Tuesday, May 28, 2019 2:17 pm
A compilation of essays by friends, mentees, associates and friends is launched in Abuja in celebration of contributions of the publisher of Premium Times, Dapo Olorunyomi to development of Nigeria’s democracy, investigative journalism, media industry and civic activism.
It was a feast of testimonies to courage, integrity, good journalism and the inherent potentials of mentorship for social good as friends, journalists, activists, and political actors gathered at the Shehu Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja on Monday for the launch of Testimony To Courage, a compilation of essays written in honour of Dapo Olorunyomi, the Publisher of leading online news platform, Premium Times.
Olorunyomi, who also was among the team that founded the TheNews/Tempo magazines, two publications which were at the forefront of agitations for Nigeria’s return to democracy and have been credited with helping put an end to military rule in Nigeria with their media activisms of the 1990s.
Edited by Chido Onumah and Frederick Adetiba, the over 90 essays in the compilation contributed by a spectrum of academics, media executives, journalists, activists and politicians offered insights into Olorunyomi’s patriotism, courage, brilliance and acts of generosity through different phases of his life. “Dapo is a symbol of how through an independent media and vibrant civil society citizens can press for a better deal. The idea behind this book is to celebrate people while they are here with us. We feel that someone like Dapo who has sacrificed his all for us deserves to be honoured while alive,” Onumah, Co-editor of the book, said of the reasons for the book which was compiled to mark the subject’s 60 years birthday milestone.
His characterization of the person of Olorunyomi, fondly referred to as ‘Dapsy’ by friends and associates was given further vent as guests mount the podium to speak at well-attended event which chaired by Kabiru Yusuf, chief executive officer of Daily Trust Newspapers. Even much more, the event also provided an occasion for reflecting on the state of practice of journalism in the country and the essence of a vibrant journalism practice to the sustenance of Nigeria’s democracy.
In his opening remarks, as the chairman, Yusuf noted that the essays in the compilation are well written and reveals different aspects of the subject’s life. “I found the most interesting part of the book to be the ones written by younger ones who Dapo has mentored,” said the publisher who also noted that he worked alongside Dapo during the military era.
He also noted that through training and mentoring, the Premium Times publisher has reached out to the next generation and therefore, his legacy was one would last forever.
He also commended Olorunyomi efforts to work seamlessly across multiple media networks.
Yusuf sets the stage for Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, who could rightly be described as a co-conspirator with the Premium Times publisher in the battle to return Nigeria to civil rule.
In his keynote address said the country owes a debt of gratitude to people for the current regime of democratic governance and the liberties it guarantees to the people. He noted that the Premium Times publisher had devoted his knowledge and intellect to the service of the country over the years, recalling the role he played in the establishment of pro-democracy ‘Radio Freedom’ one of the tools used to fight the military junta of late General Sani Abacha.
Fayemi who described Olorunyomi as a “builder of democratic and social change and destroyer of hegemony” noted that the publisher risked his freedom and life to ensure that Nigeria became a democratic state.”
While tracing the role played by the media in the pre independence and post-independence Nigeria, Fayemi noted that Olorunyomi played ‘pivotal role’ in transformations that have taken place in the media landscape during the military rule to the contemporary times. “One thing that happened in Dapo’s time is that they threw away the caution and exhibited fearlessness,” the Ekiti State Governor said. “The media in the 1990s became democratic activists,” he added.
He however lamented that the media has not risen up to the challenge of protecting democracy by ensuring that the citizens are informed.
“Most people will argue that intellect is the most important asset the media intellectual brings to the fore in his or her interventions in public life. I agree. However, I will add that as important as the intellect of a media intellectual is in the project in the project of public life and in the pursuit of the public good, equally important if not more important is the civil courage of the media intellectual,” the Governor said.
“Few media intellectuals in contemporary Nigeria can claim to rival Dapo Olorunyomi in intellect and civil courage. Dapo, my boss, my teacher, my mentor, my friend, my comrade, thank you for deploying all of these tools both in the service of our fatherland and humanity,” he added.
In his review of the book, Chidi Odinkalu, former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, noted that the diversity in the ethnic and religious affiliations of contributors to the compilation is a reflection of the nature of the subject of the book.
He added that the collection of 93 essays by 93 different authors was divided into three parts made up of Olorunyomi’s journalistic Odyssey, Civic activism, Mentorship and Investment in human capital and legacies.
Odinkalu also noted that the theme of the essays cuts across constancy and dissonance, coincidence, diversity and the divine infused with a lot of wit, humour, and depth. But he cautioned that the essays are not “just a set of testimonials to a really nice guy. It is really much more than that. It is phenomenally an important contribution to Nigeria’s political history.”
The reviewer also noted that it’s fitting that those behind the book did not wait until the subject passes on before deciding to honour him: “In a country where those who are least deserving get the largest accolades, while some who are deserving get their recognition after death and those of us who are comrades are content to mourn them when they are no more, Testimony to Courage is evidence that the supplication for civic canonisation does not always have to await earthly mortality. Sometimes, a generation must acknowledge its best if only to encourage many more not to give up on virtue.”
Among the friends of the subject of the book is Vice President who was represented at the event by Sen. Babafemi Ojudu, Special Assistant, Political Matters to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Ojudu was also Olorunyomi’s colleague in TheNEWS magazine and a partner in the battle to end military rule in Nigeria.
The presidential adviser, on behalf of the Vice President, commended Olorunyomi for his hard work, professionalism, ethics and his contribution to Nigerian journalism.
As a former colleague, Ojudu noted that Olorunyomi pushed out stories rich in content and style while also acknowledging his courage as a journalist. He however noted that the rigour and respect for sources of information deployed by the likes of Olorunyomi are lacking in the current journalistic practice.
Sen. Chris Anyanwu, Founder Spectrum Broadcasting Company, owner of Hot FM stations said the rigour in journalistic pursuit by the likes of Olorunyomi is necessary for the survival of Nigeria’s democracy. “The time to wake up for younger journalists is now because Dapo has done his job,” Anyawu said while appreciating the publisher for his investment in the future generation of investigative journalists.
Sunday Dare, a Commissioner at Nigeria Communications Commission, NCC and a former journalists represented former Lagos Governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Dare, who noted that Olorunyomi is a friend to the former Lagos State governor said he is among the mentees of the publisher. “I also benefitted from the illustrious life of “Dapsy.”
Quoting Tinubu, Dare said the Premium Times Publisher, “reminds us of our past struggles as he blends nostalgia with the pains and of the struggle for better Nigeria. Through his works, we sent the military packing and entrenched democracy.”
Responding to the encomiums, Olorunyomi, attributed the successes he has recorded in his career path to his parents, teachers, friends, and colleagues. But he noted that given the essence of the media to the sustenance of democracy, the challenge is to make journalism a better profession. “If we want a democracy, the two central pillars that underpin this institution will be the media and judiciary; and if these two are not working well, we cannot have a good democracy. If we are stuck with the idea of democracy, let’s know that we all have to collectively build a strong media. Our country is a work in progress and journalism has a role to play,” he concluded.
Onoumah had in his opening address revealed that though the idea of publishing the book was conceived in November 2017 during his 60th birthday, Olorunyomi was not aware of it until some few weeks ago.
“We hope current and future generations of journalists and public administrators will gain from the fountain of knowledge and experience that Dapo represents, so aptly captured in the over 90 essays that make up the book. If there is any time courage and integrity are needed in our country, it is now. Our dear nation stands at the crossroads and journalists and the media need to once again rise to the occasion the way Dapo and many in his generation did years ago,” Onumah, who is the executive director of the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy, said.
Some of the dignitaries at the event were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo represented by Babafemi Ojudu, special adviser to the president on political matters; former governor Bola Tinubu represented by Sunday Dare, Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria; Rauf Aregbesola, former Osun State governor; as well as Nuhu Ribadu former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Others at the event were Chris Anyanwu, publisher and former senator; Ropo Sekoni, Professor of Literature in English; Senator Ajayi Boroffice who represented Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan; Barau Jibrin, Bello Mandiya, senator-elect for Katsina South; and Kole Shettima, Director of the MacArthur Foundation’s Africa Office.
Some of the contributors to the book are Tinubu, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Prof. Biodun Jeyifo, Prof. Ropo Sekoni, Prof. Umaru Pate, Prof. Lai Oso, Femi Falana (SAN), Dare Babarinsa, Kunle Ajibade, Dr. Sola Olorunyomi, Dr. Tunde Akanni, Dr. Tobi Oluwatola, Dr. Kole Shettima, Jude Ilo, Abdul Mahmud, Lanre Idowu, Ibim Semenitari, Idowu Obasa, Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim, Hafsat Abiola-Costello, Gbemiga Ogunleye, Richard Akinnola, Sunday Dare, Eze Anaba, Azu Ishiekwene, Owei Lakemfa, Oke Epia, Prof. Farooq Kperogi, Ohimai Godwin Amaize and Lara Owoeye-Wise.
The book has a foreword by celebrated poet and author, Odia Ofeimun,