The popular English idiom and metaphoric phrase which urged us not to judge a book by its cover will be off on a tangent if ever used to explain the book, Colours of Perception: An Autobiography.
This is because, from its cover page, you can judge and correctly too, that the book offers different colours of an individual man’s service to his fatherland. Authored by Kayode Odunaro, journalist, renowned publicist to military and civilian heads of government in Ogun State and the Nigerian federal parliament in Abuja, Colours of Perception is, in a way, beyond an autobiography; it is a historical rendition of the administration of Ogun State, from the twilight of military rule in Nigeria, up to the present time.
Elegant, beautiful and seductively inviting at first contact, the book possesses the aesthetic power of luring the reader into its bosom for a liaison. Its publisher, Ibadan-based Kraft Book Limited, deserves kudos for producing such arresting work of art.
The artist who designed the front cover of the book wrote a voluminous thesis about Colours of Perception, without necessarily saying anything. In his/her unspoken communication, the artist encircled Odunaro in the midst of multiple rainbow colours. Inside this arch of colours stood the author, harmless-looking but to whom those multiple colours of red, orange, green, blue, indigo and violet ministered.
The artist seems to be using this to represent the job of a publicist who, on a daily basis, ministers to various audiences and publics and who in turn minister unto him.
A 318-page book written in a lucid, fluid and flowing journalistic language that is accessible to all and sundry, if anyone is in doubt about the strategic and important roles of a media advisor, especially to a government official, Colours of Perception instantly opens a vista into that consequential role.
Divided into 38 chapters, the book began with the narrative of the early years and education of the autobiographer, who called himself an accidental journalist. It also concluded with a chapter that details the involvement of the author in the culture of his Yewa people which he aptly entitled From Oronna Day to Oronna Ilaro Festival.
As I said earlier, the title of the book and its design suggested that what the reader will be served with is a pot-pourri, like the varied colours of the rainbow. Therein, you would find the odyssey of Odunaro who though hails from Ogun State, lived his formative years in the South-east of Nigeria, the present day Abia State to be specific.
The politics of his locality of Obohia in Ukwa Local Government of the state became his first encounter with how men and women gather themselves as members of political parties so that they could shape the lives of their people.
Armed with his mastery of the language of the people and a first degree in Political Science from the University of Calabar, the young graduate easily ‘meshed’ with the Obohia locals, in spite of the patriarchal nature of the Igbo society which tended to give secondary roles to children with maternal roots and ancestry.
While Odunaro explains off his foray into journalism as accidental, his narration of the process of how he became a journalist nevertheless had a tinge of hard work and determination.
It has been said that accidents of history could land us at the feet of our destinies but innate and inherent mental acquisitions are the only qualifications that would take our destiny farther down the road. Before his employment by the Sunray Newspaper – the first all-colour newspaper outfit in Nigeria at the time – Odunaro had armed himself with what would later be useful for the practice of the profession, which are writing and analytic skills. By the time he was employed, it became a fait accompli for him to make the profession a path to his destined route.
The author’s stint in journalism, working for Sunray as its Ondo State correspondent and eventually moving to Lagos, though short, prepared him for the rigour that he eventually encountered as the publicist of Military Administrators of Ogun State, the state’s first civilian governor in the Fourth Republic, Chief Olusegun Osoba, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and even his current work at the National Assembly in Abuja.
The thread that unites journalism with the job of a publicist is the sacredness of the word. While the journalist venerates the word and guides it jealously in the process of communicating it to the world, the publicist is also mindful of the impact of the word that he sends out on behalf of his principal to the public.
The reader encounters a snippet of how restless, boundless and unable to be fettered journalists get when there is a Breaking News in Odunaro’s Colours of Perception.
At that moment, the journalist gets agitated, excited and apprehensive when he is confronted with a story that is capable of being the lead story in the newspaper. The author demonstrates this in his narration in the book; about how he covered the story of soldiers arraigned by the General Sani Abacha military government for allegedly plotting a coup to overthrow it.
The reporter, even at a time when there was no communication gadgets, with his newspaper “going to bed” earlier than others due to the nature of its production process, waddled through the laborious exercise of filing the story so as to ensure that Sunray didn’t miss out on the exclusive story the next day.
The story of how Odunaro moved from being a reporter to a manager of reports, which publicists are, is the quintessential mandatory route of destiny.
The reader will, however, read about how the author didn’t just fold his hands and expect providence to connect him with Group Captain Sam Ewang, with whom he worked as Chief Press Secretary. For upcoming youths of today who want to climb ladders of the rough road to the top, Colours of Perception is a must-read for them. They should pay special attention to how the author took his destiny into his hands, and eventually ruled his destiny.
Chapter Six to Chapter 22 are devoted to the odyssey of the author in public service as an image maker to top government officials. They contained the vagaries he underwent in government, the sharp-edged, slippery floors of working in government – whether under the military or civilian governments – and how he meandered out of them all.
In fact, these chapters, 17 in all, can be said to be the juiciest meat of the book. Beginning from how Odunaro learnt the ropes of the job of an image maker to a politically exposed person, it culminated in his becoming such a master of the trade, so much that his mastery spoke for him, to the extent that successors of his bosses in office sought him out.
How did the “accidental journalist” make history to becoming Chief Press Secretary to two military administrators in tow and their civilian governor successor will interest a reader who wants to know how hard work, loyalty and commitment will earn a diligent worker a place that may be equal to the Guinness Book of Records.
These chapters showed Odunaro as a man who was hyper-dedicated to his job, committed to his bosses, loyal to the core to the ideals and fidelity of an employer-employee relationship and who subsequently reaped their benefits. Not only did the experience of Odunaro in office with the bosses he served answer to that biblical phrase of “Seeth a man diligent in his work” who would dine with princes, but it also showed that loyalty is like a talisman.
A particular encounter which the author had with the successor of his boss, Governor Osoba – Governor Gbenga Daniel – will explain this better. Apparently having upset its apple carts by continuing to send out analyses and press releases which explained his ex-boss’ four years in government, the Daniel administration felt threatened by those neutralizing communication and had to seek to stop 0Odunaro. The administration, however, met an Odunaro who never wavered from the path of loyalty to his former boss.
The brilliance with which Odunaro handled his job in Ogun State spoke for him when Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, needed a publicist too. Not only did his job in Ogun State catapult him to the federal, but it also widened Odunaro’s publicist constituency beyond the state. There, he found out that the distinguishing factor still remained hard work, loyalty and commitment.
In chapters 23 to 33, Odunaro literally documented the battles he and his erstwhile boss, Hon. Bankole, fought at the Green Chamber. While many of them were in the public domain at the time of his boss’ service, many of the battles were not. Odunaro, in this book, unboweled the battles, documenting them for posterity.
The battles the Speaker fought ranged from plot to remove him, fisticuffs on the floor of the Green Chamber, the Power Probe and Rural Electrification Scandal, the silent and not so silent battles between Governor Daniel and Speaker Bankole, the Sango – Ota Bridge fracas, the role of the Speaker in managing the health challenges of President Umaru Yar’Adua, among others. While the chapters reveal many unknown power plays at the time, the book gives insights into otherwise shrouded occurrences in the polity that will interest its reader.
From the beginning to the end of the book, the reader goes on a journey with the author, a fluid journey that narrates his rise from obscurity to the top of his profession. Like the allusion I earlier drew, Odunaro’s rise was not just a happenstance; it was a combination of providential interventions as well as the determination of a man who knew what he wanted in life and who went a step before the decider of his destiny into equipping himself for the tasks ahead.
All in all, Colours of Perception: An Autobiography is a delightsome read, an elegant work of literature and profound addition to that community of documentations of history for posterity. For us who have at one time or the other trodden the same path that the author treaded, the book is a robust encouragement to us to also document our parts and paths in history.
As said earlier, for anyone aspiring for the top, Colours of Perception is a companion to own. For journalists who are seeking the path to tread to become successful in their career, the book should be their Bible and Quran. For historians and historiographers who needed particular dates to reference consequential issues that happened in the past, especially in Ogun State of the last two decades or so, the book should be their companion. I recommend it as a robust helpmate in their quest for bridging the gaps of history.
Like every human effort, Colours of Perception is not without its own blemish. Its most noticeable blemish is that it could do better with tighter and stronger editing. Notwithstanding, however, this blemish is powerless to put down a work that possesses a great intellectual stature of the kind of this autobiography.
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