By John Chukwuma Ajakah
Dr. Newton Chuk- wukadibia Jibu-nor’s autobiography, Hunger for Power, published by Paradigm House, Dallas Texas (2017) chronicles the incredible adventures of the author from a poor orphaned toddler to a colossus as he celebrates his 80th birthday. The author demonstrates creative ingenuity that makes his work a clear departure from conventional non-fictional narratives. This makes reading the autobiography a delight to even those that read only for leisure. In Hunger for Power, power is portrayed as a two-edged sword, a tool for building or destroying destinies. Newton depicts power as a phenomenon that could be very useful when handled wisely or wreak devastating havoc when mishandled. Immediately after the cover page illustrated with an emblem of raging fire held in a pair of hands, is an excerpt that gives the reader an insight into the subject matter:
Power is like fire; it can keep you warm and it can burn you. It can cook you a meal or raze your house. It can purify gold or calcify a human being. Ensconced deep within its core are elements of good and evil. It all depends on the choices you make when you handle it.
This is followed with a motivational nugget that aptly captures the central message:
If you hunger for it enough, you can acquire the power to achieve your dream. People who accomplish great things are both Dreamers and Realists. They see and own a vision that may be unbelievable to everyone in the world but them. At the same time, they find a way to deal with the reality of who and where they are, understanding the facts, but bearing a truth within that powers and propels them toward accomplishing great feats.
The book reveals that everybody needs a measure of power to live well and exert influence, but warns that power must be positively wielded for the good of the society and to alleviate the sufferings of the less-privileged. Dr. Newton Jibunoh elucidates this with what he does with the power at his disposal as he climbs the social ladder. For instance, he becomes a benefactor to even those that were mean to him such as Auntie Naomi and Joshua.
As Nigeria’s foremost novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie states in the foreword, “this book is a multi-faceted portrait.” After the foreword is an introduction titled Salute to a Force of Nature written by Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations who in the opening lines says of the celebrated environmentalist:
Newton Jibunoh is a force of a nature. Often described as a ‘Desert Warrior’ this highly accomplished building engineer is dogged, determined, purpose-driven, result-oriented, and a completely detribalized environmental activist (P.14).
Dr. Jibunoh’s passion for nature is phenomenal. He takes his fights against desertification and encroachment far beyond the shores of Nigeria, campaigning through Europe, the Middle East and across the desert regions. The passion resonates in his other endeavours as an art collector, museum owner (Didi Museum), businessman, corporate leader and even in his relationship with friends, family members and colleagues. The author’s enthusiastic disposition to life also rivets in the narration depicting him as a positivist who is never discouraged. Often, he turns adversity to his advantage and creates humour out of pathetic situations. He remains humble enough to remain in touch with all and sundry despite his high profile.
Just as the author, a man of many parts means different things to different people, the book holds diverse potentials. A career or business person will see it as a great asset on leadership and management. Another reader may consider it a motivational material. It even has the intricate crafting of a fictional narrative that qualifies it as a novel one could read for pleasure. Besides, the author includes accounts of the drama presented through role of Elsie Olusola, aka Sisi Clara in popular TV series, New Village Headmaster created by Segun Olusola and the exciting scenes of his own TV Reality Shows. The captivating tales of his numerous travels will thrill readers that love adventure. There are also juicy doses of love stories with accompanying romantic, heartbreak or consummated endings.
Depending on the reader’s disposition, Hunger for Power has something for everyone. The book does not only celebrate life and astounding successes, it identifies issues of concern in families, relationships, the workplace, leadership, religion, traditional practices and social institutions. Many real life experiences in the book appear stranger than fiction as the plot unfolds with enchanting narrations. One of such bizarre accounts is that of his father who returns from the church on a certain day and sends his four wives packing along with their children in order to position himself for a real church marriage to one wife. Though that callous decision favoured the author’s mother, he vehemently denounces such practices and tries to reconcile with the siblings including those that display obvious hostility toward him. He decries the negative roles the church, tradition and even the law play against the sanctity of marriage and the destinies of people.
The book contains 32 chapters and 327 pages which are arranged in four parts. Each segment reveals a particular phase in the life of the Chief popularly nicknamed,’ Desert Warrior’ because of his daring adventures across the deserts. Apart from his advocacy campaigns against desert encroachment, he had successfully driven his Volkswagen car through the Sahara Desert from the UK to Nigeria in 1965 and repeated the feat 35 years later as he drove from Nigeria across the desert to London in year 2000.
The story begins on New Year day in 1938 when the protagonist was born. The narration is crafted in a manner that suggests that the expected baby plays a mischievous prank on the parents as the father, Samuel Jibunoh, determines to stay through the church service, rebuffing his wife’s pleas that she is having contractions. The intriguing account of the drama that heralded the birth of the icon while the parents were attending that New Year service at St Peter’s Anglican Church, Akwukwu-Igbo , Delta State (Bendel), Nigeria climaxes in eventual birth through a traditional caesarean section that nearly claimed the mother’s life. The author’s uncanny sense of humour makes near tragedies like this and subsequent ones, including the loss of both parents a few years after, tolerable. However, the problems and inherent lessons are highlighted.
After the death of the parents, his uncle, Abel Jibunoh takes him in, but despite his good nature, none of Uncle Abel’s five wives could treat him well. With time, he becomes an itinerant home help as he moves from one household to another, humorously describing himself as a very good houseboy in Chapter 6, subtitled, ‘I WAS A VERY GOOD HOUSEBOY.’
In Part Two, the author narrates his experiences in career, marriage and friendships. His success in each of these appears to compensate him handsomely for the childhood hiccups. Providence smiles on him. He rises from a trainee in the public service to enviable senior positions, from the lowest to the topmost rungs of the corporate ladder, attaining the peak as Chairman/CEO of Costain Group (West Africa). Another compensation is in his blissful marriage to Elizabeth. The marriage blessed with two daughters and twin boys provides him with the ideal family life he never had as a child. The circle of friends consists of men of influence and affluence within and outside Nigeria. This is without prejudice to other cordial relationships that cut across the strata. The friends featured in Hunger for Power include Ike Nwachukwu, a Major who the author describes as a handsome and loveable human being,…a fine gentleman …a good friend whose friendship has lasted decades’(p.176). Ike Nwachukwu retired from the Nigerian Army as an accomplished general. There is also the late Segun Olusola who was a veteran broadcaster; Sam Amuka, aka Uncle Sam, a journalist and now the Publisher of Vanguard Newspapers; Ibrahim Babangida, a young Major in the Nigerian Army that later became the country’s Military President. The list continues, but the few mentioned provide a lesson on the value of true friendship and enduring relationship as well as the attendant virtues – trust and loyalty, which Newton Jibunoh exhibits. A cardinal example is his friendship with an Indian couple, Sagni and Muli Mukhis which has lasted for over four decades extending to the children of both families.
In Part Three of Hunger for Power, subtitled, The Power Series, Newton discusses power under the following topics from Chapters 23 to 27: ‘The Power of Uniforms’, ‘The Power of the Siren’, ‘The Power of Royalty’, ‘The Power of Addiction’ and ‘The Power of the Almighty.’ The last section relates the octogenarian’s advocacy campaigns for environmental protection and preservation which he passionately pursues through, Fight Against Desert Encroachment, FADE, an NGO recognised by the UN and many international organisations in the crusade for a safe, peaceful and healthy environment across the globe.