I was reading an impressive piece the other day, an investiture lecture delivered at the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria (NIMN) by the legendary advertising guru Biodun Shobanjo, a man who in my days as the young editor of the Weekend Concord celebrated in a front-page story as Nigeria and Africa’s “Advertising Man of the Century.”
In the lecture, Shobanjo started with a story. Then from there, he delved into the power of storytelling in the building of brands and as an effective tool of marketing communication.
“I wonder if our friends in the creative agencies in Nigeria understand that part of the reason they have not won awards at international creative fora is because they have not done well at storytelling,” Shobanjo said. “Storytelling, in a compelling manner, which sometimes elicits laughter, joy, a tear, annoyance or applause, tends to make more impact and leave a lesson in the mind of the audience. They get people talking, and getting people talking about your brand is the most powerful strategy of all. Just like Nollywood stories do, well told stories leave lasting impressions. And people thirst for them.”
Well, it was like Shobanjo was telling the story of Weekend Concord, a paper that changed the newspaper storytelling paradigm in Nigeria, looking at issues from a story dimension and telling it from a human angle perspective such that readers either laughed, shed tears, got angry or got emotional.” The formula worked. Every Saturday, readers waited to read the Weekend Concord’s angle to the biggest story of the week. We carved for ourselves a reputation for resurrecting dead stories and bringing them back to life like Jesus to Lazarus.
Yes, we learnt it from Jesus. Jesus is the master storyteller. You remember all those parables. How Jesus used stories to communicate spiritual and earthly truth. It has always been an effective formula. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, it has been stories, stories and stories. You remember how a prophet used a parable to nail King David after he secretly impregnated a soldier’s wife Bathsheba, sent the husband Uriah to die in the hottest battlefield and then married the wife that gave birth to King Solomon.
There are stories and there are stories. In Nigeria, a story has both positive and negative connotations. When a man or a woman wants to dupe you of your money or earthly possessions, he or she starts by inventing a creative story that can win a Nobel Prize in Literature. We are that creative in Nigeria. When a Nigerian borrows money from you and it’s time to pay, he or she starts inventing stories upon stories. In the end, your money is gone. Gone for good. When you are depressed and you need help, all you get are stories. In Nigeria, everybody has a story. Everybody is telling the story of the Great Depression.
I was pondering on what story to tell this week in this column when out of the blues, my friend Bisi Daniel, a storyteller who has written eight novels namely The Governor’s wife, Sacred Seduction, Love Wars, The Black Godfather, The Girl from Nigeria, Conspiracy of Lagos, Harvest of Beauty and False Truth, handed me a new book he had just published. It’s titled: Stories of Pastor E.A. Adeboye, The Power of Testimonies. In the opening to the book Bisi Daniels writes: “I have written over 15 books, but sometimes I get the sense I was specifically prepared by circumstances of my life in the last 9 years to write this particular book that promises to bless millions of people around the world.”
For four years, Daniels went about collecting the sermons of Pastor Adeboye, The Redeemed Christian Church of God leader and sifting out anecdotes, testimonies, stories of faith and its triumph. For those who don’t know Pastor Adeboye, Daniels introduces him at the back of the book: “Pastor E.A. Adeboye, a man revered by millions across the world as a true man of God, is a great believer in the power of testimony. He himself is a living testimony of the power of God. His sermons always contain stories about how people have experienced the power of Our Lord Jesus Christ in their lives. This book is a collection of those testimonies, which reads like his biography right from his birth in Ifewara in strange circumstances to the present moment. The subject covered include: The RCCG, Faith, Salvation, Miracles, Marriage, Fruit of the womb, Temptation, Unforgiveness, the dark world of Power and Principalities amongst many others. Mixed in with them is the fascinating story of Pastor Adeboye himself and how, having been born again, he rose from debilitating depravation to become the famous and much-loved leader of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, which as massive presence in 192 countries.”
The ultimate coup in this book is having the Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo to write the foreword. And the VP writes: “The life of Daddy in itself is one big miracle! For a man born to financially-challenged parents in the remote village of Ifewara, Osun State, who had no shoes at 18 years old, who was not a Born Again Christian until the time he was a mathematics teacher at the University of Lagos, becoming the leader of a church with a strong presence in over 192 countries, and with over 32,000 parishes in Nigeria alone, is indeed, a miracle worth knowing. For this same man to remain infectiously humble in spirit of his enormous power, influence and popularity is also a miracle in itself…Testimonies not only enhance the faith of others but also honours God. This book containing many of the testimonies of one of the greatest servant of God in this generation is worth reading and learning from.”
I am so happy for Bisi Daniels, this novelist who some years ago asked me where and how I found the time to write biographies. I encouraged him and made him understand that biography is an extension of journalism. It seeks to answer the question: What is that man or woman like?
My own biography of the great telecoms, business and marketing guru Dr. Mike Adenuga should be out sometime this year at the next “Dimgba Igwe Memorial Book Launch.” A tape in hand, I went about asking people who know Mike Adenuga closely: What is he like? It was John F. Kennedy who famously said: “What makes journalism so fascinating and biography so interesting is the struggle to answer that single question: What’s he like?”
I think all the icons of Nigeria, all the great people of Nigeria from Biodun Shobanjo to Pastor E. A. Adeboye to Dr. Mike Adenuga to Alhaji Aliko Dangote deserve to be celebrated in inspiring biographies that would help create more and more of their types among the lost youths of today’s Nigeria.