By Chukwuma Ajakah
In a rare collection of tributes authored by giants of the media industry in Nigeria, General Manager/Editor-in-Chief of Vanguard Newspapers, Gbenga Adefaye, is rightly documented as a colossus among professionals whose footprints are indelibly etched on the media space.
Set against the backdrop of his 60th birthday celebration, the book titled: Gbenga Adefaye: The Media Man @ 60 with a foreword by veteran journalist, former Executive Governor of Ogun State and Chairman, Governing Board of Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Chief Olusegun Osoba, explores the life and times of Adefaye as a student, cub reporter, sub-editor, editor, unionist and uncommon achiever who rose through the rungs of the ladder in his profession to its zenith.
The collection published by TCI Magazine Limited (2021) contains 17 tributes written by accomplished journalists who are major influencers of the profession.
Besides the strident eulogies in the essays, each piece is replete with insightful tips about the subject from diverse, but enriching perspectives. The reader is also exposed to the uniqueness of individual style, humour, depth, subtle or constructive criticisms, contemporary issues buffeting the media and political intrigues that characterize elections, leading to leadership positions such as the President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors – an office in which Adefaye served meritoriously for a two-term period of four years.
In the foreword tagged: A Welcome Celebration, Aremo Olusegun Osoba begins the conversation with a remark that aptly introduces both the subject and purpose of the book:
“Today, Adefaye is one of the media leaders, who, apart from successfully editing Vanguard for many years, is the current Editor-in-Chief and General Manager of the respected publishing group, Vanguard Media Ltd…Adefaye also serves as the Provost of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, an important training school in which I am the Chairman of its governing board…among his peers, Adefaye goes by many affectionate aliases which testify to the respect he has earned: Emeritus President, Presido, and the Dean. The essays in this collection lend credence to this respect.”
There are poignant contributions from eminent professionals who obviously maintain affinity with “The Media Man” despite their foray into public service via political appointments: Steve Ayorinde, a former Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Lagos State, CEO of Patrons Media Ltd and Publisher of the Culture Newspaper, Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant (Media and Publicity) to President Buhari and Tunji Bello, a former Editor of Concord Newspaper and current Commissioner for the Environment & Water Resources, Lagos State.
The book provides readers the privilege to avail themselves of a potpourri of styles from the incisive and elegant writings of media connoisseurs such as Victor Ifijeh, MD/Editor-in-Chief, The Nation Newspaper; Ochereome Nnanna, Chairman, Editorial Board, Vanguard Newspaper; Mideno Bayagbon, Publisher of News Guru and a former Editor of Vanguard Newspaper; Eniola Bello, MD, THISDAY; Steve Nwosu, MD/Editor-in-Chief, The Xpress Newspapers; Azu Ishiekwene, MD, Leadership Newspaper and a former Editor of The Punch Newspapers; Edward Dickson, MD/Editor-in-Chief, Tribune Newspapers; Eric Osagie, a former Editor-in-Chief/MD, The Sun Newspaper; Gbemiga Ogunleye, a former Editor of The Punch; Richard Akinnola, ED, Centre for Free Speech; and Baba Dantiye, a former President, Nigerian Guild of Editors.
From the introduction to the last chapter titled: Sixty Hearty Cheers to My Oga at Diamond, the contributors, cutting across all the major media houses in the country, primed their periscopes at all possible angles to enable the reader have a full view of the subject, Olugbenga Francis Adefaye.
In tandem with the axiom, Charity begins at home, this multifaceted story, demystifying an enigmatic character began at home.
In the introduction, the editor unwittingly unveiled a cardinal aspect of the subject’s family life while stressing the significant role his wife had played in the making of the book: “The plan originated from his wife, Mrs Abosede Adefaye. The demand: ‘Eze, please help me. I want to celebrate my husband on his 60th birthday in October. But you know he is a private person. If he gets wind of it, it’s game over.”
Edited by Eze Anaba and Osa Mbonu-Amadi, Gbenga Adefaye: The Media Man @ 60 is a 112-page book with 17 essays of varying length and style, focusing on the media technocrat who cut a clear path for himself in journalism early and has successfully trodden that path for over three decades.
Gbenga Adefaye: The Media Man @ 60 is aesthetically flavoured with subtitles graphically cast in bold and preceded by chapters etched in diamond-a symbol for the 60th anniversary, doubling as a subtle metaphor for the persona being celebrated. Reflecting the ingenuity of the editors as master craftsmen-especially in headline casting, the essays are arrayed in chapters with riders, capturing the essence of the contributor’s message. The insights divulged are as divergent as the background of the contributors, especially in terms of stylistics and philosophical perspectives.
Revealing Adefaye as a man of vision and unbroken focus, some of the writers cite instances of “The Media Man” declining political appointments and other juicy offers in preference for journalism.
The stories cover his abiding faith in the profession, unalloyed loyalty to employers, unprecedented meritorious service delivery and the long-standing mutual trustworthiness he enjoys with iconic media legends such as Vanguard’s founder, Sam Amuka-Pemu and his erstwhile boss at the Nigerian Television Authority, Benin, Prof Tonnie Iredia.
The plot of each story revolves around the personality of the subject whom the writer describes on the basis of factors such as attitude to work, relationship with colleagues, superiors, subordinates and associates within and off the workplace.
Victor Ifijeh’s piece, captioned: The Diligent Servant, presents Adefaye as a rugged defender of the media who has zero tolerance for those that treat either journalists or the profession with levity.
The writer buttresses his view with instances of Adefaye’s crusading roles – against the bill, seeking to amend the Nigeria Press Council (NPC) Act 1992, at increasing the cover prices of newspapers in 2018 and in reinvigorating the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) as its President.
Describing Adefaye as a combatant, Ifijeh says: “Ordinarily, he looks calm, cool, easy-going, jovial, friendly and accessible. His genial nature portrays him as one who would hurt nobody. But touch what he holds dear and see a completely different man. His eyes turn red. He roars. The sleeping lion in him is aroused.”
“We are talking about a brilliant, merit-driven and award-winning editor, an astute newsroom and boardroom politician, a man of the people, a media reformer, an incorruptible boss, a reliable plant manager, a visionary leader, a friend in need and indeed,” writes the legendary Ochereome Nnanna who reminisces on his almost three decades close working relationship with the man he describes as “Little Dad in the House” in an alluring narrative ornamented with some elements of a folkloric tale.
Shedding more light on Adefaye’s large heart, loyalty and enviable sphere of influence, the ace columnist and essayist takes the reader through the phases, beginning with his 1994 job-seeking encounter with the media guru who was then the Deputy Editor of Vanguard.
The compendium also features Mideno Bayagbon’s “As Olugbenga Francis Adefaye Hits the Diamond Age”, Steve Nwosu’s “Forget 60, Gbenga Adefaye Has Always Been an Old Man”, Azu Ishiekwene’s “Why This Silent Water Runs Deep”, Femi Adesina’s “Loyal to Superiors and Subordinates: That’s Gbenga Adefaye for You”, Eniola Bello’s “Dependable Friend, Reliable All”, Gbemiga Ogunleye’s
“The Quintessential Journalist”, Kayode Komolafe’s “A Decent Professional” and Kehinde Bamigbetan’s “Invincibly Invincible”. Although the “wise men” represent different viewpoints, their ingenuity at exploring the subject matter as a phenomenal entity makes the collection a must-read for not only those interested in knowing more about Gbenga Adefaye and journalism, but also all lovers of good writing.