More than Words


Yinka Olatunbosun

For some reasons, a few moments in life had placed less value on
words. Sometimes, you say it best when you say nothing. To illustrate
this line of reasoning, Bayo Omoboriowo’s new pictorial biography on
President Mohammadu Buhari titled, Buhari: A New Beginningcomes in
handy, albeit not literarily. At a glance, the book strikes the reader
as a creative piece with a strong pull at the power of visual
analysis. With a brief introductory note attached to the book cover,
and a strong foreword written by the former Commonwealth
Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the reader can tell that it is
a significant and historical documentation of the life of Nigeria’s
two-time leader: first as a military head of state and now as a
democratically-elected president.

The photo artist, who incidentally is the personal photographer to the
president, had done his artistry and profession much good with this
initiative. In this era of self-portraits, mobile devices, internet
and itching fingers, not a lot of photographers collect the best of
their creative works in such a library-friendly format. But
Omoboriowo topped his art with a historical reference point with this
new biography of a leader who came highly recommended by distinguished
Nigerians who wrote in the book and outside of it.

If sized up by a rational reader, it could be said that there are pros
and cons in making Professor Yemi Osinbajo SAN write the introduction
to the book. The good reasons for the choice are many. One is that
Professor Osinbajo is a scholar while another is that he is a
political ally of the subject of the book. Though this political
affiliation might be counted as capable of inciting sentimental
judgment in the reader, Osinbajo’s remarks are well-guided by facts of
history. Still, the reader can decide to appreciate the book from
cover to cover without reading those remarks in order to assess the
book on its merit.

One captivating feature of the book is its high resolution, cover
image of President Buhari in a lone stride and smiles. This is
followed by an avalanche of images of him from his childhood years and
early period of his military training. The documentary photography
presents Buhari as a man of valour, with a record of honour and
international recognition. In his line of duty, it was natural for him
to have a good appearance in addition to his good deeds. Little wonder
why at a Bayelsa State rally, a young man had a placard labelled,
“Buhari Stainless”. Though all the pictures showed him as a man either
at work or play, as one who maintains an admirable sense of grooming,
he is considered “stainless’’ not just in terms of his wardrobe
statements but also his demeanour, what with the look of admiration in
the smiling face of one of the guards of honour in Germany.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s remarks in the book about the
subject gave an insight into how his previous national assignments had
been founded on his discipline, integrity, resilience and dedication.
As a young military officer, it would have been hard to picture him as
sociable but the Manila reception image of him dancing with a Filipino
dancer makes that easy. As a grandfather, it was quite humorous to
catch the bewildered smile on Buhari’s face in the group selfie taken
with his family members. He was also captured on camera at his farm
inspecting a seedling. All those pictorial vignettes of his life
demonstrated his humane side.

Although the six-chapter book has Buhari as its thematic
preoccupation, other supporting images tell volumes about him. For
instance, the image of an aged man with a transistor radio pressed
against his waiting ears for the results of the Presidential elections
that ushered in President Buhari relived the collective political
consciousness of the Nigerian people and their vested hope in his
administration. From clergy to the market women and from world leaders
to political opponents, Buhari’s new photo documentary gives a robust
pictorial account of the contemplative leader inside out.

Very political in its tone, the book, in the words of Emeka Anyaoku, “shows
that the optimism engendered by the change that President Buhari
canvassed during the last elections remain high in the country.”
Buhari: A New Beginning is capable of evoking rational discourses on
the role of still photography in historical research and
documentation. It will invite the probing eyes of a social-realist
critic into questioning its relevance in the scheme of current
political developments.

Omoboriowo is a graduate of pure and applied chemistry from the
University of Lagos whose works had been featured on CNN amongst other
international media. He has won several awards including Sundance
Institute Short-Film Challenge in 2014, the 2013 MTN Afrinolly
Short-film Competition 2013 as well as the 2012 Future Awards Creative
Artist of the Year.