On Toke Makinwa’s ‘On Becoming’

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toke makinwa

The concept of Toke Makinwa is something that polarises Nigerians. So polarising it could be the subject of a well argued referendum. Basically, it’s the Nigerian version of Marmite.  There’s no indifference here. She’s loved for what is seen as an unapologetic plotting of a strategic rise to fame. And she’s a villain to some who see in her the very encapsulation of things they dislike in the social media age.

In writing a book at what is possibly the peak of her powers on the process of becoming who she currently is, it was fair to expect a no holds barred account that could choose to own or alter our perspective of her. Instead, what we got was a twist by twist account of what was clearly a doomed relationship. Prestige, the imprint under the universally regarded #1 publisher in the country, Kachifo should be ashamed for putting their name on this piece of work. At the about 120 pages it takes, it’s hard to take it serious as a serious piece of literature. The writing is poor, as is the editing suggesting that it serves no other purpose than a quick payday. However, the bar is so low in terms of Nigerian public figures telling their stories when not quarter to being six foot under that this still serves a purpose- it should encourage more people, women particularly to speak out more.

At the risk of sounding insensitive, it also feels like a good story’s been wasted here. Yes, there’s an element of relativity with other women who have fallen victim to the plague that is the Nigerian man. To paraphrase Chimamanda Adichie (also of the Kachifo parish), there’s a strong claim to be made that the best brands of feminism are and should not be defined by relationships or interaction with men. Ms Makinwa’s story of losing her parents at a young age, the impact of those losses and her rise to fame are excluded. Those narratives are compelling and inspiring and would have made this pamphlet an actual book than the plot by plot account of a clearly dysfunctional relationship. There’s a reason tragedy to triumph forms the foundation the most powerful stories are built on. Furthermore, the fact that the book is titled On Becoming means this is not an unreasonable expectation. What chance does it stand when the book doesn’t even fulfil its own title?

You can buy On Becoming here.

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