By Ayodele Eagles Ibiyemi
Toke Makinwa’s Memoir, On Becoming is several pages of self-revelation. She tagged it a must tell, like she is under compulsion to tell it all. For public figures, interviews have always been the way to share bits of their personal lives. In this digital age, social media is another one. One other method which is valid but tedious is through life writing. Perhaps Toke Makinwa is more popular for being the celebrity with marriage troubles than her career as a media personality. The story is told with so much energy, like she is itching to get it out and move on. It can be suggested that the memoir is some sort of psychotherapy for her.
The memoir is divided into fourteen chapters, each with its own subplot in the grand narrative. She begins with the story of her middle class family in the 80s and the struggle to stay afloat. The tragedy that visited her family and the impact in her life is also narrated. This part of her story is vital because it shows the importance of backgrounds and the motivations behind several adolescent behaviour. Her faith in Christ is a trope that permeates the narrative, she seems to connect every tragedy and success to Christ and the role of God as the master architect.
However, it is easier to want to judge her the Nigerian social media way and it is unsurprising that social media reacted to the spiritual Toke she portrays in the memoir. Many of her actions seem to contradict her faith but they can be explained away as the way of many modern day Christians. She owns up to all of her teenage follies and she does not pretend to have been the best ward or sister.
Actually, the memoir is not really about becoming. It is slightly a coming of age narrative but not age in term of numbers. It is a narrative about a woman who has taken a bold step and needs to write to validate her decision. If it had been titled ‘On Moving on from Maje’, it would still have been fitting. Maje Ayida, Toke’s ex-husband seeps through the entire narrative. It looks like the story is really a summary of several interviews she didn’t grant in the heat of her marital challenges. Beyond revelation, it is simply the story of a millennial who has embraced all her mistakes and is trying to show the world how she has healed. After the series of mistakes, she shows in the memoir how she has coped and recovered from the setback. Maje is shown like an addiction or an unhealthy habit she kept going back to. It is like a rehab memoir.
Although she offers some pieces of advice, she states unequivocally that she does not offer any guidance to anyone. That her marriage failed, despite her success as a relationship expert helped to demystify her in a positive way. It shows how much struggles go behind the masks people wear every day. The narrative is a valid way to vindicate a young Christian woman and offer subtle courage to women who are emotionally abused. She weighs in on several controversial issues but hardly takes any stand. She is especially careful about the issue of divorce in Christian marriages.
“They say God hates divorce but God loves you more and he cares about your wellbeing and I am yet to see someone leave a situation that did them no good suffer.”
On the overall, the book is a revealing narrative, relatable and engaging. The language is simple and the author is as honest as she should be. The strength of the book lies in the contradiction, in not being exact or sanctimonious. This attribute might have earned her more followership since publishing the memoir. It follows the tradition of Mrs. Oluremi Obasanjo’s memoir, Bitter Sweet, My Life with Obasanjo.