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Day journalists celebrated Adenaike, the musketeer, at 75

T he day was meant to be for a feast in celebration of one of the three musketeers of journalism in Nigeria, Mr. Felix Adenaike, former Chief Executive Officer/Editor-in Chief of defunct Sketch Press Limited and Editor-In-Chief African Newspapers of Nigeria (ANN), publishers of the Tribune titles. He turned 75 years on Wednesday April 22, 2015.

However, the day turned out to be a gather­ing of the tribe of newsmen and media practi­tioners x-raying the challenges and future of the profession with the advent of digital media.

The celebrant is one of the three accom­plished journalists described as musketeers of journalism in Nigeria by the late sage and Premier of Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. The other two are former Managing Director of the defunct Daily Sketch/ex-gov­ernor of Ogun State, Aremo Olusegun Osoba, and the late Peter Ajayi.

In their active days, the trio were inseparable friends like the original three musketeers – Athos, Porthos and Aramis, who lived by the motto: “All For One, One For All;” in a French novel: The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas in 1844.

The occasion, chaired by the Aare Alasa of Ibadanland, Oloye Lekan Alabi, had President of Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Mr. Femi Adesina, as the guest lecturer. It was organised by the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Oyo State Council.

Held at the Dapo Aderogba Hall, NUJ Press Centre, Iyaganku, Ibadan, the event began with an opening prayer said by the General Manager of Paramount FM, Abeokuta in Ogun State, Mrs. Kemi Ajayi, wife of Ajayi, one of the musketeers. Chairman, NUJ in the state, Mr. Gbenga Opadotun, described the celebrant, as an outstanding journalist, who through the years carved a niche for himself in the profes­sion:

“He is a professional journalist, a disciplinar­ian and embodiment of integrity. If he gives you his words, you can go to sleep because he would not for any reason act to the contrary. We respect and love him because of his style that accommodates his generation and the younger ones. As a Christian of Catholic denomination, his religious life is also worthy of emulation as he is known to be obedient in church activities. As a socialite, he is not found wanting as he finds time to sit down and relax with his chosen friends. We are very proud of him and his exploits in the journalism world.”

Delivering the birthday lecture on the topic: Journalism: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, the NGE President, Adesina, who is also the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief, The Sun, described Adenaike as an “ancestor” in Nige­rian journalism:

“For many decades before his retirement in 1991 as Editor-in-Chief/Executive Director of Nigerian Tribune Newspapers, Mr Felix Adenaike had made a name as a reputable jour­nalist, opinion moulder, man of integrity, and a torchbearer for many generations of younger Nigerian journalists.

“He left active practice in 1991, which is 24 years ago, but his reputation has by no means diminished. Mention the name Felix Ade­naike, and his reputation pops up as a top grade journalist, and father of the profession.”

Adesina then took a cursory look at what journalism was like in Nigeria before, during and after Adenaike exited the profession. He also traced the history of journalism in Nigeria from 1859 when Rev Henry Townsend published the first newspaper in the country: Iwe Irohin Fun Ara Egba ati Yoruba, through the evangelistic and nationalism media era, the coming of television to Africa in 1959; the intervening period between the 1960s and 1970s that threw up the three musketeers and witnessed the birth of a number of newspapers, among which some are still alive:

“Adenaike and his contemporaries were actuated neither by money and fame, nor just earning a livelihood, but they were driven by the passion for change. Today, change has come to our country by the outcome of the last election, but long before this era, some people had envisioned change.

“They had conjured in their imaginations a Nigeria that lived up to its full potentials, where peace and justice reign, where no man is op­pressed, and where the resources of the land are used for the benefit of the people. A denaike was one of such people. For him, journalism was a vehicle of change. And that was what took him from his first love – teaching, to jour ­nalism. And for many decades, he practised his art, seeking and advocating social justice, and in the process, stepping on many toes and landing in detention a number of times.

“Yes, Adenaike suffered harassments, detentions and threats to life and limbs. But he stayed true to his calling, and from Daily Times, to Daily Sketch, to Nigerian Tribune, he established a reputation which still resonates admirably today.”

Speaking on the future of journalism, Adesina asked: “Is there any threat to the profession in which Adenaike made a name, and such sterling reputation? Some people say yes. They say with the advent of digital media, journalism would never be the same again. They say the printed word, particularly newspaper, is heavily endangered. Will the newspaper die one day? Some say yes, other people say no.”

The NGE president declared that the profes­sion has changed, and might never be the same again, adding that the journalist of the future must keep pace with changing trends, particu­larly in the area of technology. The advent of the Internet, according to him, has made the practice of journalism easier but it has eroded profit margin of newspapers, as a large number of readers now read online:

“The world loves change. But it long got it in journalism. The profession will never be the same again with the digital challenge, and the onus is on newspaper houses to develop mul­tiple streams of income, if they would survive. But one thing remains resolute, steadfast and sure. What actuated the Felix Adenaikes of this world into journalism must be the endur­ing reason for the present and future genera­tion. There is no way you can avoid digital media; you just have to join the train and use the positive side of it to also develop your career and profession. It is not every part of the digital onslaught that is positive; there are negative sides. But let us take the positive side and use it to develop our career. The journalist that does not develop himself or herself more cannot compete. The profession has become so sophisticated with the advent of the digital media. If you remain analogue, you won’t survive.”

Adesina enjoined media practitioners to be driven by passion to influence govern­ment policies with a view to ensuring public justice, instead of being actuated by money and fame, saying the profession should be used as a vehicle for social justice, equity, national development, good governance, democracy and defence of human rights.

But what kind of training should be given to students of journalism that will hold the profes­sion in the future? He responded: “It is good to have journalism training in schools. But the ultimate training you will have is the one you get on the job. So, journalism schools can do what they are doing. Yes, they need to advance the curriculum.

“But then, there is need for the town and the gown to meet. The gown is the department – the journalism schools, and the town is active practice. There should be a blend of the two be­fore you can have a well-rounded journalist.”

Chairman of the occasion, Oloye Lekan Alabi, recalled how Adenaike was close confidants to late Premier of Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and former governor of Old Oyo State/Minister of Power, the late Chief Bola Ige. Truthful writings, he said, endeared him to Awolowo and Ige: “The integrity, proficiency, discipline and style of Adenaike endeared him to many of us as a person to look up to both in and out of journal­ism profession.”

Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief, African Newspapers of Nigeria Plc, Mr. Edward Dick­son, said Adenaike left a legacy of discipline at Nigerian Tribune when he was Editor-In-Chief between 1980 and 1991, which, according to him, is being maintained till date.

Represented by the Editor, Saturday Tribune, Mr. Lasisi Olagunju, who is a former press secretary in Osun State, Dickson said: “Adenaike, undoubtedly, is one of the doyens of Nigerian journalism. As Editor-in-Chief, he was arrested several times for publishing. I recall a day when the Tribune office was rounded up by the police but Tribune was on the newsstands the following morning.”

Wife of the celebrant, Matilda, described her husband as a very nice person, hardworking and very articulate, generous, kind-hearted, and very articulate: “He does not tolerate any non­sense at all. You can trust him as a friend. In his younger days, he was very tough. Now that he is an elderly person, he has mellowed down. We have been married since January 1974.”

The celebrant, Adenaike said: “I feel on top of the world. At 75, I am still okay. I pray that God gives me continued health in my body and mind to celebrate a few more before I go.”

On the practice of journalism now, he said he felt bad because the practitioners were presumably lazy, though better equipped today than their predecessors. According to him, majority of them don’t read:

“If you don’t read, then you are not knowl­edgeable. So, they rely on their telephones and Internet; everything is about online. Technol­ogy drives the profession; you can’t lag behind technology. To catch up with technology does not mean you shouldn’t read.”

Glowing tributes were also paid the cel­ebrant by former Commissioner for Works in Oyo State, Alhaji Bolaji Kareem; former Chairman of NUJ in the state, Alhaji Soladoye Adewole; Chairman of Correspondents’ Cha­pel of NUJ in the state, Pastor Ola Ajayi and a host of others.

Dignitaries at the celebration included for­mer Chief Medical Director (CMD), Univer­sity College Hospital (UCH), Prof Jide Ajayi; former Vice Chancellor, University of Ibadan, Prof Kayode Oyediran; a lecturer in the De­partment of History, University of Ibadan, Prof Tayo Adesina; and Assistant Editor, South- West Bureau of The Sun Publishing Limited, Mr. Yinka Fabowale.

The programme also featured cutting of the birthday cake, presentation of gifts to the celebrant, and entertainment of guests.

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