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New books harp on journalism development, freedom in watchdog’s role

By y Victor Gbonegun
07 January 2020   |   3:33 am
Notwithstanding the long-standing contributions of the pen profession to national development, an author, O’femi Kolawole, has called on journalists working in government

Notwithstanding the long-standing contributions of the pen profession to national development, an author, O’femi Kolawole, has called on journalists working in government as commissioners and aides to show more passion in advancing the practice and support worthy initiatives for the good of their calling.

Kolawole, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Posterity Media, highlighted the message in his books The Gatekeepers (volume two) and Nigerian Journalism: 160 Years of Advancing Accountability, Promoting Public Interest & Speaking Truth to Power.
Those featured in The Gatekeeper include veteran editors and columnists such as former editor of The Guardian, Abraham Agbodo, former editor-in-chief of The Sun, Mike Awoyinka, Gbenga Omotoso of The Nation, Olusegun Adeniyi of ThisDay, Olabisi Deji-Folutile, Martin Ayankola, Dare Babarinsa, Eric Osagie, Onuoha Ukeh, Tokunbo Adedoja, Don Okere, Eze Ababa, and Bisi Olatilo. Others include Azuh Arinze of Yes International, Juliet Bimah, Debo Abdulai, Tokunbo Ojekunle, Ademola Adegbamigbe and Seye Kehinde.

The author lamented that a situation where journalists who get political appointments get into power and forget to work for the collective development of the profession or do things that bring journalism into dishonor was unfortunate and should no longer continue. He stated that patriotic leaders should allow journalists to do their work as watchdogs of society and not try to suppress or harass them.
“Instituting fellowship, awards, story grants and training opportunities within the and outside Nigeria will go a long way in helping to sustain media and enable it to continue to advocate for a better country in which individual and corporate citizens all thrive well,” he said.
Book reviewer, Olukorede Yishau, said the “environment for the media has been tough but editors, columnists, and journalists generally have soldiered on. They are rights activists; they are kingmakers and they are policy direction shapers.

Significantly, they are heard, but most times not seen. They celebrate others but almost no one celebrates them. Many of them even believe they should not be celebrated because theirs is a calling that craves some sort of anonymity.”
However, he said with the book, Mr. Kolawole has given a personal touch to what Chief Dayo Duyile did with Makers of Nigerian Press or what Dr. Fred Omu did with History of the Nigerian Media. But unlike Omu and Duyile, who did brilliantly well by focusing on the industry, Yishau said Kolawole has chosen to tell the stories of the men and women who decide what gets published.
The multiple winner of Nigeria Media Merit Award explained that the book has the potential to inspire courage, faith in one’s ability and commitment to excellence as most of the editors featured have stories that could spur the upcoming generation and motivate them to reach for greatness.

“On the pages of this book we meet the great Mike Awoyinfa, a superb columnist, history maker and Nigeria’s King of tabloids,” Yishau said. “We also meet Gbenga Omotoso, the immediate past editor of The Nation and one of Nigeria’s longest-serving newspaper editor. Omotoso, who is now Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, was influenced into journalism by a local blacksmith.
“This book sheds light on the amazing life and career of Mr. Abraham Ogbodo, a Theatre Arts graduate who became editor of The Guardian. In his capacity as the editor of the newspaper, he supervised all the three titles and quit the stage after his tenure lapsed.”
The reviewer further stated that Mr. Kolawole deserves commendation for tracking down editors and columnists. The significance of this work, he said, would truly be appreciated in the future.
According to him, “The book is an engaging read which practising and aspiring journalists should have. The Gatekeepers is a very laudable project and we should all support it to continue. Volume 3 should not take another 10 years. There is something I must point out about this book. Aside telling us the stories of the editors, columnists and broadcasters featured in it, it also tells us the history of some media houses.”
According to him, the book also opens an important debate about the media’s role in the ‘Elite Nigerian Problem’.
“Is the media guilty of helping the political elite to under-develop the country?” he asked. “Your guess is as good as mine, especially if you have it at the back of your mind that he who pays the piper calls the tune.”