By Diamond-Hope Kingston
We’re barely halfway into 2018 and we’ve had three books sprung on us by some well-known figures. From Laura Ikeji instructing us on how to monetize our Instagram accounts to Osikhena Dirisu turning us into the priests in a confession booth as he spills out his long-hidden secrets. Now Omoni Oboli joins the league of first-time authors who have seen their work published and given to keenly anticipating fans.
To mark her 40th birthday, Omoni unveiled her book which was published by Narrative Landscape although also available as an ebook on indigenous ebook platform OkadaBooks and Amazon. The book titled “The Stars Are Ageless” with the subtitle “Finding my light in life, in love and on set” very much paves the way for the writing that is to follow.
The 133 paged memoir gives it’s readers an in-depth view of the very things that have shaped her and how Omoni has, in turn, weaved these to her advantage. Omoni doesn’t shy away from talking about her relationship with her father or her seemingly spontaneous decision to marry a man she had dated for 5 months. While many in the glare of the public would prefer to gloss over the less glamorous details of their lives before they made bank, Omoni does the opposite.
But is this project, dedicated to marking 40 years of existence and survival, worth you spending N7000 (for the hardcover) or sparing a few hours of reading time?
The Box Office Queen wasn’t always a queen
The book starts from the beginning, the very beginning of her first encounter with the industry that Omoni has come to become respected. While many only know Nollywood as it is now, she takes us back to when it was 1996 and still an experimental project of a collective of creatives.
She uses the first chapter to give a summary of her now fully blossomed career in filmmaking began while divulging how she turned down a Total job to pursue it. When she goes ahead to launch into the crux of the story by talking about her mother, one cannot help notice the vulnerability as she narrates the lengths her mother reached in order to give her and her sister Onome the best.
I think it’s worth noting here that a box of tissues should be kept closed when the narration goes from vulnerability to a tone hinged on anger at the neglect which leads to her mother’s death. Her mother, Elizabeth or Sister Lizzy, died at the age of 52 and barely a month after Omoni has her first son. In “Daddy Issues” she tells us what it was like being a child born into a polygamous family and having to fight for her father’s attention with 8 other siblings.
“Why Did I Get Married?” and other insightful questions
Omoni met her husband Nnamdi Oboli when they were both on set where he accompanied his uncle and she had come to work while still an undergraduate. Although they have proven 17 years later that getting engaged after 3 weeks of being together and 5 months of being engaged, was not such a bad idea like her family thought at the time.
Being married wasn’t where Omoni stopped working hard, instead, she found a partner to struggle alongside, “…but we both bent down to select second-hand clothes because, at the end of the day, currency is currency and pride does not pay the bills.”
While she may have spent the chapter outlining all the reasons and instances her husband had proven himself instrumental in her success, Omoni also tells us about the difficult patches too. Like when they first got married and it was a continuous cycle of arguing, silent treatment, repeat which she attributes to their lack of courtship.
When it comes down to addressing motherhood Omoni stuns us as she reveals that she had a miscarriage before the birth of her first child. She speaks honestly as she writes of the overwhelming grief that gripped her as she mourned the loss of a child departed too early.
Her side of the story
The memoir which follows chronological order inevitably comes to the crossroad where all the topics that had been media frenzy worthy lay and Omoni decides to walk the path that sees her narrate her side of the story. She wittingly names a chapter “The Presidential Blue Dress” and decides to dwell very little on the dress itself but rather the events that led to her having Being Mrs Elliott premiere at Aso Rock to an audience that included the then president, Goodluck Jonathan.
Omoni continues to go all in with “We Got Served”, with a pronoun change from the 2004 movie, when she decides to detail what led up to the Okafor’s Law film being debated as stolen creative work. She narrates the events leading up to the infamous halting of the movie premiere by a court injunction. It’s also worth wondering whether she deliberately leaves readers to come to the conclusion of who is deemed in the wrong and whether Jude Idada was wholly responsible for the bad turn of events as Omoni simply presents the facts and leaves the chapter without a conclusion.
Learning to breathe again
After her father tragically passes away as a result of a car accident, her maternal grandmother shortly after and she is left to pick up the pieces, she begins to have panic attacks. In 2018, a year where now more than ever we are seeing public figures speaking up about mental health issues, this comes as a welcome surprise. Omoni spills everything from how perplexed she was when she first had one to how powerless they have made her feel knowing that a panic attack could happen at any time.
She does, however, give credit to her friends in the Nollywood industry for having her back and being there for her over the years as she has sought to rise to the top of the box office while raking in millions as her movies screen around the country. Once again Omoni surprises us by making another reveal by telling us how a friendship between her and makeup tycoon Tara Durotoye blossomed only for both of them to find out that they are cousins.
But to read or not to read?
That is the question and the answer is yes! It’s insightful and throws a more personal examination of the Nollywood industry we are familiar with today. Omoni does not spare us the details of events and weaves superb storytelling with an original voice. While we have read other recent memoirs by Nigerians we find that this time Omoni Oboli actually gives meaning to what a memoir should be with “The Stars Are Ageless”.
The book may not have gotten as much attention as it should have but after reading it you’re guaranteed to wonder why it isn’t on all recommended reading lists this month. The memoir will also deeply resonate with aspiring female filmmakers as they chart the process of one of the most successful filmmakers in Nigeria today. While Omoni Oboli’s book may never be acknowledged by the literary world, it’s a book that shouldn’t be ignored but instead, read and Omoni’s effort applauded.