pastor will perform 100 times better than him, an international banker… that is a mark of uncommon courage…”

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The second lesson shows the former governor as one with a ‘God complex’ and a “God centred” person who has 100% belief and trust in God and so in the infallibility of his plans. On page 272 of the book, the Dean of Commissioners, Sir Monday Uko alluded to it when he said, “I think he got that strength from his strong belief in God. Udom Emmanuel is very deep spiritually… That man does not miss his daily prayer hours, no matter what happens. He does not play with anything that has to do with God. You can say every other thing you want to say against him but he believes so much in God.” Monday Uko, a Knight of John Wesley, concluded his testimonial in these words: “…Udom Emmanuel is one man who is very deep when it comes to the things of God… he is very solid when it comes to God.”

The third lesson is from the life of the principal subject of the book, as a contented person. On page xxxi, Governor Umo Eno says, “My father also had this belief that what he does not have cannot bother him. He was very contented with what he had, and I think that is one of the graces God has given to me. I don’t disturb myself over what people have, and at every point in my life, I have been content with what God has done for me.”

The fourth lesson speaks to industry; being self-driven, seeing opportunities and seizing them.

The next lesson is that there’s a sense of joy and fulfillment in self-help. “We were six of us… So my mother would help…. She would buy soft drinks, and we had to go round the streets of Ikeja and hawk them. We helped joyfully. It wasn’t embarrassing at all. In the barracks, it was like a competition amongst us children. My friends would call on me when they were leaving for the streets. It was fun.”

There’s a lesson on being a church-centred, ethical person, on following a path that doesn’t conflict with one’s internal reactions. Pastor Umo Eno shut down a nightclub even after borrowing money to set it up “on getting called into the ministry.” In his own words, “When I left the church that day, the club came to an end. People couldn’t believe it. Yeah, it was painful – a great pain.”

The book showcases the public speaking skills, breadth of knowledge, eloquence and power of articulation of Pastor Eno. It presents someone who was prepared for his present status and station in life.

There is a lesson that documents filed at the Court of Justice must be defended verbally, as documents cannot speak for themselves, especially in criminal cases. Legal authorities describe such documents as “moribund and dead!”

There are two lessons on page 99. One teaches that anyone can make a way from the lowest estate in life to the highest rung in the society: “if I could crawl my way up from the abyss of hopelessness, and a few years later, became the second largest employer of labour in the state, after the government, with a monthly wage bill of over N25 million, you, too, can,” he declares. That conviction is again repeated on page 238: “People who heard my voice reading my inaugural address knew this was not completely me. That God can bring me this far… from the basest of backgrounds, and all of a sudden, I just found out that tomorrow morning, by noon, I will be the governor. Ah! It was unbelievable. Unbelievable! I think God specializes in things that seem impossible.”

The other lesson still found on that page is the subject’s heart of gratitude and humility. Furthermore, there’s a lesson in how a seemingly negative framing can turn into hilarious positivity. On page 207, the wife of Governor Eno declares, “They say my husband is albino, and some call him yellow fever, but I call him my Golden Boy.” It is not what others call you; everything depends on what you and those in your inner circle, your loved ones, call you!”

The 11th lesson from the book is the presentation, in very bold and sharp relief, Pastor Eno as a man of uncommon empathy. This shines through in his strides as governor so far.

A Word for Publishers

Publishers have a high responsibility to serve readers with correctness in all ramifications – grammar, spellings, punctuation, tenses, and word use. They should also fact-check content to ensure accuracy and credibility. They should invest time to edit and revise copy for clarity, readability and also pay more attention to detail. It is my opinion that the abdication of every responsibility in the process of publishing to Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a disservice to both authors and readers. This is because, in my own opinion, artificial intelligence lacks the psychedelic, experiential sophistication to be relied on for total quality and all-round excellence in book publishing.

Let me commend the author for his latest contribution to political history but hasten to observe that the use/promotion of value-laden nicknames for certain highly placed public officials in a serious book of record is ‘a no-no’ for me. On page 279, he writes “Standing now before the new Governor, backing the curious crowd and about to take an oath of Office as Secretary to the State Government , SSG, was the Secretary General of the Governorship Campaign Council, Prince Uwah…His nickname is Hammer and the Hall erupted with the chant of ‘Hammer, Hammer, Hammer”! I see this as negative role modeling. There’s a tendency for the imagination of readers to run wild in an attempt to find the context for such an alias.

It is important to note that nicknames come with several associations. They hold tremendous significance in shaping the identities of bearers, and also convey cues, messages and meanings. Apart from just being labels, nicknames can evoke emotions, create certain impressions in addition to influencing how others perceive those so branded.

On the whole, one sees And It Came to Pass as a new genre in book writing – part biography and part autobiography! The subject has contributed a chapter, the Epilogue, to the book while Usen takes credit for the greater content of the work. This therefore makes the book a hybrid between a biography and an autobiography. Maybe scholars would find a new name for this innovation.

In one word, one of the greatest strengths of And It Came to Pass is it’s currency and relevance. The account isn’t about yesteryears. Most readers would have witnessed the events and can relate with the contents of the book.

* Dr. Nana is the founder of Uyo Book Club

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