First published in 2007, Imagine This is the diary account of Omolola Ogunwole, a young girl who started keeping a diary from the age of nine. The diary, which she named ‘Jupiter’ was a constant companion to her when she was uprooted from familiar surroundings to a place where no one understood her. It chronicles ten years of her life.
Born in London to Nigerian parents, Omolola and her brother Adebola grew up with foster parents because their mother left eighteen months after Omolola was born, and their father could not take proper care of them. They were brought to Nigeria when their father was in danger of losing them, and lived together as a family for a while before their father decided that they should be raised by his relatives. As a result Adebola went to live with his father’s brother Uncle Joseph in Ado Ekiti, and Omlolola was taken to Idogun to live with the father’s sister, Iya Rotimi. This move was traumatic for Omolola because Idogun was a village, and did not have any of the amenities she was used to. No one understood her English, and she did not understand them either. Furthermore Iya Rotimi and her children took a great dislike to her. She was wrongly accused of stealing so many times, and sometimes left to go hungry. She was later made to go stay with her grandmother, still in the same village, when her father found out about the way she was treated. Life with her grandmother was no better and she went hungry more times than she had food to eat. She was forever looking for a way to go back to stay with her father. And when all her pleas fell on deaf ears, she got involved in so many pranks in school just so she could be expelled but none of her ploys worked.
It was only after her brother Adebola died that Omolola’s father mellowed and took her to live with him in Lagos. Her brother’s death was so traumatic for her because he was the only one she really cared about, and he was the one she could talk to that understood her.
Not long after, Omolola’s father married another woman, who already had two kids. One day, an altercation occurred between Omolola and one of her stepsisters. In anger, Omolola’s father sent her back to her grandmother in Idogun. She was back to square one. And to make things worse, she got into serious trouble in school, which made the principal expel her so she could not write her final exams. Just when she thought all was lost and she was going to waste away in the village, help came through one of her uncles, Jacob who took her to Lagos to stay with him. She enrolled to write her final exams but failed and because Uncle Jacob’s wife did not like her, she chased her away the first chance she got.
Next she went to live with her favourite uncle, Niyi whose wife did not like her either, and this made living with them very difficult. All through this her father did not search for her or even cared that she was staying in the same city with him and it took Uncle Niyi losing his job before she was reconciled to her father. ‘It takesa village to raise a child’, was the reason he gave for making her go through all the hardship she went through. Of course at this time she had lost any love, trust or affection she ever had for her father and she only moved back with him because she had no choice.
Unfortunately, her father was murdered before he could mend the gap between them, and eventually Omolola went back to London.
Imagine This addresses some of the dangers faced by children who are forced to live with relatives as seen in the negligence by Uncle Joseph which led to Adebola’s death and the sexual harassment Omolola suffered at the hands of Uncle Niyi. All in all it’s a good book, which tells of the resilience of the human spirit, and its end leaves the reader begging for more. The book deservingly won the 2008 Commonwealth First Book Award for the Africa Region – an achievement made all the more significant by the fact that the book is self-published.