By Lanre Idowu
JULY, the seventh month of the year, holds special attraction for quite a number of our media professionals. Journalists and broadcasters, educators and administrators, publishers and entrepreneurs, it is the birth month of at least 13 Nigerians who have contributed their fair share to the development of the Nigerian media.
For at least five of them, July 2019 is a month of landmark celebrations. We have, so far, celebrated three such milestones. The first started with a well attended book presentation of Chief Segun Osoba’s memoir, Battlelines: Adventures in Journalism and Politics on July 8, one week ahead of his 80th birthday. The presentation lived up to its billing and saw the author walking his talk in past appeals to fellow opinion leaders to document their experiences for posterity.
The presentation was a reunion of journalists, politicians, and members of civil society. From Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, to the leadership of the National Assembly, to the leaders of the All Progressives Congress, current and past governors of Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti, Kano, Bayelsa, Osun, Oyo, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, and Cross River states, and former ministers, the politicians were there in their sartorial elegance.
The media, led by everyone’s uncle, Sam Amuka, accompanied by the publishers of The Guardian, Thisday, Premium Times, and The Nation, were present. Managing directors, editors, columnists, reporters and photographers across different generations were there to share in the joy of their own. It was appropriate to have former Head of State, General Abdulsalam Abubakar, preside over the ceremony with Tony Momoh who straddles the media and politics, and such corporate chieftains as Oba Otudeko, Razak Okoya and Jim Ovia also present.
For the actual birthday on July 15, Chief Osoba spent it quietly with his nuclear family at a private reception in London, joined only by a handful of friends. The Alake-in-Council and the Osoba-George family of Oba Abeokuta proudly took out newspaper advert space to celebrate their own, a distinguished journalist, chief of Egbaland, a two-time governor of Ogun State and prominent political leader.
On the 13th, it was the turn of Ben Egbuna, retired Director General of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, to mark his elevation into the club of septuagenarians. His family hosted him to a modest celebration.
For this broadcaster whose media career traversed two public media organisations, the FRCN and the Voice of Nigeria, the second leg will see him present his rich memoir, A Fulfilled Destiny, on what life has thrown his way from the backwoods of the South East to his secondary school days in Lagos and Ogun states, his civil war experience as a combatant and in his career as a broadcaster. His account offers uncommon insights into a lot of shenanigans in the public broadcast sector and the tussle between professionalism and proprietorial interests.
Nduka Obaigbena, the duke of publishing, and Andrew Okungbowa of the New Telegraph, took their turn on July 14. Obaigbena ferried his clan from Owa, Delta State and friends from the media and corporate Nigeria to church to mark his entry into the world of sexagenarians. The following day, he, like Osoba attracted leading names from the media and politics to Eko Hotel. In typical Obaigbena fashion it was an evening with a lot to digest: a musical feast, a dialogue of four panelists on how to fix Nigeria, and a lot to eat and drink.
The fourth landmark is on the 23rd when the Lagos State Government, under Osoba’s chairmanship, hosts journalism’s living legend, Chief Lateef Jakande, founder of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Nigerian Institute of Journalism and the Newspaper Proprietors of Nigeria, a former governor of Lagos State and federal minister, as he joins the league of nonagenarians.
A fifth landmark celebration follows on July 30 when Eric Teniola, one time editor, Evening Punch, former director at the Presidency, joins Egbuna in the septuagenarians’ club and presents his book, On the Spot.
For former editor in chief of The Punch, Sola Odunfa and Lanre Arogundade, director of the Independent Press Centre, July 13, their birthday was quietly spent. Arogundade, however, introduced his latest book, Media and Elections: Professional Responsibilities of Journalists on the 16th.
John Momoh, chairman, Channels Television, had a quiet birthday on July 1. So did Dayo Sobowale, ex-Daily Times, Union Bank, and columnist with The Nation on Saturday, Juliet Brimah of The New Telegraph, Ebun Sessou of Vanguard and Gboyega Akinsanmi of ThisDay on the 15th.
The 16th is the special day of the ‘odd twins’, the flamboyant Dele Momodu, publisher of Ovation and the gentle Taiwo Obe, founder of The Journalism Clinic. We will have to wait till 2020 for their own Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
Professor Olatunji Dare, respected scholar, veteran columnist and DAME laureate and Kabir Garga Alabi, deputy editor of The Guardian share the 17th. Having been forced by illness to suspend his column for six months, Dare’s return on the back-page of The Nation on July 9 is welcome relief to his admirers. His concluding barb to the Boxer-Senator who pummelled an Abuja shop attendant is clear evidence of what the reader has missed. Observed Dare: “The distinguished senator was exploring the sex toy shop in keeping with his oversight duties.”
The 19th, Lanre Idowu’s birthday, would be spent putting finishing touches to two of his latest titles, Media On My Mind and Uneven Steps: The Story of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, billed for release this year.
July is also the birth month of ThisDay’s Eniola Bello (21), and Chief Ajibola Ogunshola (14), former chairman of Punch Nigeria Ltd, who are still healing from the loss of their loved ones. Whilst Bello lost his wife, Ogunshola’s daughter also passed on. As we pray for the consolation of the Holy Spirit for their two families, we ask all to join in praying that good health will be the portion of us all.
If anyone knows of any month with a richer gathering of media sons and daughters, we will be glad to know of it. Until then, may the Lord perfect all that concerns these beloved children of July to continue to serve Nigeria well with their talents, time, and treasures.