By Chukwuma Ajakah
Nebolisa Arah’s autobiography, “Becoming By Grace”, is a masterpiece from a master raconteur whose work conveys the intended message in a manner that compels even a cynical reader to agree with the messenger.
Besides being a revelatory mine of life-transforming lessons, the 414-pages book published by Anesis Global Concepts Ltd., Lagos, Nigeria, contains wisdom nuggets gleaned from the depths of the Bible, the protagonist’s personal experiences and revered personalities presented as inspiring lines that the author ingeniously crafts in to garnish the storyline. He particularly demonstrates an uncanny ability in weaving the scriptures into virtually every sentence without boring the reader.
The book comes in a glossy cover, bearing elucidatory blurbs from notable personalities across the globe. Describing the book in glowing terms, the insightful blurbs harp on its aesthetics, fascinating narrative style and its socio-cultural relevance. Foremost monarch, the Obi of Onitsha, HRM Nnaemeka A. Achebe and a host of prominent industry leaders provide insightful tips into its rich content and the author’s profile.
Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe captures the essence of the central thematic preoccupation in the foreword thus: “Nebolisa writes freely about miraculous interventions in his life, which he unequivocally attributes to the divine hands of God. Indeed, with this book, he reaffirmed in me another fundamental maxim that we were brought up with at the Government Secondary School, Owerri, namely, that passing examinations was totally incidental to getting a sound education.”
Houston-based Dr. Udy Ibanga describes the autobiography as an “Epic display of raw intelligence, professionalism and grandeur” while Chief M. Olurotimi Williams sees it as a “Fascinating record of facts, events and…acknowledgment of God’s grace.” Dr. Thankgod Echendu pinpoints the “Free flowing style and simplicity” of the language adding: “It reinforced my belief that God overrules in the affairs of men.” According to Dr. Emma Nnamonu, “The title Becoming By Grace will first give the impression that this book is all about religious faith and living. No… It is a multi-in-one book, x-raying Nebolisa’s life and how his life impacted others.”
Right from the preface, the author intimates the prospective reader about his conversational intention. “We are trusting that the Lord will use it to transform anyone who reads it attentively,” he says. Challenging the reader further, Nebolisa writes: “We are trusting the nuggets you glean and the sublime message therein will evoke questions, challenge your thinking as well as cause you to reflect and ponder on the truths…Don’t just browse, peruse and read BBG as a novel. Interact with it…Take time to consider what you read. Be like the ‘Beareans’ who checked out for accuracy whatever they heard.”
Becoming By Grace is divided into 13 parts with riders, heralding subject matters streamlined into fifty enthralling chapters with subtopics such as: “Early Years-Not By Might Nor By Power”, “Career and Starting a Family, A Time and Season”, “The International Merchant (IMB) Early Years”, “The Brand Called IMB”, “The Fidelity Years-Launching Out”, “The Semi-Retirement Years”, “Recall from Retirement, The Afribank Years”, “The Home Front: Hands on the Plowshare-What a Friend” , “Unceasing Hunger…Draw Me Closer…He Has the Final Say”, “Community Engagement and Advancement”, “Of Wars…Savagery, Recklessness…Chaos”, “Inspiration and Lessons Learned” and “Standing on the Solders of Others”
The author incorporates diverse narrative devices into the traditional first person technique as he copiously infuses biblical anecdotes, songs, poems and famous secular quotations into the narration, citing public speakers, writers and songwriters like D. Elton Trueblood, John F. Kennedy, Marcus Garvey, Nelson Mandela, Grenville Kleiser, Jentezen Flanklin and Andrac Edward Crouch. The autobiography also contains real-life pictures or artistic impressions of generations of his progenitors as well as those featuring him with family members, school mates, friends, colleagues and other acquaintances.
Beginning with Part 1, “Down History Lane” which contains chapters One and Two, “In the Beginning-The Markers and Ancient Paths” and “My Grandparents, Parents and Growing Up”, Nebolisa vividly accounts ofor his ancestry, using maps, graphs, tables, figures, names and other indices to present incontrovertible reports about his genealogy and various communities that makeup Onitsha North and Onitsha South Local Government areas of Anambra State, Nigeria.
The interesting stories include that of his paternal grandmother, Okwuerika Ojini, whom he credits for christening him, “Nebolisanya Ositadinma” and compares to Prophetess Anna (Luke 2: 36-37) because she waited for his birth same way Anna had waited for the Messiah. The author cites the Grandma as having instructed his father, her only surviving son then out of the 11 children: “As soon as your wife gives birth, she must come home with the child for me to give him/her a name and it will be time for me to depart.”
Revealing further why he considers Mrs. Okwuerika Ojini as a pious and faith-filled woman, Nebolisa says: “We never even had the opportunity to see a picture of my paternal grandmother. My father lost her only picture during the civil war. Nevertheless, we are encouraged we have an ancestor whose every action seemed to suggest she knew the Lord. We are challenged that despite the blows she was dealt, she did not curse God as Job’s wife suggested. Rather, she looked forward to the city with foundations whose architect and builder is God. She saw beyond her pain and from a distance that God had planned something better so that we would be made perfect in the future.”
Moreover, the author speaks glowingly about his maternal grandmother, Adaeze Joy Egbunike, a Princess of the Odunze family of Atani, who despite being buffeted with tragedies. She had lost her royal parents at a tender age and had to cope with the challenge of raising her younger sisters. Again, she faced the misfortune of burying five of her children, including the author’s mother before she clocked 50. Besides mentioning her in several sections of the book, he narrates her intriguing role in four pages, describing her thus: “Nne Ojei remains one of my greatest inspirations in life…along with my mother, they were our “Eunice and Lois” …Adaeze Joy knew that Jesus is a kind and compassionate friend who delivers. She recognized her need for a great savior who sees, hears, and knows all, who cares and shares…For this reason, she remained a star that was not dim, even in her death. She is still my greatest heroine…”
Like biblical Daniel and Joseph, the author downplays his own wisdom and abilities, ascribing all the glory for the giant strides to the Almighty God. In fact, he regrettably castigates himself for ignorantly thinking his brilliance had contributed to the promotions he had enjoyed prior to his genuine conversion. Becoming By Grace portrays the protagonist as an epitome of humility. It depicts the persona as one who values relationships and learns from both superiors and subordinates. In this wise, he passionately extols influencers whose roles significantly contributed in shaping his character and worldview.
The book encapsulates the author’s thoughts on a plethora of socio-economic issues, including Nigeria’s ailing economy and the alarming spate of insecurity in the country. Recounting his experiences during the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War, he depicts war as a harbinger of evil. He reminisces about his university days at the University of Ibadan, peak moments in the banking industry, blessed family life and Christian faith, recalling God’s faithfulness even in turbulent times.