A Review of Sixty Percent of a True Story
Education, mental illness, depression, politics, fraud, bribery, and corruption – these are only some of the themes that run through Osisiye Tafa’s Sixty Percent of a True Story.
The pages of Sixty Percent of a True Story explode with punchy emotions and experiences told in Tafa’s witty and often dry voice. Tafa’s narrative style is what would be the equivalent of sound bytes. The stories are told in drips and drabs, giving us just enough and leaving us wanting more. It is fast-paced and insightful.
I saw Nigeria in a different way, and as someone who spent many of her formative years and her university years in a foreign land, I was able to, for the first time, experience Nigeria through the eyes of a Nigerian youth. And isn’t this the beauty of written works? That one can live a life that you would otherwise not have lived.
Sixty Percent of a True Story tells the stories of three youths, Tafa, Korede and Chris, though not by any means equally. It is Tafa’s voice that we are listening to and his viewpoint that we experience. When we learn of the stories of the other two individuals, it is as told to Tafa or as witnessed by Tafa.
“Everything is not about book here.”
Tafa is a young man navigating the less than straightforward paths of further education at the University of Lagos. His anecdotes are a window to a foreign and exciting existence; whereas for those familiar with the buildings, the lecturers and strikes, it would undoubtedly bring up memories, both happy and sad. Despite his first class degree in political science, his post graduate experience is no less complicated. He faces the challenges that many Nigerians face – he is unable to get a job and turns to fraud as a means to escape a life of poverty.
Korede, on the other hand, has very different challenges and subsequently a very different experience of life as a youth in Nigeria. He is a closet homosexual, struggling with feelings and desires that he would rather not have, in a society that is offended by even the merest suggestion of homosexuality.
“And you know the thing, they are not homophobic, they are effeminophobic. They are against a man not living up to traditional values of masculinity. They are against the watering down of a man as it has always been known.”
Due to this, Korede struggles with depression, yet another delicate topic in Nigeria.
“Here, everyone turns up their nose at you once they hear ‘madness’ is in your family. So, you should hide your meds, else your sisters won’t get husbands. You should not talk about it, else your brothers will have their proposals turned down.”
When we begin to explore Nigeria, through the eyes of Chris, Tafa is able to make fraud seem like the one way out in a society that doesn’t allow for much movement between the social classes. What happens when you have intelligent young men and women and nowhere for them to apply themselves, no way for them to become greater than their parents – which is every parent’s wish for their child, rich or poor.
But despite these heavy topics, Sixty Percent of a True Story is light, funny and memorable. A book that would require the reader to pause in places to tweet extracts or go to the next room to share a part with a sibling, colleague or friend. There are quips about lecturers, about yahoo boys, about girls with jumbled priorities, and much more to smile or laugh at, whether or not you happen to be Nigerian or still believe Africa is a country.