Monday, 4th December 2023

Honour to whom honour is due

It was a remarkable gathering of the leaders in the media industry on Monday. The Banquet Hall of Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja, was packed full with editors from several parts of the country. It was their event—event by the Guild of Editors under the promising leadership of Eze Anaba,....

It was a remarkable gathering of the leaders in the media industry on Monday. The Banquet Hall of Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja, was packed full with editors from several parts of the country. It was their event—event by the Guild of Editors under the promising leadership of Eze Anaba, its new president. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu was billed as Special Guest of Honour, to lead in the joy of the day, rekindling and indeed revitalising memories of the life and times of Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, his exceedingly impactful leadership roles in the media and as governor of Lagos State.

Bola Tinubu, now President, said in his tribute on the passing of LKJ in 2021 that no one could beat Jakande’s record in Lagos. Sanwo-Olu’s deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, stood in for him, and just as well, so coincidentally and befittingly so: Dr. Hamzat’s father, Prince Olatunji Hamzat was Jakande’s Commissioner for Transportation who was going up and down, with his sleeves rolled up to see to the successful execution of the Metro Line project later aborted by Muhammadu Buhari in his first coming when he drove his tanks into the then corridors of power at Obalende in Lagos.

The joy-filled occasion was the launching of Lateef Jakande yearly Memorial Lecture by the Guild of Editors of which he was the first President in 1961. His wife, Alhaja Abimbola led, accompanied by her son, Seyi and daughter, Dr. Adeboye were there to witness the glorious occasion. It could not have been an accident that praises were lavished on her for her sacrifice to hold the family in the absence of an absentee husband who devoted himself to the pursuit of what was best for the Press and journalism profession. Listening to moving words of appreciation to her, I could not but remember the admonition, indeed warning, by Stafford Somerfield, in his book, Banner Headlines. Editor, News of The World, Somerfield says: “The job was exciting, stimulating and always a battle…My advice to youngsters seeking jobs in Fleet Street never varied. Don’t become a journalist unless you feel that you must and that nothing else will do. Even then think twice. To reach the top you must be dedicated; your work must come before home, family and everything else. No sensible girl would marry a reporter…” Alhaja Abimbola was a sensible and exceptional girl. She bore it all with uncommon understanding, bravery, and triumphed. Monday was, therefore, as much LKJ’s day as Alhaja Abimbola Jakande’s hour.

The occasion was chaired by General Ike Nwachukwu who started out life as a reporter in the Daily Service where Jakande began his journalism career in 1949 before moving to Tribune in 1953. It was a gathering of who is who in the industry with Chief Segun Osoba, a former managing director/chief executive officer, former state governor who prides himself as a reporter any day and Vanguard Publisher, Sam Amuka, the inimitable columnist, Sad Sam lending their eminence and aura of professionalism to the occasion. Dr. Dayo Duyile, former Provost of the Nigeria Institute of Journalism, who earlier in the year, acquired his doctorate degree at 82 from the University of Lagos; Akogun Tola Adeniyi, whose pen name was AbaSaheed, and who was a former managing director of the Daily Times and former Federal permanent secretary; Professor Anthony Kila, television public affairs analysist and lecturer, the University of Lagos; Mr. Martins Oloja, managing director/editor-in-chief of The Guardian; Professor Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika, former head of Department, Mass Communications, UNILAG and who is also member of the Editorial Board of The Guardian. At the event were also Mr. Gbenga Omotosho, Commissioner for Information, Lagos, who is awaiting clearance from the State House of Assembly; Malam Shehu Garba, a former president of the Guild of Editors and until last May ending spokesman for former President Buhari; Mrs. Dupe Ajayi-Gbadebo, a former political editor of The Guardian and later a prominent face in Rauf Aregbesola Administration in Osun State; Gbenga Adefaye former President of the Guild and for years, editor-in –chief of Vanguard and who is now Provost of the Institute of Journalism. Onuoha Ike, managing director/editor-in-chief of The Sun was there and so were Tony Onyima, his predecessor; and Chris Isiguzo, the president of the Nigerian Union of Journalists.

The Governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun was represented by a former commissioner in Ondo State and at the moment, a consultant, Kayode Akinmade. Shaka Momodu, Editor of ThisDay; Lanre Idowu, publisher of Media Review; Femi Ogunsanwo, one-time political correspondent of the Daily Times and author of books, Richard Akinnola, journalist/lawyer and author of several books were all there and active. Gabriel Akinadewo, publisher of Freedom online newspaper and Dr. Kabir Garba, editor of The Guardian on Sunday were moving up and down welcoming guests. Raheem Adedoyin, Nigerian Executive Director at Vienna-based International Press Institute read a goodwill message and letter of support to the gathering. Mojeed, the Editor-in-Chief of online publication, Premium Times who is the IPI Country Representative spoke on the organisation’s plans.

Eze Anaba set the tone, saying Jakande lived an impactful life “such that we cannot talk about the drivers of modern journalism in Nigeria without talking about him. He footprints are everywhere. His shadow looms large over our industry. Many people who knew him closely would gladly testify that Baba Kekere was an incredible talent, whether as a journalist or as a politician. He had a response to everything. He told the stories of the powerless and held the powerful to account. He demonstrated commitment to our journalistic freedom and long-time survival. He set up the Guild of Editors in 1961; and he founded the Nigerian Institute of Journalism.”

Goveurnor Abiodun said of him that he represents even in death the very best of Nigerian journalism and statesmanship. An ardent apostle of the late sage of Africa, Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo, pioneer Premier of the defunct Western Region and the best President Nigeria never had, Jakande was an ideological and ethically replica of his political leader and mentor.”

“It is, therefore, incontrovertibly correct to say that the first democratically elected governor of Lagos State, Chief Jakande laid the foundation for modern Lagos, after he had made remarkable landmarks in journalism, details on which would require an entire address of address on his own.”

Keynote Presentation titled: Lateef Jakande: The Man, His Journalism, His Politics, was made by Felix Adenaike who was a former editor-in-chief of the Nigerian Tribune. The speech was read on his behalf by Bayo Osiyemi, who was Jakande’s Press Secretary. Adenaike said: “In four short years and three months, Governor Jakande set unprecedented and phenomenal records in governance to the admiration of his peers. Brother governors, including from rival parties, visited Lagos to see for themselves what they read, heard on radio, or watched on television…Reciting Governor Jakande’s accomplishments during his abridged tenure in Lagos is like reciting a litany of the saints. Instead of contestation by political spokespersons to detract from his achievements or blatantly credit them to others, the fact remains that nobody can take away anything from them. And LK came to Lagos, he saw and he conquered!”

Speaker after speaker spoke glowingly about him and it became unassailably clear that Jakande’s life was an open book. Yours sincerely was a discussant. Having listened to most speakers, so as not to bore the audience with what might look like a repetition, I held back my full length paper. So that some of the points are not lost I have decided to run it in this column.

Who was Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande (LKJ)?
Jakande was in journalism practice continuously for 40 years. A man with the courage of his convictions, he was a study in fearlessness and an indomitable fighter for Press freedom and unswerving in facing its attendant storm. He was either the founder of the platform to serve as the bulwark in the protection for freedom of the Press or he was prominently involved in realising the mission of the platforms. Consider it: When he was in incarceration, he and his editor, Ayo Ojewumi found a way of smuggling out editorials from their different jail houses. Ojewumi in and out of police cell until he was jailed in 1964 and writing under Pen Atalanta managed to get out editorials to Akintunde Emiola a long standing editor of the newspaper himself. Ojewumi later read law and served in Chief in Chief Bola Ige’s cabinet as commissioner. Emiola also read law from Ife and became a professor of law, lecturing there.

Succinctly put, Jakande straddled through the ranks to reach the pinnacle of journalism career. He was editor, managing editor, Editor-in-Chief, founder and first chairman of the Board of Directors of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ) and first African President of the International Press Institute (IPI). He was Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of Nigerian Tribune. He was the undisputed face of the Tribune. He was chairman/ chief executive of John West Publications. He wrote under the pen name John West. His last publication under that pen name was an exhaustive coverage of the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina in 1978. That was the year he transited from Simply Mr. to Alhaji Jakande. In the report he highlighted the difficulties some Nigerians went through during the pilgrimage.

The idea of founding the Nigerian Union of Journalist was that of Chief Olu Oyesanya who for most of his years was in the Federal Ministry of Information. Even then when NUJ was launched in 1955, he was made secretary, and Bolaji Odunewu, the elder brother of Alade Odunewu, Allah-De, was made President and Ebun Adesioye treasurer. When Adesioye was away in America in 1957, Jakande became treasurer. From then began his full activity in the running of the NUJ and from then after he was found a highly organised and diligent person, the sky became the limit for him. He set the highest standard for himself such that many times he strove to hit the moon. Oyesanya worked hard between 1952 and 1955 for the eventual formation of the NUJ. He was many years later to be made the registrar of Nigeria Press Council.

Having become the driving spirit of the NUJ as he was the force behind the starting of the NUJ branch in Ibadan, it became natural for him to move to the next level, thinking of taking the interest of journalists and their protection higher. He sold the idea of a Guild of Editors to editors and senior journalists such as Abiodun Aloba (Ebenezer Williams); Peter Enahoro (Peter Pan), Theophilus Awobokun, the first editor of Sunday Times and Peter Osugo (Pecos) all of whom warmly welcomed the idea. The objective was to have a body of senior journalists who would worry about the industry and professional ethics and be the bridge between the NUJ and the publishers. According to Jola Ogunlusi in his comprehensive book, titled ‘NUJ, A History of Nigeria Press’,

“Jakande felt that the Guild, like in Europe, should be relevant within the media as senior members in the position to implement the code of ethics of the profession which junior journalists were not in a position to do…”
Next week: The conclusion of my paper and some other subject.

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