Kehinde Olaosebikan is a renown journalist and presently the Chief Consultant of Midas Communication, a formidable reputation management firm based in the Federal Capital territory, Abuja. In this interview with Olayinka Ajayi, he shares the experience of his sojourn into journalism and politics. Excerpts.
I was born in Catholic Hospital, Oluyoro, Ibadan on the 29th of October, 1962. I did all my formal schooling in Ibadan, had my primary education at ICC Primary School, Oriaje; secondary at Ibadan City Academy and tertiary education at The Polytechnic Ibadan before I proceeded to the University of Ibadan for a Master’s Degree in Communication Arts.
Getting into the profession
I set out to become a journalist and to the glory of Almighty Allah, I became one. After my secondary school, I gained admission to study Mass Communication at The Polytechnic Ibadan. After my OND, I got engaged by Sketch Newspapers where I worked as a reporter, sports writer and sub-editor until I returned for my HND in 1985. During my National Youth Service Corps which I did in Niger State, I was the Head of the Camp Outside Broadcast Unit and Editor–in- Chief of the Niger State NYSC news-letter for the 1987-88 service year.
In my place of primary assignment, Broadcasting Corporation of Niger State, Minna, I was virtually in charge of the newsroom for the period of my service year. As a youth corps member, I was a Duty Editor.
Immediately, after my NYSC, I was employed by Vanguard Newspapers and assigned to cover the Presidency, Cabinet Secretariat and Federal Ministry of Works and Housing in Lagos.
In less than seven weeks after I joined Vanguard, I was posted to Abuja on November 23, 1988 to cover the Constituent Assembly, the most important assignment taking place in Nigeria and the entire sub region of West Africa at that time reporting all the fields of endeavour.
I was the Abuja City Editor, Chief Parliamentary Correspondent, Abuja Bureau Chief and Regional Editor, North for Vanguard Newspapers at various times.
Challenges encountered at the beginning
To the glory of Allah, I did not encounter any serious challenge at the beginning or at any point in my journalism career. It was a field chosen for me by the Almighty. I had every path well paved for the very memorable period in active practice of journalism.
In Abuja where I spent most of my years in journalism, the practice was very smooth with very decent, brilliant, hard working and resourceful journalists around at that time. Despite the keen competition amongst us as young journalists desirous of making our marks and impressing our employers, there existed very robust collaboration and genial relationships among Abuja journalists at that time. We were like one big family.
In-fact Lagos journalists including our superiors envied us.
Reporting in the FCT
Reporting was more tasking in the Federal Capital like elsewhere outside the headquarters because of the level of technology at the time. The most sophisticated means of sending stories was telephone which was quite epileptic. As a matter of fact, there were times when one had to go as far as Suleja to file stories because at a point, telephone service was better in Suleja than Abuja.
At times, I had to go to the airport whenever the reception in the city was poor. In the early 90s, NITEL introduced computerized telex service which was a bit better than telephone. Definitely, you cannot compare any of those with internet where you can access and send stories in the comfort of your room now. It was indeed very tasking and cumbersome then. But in spite of the difficulties, I found it very pleasurable.
I left Abuja at the inception of the new democracy in 1999 when I was appointed the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Oyo State, Late Alhaji Lam Adesina. It was while serving as CPS that I returned to politics. In 2003, I won the ticket of the ruling party in Oyo State then, the Alliance for Democracy (AD) to contest for the House of Representatives, Oluyole Federal Constituency.
But you know what happened to the AD. I lost, like most of others. This is where I have actually had challenges in my life. After losing that election, I chose to stay in Ibadan with greater concentration in politics.
When I examined the quality of people leading us, particularly those in active politics, I felt constrained to remain therein purposely to enhance the quality of politics and governance in the state. Basically, my interest in politics is the development of the people and the state. And to achieve concrete and sustainable development, the quality of the providers (the politicians) is key.
That is why apart from my strong activities in politics, I have been advocating extensively, for the involvement of more responsible well-to-do professionals in politics, for us to salvage the state and the country together. We cannot run away from politics because the more we run from it, the worse our dear country will be.
Experience as Local Government Chairman
It was a very interesting and rewarding experience. Naturally, I love being with the people and that helped me a lot in governing at the grassroots. What I did that made the administration very effective, efficient and popular was that I returned the power to the people.
The country is at present making a very big mistake on the issue of governance, particularly at the grassroots. Categorically, I can say that the stunted growth of our democracy is as a result of poor understanding of our people and the politics of local government administration.
Our democracy can only be deepened with enhanced grassroots participation, greater control over programs by the grassroots and increased mobilization of the grassroots for developmental projects. These are the fundamental apparatus required for good governance.
Local governments are created to actualize the ideas of local governance. The people must be adequately carried along and all actions, pronouncements of government must impact on their lives positively. If democracy is well practiced at the local government level, poverty and hunger will be eradicated in Nigeria.
I was adjudged the best Chief Press Secretary in Nigeria by the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Osun and Oyo States Chapters as well as the National Association of Nigerian Students in 2002. During the four year period, I got a lot of awards. Naturally, I am not given to panegyrics and sycophancy.
I was offered a number of awards within the short period I served in the local government out of which I accepted just only two. One from the farmers (Asiwaju of Agbe) and the other from all the muslim leaders (the Imams in unison) in the local government. These were the ones offered me after I had left the office.
Guiding principles in life
Fear of God and honesty. I hold firmly that one must be God fearing and honest in all his dealings and relationships. I run way from liars and wicked people.