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At conference, stakeholders lament poor enrolment in journalism school

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President, Unilag Mass Communication Alumni Association (UMCAA), Mr Vincent Oyo presenting a book written by the Alumni titled: “The truth about Idowu Sobowale” to the celebrant in Lagos


• Say journalism is soul of society, commend Sobowale’s pioneering role

Veteran journalist and communication scholar, Prof. Idowu Sobowale, has pointed out that man’s existence is incomplete without journalism.

Speaking at a virtual conference organised by Top Achievers Network to commemorate his 80th birthday, Sobowale observed that though journalism is not a flamboyant profession, its importance to the development of any society cannot be overemphasised.

According to him, “I have always believed and as I have always told my students, journalism is so important in our lives that without it, we really cannot exist. As members of the society, we need to know what is going on. We need to know what others are thinking. We need to be able to evaluate the system we are in to enjoy a good life. And without this medium, which brings information that enables us to do these assessments, we are nowhere. Journalism is not a flamboyant profession. But if your determination is to serve the public or nation, then journalism is for you.”

He, however, expressed concern over poor enrolment of students in journalism schools, noting that in the last few years, students have gradually lost interest in journalism. “When I was at the University of Lagos (Unilag) , there was a time when we had about four students showing interest in journalism. When I went to the Lagos State University (LASU), there were occasions where we had only one. During my last year at Covenant University, we had only one student for journalism. Many of my colleagues reported the same thing. Anybody who takes interest in journalism and studies journalism is going to be a master of all aspects of communication. I studied journalism but I have been able to teach in all other areas of Mass Communication or Communication Studies.”

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Executive Director, Media Career Development Network, Lekan Otufodunrin, stated, “it is one thing to go and read journalism, it is another to have the passion, zeal and flair for it.”

According to him, “it is very interesting to note that people go to study mass communication but they don’t have the flair. So, if you must become a journalist, you must study and have the flair. We must also make a distinction between who is a journalist and who is not. The man who is sharing information does not qualify to be a journalist. There is a code of ethics for our guidance. There are things a medical doctor will not do that a herbalist will do. People can share information but they have to share it responsibly. They need to fact check what they are sharing. The rule in journalism is that if you are in doubt, leave out.”

Leading author on youths, Sam Salau, observed that some big shots that are making money from news today did not study journalism.

“The likes of Linda Ikeji, who has made billions owns just a blog. This can discourage so many people from going to school to study journalism. So, you have engineers who call themselves bloggers and they will say they are journalists in their own rights. Journalism in the 21st century will be more driven by what social media will promote than what newspaper houses do. Social media has made everyone now a journalist. Before now, journalists will go out of their way to source for news but now everybody has become news broadcaster on its own.”

In another celebration held virtually at his Lagos residence, with communication scholars, family members and well wishers in attendance, Chairman/CEO of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said, “I cannot tell my story without Prof. Sobowale and I’m glad it’s a story of success today. I remember I came to your office and told you that I’m going on a road to nowhere but you told me that I’m going on a road to somewhere.

“If I didn’t learn what I learned from you, I wont be where I am today. I want to thank you for the knowledge you imparted In us. As we move on as a nation, we have people like you in the development of journalism. Without people like you, we are moving nowhere in Nigeria.”

Similarly, Professor of Mass Communication, LASU, Prof. Lai Oso said: “He cares a lot about those under him and we see him not as a boss but as a leader.

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As the Dean of School of Communication, LASU, every morning when we were in Surulere, whenever he got to his office, he would come to the main building to see whether you were in the office or classroom and he would ask after the family one after the other and we were more than 30 in the faculty. Prof. gives you assignment and it is due by 12noon, you must submit the assignment by 12 noon. You live or die by deadline.

“I dragged Prof. to Olabisi Onabanjo University. When we got there, things were different from what we were used to in LASU. One of our colleagues was in charge of compiling the results but she made a mess of it. There were lots of problems and the Senate was ready to dismiss this young lady. We were all afraid. Prof. did not say anything. We followed him to the Senate meeting and we sat. Then Prof. said I take responsibility for everything that has happened and that ended all the noise. I couldn’t believe myself; he took responsibility for the lady’s mistake.

Continuing, he added, “when we wanted to start Ph.D programme at Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), only two of us were qualified to teach Ph.D and Prof. said go and do the curriculum. He just picked his phone and called the late Prof. Ebenezer Soola in Ibadan and he said Ebenezer, you are coming to OOU for your sabbatical. Lo and behold, two or three days later, we got application from Prof. Soola for his sabbatical. He called another Professor and that was how we started the Ph.d programme at OOU. Today, out of all the 18 students that started the Ph.D programme, about five of them are already professors.

“Prof. is also our academic consultant. We don’t pay him. Anytime we run into problems on our methodology, we’ll always go to him. He cares a lot about those under him and we see him not as a boss but as a leader. I remember we had a big debate when one of our PhD students was presenting his paper and I said stop this debate, lets call Prof. Sobowale. The lady spent about eight hours with Prof. Sobowale and that settled it and within nine months, she finished her PhD and graduated. Prof. is always ready 24 hours to speak about research.”

President, Unilag Mass Communication Alumni Association (UMCAA), Mr. Vincent Oyo, stated, “we are happy that he turned 80. Outside of his nuclear family, he is part of us. The reason that he is part of us and we are part of him is because he himself passed through the Unilag. To represent UMCAA properly, students put together their thoughts as at the time they interacted with him that was published on his behalf and the title is: “The truth about Idowu Sobowale.”

In the book, Associate Professor of Journalism, School of Communications and Arts, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, Levi Obijiofor, stated that Sobowale “encouraged and challenged us to come up with our own communication theories. We tried despite the huge challenge. At a time when few journalists and journalism academics knew about the value of precision journalism, Sobowale made it look so easy. He was ahead of his time and contemporaries.”

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Similarly, former Editor, The Guardian on Sunday, Fred Ohwahwa, noted that Sobowale had just returned from the United States, where he had bagged his PhD. He had lectured in the Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos and had practiced journalism before travelling to America for further studies. It was therefore no surprise that he was rich both in experience and academic credentials.”

On how the country can move forward, Prof. Sobowale said; “all of us both in authority, young, old and middle age, should rededicate ourselves to the growth and development of this country. What we should do is to admit that all of us have failed in order for us to enjoy a better life than we have now, and a better future for our children, we must recommit our steps to the progress of this country. If we are saying those who are there are not good, how are you saying those that are coming again will be better. But if we recommit ourselves that anything we do in public, private, we’ll do it with the fear of God.”

Prof. Uchey Uyo, who reviewed Prof. Sobowale’s autobiography titled: “Unexpected Turns” stated that titled: ‘I recommend Uncertain Turns to members of the public who want to learn how to face the challenges of life with humility, simplicity and equanimity. From academia, destiny turned him into the political arena, having been thrust into public limelight by his work.”

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