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My journey in Jakande’s ‘School of journalism’ – Part 2

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Continued from yesterday’s back page

Few days after my promotion I got a message from LKJ from Lagos directing me to get ready for an assignment in Ile-Ife. It was a special lecture to be delivered by Chief Obafemi Awolowo at the then University of Ife, Ile-Ife. I got to the office as early as 6:00 a.m. My MD drove in at 6.30 a.m. from Lagos. Pronto, we were on our way to Ile-Ife. We rode in his popular black 404 Peugeot. 

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The event went well. On our way back to Ibadan, not quite five kilometres from Ile-Ife, LKJ coughed as if he wanted to clear his throat. “Have you written your story?” he asked me.

“No sir”, I answered, “I will do so when we get to the office” 

Again, he began to lecture me on how to write good stories without notes. “First,” he said, “the salient part of the lecture would form the introduction to build a solid structure for the story.”

Then, he started dictating the intro and the rest of the story to me to write while he was driving. Amazingly, I got the byline for the first-class story I did not write. It was a priceless gift of journalism lesson I could not get from the classroom that LKJ gave me.

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LKJ gave the Nigerian Tribune its unique character as a fearless tabloid to date. The powerful editorial comments of the newspaper from the era of Papa Awolowo/Akintola political feud in the old Western Region to the periods of Nigeria’s military regimes, to the Awo/Shagari era of the Second Republic, back to military rule in those days, came from LKJ’s arsenal. Some of the editorials landed me in detention in the then Nigeria Security Organisation (NSO) gulag at Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos. 

I remember the day the Federal Military Government came out with one of their unpopular policies. We got the news at 5:00 p.m.  LKJ was about to leave for Lagos. He decided that a no-holds-barred editorial should be written for the next day’s edition of the Nigerian Tribune. He was racing against time. He beckoned me to come with him but demanded to ride in my Volkswagen Beatle while his driver would drive his car behind us. I remember his son, Tunde, was in the Peugeot. 

LKJ took over the wheel and asked me to start writing as he dictated the editorial. It was a laborious exercise as we had to navigate through the uncompleted Lagos-Ibadan expressway back to the old road. He finished dictating the comment with the time we had arrived in Ijebu Ode.  

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He stopped and asked me to read it to him. I did, and he made a few corrections. He patted me on the back and I drove back to Ibadan. I got to the office at about 9:00 p.m. The earth-shaking editorial was published on the front page the following day. Back then, hot metal was the technology used for typesetting before printing.

LKJ was deeply interested in my capacity development. He soon organized another training for me. He arranged for me to attend a two-year course at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, NIJ, Ogba, Lagos. That was in 1974, and my set was the second. Initially, I told him I had no money for the course as my meagre salary was not enough to take care of myself and my poor family. My father, a catechist, was serving God virtually without salary. LKJ assured me of his support and gave me study leave with my monthly salary paid all through the period of the course.

A year later, he recommended me for the prestigious Thompson Foundation Senior Editorial Institute in Wales, England. I was also on study leave with my full salary paid. I also trained at the School of Journalism in Germany.

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God used my boss, LKJ, to help me build a successful career in journalism. Most of what I have achieved to date, by the grace of God, are traceable to my professional practice under LKJ. He saw to my welfare while with the Nigerian Tribune and after. As far as journalism is concerned, he was my Guardian Angel. He was always there for me. He gave me a lifeline at a time I needed it most. His impact on my life is immeasurable.

In his active days, LKJ always had a serious, though calm, expression on his face, which made many fear him. But beneath this facial expression was a good heart, full of compassion and milk of human kindness. For many of us who worked closely with him, our experience of him was that of a leader who sought the welfare of his employees and extended a helping hand before they could even ask.

May his great soul rest eternally in perfect peace. Adieu, boss, and a great mentor.
Concluded.

Olamiti, Media Consultant, writes from Abuja.

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