My Dossier: A review by Gbenga Oshinaike (Publisher, Church Times Nigeria)
As simple as it may look writing an autobiography usually does not always come easy. The author is usually caught in the dilemma of writing facts about himself and what he wants the public to read. As much as the author would love to lay the facts bare, autobiographies are not usually 100 percent accurate presentation of a man’s life or trajectory. So, going through the length of the book, My Dossier by Wole Olarinde, one is saddled with the realization that the author is telling his own story from his own point of view.
Indeed, the story of a man is either told by himself or by others. In English parlance, a book that is written by a writer on himself is called autobiography while the one written by a writer on another person is called Biography. So, on a broad scale there are two perspectives about a person: The person’s perspective about himself and the perspective of others about the person. I dare add that there is the God perspective, which I will like to call Christography. That is what Jesus thinks about us. That is a matter for another day. But let me say that at the end of the age, there are only two perspectives from God that will summarize our stay here on earth. It is either well done good and faithful servant, or depart from me ye workers of iniquity.
That is for the age to come. My job here is to review the book that chronicles the story of our brother and how the vision of Christian Benefit was birthed. Let me observe first that the book is not a full autobiography as it were as it does not espouse the early years of the author. From the title point of view, we are presented with a dossier which is more or less a documentation of series of events in the life of our brother and how those events tie to the Christian Benefit project.
The book confronts you with a bold but enchanting portrait of the author. It leaves you with no pretension as to what and who it is all about. As one flips through the pages one is held down by a seamless rendition of a twenty-year account of the life of the author in the publishing world; with snippets from his school days.Each of the 11 chapters has a handful of nuggets and lessons for the reader. The first chapter gives the reader an insight on how the author was called into the publishing ministry. Though he felt inadequate for the task like Moses and some of God’s servants, he nonetheless succumbed to the template that God had laid down for him to navigate.
Thus, a simple instruction from his pastor during a cross over night turned out to be the seed that birthed a project that has lived for 20 years. What is that instruction? You will do yourself a great favour to look out for this as you get a copy of the book. This chapter also tells the story of how the author arrives at studying mass communication and not law that he had intended to study.
In subsequent chapter the author takes the reader to the department of Mass communication of the great Ibadan Polytechnic and paints the picture of a lecturer who rather than encourage students in the department to brace up for a bright future became too frank to a fault. His words on the first day of lecture were to later send many away from the department. But the diehard ones including the author stayed through.
As the reader progresses through the volume he is confronted with the author’s exposure to the practical end of the profession. His first days in the Guardian Newspapers where he did his industrial training are quite exciting and one could not help but wonder what has become of the journalism profession these days. The author exemplified the old zeal by taking on tasks that many would not want to take these days. He was a rookie reporter but his byline hit the front page of the defunct Guardian Express just a day after he resumed. He performed the same feat on the third day and did many reports for the publication which earned him some respect. That is quite unprecedented in this age when some mass communication graduates struggle to write a news story.
What happened? How did he manage to source for a story that became the talk of the town? Those are things you may have to look out for in the book. The story which our brother was able to source which hit the front page of Guardian Express is a story that will give hope to many. You definitely won’t get a copy of the Guardian Express which is long dead. But you can get to read about the story in the book. It will make a world of difference for you.
The remaining chapters of the book give us an insight on the NYSC year of the author, how he began work with the defunct Media Review and how he began Christian Benefit. It is quite instructive that by the time Christian Benefit was floated the author did not have the privilege of seeing a publication that reports the church the way he wanted to. There was no example to look up to as it were. So, he had to depend on his intuition to pursue a dream he practically had no prototype to follow.
But God was with him. He started small and here we are today. But then you probably would think all has been smooth for our brother. From revelations in the book, the journey has not been only rough it has been frustrated by the very people that the Lord called him to help. Apart from battling with the pain of coughing out thousands of naira every month with no corresponding return, he has had to battle with some preachers of the gospel and their minions who rather than encourage him have tried to kill the vision. He shared the experience of how his marketers were locked up in a popular church for daring to come and sell the magazine in the church premises. It is so interesting that some church leaders would celebrate their stories in the secular papers and would encourage members to buy them while they send security men to hound and maul purveyors of publications that are solely for the church. Olarinde shares the experience of how copies of the magazines were confiscated and literally destroyed in another respected Church. The marketers were literally pursued out of the church premises after the journals have been seized. It was at this point according to his account that he began to question his involvement in church based journalism. There and then, the Lord opened his eyes and warned him against projecting the churches that have become somewhat establishment. But rather should seek to publish the ones that were just coming up and help them with advertising their programmes. That was how he changed gear.
But then he was yet going to face another obstacle as the small churches presented a false image of themselves. One of the pastors of one of the growing churches told him his paper was far below his standard. He was comparing Christian Benefit with journals that have been in existence for years. Rather than take offense, Olarinde was quick to let the pastor know that his own church was far behind compared to the big names. That remark put a seal on the mouth of this pastor.
The story of Christian Benefit however is not all about gloom and doom. The author shares the account of numerous supports he got from some church leaders. He mentioned specific names in the publication and took time to thank them for extending a hand of fellowship to the publication. Perhaps but for these angels that came his way, the publication would have suffered still birth in its first trimester. It is cheering to note that that a project that started with virtually no capital, no loan and no visible source of financing has survived the turbulent weather of Nigeria’s economy. Many publications have come and gone, but Christian Benefit stands. The credit goes to God. It goes to the supporters of the vision and it goes to the man who carries the vision and his wife who have labored tirelessly in the trenches.
My Dossier tells the story of this adventure. It tells the story of a publisher’s nightmare. It tells the story of resilience and doggedness. The book is an easy read. It takes less than 48 hours to finish. The strength of the book lies in his graphic presentation and the unraveling of facts and figures about the media industry. Reading through my dossier somewhat gives a picture of how both the Christian and secular media run in the last 20 years. Permit me to say this book will do a lot of good to those who desire to take a vocation in publishing. It will bless the believer who wants to learn how to grow a vision and educate media men and women on what to do. I hereby call on you on this auspicious occasion to extend your support for the book and by extension the Christian Benefit project. Thank you. God bless