By Dapo Adeniyi
It is with much delight and a sense of privilege that I convey to you my impressions about a book whose conception and labour of its author over the period that it took to make it a reality I was privy to.
And I honestly recommend that those who buy it should take the pain to sit down and read it. For its very slim size, that ordinarily should not be a big problem on its own but reading, as we all know, is no longer quite a treasure chore with very many of us, particularly in a busy urban setting such as ours.
The author, James Babajide Olateju, an accomplished accountant, is actually also a passionate raconteur or storyteller. I say this because first of all, this is the second autobiography by him, the first was a tale dedicated to the grand uncle of himself, C. B. Faro. The author also functioned as a key literary midwife for another book of memories by former classmates at Ilesha Grammar School in Osun State.
The journey of nearly eighty years to date is relived in not many pages. It began in the pastoral community of Ijeshaland, near Ilesha. A happy and fecund existence even for a child. Even though this was at the heart of colonial rule, life was fairly assured and secure. Big dreams, even by peasant uprising families, were nurtured and hopes seldom forlorn. Anyone who dared could dream. Individual families still had to trade or farm to ekk out a living but nothing stood in the way of those who desired to aspire
Mr. James Babajide Olateju was one out of very many such. He also tells parts of the stories of classmates and peers from the Holy Trinity Primary School in Omofe, Ilesha to Ilesha Grammar School, also people he encountered during his stints with an uncle whose occupation moved him to different cities, at the Achimota College in Ghana, at Leeds in the UK, in the civil service, the University of Lagos and so on.
And this is the stuff of which biographies are made: one story fans out and produces multiple stories.
Of the several striking anecdotes is the one in which the author falls ill and is hospitalized for the very first time as recently as 1997. Another involves the monarch Oba Oladele Olashore who very recently passed on. He appears in the book twice, once while they were both studying in Ghana and also when their paths joined again at the Leeds College of Commerce in the UK.
I believe that the launch of this memoir at this material time is also a tribute to a friend, fellow Ijesha socialite and a frontline national figure
The author glances through bygone years and finds that personal choices shape individual destinations in life. Ordinarily, the words “destiny” and “destination” are of no parity in terms of their social usage.
The common belief in destiny implies that, man is consigned entirely to forces above him and therefore is beyond their control. Tracing his own footprints in time, Mr. Olateju arrives at the conclusion that individual choice is a responsibility with far-reaching consequences.
That knowledge becomes the rallying message for this book. He exhorts those younger, with many years before them, to recognise that responsible choices attract both divine assistance and approval. Moreover, no one can rise higher than the quality of the choices that they make.
This is how this book derives its title, Life is a Choice: Head or Tail. One of the unique qualities of this book is that the author does not engage in “beating about the bush” so to say.
The style of the writing is straight, without any literary embellishment. The tone of the narration is however a passionate one. He speaks from within himself and the reader hears the author’s voice in his or her own mind.
The economy of the prose narrative should not be a surprise to us either; when a seasoned accountant becomes a writer, his tales become as succinct and direct.
And in this case, it is also quite enjoyable.