Ayisha Osori, Ibadan Book Club and Sundry Matters
By: Deji Yesufu
This weekend I received an invitation to be at a book reading with Ayisha Osori, author of “Love Does Not Win Elections”. As a civil servant Saturday is about the only day of the week one gets to attend to one’s personal business and also get much needed rest; but the book reading was going to hosted by Booksellers and Kolade Musoro – a man from whom I have gained a lot in the little time I have interacted with him in the past. I knew that whatever sacrifice I make to be at the venue, former British Council Library, Dugbe, was going to be worth the effort. Friends have told me that I am in danger of being lost in the triangular lifestyle of work – Church – home that I lead week-in-week-out. This book reading would be a worthy break from the norm and as you will soon discover, it was.
The program started at 3pm with eleven people present. The Coronavirus pandemic has totally redefined how public gatherings will be conducted in our world today, so it was obvious that the organizers of the event did not want too many people present. Ayisha Osori joined us from Abuja through Zoom and with a projector and speakers we were able to see and interact with her very well.
“Love Does Not Win Elections” is Ayisha Osori’s record of her experience running for a seat in the House of Representatives under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015. Aisha did not even make it to general elections itself; she lost at the primaries. Her memoirs however provide a solid account of how grassroots politics is conducted in most places in Nigeria and although she ran in the cosmopolitan and more enlightened atmosphere of Abuja, the nation’s capital, she was not immune to the intrigues that characterize party politics in Nigeria. Aisha writes:
“I was tired of the dirty streets of Abuja. We had garbage piled up at every corner. On a windy day, the plastic bags strewn around surfed the air like kites. Sewage ran down the streets of some of the most expensive real estate in the country. The filth was driving me crazy, and posting pictures on Twitter was no longer enough. I knew that keeping the city clean was the duty of an executive agency, the Federal Capital Development Agency (FCDA), under the FCT minister. Unlike Nigeria’s thirty-six states, a federal minister runs FCT, not an elected governor. But the National Assembly shared responsibility for approving the FCT Ministry’s budget and passing laws for the FCT. Surely, as one of its representatives, I would be summoning powers and could crack the financial koboko. I believed it was time to see more people who looked and sounded like me in politics…”
From the forgoing it is clear that Ayisha Osori is an average Nigerian with genuine concerns for the constituency where she lives in. Her forage into politics was altruistic and indeed to make a difference. Ayisha may not have gotten what she wanted; but the wealth of experience she gained and some of which she relayed in her book is something that will certainly help other aspiring politicians in the future. The book will also help provide a framework for necessary reforms that our electoral processes are in dire need of. During the chat with her at the book reading, Ayisha made it clear that there was the need for reforms in the whole process of electing people to offices in Nigeria. For example: the powers given to party delegates, who go on to elect party representatives at the Primaries, need to be whittled down. There is too much money politicking in the country and when politicians have to spend so much to get to office, they will be forced to recoup these monies back as soon as they get to power.
Most of the people present at this event had the opportunity to comment on Ayisha’s book and to ask her questions. I wanted to know how Nigeria’s politics could transcend the level of politicians being permitted just primary and secondary school certificates to run for elective office. When the people who rule us have such low education, how do we expect to have leaders that possess the deep thinking that would occasion the speedy development this nation needs? Ayisha felt that while education will benefit Nigeria’s politics, the problem with our politics is far beyond education. She explained that many politicians that have led this country and have failed badly have been some of the best educated people in the world.
The meeting was brought to an end at about a few minutes to 5. Our host, Kolade Mosuro, later explained that the meeting was meant to be a pioneer event for a book club in Ibadan city. He said that beginning this January, there will be a quarterly gathering of individuals who are interested in reading books and discussing them. With the ubiquitous Zoom facility, authors can be invited to be part of the meeting anywhere in the world and there would opportunities for questions and comments made on the written works. I thought it was a superb idea and I hope Ibadan folks can take advantage of a gathering like this to improve their learning and to use their Saturdays for something more worthwhile besides owambe parties.
While introducing her background Ayisha Osori said she lived in Zaria, Kaduna State, as a child. When it was my turn to ask her a question, I quickly requested to know what time period she was in Zaria. The author replied saying she lived in Zaria, on and off, between 1975 and 1988. She went to ABU Staff school, the primary school I also attended. She was also a boarding house student at FGGC, Bakori, in present day Funtua – incidentally my mother had taught in that school at about the time Ayisha was a student. When I told Ayisha this she said: “I knew madam Yesufu very well…” What a tiny world. Ayisha send her regards to my mother. There was little space in our short chit-chat to tell Ayisha that Mrs. H. E. Yesufu, her French teacher, my mother, had died since 2006.
My weekend was quite eventful. It was great that my football team in Europe, Juventus, got all three points in their home game against Bologna and most of the team ahead of them in the Serie A dropped points; it was however greater to have met Ayisha Osori and also join the Ibadan Book Club. In a period of pandemic and increased insecurity because of the ravaging activities of herdsmen in Oyo State, it is a breadth of fresh air to have one’s mind dwell on something more positive and intellectually benefiting.