By Rita Eghuojovbo
A Book Review By SAM AKPE
It Takes A Village, Courage Plus Determination
A few days ago, I read something by Melissa Flandreau that, “from the stunning first sentence to a perfect string of dialogue, there are certain parts of books that feel particularly memorable. And whether they make us laugh, cry or simply reflect, these quotable lines have a habit of sticking with us long after we turn the final page.”
The book, QUEEN RITA: From the Rough Edges to Becoming a Queen, contains a lot of such memorable quotes. It was the first sentence in the first paragraph of the first chapter that struck my nerves and ignited an immediate cerebral commitment, which lasted till the last page of the book. Three words: “I did it!” It was not just the curiosity about what the author did! Most compelling was the audacious proclamation, with just three words.
This triggered something in me. I forced myself to quickly drop the book because I knew that if I went beyond those three words, I would have a sleepless night feeding my brain, while the author would be snoring in deep sleep beside her husband — caressed by the Abuja harmattan breeze. Plus, I had another book already opened in front of me.
A few days later, I picked the book again. This time, I went straight to the back page, as my tradition is. Then I flipped the pages in reverse order. Here again was the last sentence of the last paragraph of the last chapter. It has one word: “Soar!” What! Just one word! Who gave this woman the poetic boldness to coin these one-liners? I couldn’t drop it again. It was time to explore deeper into the pages.
Excitedly, I went through the Foreword by the inimitable Chris Anyanwu, and then the thrilling Introduction. Just as I settled into the first chapter, something with a brazen-face hit me at the mid-rib. One sentence that refused to let go my concentration until I finished the book: “So, grab my hand; let’s take a walk down the streets that hold my childhood memories.” With such an irresistible personal invitation, I took a chance.
Queen Rita: From the Rough Edges to Becoming the Queen, is written by Rita Eghujovbo, a Nigerian broadcast journalist based in Abuja. It paints in clear colours, the word-pictures of her challenging past: her birth and bereavement — she hardly knew her mother — and a state of near abandonment.
Rita is a product of “a whirlwind love affair” between a married man and a divorcee who was truly ignorant of the marital status of her new lover. At four, Rita lost her mother. This instantly turned her into a disposable household item, passed from one relative to another for safekeeping.
Her tale is engaging, and deliberately illustrative. She adopts a conversational approach in the entire narrative. As you read through the pages, you can hear her frustrations and see her streams of tears. Each word and sentence creates a scenic impact — vivid imagery that urges you on. Her graphical recall of events truly guides the reader on a historical sightseeing.
From living with Auntie Miss, she moved in with Auntie Pat. Shortly after, she was handed over to Auntie Vivian. Here, she became a hawker, a baby sitter, and a housekeeper. Later, she was towed like abandoned van to her maternal grandmother, Comfort, who groomed her into a child farmer, trader and cook. Finally, her father took custody of her.
One day, she ‘met’ a presenter, Comfort Okoronkwo, while watching television. That virtual meeting “lit the torch that would burn in my heart for years to come.” Instantly, an ambition was born. A passion started developing — the urge to sit behind the big microphone, as a broadcaster.
Suspense — that exciting but breathless anxiety, which creates uncontrollable sense of anticipation — comes as a useful writing device in Rita’s pen. In this book, she applies it maximally. Clarity and brevity of expressions also characterize the book. These are tools every student of quality journalism, treasures.
At early age, with neither a mother nor a caring father, Rita experienced and almost thought that child labour was a part of the qualifications for a better life. She shouldered responsibilities that were beyond her age, faced discrimination, and unnerving hardship. For inexplicable reasons, she seemed sculptured for endurance. It toughened her!
In secondary school, she was made the head girl against her will. Over-burdened at home and over-stretched in school, still, Rita’s academic performance was top of the pack. Her secret: self-motivation. She had sufficient reasons to fail. But she kept pushing; and God kept raising people to inspire her. Fresh from secondary school, Rita studied theatre arts at the University of Benin. At last, she started finding her rhythm with roles in local movies.
Queen Rita: From the Rough Edges to Becoming the Queen has seven chapters spread across 199 pages. Each chapter has sub-chapters. We all have strange stories to tell about our national service experiences. Rita served briefly in Yobe State.
One day she went to the local market and saw people munching grasshoppers. She couldn’t stand it. Then in the abattoir, she saw pieces of meat “protected” by a blanket of flies. She almost vomited. When she asked for her favourite fresh ugu vegetable, she was given dry leaves.
This book is about a girl who has seen it all: she grew up as a kid pharmacist; cooked for the family; hawked items; baby-sat; and kept a shop. Then she found love—the delicacy she was denied as a kid. She had visited her uncle in Delta State; and helped cook banga soup. As she emerged from the kitchen into the living room, wiping off sweat caused by the kitchen heat, she met Simeon — a daring young man with a commanding presence — seated with her uncle.
Simeon Ese Eghujovbo was a fifth year optometry student at the University of Benin. They never met till that day. Obviously carried away by Rita’s feminine gait and the aroma of her banga soup, words of affection started flying from his lips with little control. Trapped without knowing, Rita tried to erect walls of resistance, but Simeon was determined. His focus was not on the delicious banga soup. He knew that if he could take the chef home, the soup wouldn’t ever finish. He was right.
Months later, he proposed marriage. The words dropped from his lips with “audacious and conventional” impact. The timing was right: they were having ice cream. The cream and the words traveled down Rita’s throat in tandem. She was placed under emotional shock. Love has life. It grows. Rita’s grew. On February 14, 2002, with a ring and flowers in hand, and tears in her eyes, she uttered: “Yes, I will marry you.” She did!
Who would have believed that Rita, yes, the same Rita, could become a graduate, a wife, then a mother! Once, she failed an exam. At another time, she came a distant 28 in a class of 40. Then she clinched a third position. Later, she topped the class, and sustained it. Hard work. Focus. Determination. Faith.
This book is loaded with life’s lessons. Be assertive but humble enough to listen to and accept counsel. Rita did. She eventually became a broadcaster. The road was never smooth. But she refused to be frustrated. Today, she is living her dream. She reached the top the hard way.
Rita learnt at the feet of the masters; then waited for opportunity to unleash. Being a broadcast personality goes beyond having a fantastic voice and a commanding persona. Creativity counts. You must study to know something about everything and everything about something. This is what qualifies you to sit behind the big microphone.
The author rose to the top of her job through sheer perseverance. She faced detractions and distractions; including her discouraging background. Even her gender militated against her. But she knew one thing: in journalism, excuses are inexcusable because they don’t get the job done. You simply must “roll up your sleeves and work.”
Reflecting on all of this, the book offers some useful tips that would surely help budding professionals in many ways. Be on top of your game. Be committed. Be passionate. Draw a line between money and professionalism.
There is something about journalism, which Rita learnt quite early. It is beyond popularity. The practitioner gains less. The people gain more. Imagine a world without a journalist. We brighten lives. We pull down “walls of injustice and prejudice.” Journalists get into harms’ way while trying to make the society better.
This is a beautiful tale; written in simple, flowing prose; with childlike innocence. One may be tempted to say it’s too early for Rita to publish her biography. Correct! But this is beyond a biography. It is an inspirational literature. You will love it as you turn the pages.
Copies available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Queen-Rita-Rough-Edges-Becoming/dp/B08TFFLY61