Sixty Percent of a True Story is an interesting, humorous, gripping, and provocative short memoir.
It is the story of many Nigerians; some heard and seen, and some ignored. While the book touches on weighty issues like homosexuality, the fate of the average Nigerian university graduate, and mental illness; it manages to still be funny and unpretentious.
The book is in three parts. We first follow the author as he describes his years in the University of Lagos.
He gives a detailed description of the lifestyles of the different types of people that are found on campus. He tells of the struggle and hustle to make it big and become Lag Big Boys, to get girls. He shares unsuccessful attempts at selling – electronics, then provisions. He tells about his journey into writing and the people who influenced that journey. He tells of trying to please lecturers “Everything is not about book. Here, you have to tread softly. Soon, you become adept at it. Wear a rosary when going to see Dr. Brown Onuoha, the devout Catholic. Wear a long face and dress modestly … when going to see Dr. Oloruntoba, the Deeper Life member. You can be yourself when going to Emperor.” We read of the fear they faced in the months leading up to graduation. You’re never really sure if you’re going to graduate till you see your name on that list. The thoughts of not getting a job. Fears that most university graduates face. He tells of leaving Lagos to join the campaign team for a presidential aspirant in Abuja. He talks about the excitement, and frustrations that go with politics and of the people he met. At the end, he returns to Lagos after the loss of their candidate in the elections.
The second and third parts are about Korede and Chris. Korede’s part talks about mental illness, He talks about growing up in Akwa Ibom, his love of reading, his inability to understand girls or get along with them, and his struggle with being different. We see his battle with drugs, depression and his bipolar disorder. He tells of his fears, wanting acceptance, coming out in a very public way, being attacked, feelings of inadequacy and being abandoned, and losing friends and family.“Bad roads are not the only problems here. The people are. Their minds are warped, so there are certain things I do not talk about. There are certain things you should not talk about..”
He tells of finding comfort and hope on the internet, from the words of “friends” on Twitter; of leaving Nigeria and going to Kenya. He tells of finding and losing love; making friends, receiving acceptance and love; and of making the decision to return to Nigeria. “I will speak out about the criminalization of sexuality. I will criticize the paradox in which people who need sexual health education, vaccines and programmes most are denied it … I will return to
Nigeria, even if it means facing prison time, I decided. And most importantly, Tafa, I will begin to believe that I am enough.”
In the final part, we follow Chris. Here, the author speaks of parties, nights at the clubs, the need to live a comfortable life and the fraudulent ways with which they sustain their lifestyles. He tells of the planning and complexities involved in pulling a scam and the fear of being caught. The moments of doubt – of questioning. He speaks of yahoo yahoo, of lies told to lonely older women abroad, of the reasons why they dabble into these activities. Some for a “higher purpose” – a small form of “revenge” slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism, others just for the fun of it. To prove that they’re smarter, better. “Some things aren’t right or wrong, they are just in that shadowy area between proper and improper” because “you have to do everything to escape poverty! You have to get to the ‘next level’”. and we “try to survive in a society where we have not been given options.”
The book flows like a conversation with a friend. Because of this, it feels disjointed sometimes and you have to go back a bit to understand what’s going on. This doesn’t take much away from your enjoying the book. The book is very informative and detailed, but the narrative doesn’t drag on to the point where you become bored.
It is a well written book and I enjoyed the style of writing. The author does not mince words or try to soften up the story. Reading this book might make some people uncomfortable because the things that are talked about are issues we usually try to ignore in our part of the world.