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Winners Take All… the late journalist, Allah De’s parting shots



Winner Takes All is a collection of essays, written as newspaper column articles by late veteran journalist, Alhaji Alade Odunewu. In it Odunewu grapples with the realities of life at the time he was writing.

Thus Winner Takes All concerns itself with events of public interest between 1963 and December 2000. This means that the subject matter of the book is Nigerian politics and society in the 20th century in general and the Republican era in particular.

Odunewu’s pen name was Allah De, which means God exists, which by innuendo, means ‘God is the final judge.’ In it Odunewu made his timely comments in these immortal essays as a new art form. Indeed, journalism, which is the report of journalists, had to endure the disdain of certain critics, who in recent times, believe they are insulting a writer when they describe his work as journalism.

Such criticism has aroused writers all over the world to take up arms against destroyers of creativity in historical documentation. This rebuttal led to the emergence of ‘New Writing,’ a journalism-based exposition now prevalent in Europe and North America.

Winner Takes All belongs to this classical tradition of exposition, as a literary form. Each of the essays has two parts: the leader, arising from the topic sentence and the adjunct, which is an elucidation of the topic sentence. Odunewu wrote his essays with style.

Moreover, the author made classical allusions in his pieces. Examples are: ‘A place of Elysian happiness,’ which is an allusion to the Elysian Gardens i.e, the Garden of Elysium, which in Greek mythology, is a place in paradise for the repose of good people. Another allusion is: ‘The law of Medes and the Persians.’ This refers to the laws given by ancient empires of the Medes and Persians. These are stories of events, which happen in a period before the Christian era.

Indeed, Allah De’s prose style or use of language isn’t without its charm. Also, his frequent use of innuendoes is particularly entrancing. Alternations and assonances make his style glitter like gold i.e.: ‘all strut and show,’ ‘fussy and foppish,’ ‘Paul Pry’ and the play on the title of the play: “Look back in anger” on page 144 of the book. Odunewu’s essays remind one of episodes, images and language of Eric Blair, alias George Orwell’s book: 1984.

Also, the author’s style encompasses copious use of humour. His use of humour evinces perpetual surprise. He causes you to laugh, which is the hallmark of a good book and forms the credo of journalism: to inform, to educate and to entertain. Winner Takes All is very entertaining.

From this collection, you can imagine Nigeria as a nation of dunes and buffoons, which it is in my view. Imagine presidents who rig and annul elections in the name of Allah, and those who keep saying: “It is no business as usual” and who are more corrupt than their predecessors. Odunewu mocks, ridicules, lampoons and satirises subject after subject or victim after victim, as the case may.

Indeed, if there is a feature that deserves a niche in history in this book, it is its engaging funniness. In a book like this, it is a mater of priority to seek to find the message of the author. Also, you would want to locate or situate his ideological stand. That task is a little difficult in this case. The book is a reflection of the Nigerian reality, no consuming passion, no ideology handled in a spirit of live and let live.

Winner Takes All contains no explicit ideology, except the expression of opinion demonstrated in its title. Which is a correct assessment of governance in Nigeria since independence. This title also suggests an age of greed and excess, an age of deception and betrayal in high places.

There isn’t any visionary speculation in Winner Takes All; the author is profoundly simple, calm and skeptical. He laughs at our politicians and public officials, but he does not take their claims seriously. The greatest value of the book is as history. It is a good eyewitness narrative, which makes it more authentic as a criticism of the age. In the book, we are guided about an era of history, which is very critical in the development of our nation and continent.

These engrossing columns take readers through momentous events with wit, calm and an abundance of laughter. It is an effort deserving attention and perusal. Winner Takes All has 476 pages, five pages of index and each column is given the date it appeared in the papers. The book contains a selection of articles that reflect the range of the thoughts of Odunewu, who hails from Ikorodu in Lagos State.

The epitome of his journalism career was as the Editor-in-Chief of Daily Times. His training included a year in the school of Modern Languages in London, United Kingdom. He emerged from the school with the Commonwealth prize donated by The New Statesman for the best student. In Nigeria, Odunewu worked as Editor of Sunday Times and Daily Times, maintaining their reputation as quality tabloids with the largest circulation figure in the country. In the 1960s, he enhanced his reputation as a critic with the column ‘The thoughts of Allah De.’ Then he became the Chief Executive of the magazine division of Daily Times.

From 1973 to 1975, Odunewu became Commissioner for Information and Tourism of the Lagos State. In 1976 he was appointed a Federal Electoral Commissioner. Odunewu returned to Daily Times in 1979, as Group Publishers Controller. He was appointed Ombudsman in 1984. He is now chairman of Nigerian Press Council (NPC) and a trustee of Diamond Awards for Media Excellence (DAME).

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