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Rains of tribute, encomiums for media veteran, Adefela at 80

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Dignitaries at the launch with cpoies of the book

It was a high networth event last weekend as ex-Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF) Chief Olu Falae; Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed; Senator Femi Okunrounmu, Professor Innocent Okoye and a host of other political juggernauts thronged the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) headquarters to pay tributes to the veteran journalist, teacher and pioneer Editor-in-Chief of NAN, Professor Victor Olufemi Adefela, as he joined the league of octogenarians.

To mark his 80th birthday, the fiction writer launched his latest book, Mind on The Wing, a collection of poems, which reflect the writer’s thoughts on a wide range of issues facing mankind.

Each poem in the 92-page book bears a message of its own. However, a common thread that runs through most of them: change

In the collection, the writer seeks to provoke further thinking and discussion on man’s ever changing environment and his perception of some of the challenges facing humanity. He also addresses some of the themes from a perspective that is not conventional. The poems, most importantly, challenge the reader to do otherwise.

Speaking with The Guardian, Adefela, who laid the foundation of what NAN is today as a credible national news agency, said in his 80 years of existence, he has had a lot of wonderful experiences, most notable being the book launch.

“I have never dreamt of this type of situation. I want to say a big thank you to all of you and my former colleagues in NAN. I left NAN more than 30 years ago, and after this, they still said a lot of good things about me. I am indeed, humbled by the show of love and celebration.

I’m more than surprised about what has happened today, because I’ve had wonderful experience in life, travelling all over the world. I’ve never felt so honoured and elated.”

He continued: “Journalism is the most exciting profession in the world, but it requires discipline, hardwork, commitment, above all, the love for the truth.

A journalist must consider himself as the eye and ear of the people, because the people deserve the truth.

Journalists must always be after the truth and to present it in the best way possible so that the public could understand what is going on around them and be able to make their own contribution to the development of their society.”

Falae, who was the chief launcher of the book, described Adefela as the nicest person he had ever known.

Recalling their early days, Falaye said, “we were classmates at Government College, Ibadan, in January 1958, when I joined the school from Igbobi College to do my Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC). It was natural bonding and we’ve become a family ever since.

I want to say with all humility that apart from his wife, Yemisi, there are very few people in Nigeria today who can claim to know him as much as I do.”

Falae added, “He went to the U.S to study and I went to Ibadan, when we both graduated, I was working in Lagos when he came back and we lived together as bachelors – I got married in ‘67, and he in ‘68 – we did most things together.

He started writing some of the books he’s publishing now in those days and I want to say that the fact that we’ve remained friends for 60 years shows clearly that we have great respect for each other.

“Adefela is a more calm person than myself. He’s very patient, tolerant, and he’s not easily agitated, he doesn’t like quarrel, but his intellect is razor sharp, he’s very objective and that is what made him a rare gem, a man of intellect, a man who cares deeply for the people of this country.

Falae said, “in school, we shared many things together, especially, interest in public affairs. I remember those days of the war in Laos and Vietnam.

Every weekend, he or I would write a piece of what happened in the Chinese war in the battle ‘last week’, and our interest in public affairs developed the two different direction, his own, led him into professional journalism, while mine into politics in later years.”

Dr. Bisi Olawunmi, former NAN’s Washington D.C. correspondent and senior lecturer, Department of Mass Communication, Bowen University, said, Adefela laid a solid foundation for NAN right from the staff recruitment stage with applicants subjected to series of rigorous writing tests. 

Under the leadership of Adefela, NAN went international in 1982 with the posting of the first three Foreign Correspondents to London, Harare (Zimbabwe) and New York, later expanding to Washington D.C., Moscow, New Delhi, Cairo, Nairobi, Abidjan, Belgrade, rising to a total of 10 Foreign Correspondents in 1988, the highest number for any media establishment in Nigeria.

Adefela, who holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) and a master’s degree from the School of Journalism, Columbia University, New York, USA, taught at Baylor University, Waco, Texas, USA and at University of Lagos.

He brought intellectualism to NAN editorial operation which impacted on staff under him such that NAN alumni today boasts of three professors – Former deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Ibadan, Prof. Adigun Agbaje, Prof. Innocent Okoye of Kwara State University and Prof. Lai Oso of Lagos State University.

There are also two PhDs. Prof. Adefela served at continental level as Director of News at the Pan African News Agency (PANA) in Dakar, Senegal, on leave of absence from NAN, from late 1980s to early 90s and at various times, between 1982 and 2008, conducted media capacity-building workshops in 16 African countries as a Consultant to World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNESCO.


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