I have never been drilled like this before – Ayisha Osori


Last Saturday in Minna, Niger state, Ayisha Osori read her book Love Does Not Win Elections to an excited audience. In this piece, Paul Liam reports on the book chat.

Saturday 3rd, February 2018 shall linger for a very long time in the minds of guests who attended the feast of intellectual discourses that permeated the triangular hall of the AMAB Bookshop, Minna, Niger state. The event was a special guest author bookchat and signing put together by the triad of AMAB Books, Hill-top Creative Arts Foundation, and The Arts-Muse Fair Blog for Ayisha Osori, the quintessential social activist, lawyer and author of Love Does Not Win Elections.

The author encountered an unusual literary reception in Minna, reading her debut non-fictional thriller, which chronicles her exploits as a political novice who contested for the primary election under the PDP for the AMAC/Bwari Federal Constituency in the 2015 elections and lost. The obviously overwhelmed Osori, for about five hours engaged in a fierce intellectual banter with writers, critics, politicians and literary enthusiasts who poured a thousand and one questions on her.

Sometimes, the discourse would deviate from the intellectual into the political and back again. But even these deviations remained true to the spirit of the gathering; an intercourse with a political memoir by an ex-politician. Osori may not have anticipated the intellectual energy and quality insights she encountered, as she admitted to having learnt a lot from the various submissions and was honest enough to admit she didn't know when asked certain questions. The audience literally took the life out of her but, Osori's assertiveness and  charms couldn't be missed either. She took it all in with so much grace. She was sturdy in her responses and quick to dismiss reactions she considered mundane or irksome, as well. "Yes, I am an elite and I am not apologetic about it." she blurted out to an insinuation that her political motive and reasons for running were overtly elitist.

In self assessment, Osori acknowledged the intellectual depth and critical insights exhibited by the audience, she had enthused; "I have never had this kind of thorough discussion on my book, and I have read in many places with different classes of people. I have never been drilled like this before. You have given me a lot to chew on."

The event was moderated by the highly respected Sheikh Umar Dada Paiko, a poet. Sheikh Paiko did a beautiful job chaperoning the discussions, determining what part of the book should be read sometimes in order to stir the needed responses from the audience. The author, following the moderator's lead, read different portions of her book intermittently. Paiko, in one of his several insightful submissions had rebuffed Osori's capitalist and elitist supposition that politics should be centered on the elite and urban areas, and not the rural dwellers. By her estimation, the urban areas control the political calculation. "How many people are even in the rural areas? We should concentrate on the urban and leave the rural dwellers to their farms and trade." she opined.

Paiko reacted, "I consider this a slap on my face because I am also a rural dweller, so I sympathise with the rural people. Our rural people should not be left out, those who are not elitist too deserve a chance to be included in the political equation. They too matter."

Dr. Ibraheem Dooba, a poet and newspaper columnist, praised the author for writing an important book that exposes the dirty nature of Nigerian politics and the inherent, chronic cancer of corruption bedeviling the entire system in the country. He commended the author's narrative skills. He said he agreed with the contents of the book, that it was a true reflection of our realities. Dooba practically memorised the entire book including its pages as he cited it without opening the book. Being a Data expert, his genius was not surprising to many. Dooba concluded his commentary by positing that "We are screwers, and we have all been screwed as Nigerians."  He asked whether the author would have still contested knowing what she knows now? To this, she gave a straight answer, " No, knowing what I know now I would not have contested."

Osori disclosed that her primary reasons for writing the book was to document her experiences as an aspirant, for posterity. According to her, Nigeria has no culture of documentation. She also informed the audience that her dream has never been to become a politician. On whether she would contest again, she said she wasn't sure of contesting again. Reacting to a comment on the influence of the social media Sheikh Paiko had said, "Facebook is the most read book in the world, both Christians and Muslims don't read the Bible and Quran as much as facebook." This naked truth was accepted by all to be true. Paiko went further to posit that "we need rebellion in this country to change things. I parted ways with Buhari when he won in 2015 because he rode on the back of corruption to win, and continues to enjoy the blind love of the people."

The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Niger state, Mallam Baba Ndache in his own reaction appraised the work for its honesty and described it as being concerned with the issues of place and identity, because it is chiefly about women's access to space and representation in politics, education and all works of life as exemplified by the guest author and her mother. "The book is about place and the struggle for space especially for the Nigerian girl-child. Education must be inclusive for both boys and girls."

Ismaila Ebbo a politician and proponent of anti-zoning in discusssing the book, spoke exhaustively about the terrible state of things and blamed it on the dysfunctional system as been responsible for the ills. He praised the book for its truthfulness and said he wasn't sure if he could've written a political book with such level of honesty. Ebbo equally said that there is no national identifying ideology in Nigeria. "There is no national purpose and sense of belonging. It is in Nigeria that a person from Niger Republic is considered above an Igbo man who is a Nigerian." Everybody agreed that the system is the problem except BM Dzukogi, a poet and literary administrator, who in his submission refuted the general consensus that the system was responsible for the failure in government. Dzukogi insisted that the people are responsible for the failures, that they were the ones who elected the leaders who have bastardised the system.

Dzukogi opined that "Leadership transcends performance." and that "radicalism is essential in fixing the society." He went against the title of the book declaring that "love is good enough to win elections." He equally called the youth to embrace the Obasanjo's proposed "Coalition of Nigeria" to use it to effect the change they desire in the country. He said that the country cannot continue to be run by old men. He said he was disappointed that Osori was backing out of politics because of her failed trial. To this Osori said that she was less concerned about how people feel about her decision not to contest for elective position again.

Another contributor, Sai Baba submitted that women are wicked. Osori replied by saying that indeed some women are wicked but that their are good women too. Another wondered why women should be given special consideration when they are their own enemies, when they don't love themselves. Osori debunked this assertion about women not loving their fellow women. According to her, she has met great women as a women's right activist who love themselves and are supporting one another.  On the question of why women who are seeking for equal opportunity for resources control to be given 35 percent affirmative action. Osori in answering this question recline into her academic robe and intricately analysed the dynamism involved in the use of quota system. She said that all over the world where there is a perceived sense of injustice or inequality,  people usually demand for inclusion through the use of affirmative action or quota system to benefit a disadvantaged group and to create a sort of balance in the distribution of resources or opportunities. In politics in Nigeria, the women are under represented and as such need the affirmative action to assert their political relevance. 

Osori was however against some other kinds of special considerations such as in situations were credibility and quality is jettisoned for mediocrity, ethnicity or where nepotism prevails. While Ibrahim Akibu Ja'afaru, an environmental activist, made a case against zoning and called for a free system that promotes quality and professionalism. He asked the guest author what her thoughts were on zoning. And to this too, Osori advanced that just condemning the zoning formula alone was not enough but that concrete and logical reasons must be advanced to the effect of why zoning should be abolished in the country's political equation.

Barrister Maimuna in her postulation narrowed the unfortunate state of affairs in the country to the decay in the family system. According to her, the family institution is no longer playing its role in bringing up morally sound children who will grow into active members of the society. She also lamented the dearth in the reading culture amongst the populace especially the younger generation. She said, she established a reading club in 2012 but the reception has been very poor and discouraging.
Guests at the book chat
Another female speaker, Hajiya Maryam Yelwa corroborated Maimuna' s position on the rot in the family value system. The woman, a teacher cited an instance where a student who was contesting for a position in a school, took chocolate bars to school and shared to her school mates as incentives to influence their votes to her favour. This is a clear manifestation of the symptoms of corruption. A bad example that the student might have learnt from her parents, she opined. The woman also deemphasised elitist politics by calling for a bottom-up approach. "We should try a bottom to top approach, we should ask the people what they really want. How do we eat an elephant without first cutting it into smaller pieces?" she asked rhetorically.

Other members of the audience like Engineer Mustapha Ibrahim made very sound contributions too. Hon. Haruna Dokodza, a member in the Niger state House of Assembly and Chairman House Committee on Works was also in attendance, so also was Abdullahi Ismaila of English Department, ABU Zaria and Olu Jacob, former editor of Next Magazine who breezed in at the tail end of the programme, although they were not involved in the discussions.

Haj. Jummai Muhammad, who initiated the idea of the book chat and personally invited Ayisha Osori to Minna, gave the closing remarks. She thanked everyone for their generous participation in the book chat. She said the book is an eye opener and that it would continue to stir conversations that would lead to an overhaul of the political system in Nigeria. She expressed great delight at the huge success of the event and described Minna as a home of literary geniuses.

The event came to a close with the presentation of gift to the guest author by AMAB Books. It was a memorable event.

Paul Liam is a poet, essayist and critic. A former Assistant Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Co-Editor of Ebedi Review, journal of the Ebedi International Writers' Residency Iseyin, Oyo State, Nigeria. He is a Literary Columnist with Newsline Newspapers of the Niger state Government. He writings have been published in major national newspapers and online. Some of his critical works and poems can be found at Africanwriter.com