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Popoola’s Insight: Nuggets of Excellence for teenagers in print

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Mrs. Olawunmi Togonu Bickersteth (left); Mr. Oladele Alabi; Mrs. Amira Obi-Okoye; the student author, Miss Maryam Popoola; her mother, Mrs. Maryam Popoola; Mrs. Ronke Soyombo and author’s father, Mr. Tunde Popoola at the unveiling of the book in Lagos.

Mrs. Olawunmi Togonu Bickersteth (left); Mr. Oladele Alabi; Mrs. Amira Obi-Okoye; the student author, Miss Maryam Popoola; her mother, Mrs. Maryam Popoola; Mrs. Ronke Soyombo and author’s father, Mr. Tunde Popoola at the unveiling of the book in Lagos.

Insight: Nuggets of Excellence For Teenagers by Maryam Popoola is indeed a ‘motivational book.’ Therefore, it belongs to a mode of writing that is becoming popular within the Nigerian book culture. What, however, stands Maryam Popoola’s contribution to the corpus of writings in this genre is the wide varieties of subjects she addressed. These subjects border on the spiritual and material wellbeing of all, regardless of age or social status. The merit, which these accord the author and the book, is increased as we become aware of the fact that the author is herself a teenager.

The book altogether comprises 12 nuggets, each with a rider stating the specific focus of the nugget being offered. This manner of arrangement of all-important and ever-relevant issues appeals to two interesting ways of reading the material: reading the material as an organic whole; and reading it in its independent bits. In other words, the trajectory of Popoola’s thoughts runs as a continuous stream, which is remarkable for its ‘golden’ terminuses.

The reader would immediately meet the author who, in the blurb, is presented as a teenager, but who in the first two nuggets of the book speaks beyond the expectations for teenage readership. Matters such as ‘The Power Of Positive Attitude’ and ‘The Power Of Positive Thinking,’ which are the first two out of a dozen others are universal and unrestricted to greenhorns. Even in the third and fourth nuggets where the author directly speaks to readership within her age bracket, her manner of indicating the necessary paths for teenage youths is authoritative. Her magisterial voice rings loud and reminds readers of the Chinese proverb, which upholds that: “S/he who knows and shows that s/he knows is a wise person.”

The reader is taken through more widely applicable lessons in nuggets four and five where how to set goals in life and important habits to form are spelt out. Here, the author’s consciousness as a motivator-writer is shown in her use of personal experiences as instructive anecdotes. Therefore, as the lessons apply to both young and old, the author’s self-referencing paves the way for the teenage category of readership to intensively access the messages packaged in the two nuggets. The following nugget six is a copious reference to the incumbent President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari. The hallmark of nugget six is the author’s passionate dwelling on the value of confidence, perseverance, persistence, modest disposition to opposition and opponent as demonstrated in General Buhari’s rise to the position of the President of the most populous country in Africa. The freshness of Buhari’s style of administration and the daunting tasks confronted by his administration, which have attracted global interest would no doubt accord Popoola’s motivational piece some relevance.

Nugget nine is as ambitious as nuggets one and two. Instructing from the vantage point of one in the final class in the secondary school, Popoola paints school life in a manner that the whole of life is succinctly summarised. Though, full of pieces of advice for teenagers, Popoola’s handling of vital issues of friendship, peer group pressure, personal identity, and set goals is relevant to adults’ need to live a balanced purposeful life. Nugget 10 titled, ‘Towards Academic Excellence’ is an elaboration of the author’s idea of how goals are to be set and achieved. The author’s personal experience as a student goes into her admonition in this nugget. She stresses the importance of reading, the dangerous attraction of the easy path to success and, again, the potent power of endurance, steadfastness and devotion to duty to which she ascribes her progressively marked academic success.

Exuding so much knowledge at different frontiers, the book does not leave out the importance of the teacher’s contribution to the total upbringing of a child.
Nugget 11, which is devoted to this does not just uphold the traditional view of who a teacher is. The reader is reminded of the impact of technology in the dissemination of knowledge. A teacher is also shown to be potentially present in one’s father, mother, siblings or neighbours. While emphasising knowledge acquisition, the book reiterates the dependence of knowledge acquisition on functional teaching mechanisms in which the teacher is an indispensable agent.

As we read Popoola’s piece with certain astonishment towards the concluding part, the last nugget 12, our puzzlement over the author’s genius and uncommon intellectual audacity is answered. Popoola is neither a super-human from the outer space nor a being motivated by awesome extraterrestrial forces. Her secret is the same that propelled the legendary ObafemiAwolowo, NnamdiAzikiwe, Julius Nyerere, Nelson Mandela and Wole Soyinka, among numerous others: Reading of good books. J.K. Rowling’s life and success as a writer are singled out by our author as her strong motivation.
Like many other successful people known to history, she has been equally motivated by other people’s success in areas in which (she) had failed to succeed. These motivating factors are in addition to those, which her father, mother, brother, sister, teacher, her past successes, and ‘the idea of a better life’ represent for her.

As the author finally admonishes and hopes other youths will take up the challenge of writing as she has done, the book is revealed as a must read for all, especially the youth.

*Dr. Omigbule teaches Literature-in-English in the Department of English, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife


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