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Faithfulness of God… Rotimi Olatunji’s diamond song

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Olatunji

For the Dean of School of Communication, Lagos State University (LASU), Professor Olurotimi Williams Olatunji, the six decades’ journey in life, so far, mirrors God’s faithfulness. Born on February 21, 1960 to Mr. Samuel Oyebanji Olatunji and Mrs. Victoria Jose Olatunji, in Modakeke, Ife East Council, Osun State, he attained the peak of academic pursuit in 2015 as one of Nigeria’s youngest professors at age 55.

Humbled by his achievements, Olatunji told The Guardian that, “At 60, I look around me and see only the faithfulness of God. I do not see myself to have attained any height. I only see and experience the goodness of God around me.”

He attributed all successes and accomplishments to the Almighty, noting that “promotion does not come from the East or West, or South. God remains the lifter up of my head and the source of everything that is good in my life. I have received every good and perfect gift that you see around me from God Almighty.”

As a result, thanksgiving service served as curtain raiser for the 60th birthday celebration last week at the Faculty of Education 3-in-1 Lecture Theatre, LASU. It featured a public lecture delivered by Prof. Ayo Oyebode of the Department of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan.

The scholar holds no regrets whatsoever as seen in today’s world, rather, “I have what I call the ‘contributor mentality’.

“From that perspective, there are still many milestones to cover. In fact, I see myself not just about to begin to positively impact my generations in diverse areas of life- manpower development, mentorship of the younger generation into greatness, getting more and more involved in community development and societal advancement, producing doctorate degree holders and scholars that are greater than me; contributing more to scholasticism through knowledge creation, innovation and development. Above all serving God with greater intensity,” he said.

Having moved from a secondary school teacher to a university professor, Olatunji had also spent some time outside the classroom. He was Managing Associate, PLANT LIFE Limited, (environmental consulting) Lagos, in 1993; General Manager, CITI PRESS Limited, (Publishers), Lagos, and Managing Partner, MULTIFIRM Consulting Limited, (Human resources and Communication Consulting) (1996-2001). His teaching career began in 1982 at Okrika Grammar School, Okrika, Rivers State (NYSC), before his appointment as Class Tutor (1983) in the Oyo State Teaching Service, during which he was posted to Modakeke High School.

He described the feat of becoming a professor as a reward for his efforts, determination, dedication, desires, diligence, pursuit and commitment to the ideals of his academic calling.

The eminent scholar also owes the blessings to the quality teachers, mentors, life coachers and role models from his days in the secondary School at St. Kizito’s Catholic Minor Seminary in Ede (1973-1978); College of Education, Ila-Orangun; Department of Archaeology, University of Ife (later Obafemi Awolowo University) to the Department of Communication & Language Arts, University of Ibadan.

He said, “My past teachers really groomed me for life. I cannot forget the positive impacts of Professor Babatunde Williams ( first at Ife, later at the University of Ibadan); Professor Diblasi (Boston University, Boston USA (then Visiting Professor at University of Ife); Professor Beatrice Laninhun; (my M.A dissertation and Ph.D Thesis Supervisor) late Professor Babatunde Folarin, Professor Oludayo Soola, (all of the University of Ibadan, Ibadan) and a host of other teachers.

“Then came my appointment at LASU School of Communication in 2001, when destiny brought me the way of Professor Idowu Sobowale as the pioneer Dean of the School. His wise counsel always resonates in me – the rule of the game in the academic profession is publish or perish. Then came Professor Lai Oso who provided publishing outlets and opportunities.”

Assessing the state of development of the teaching and practice of Public Relations and Advertising in Nigeria, he said the theory of any discipline could not be separated from its practice.

“This is the case with the communications industry, and the advertising and public relations sub-sector in particular. Hitherto, advertising and public relations teaching and learning has been taking place under the umbrella of Mass Communication degree programme.

“Both sub-disciplines have often been classified as sub-disciplines of Mass Communication. Consequently, deserved attention has hitherto not been given to the teaching of public relations and advertising as distinct disciplines in our institutions of learning.

“However, the practice of advertising and public relations in Nigeria remains somewhat a step ahead of the classroom. This is in the sense that professionalism in these two areas are aligned to industry and global best practices whereas we have been treating both disciplines as adjuncts of mass communication.

“The Advertising Practitioners’ Council of Nigeria (APCON), Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) and related associations, the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) and similar bodies have asserted the autonomy and professional relevance of the two disciplines. There is the need for orchestration, and particularly the need to synchronize the best traditions in the theory and practice of advertising and public relations. There is no better time than now for the need for a fusion of Town and Gown with regards to both aspects of communication, now referred to as marketing communications.”

Speaking on the decision of the National Universities Commission to unbundle Mass Communication to birth seven departments from it, he noted that the series of curriculum review conferences and workshops held by varied stakeholders in the communications scholarship, professions and regulatory agencies in Nigeria, with the support of development partners including UNESCO, McArthur Foundation, and a host of others, led to the now famous unbundling of the Mass Communication discipline.

He however observed, “The emphasis is not on seven academic departments but the disciplines of Journalism and Media Studies, Advertising, Public Relations, Broadcasting, Film and Multimedia Studies, Development Communication, and Information Science and Media Studies.

“With these distinct specialisations we hope to see a more robust teaching and practice of each of the communications disciplines, depth in knowledge, increased specialization, professionalism, and industry focused degree programmes. More importantly, the new development will witness increased knowledge and skills acquisition with particular attention to media entrepreneurship, a missing aspect of the traditional mass communication degree programme.”

He expressed happiness that LASU School of Communication was not caught unawares with the unbundling, as the founding fathers of the school, led by Professor Idowu Sobowale, developed seven distinct degree programmes for the School at inception.

The first four set of graduates of LASU School of Communication, he recalled, were awarded distinct degrees in Journalism, Broadcasting, Public Relations & Advertising, Photo Journalism and Cinematography, Communication Technology, Human Communication, and Book Publishing & Development. It was the same NUC at the time that compelled LASU to collapse the above programmes into a singular Bachelors degree in Mass Communication.

“LASU was a light year ahead of the rest of the communication scholarship in Nigeria, with the establishment in 2000 of the LASU School of Communication with seven degrees. It is curious but interesting that the initial curriculum in communications that was in use at LASU served as the foundation document for the now unbundled degree programmes in communications discipline.”

According to him, “academic programmes provide tools for beneficiaries to solve societal problems through provision of the right knowledge. The second component of education is the skill-set domain, while the third deals with attitudinal changes. Add to these the new area called emotional intelligence. Education is a life-long process that begins from the home, through formal setting, to influences of the macro-environment. Education does not take place only in the classroom.

“The industry, professions and other socialising institutions need to work in concert with the classroom to produce a rounded citizen. What this means is that media professionals need partner the classroom to provide quality, industry-ready and globally relevant media education for citizens.”

The vibrant scholar said at 60, the best is yet to come. Adding, “There are many more academic books in advertising and public relations that I need to publish; there is the need for more cutting edge researches in these two areas of my academic focus; there are more doctoral degree candidates to supervise and graduate; the professional bodies- NIPR, AAAN, APCON and related global bodies need more of my attention and contributions now, more than ever before.

“Moreover, I need to give back more to the society than I have hitherto taken. It is time for me to contribute more to national development through involvement in policy formulation and implementation. My season of rising and global relevance has just started, with God’s empowerment all the way.”

While assessing communication and governance at all levels, Olatunji stressed that, effective communication was not adequately deployed to enhance governance at all levels in Nigeria. He asserted that the 17 goals contained in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) could hardly be achieved without the deployment of effective communications strategies.


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