A huge crowd gathered at Oldham Library last week for the book launch of a man who has lived an extraordinary life.

Sheka Tarawalie was born in Sierra Leone and embarked on an incredible journey in his youth to learn English and even teach his father, a farmer and pastor, who had been starved of education.

Sheka later became a print journalist in his home country, however, the civil war led to a period of persecution, during which he was thrown into jail and faced threats to be killed.

The journalist had to flee the country and claim asylum in the UK where he eventually found sanctuary in Oldham in 2004.

He was later called back to serve in the government, most notably as minister of media, during which he met the pope.

Oldham Library was packed with the many friends, academics and colleagues Sheka has picked up along his journey on Saturday, December 10, as they gathered to hear and discuss his latest novel, ‘Lovebird Escapes: Love of Power versus Power of Love’.

‘Lovebird’ comes after Sheka’s memoir about his journey, ‘Pope Francis, Politics and the Mabanta Boy’, was published in 2019 but as his first novel, it sits at an impressive 460 pages with “too many characters to count”.

The book harks to many of the challenges Sheka himself faced in war-torn Sierra Leone and is described as a “political thriller” that is “threaded with tension, family drama and romance”.

The synopsis reveals the book follows a number of international dignitaries’ joint political mission to “save democracy” in Sierra Leone, including the British Prime Minister, Nigeria’s military dictator, the UN Secretary General and Sierra Leone’s exiled President.

However, each have their own “parallel agenda to overturn a coup d’état”, the description continues, which is aggravated by a racism row involving the Queen’s great-granddaughter.

“Hand in hand with all this is a Sierra Leonean journalist’s fateful battle against the odds in the ‘same mission’ for democracy in his war-ravaged country”, it concludes.

The launch itself saw members of the National Union of Journalists, Sierra Leone Manchester Community, Citizens Advice, authors, professors, the church, library and friends both locally and from overseas come in support of Sheka.

Even Kingsley Lington Ichobor, Sheka’s first-ever media employer in 1994, flew all the way from America to Oldham for the special occasion.
Many speakers at the event, such as Professor Richard Keeble who similarly travelled to Oldham for the first time for the launch, commented on how “gripping” the new novel is.

The author, nicknamed ‘Shekaspeare’ for his love of Shakespeare, further thanked everyone for coming to the event.

He said: “I am the most unlikely person to talk about a book, about reading a book and about writing a book, but here I am doing just that.

“It’s a miracle, for me, it’s a miracle.”

The book is currently being sold for £10.99 on Amazon and in Waterstones.

Credit: Oldham Times