The Road To Bandar: Reminiscences Of A Development Journalist

30 April 2013

By Abdulwarees Solanke

1. Amatokwu et al, thank you all!

How time flies! Going through some of my old university notes, browned by age, recently, it dawned on me that I have been out of the learning oven called Akoka (that is how we call the University of Lagos} since 1988, baked as a journalist. That makes it 24 years ago. That also makes it 25 years ago that I first stepped into the ambience of a newsroom of an influential newspaper, the Imalefalafia, oke-Ado, Ibadan-based The Nigerian Tribune, founded by late Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the late 40s, to share seats and desk with some established journalists.

My long, rough, yet enchanting ride through the various media houses on which desks I have pieced bits and pieces and churn words as news stories, features, opinions, editorials and programme scripts in the past 25 years, from the busy newsroom of the Nigerian Tribune at Imalefalafia, Oke Ado as an intern in 1987, the hot desks of the newsrooms and the cosy seats of the editorial boards of the defunct National Concord, The Monitor and The National Guide all demanding cerebral acuity, the boisterous studios of Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State, Ile Akede, Ibadan, the mad newsroom of Raypower 100.5 FM and AIT at Alagbado as a radio and television producer, the rewarding sojourn in Voice of Nigeria and the long flights to Kuala lumpur, Bandar Seri Begawan, New Delhi, and Jakarta, capitals of the South East Asian countries of Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, India and Indonesia, respectively with transits in Dubai, UAE; Doha, Qatar; Singapore City and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia in the e cause of my journalism and academic odyssey could not have been as relishing and productive without the robust education in public affairs journalism and development communication I received at the University of Lagos.

With colleagues like Azubuikwe ishiekwene, John Momoh, Soji Alabi, Ben Okhakhume, saka Asimi, Francis Borisade, Dotun Erinle, Mary Atolagbe, Bose Eitokpa, abdurrazak Adegboyega, Late major Remi Okeowo (one of the victims of 1990 plane crash into the swamp of Ijegun), Late Saka Asimi, the brilliant pioneer TV reporter at the Channels, Chris Olisa, Abdussalam, Abdulfattah Babatunde, Peter Adebolu and Tunde odediran, we were prepared to fly and reach the farthest heights in journalism and media practice, public relations and advertising. Most of the 50 something student class that graduated in 1988 may not be known names in the Nigerian media firmament now, but all exceptionally gifted. Our classes were never dull, and that was why we had the effrontery to challenge our controversial mass comm. department on the graduation list of that year.

I can't remember any student in that set repeating class. It was momentous that after due diligence and investigation into the circumstances that would have led a number of the students having an extra semester, our class won. Notwithstanding, we were blessed to be tutored by a set of versatile and intellectually intimidating scholars, almost all trained in some of the best American universities with wide research and consultancy experience for the UNICEF, UNESCO, the World Bank and some other international and multilateral organization. Many of them have since left the department and relocated to the United States; two of them are now late, but only one, perhaps, is left in the department. So, I pay my tributes to our gurus in journalism training and social science education in the mass communication, political science, psychology and sociology departments where we took a breadth of courses to sharpen our insights and analytical skills.

Sample the list of my gurus: Fidelis N Amatokwu and Andrew Moemeka initiating me in Development communication; Luke Uka Uche grounding me in Media History, Communication Theories and Research, Foreign Correspondence and Editorial Writing; Olatunji Dare burnishing me in Fundamentals of Journalism, Feature Writing and Public Affairs Reporting; Olu Fadeyibi dazing me in Fundamentals of Broadcasting and Yomi Daramola orienting me in Public me Relations and Advertising.

Professors Alfred Opubor, Onuora Nwuneli, Idowu Sobowale and Ralph Akinfeleye were simply the best in the league of journalism scholarship in Nigeria. I learnt at their feet. I drank from the rich cup of wisdom of Delu Ogunade of blessed memory in mass media Law and Ethics just as Segun Oduko improved my English Writing skills in Writing for the Mass media, a purely language and grammar course.

These mass comm courses were the oil or the lubricants to chew and digest other core social science and humanity knowledge-based intellectually stimulating and rigorous courses which we were to undergo at Unilag to prepare us for the expertise in development communication and public affairs champions and not just as mere reporters and broadcasters.

We were being trained to be relevant in the public sphere as agenda setters and critical stakeholders and actors in the public policy process in our nation. So the mass communication department led us into the hands of erudite political scientists, psychologists and sociologists for the necessary intellectual grooming. Professors Moyibi Amoda and Alaba Ogunsanwo took turns in taking us through the elements of of political science, just as Dr. Femi Badejo gave me depth in International Relations. Professor Remi Anifowoshe was my teacher in Constitutional Developments in Nigeria while I had a rare privilege of some Marxist or socialist indoctrination (that was what our Marxist Political Economy was) from the late guru, the inimitable Professor Bade Onimode who could melt your hearts and draw tears from you in explaining the tragedies of imperialism, monopoly capitalism, unequal exchange and the role of multinational or transnational corporations in the underdevelopment of the Third World countries in the Sub-Sahara Africa, Latin America and the Pacific Rim.

Professor Peter Omoluabi was simply an authority in the explanation of human mind and behaviour as he took me Basic Processes in Psychology, while a certain Dr. T Kehinde grilled me in two core courses in Sociology: Values and Ethics in Classical thoughts and Philosophy and Contemporary Religious and Political Systems. But most remarkably, I gained leadership training in the university within the university of Lagos, the beautiful masjid of the campus Muslim ummah where the Muslim Students Society provided the training ground through its daily activities – usrah, dawah camp, morning talks, Jumah and other obligatory ibaadahs . From that Islamic university, I learnt a bit of the Tafsir-ul-Quran, Hifz and Elementary Fiqh. For Muslim students like me, the likes of Professors Nurudeen Alao, Tajudeen Gbadamosi, Abdufattah Egberongbe, Laide Abbas and Murtadha Bidmus were mentors in the macro and micro universities of Lagos.

2. Akoka to Bandar

From the temporal, intellectual and spiritual perspective, the University of Lagos lives up to its reputation as a first class institution and to its mandate of building us in learning and character which I took to various news desks on which I laboured as a development journalist in the past 25 years. Happily too, that grooming prepared me to cope with the fiery baptism in public policy analysis and administrative studies I underwent at the University Brunei Darussalam while being a beneficiary of a UBD-Commonwealth Broadcasting Association Graduate Studies Scholarship.

Professors Shafruddin Hashim, Kim Loy Chee and Ms. Saraswathy Rajagopal were inspiring in the core courses of the Study of Public Policy, Advance Research Methods, Economic Aspects of Public Policy and Strategic Public management. Dr. Muhammed Habiburahman, a Fulbright fellow and a well rounded scholar of Bangladeshi origin tutored me in Public personnel Administration as he also volunteered to supervise my case study in Strategic management in Public Service Broadcasting. Professor David Seth Jones, a Briton who has had an enriching academic career at the national University of Singapore before berthing in Brunei Darussalam was very rigorous in public policy analysis while Dr. hajah Sainah binti Saim was passionate in teaching Public sector administration.

Which of the favours of our Lord can I deny with this depth of grooming ! As I glorify Allah for the opportunities I have had, I seek His benevolence and forgiveness on Maami and Baami as I call my parents both of blessed memory. My mum, Aasiah Adufe, a true mother who sacrificed all possessions and pleasures, toiling in the heat of the sun in the mid-road of Dugbe, selling pepper and dried crayfish and my dad, Alhaji Daud Ayinde Solanke (he called himself a philosopher) weathering inclement cold, risk-climbing tall ladders to cream houses and paint roofs in Ibadan, Abeokuta and beyond as an artisan in the employ of the maintenance department of the University of Ibadan before retirement in1978. In their sweat and blood, I swam through Abadina School, UI, Egba High School, Asero Abeokuta, Baptist High School (for Highers School Certificate or Advanced Level), and University of Lagos finishing my education under 22 years which is quite unusual for children of peasants as my parents. With their pennies and pains, I picked pearls in principles and practices of life through the rich education afforded me which I now share Nigerians on pages like you are reading, shaping people's opinions and facilitating generative learning and public engagement in the public sphere as a development journalism practitioner.

3. Day One at Imalefalafia

It was the end of the 2006/2007 academic session, my Year III at the University of Lagos. During the long vacation, it was the practice of holidaying students to fix themselves with the media houses of their choice to gain practical experience before entering the final year. As I was an Ibadan based student, the Nigerian Tribune was my choice newspaper to test my grasp of what I have learnt so far as a budding journalist.

I remember Biodun Oduwole, as the News Editor then, accepting my introductory letter from the Department of mass Communication, University of Lagos for holiday internship in 1987. I also remember fair-skinned Tunde Laniyan, his deputy, being the able newsroom commander and deputy news editor, polishing all scripts from reporters to be fit for public consumption as news materials. I remember akin Onipede, the dark-skinned tall and robust assistant editor filing stories from the Lagos office. I remember the fastidious petite mrs. Bisi Yomi Layinka as a very competent female journalist. I recall eagle-eyed Muda Ganiyu as the chief –sub doing some yeoman's job to ensure our stories make meaning while cutting them to size to fit the precious newsholes .

I recollect Mr. Banji kuroloja as the no-nonsense editor of the Nigerian Tribune and the magisterial Mr. Felix Adenaike, a very sartorial gentleman with his trademark black staff as the MD.

I remember my first challenging assignment, apart from writing and re-wring some short news stories on the desk, the coverage of the visit of a USIS delegation to the Tribune. No senior journalist was around for the 10.00am visit, and as an intern who must report at the newsroom latest 9.00 am, the lot fell on me to join the senior editors and the management staff to receive the visitors and cover the discussion, sadly without a tape recorder, a luxury for an intern like me. Here was I, straining my ears to pick the drawling English of the visiting Yankees , jotting down in shorthand and abbreviations, in phrases and incomplete sentences to make meaning a good stuff out of the visit, fit for usage, after the news editor and editor's clearance on a strategic page with my by-line in the second and first editions.

My internship at the Tribune lasted six week and but continued at Ile-Akede, as the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State, Ibadan is known. At BCOS, I remember being fixed on the Current Affairs Department of the television arm of BCOS, following senior journalists on special coverage and doing some reports myself, and rushing home to listen to my voice on the 7.00pm news….Abdulwarees Solanke, reporting for BCOS News. I remember being tasked to cover an emergency press conference at Oke Mapo on the Ibadan Municipal Government closure of Orita-merin market to force the traders to relocate to the New Bodija market. Again, no senior journalist was on ground. As the rookie on the desk, I was commandeered to be at Mapo with a cameran and an official car driving me there to cover the press conference. Scripting and voicing for 7.00 o clock television news on arrival from the impromptu assignment, I was stupefied, being called to do a live report of the assignment as the 6.00 clock radio news bulletin was underway. I had to do an Usain Boltl dash between the staff quarters offices of the TV Current Affairs Department and the radio studio in the main complex, some four to five hundred meters apart. Panting, I had to adjust and adapt the TV script to the radio right on the spot. I landed safely with Abdulwarees Solanke, reporting for Radio O-Y=O, Ile Akede, Ibadan.

I remember my one year service at Sokoto, joining the third batch of the 1988/1989 in April 1989 and concluding my service in 1990. The one year service with the Envoy newspaper, published by Emman Usman Shehu, the christian scholar in the seat of the caliphate. Designated as the paper's news editor and given free hand to write many incisive editorials in the biting newspaper, service in the Envoy in Sokoto groomed me in all practical aspects of newspaper production beyond what I learnt at Unilag, up to manual collation and distribution/marketing.

ABDUL-WAREES  SOLANKE B.Sc. Mass Comm (Lagos); Master of Public Policy (Brunei Darussalaam)  Head, Voice of Nigeria Training Centre, c/o VON Transmitting Station, Ikorodu, Lagos. Formerly the special assistant to the Director General, VON, he is the 2007/2008 Commonwealth Broadcasting Association scholar in Public Policy at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam, 08090585723


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