Title: If Not For God

Author: Charles Okenyi

Genre: Autobiography

Reviewer: Philo O’fuose

When I was asked to write a professional review for this book, I didn’t know what to expect. My first thought was, what will be so special about an autobiography written by someone who isn’t an ex-president, a movie star, or any sought of popular figure? As always, I chose to get on it with an open mind. Maybe it didn’t help that the author warned quite humbly that he is a nobody somewhere in the opening text, but as I refused to acknowledge that submission and continued reading, it turned out to be worth every second I spent reading it. In the end, I was left with a desire to meet the man, Charles Oshiotse Okenyi.

If Not for God is like experiencing seven roller-coaster decades within the time it takes to read a book and in the end come out with a bunch of wisdom money cannot buy. Charles Okenyi in telling us the wonderful story of his life in the courageous way he has has so graciously allowed us to see the world through his eyes in a way many of us might never have the opportunity to.

This book is packed full with a million life lesson learnt and shared by a bold man not ashamed to share his failures and not selfish to share his success secrets. In following his life from infant-hood through sagehood, you find what it’s like to grow up in rural Nigeria of colonial Nigeria, you learn the lessons of academic struggle, of romantic relationship with women, plenty lessons on marriage and raising children in the most severe conditions a middle class Nigerian family would and more lessons on finding a calling that thumps every other thing.

Okenyi is to be most commended in the crispness of his writing and storytelling. The genre of creative nonfiction has never been done this much justice. In reading this autobiography, one would have to pinch oneself every now and then to remind oneself that it’s a true life story and not a craftily made up adventure thriller.

It helps a great deal that he did not just focus on telling a straight life story,  but as well, take his readers through a brief political history of Nigeria in an era that is arguably the most remarkable in the country’s history. The coups and the Biafran War were captured through the observant eyes of a regular, yet adventurous young man.

Charles has given us this precious gift of his life’s story, it is left to us what we make from it and how we choose to let it influence our drive for perfection and zeal for a higher calling.



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