Book Review: “Stepping Forward In Style”… By Goddy Jedy Agba and Mathias Okoi-Uyouyo

Agba, the co-author
Couched in parliamen­tary language, and in lucid or lively and sometimes acerbic narrative, the authors provide critical access to the rich di­versity of the background of Goddy Jedy Agba, an iconic personality. The 172 page book introduces the general reader to an astonishing variety of infor­mation on the subject and pro­vides a range of historical and literary interests, from setting, thematic analysis to critical theory. As a one-way authobi­ography, the narrative proceeds from the mouth of the subject as presented by the authors.

The authors write with such ingenious cheerfulness, and with such a sure command of language as a lived-in medium, that even when they acknowl­edge the challenging side of the subject’s story it is with toler­ance, and affection. And when they write of the vicissitudes of life, its transcendent visions and inexplicable forces, it’s done with such apparent candour and conviction that we, too, are ready to believe. Goddy Jedy Agba is, paradoxically, a superb realist. Stepping Forward with Uti J. D. Agba, is an autobiog­raphy of high order, intended to sustain the reader’s interest, re­main true to the historical evi­dence, and deliver a message, all at the same time.

The plot is structured ac­cording to the complex rules of autobiographical writing. Char­acters are stock figures of the genre, showing little depth and less complexity on those men­tioned, even when involved in the most intricate set of re­lationship. Yet there is a high degree of authenticity about the narrative, the result of an exten­sive and introspective rumina­tion into the historical setting. The book reveals Goddy Jedy Agba as a scion of an aristo­cratic family and it hints about his family constantly, out of an intensity of self-consciousness which has no analogue in ear­lier periods. Many associated factors help to explain the intro­spective bias of his mind as told by the narrators: the persistence amongst the middle classes of the nonconformist conscience with its emphasis on personal conduct; a kind of romantic subjectivism and the isolation of individuals, ensuant on the the dissolution of societal ties. Out of a need to objectify and gain perspective on the subject’s background, the narrators have turned increasingly to consult history.

The great eighteenth-centu­ry historians, Gibbon, Hume, Voltaire, had tended to view preceding epochs as disjunc­tive or self-contained, relevant to the present only to the extent that they provided theoreti­cal grounds for illustrating the virtues and vices of men. The modern science of history is an outgrowth of German idealistic philosophy in the late eight­eenth and nineteenth centu­ries, as embodied in the teach­ings, among others, of Herder, Kant, and Hegel. The histori­cal writing which resulted, of which Carlyle is the principal exemplar in England, regarded history as a ceaselessly unfold­ing continuum , with the past existing in organic relation to the present. The study of ori­gins thus acquired a greatly en­hanced importance; for it was now perceived that existing institutions are the product of an age-long process of evolu­tionary development. ‘Stepping Forward with Uti J. D. Agba’ therefore testifies to the reality that the subject is beginning to unfold. One can then posit that the book circulates Jedy Agba’s epochs of concentration and of expansion.

The foreword to the book is written by no less a personality than Kalu Uka, a distinguished Professor of Theatre/Film Arts Studies, theatre director and poet. Prof. Uka who holidayed in Obudu at the time Jedy was being born, reminisces about growing up in the hilly topog­raphy of Obudu in Cross River State and about his personal knowledge of the Uti J. D. Agba family. Segmented into nine (9) unequal parts, the book is written in straightforward, free and racy prose. Wedded into historical conditions, with lush, intricate and concise prose, the authors mix the concrete and abstract with munificent ease. The tendency of the book to be too rich, too sensitive, too warmly nostalgic, is offset by the unrelenting accuracy of its language. Goddy Jedy Agba and Mathias Okoi-Uyouyo have written one of the finest portraits of the politician as bi­ographer that the English lan­guage has ever known. It has a sardonic difference from others of the kind.

Part One: Early Years, cap­tures the subject’s birth on Au­gust 20, 1958 in Obudu in the Old Ogoja Province and his growing up as son of a teacher- turned politician father and a nurse as mother. Part Two: Surviving the War, circulates, in graphic analysis, the sociocul­tural and educational impacts of the period of the Nigerian Civil War on his development as a lad growing up in Eastern Nigeria, the theatre of the war. Chapter Three: From Okuku to Zaria, reports the subject’s aca­demic mission from his days at Mary Knoll College, Okuku , Ogoja from where he graduated in 1975, to his days at the Ah­madu Bello University, Zaria, while Part Four: Joining the Service, talks about his joining the public service which is just like a tradition in their family, and his experience there. Part Five: Beyond Serving Ministers, discusses his experience in the Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja whereas Part Six: Drawing the Curtains, ru­minates on his assumption of duty and various assignments at the Nigerian National Petrole­um Corporation (NNPC). Part Seven: Coming Back from the Cold, reflects on his triumphant entry into the murky terrain of politics in Cross River State and his bumpy experience. Part Eight: Aborted Bid, continues with the story of his determina­tion to become governor and how he was stopped while Part Nine: Godilogo Farms, talks about his return to his farm af­ter the tornadoes.

Taken together, the book, Stepping Forward with Uti J. D. Agba, tells the story of a Nigeri­an journey. The subject’s life tells a great deal about the Nigerian ordeal from the middle decades of the twentieth century to the first two decades of the twenty-first century. The book portrays Jedy Agba (Jnr) as a direct and candid man, often brusque in manner and opinion. He hates circumlocution. He distrusts high-flown or self-serving ex­pression. His deflationary, self-mocking, sometimes grim wit is employed often as a means of relieving tension in the midst of challenges. Some of his re­marks, especially in Part Eight, wrenched from his political tempests , will no doubt be sub­jected to examination by his po­litical opponents. It is a risk that must run its full course. But the serious reader will be able to set Goddy Jedy Agba’s words in the totality of his life. Indeed, he would be content to stand on the record. Like all autobiog­raphies, this is not a fully com­plete or balanced work. Yet, in examining the book critically, it is painfully obvious to observe that the author deserves much more attention than he is receiving.

Culled from www.

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