Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Twenty-five years of intellectual activism

“If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.”
―Martin Luther
How time flies! So soon, it has been 25 years since I started writing informed commentaries and opinion articles for newspapers. The decision was not easy to make as it took me two years before I summoned courage to put pen to paper after a sustained counselling by Prof. O.B.C. Nwolise, then my lecturer at the University of Ibadan organised Advanced Level Extra Mural Class in 1988. Dr. Nwolise, as he then was, was in the habit of charging us, his students, to write letters to editors and opinion articles to newspapers if we were dissatisfied with governance in our society. In his esteemed opinion, embarking on street protests is not the only way to advocate for good governance; media advocacy is a civilised and effective means of communicating with policymakers and political leaders.
My journey into the realm of media advocacy for good governance and development effectively started on Friday, October 12, 1990, when Daily Sketch published my opinion entitled, “Complete Iwopin Paper Mill”. I was thrilled to see my byline in a newspaper. Since that day, I have soldiered on. Till date, according to my records, I have 529 published commentaries to my credit. The opinions were published in 25 newspapers and 11 magazines namely: Daily Sketch, The Champion, Weekend Classique, AM News, Nigerian Tribune, The Guardian, National Concord, Vanguard, Third Eye, The Pointer, Post Express, Daily Independent, Thisday, Leadership, The Nation, Daily Sun, 234NEXT, Peoples Daily, The Chronicle (of Ghana), Nigerian Compass, National Mirror, The Nigerian Daily, Daily Trust, Blueprint, and Newswatch. The newsletters and magazines are: The Independite, Images, The Statesman, all campus magazines of the University of Ibadan; Exquisite of Ogun State Polytechnic Mass Communication Department; Corper Courier of Delta State NYSC; ACE Newsletter, Women’s Advocate, The Ethics, Voters News, Electoral Reform News, Money and Politics and Political Finance Newsletters of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems.
In the course of my media advocacy, I have also been a guest analyst on several radio and television programmes. The radio stations where I have featured as a public affairs analyst include: Voice of Nigeria; Ray Power 100.5FM; Vision 92.1FM; Hot 98.3FM; Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria; Faaji FM; Kiss FM; Premier 93.5FM; Nigeria Info 95.1FM; WAZOBIA 99.5FM; WE 106.3FM and OGBC II. I have also been on several television stations such as the African Independent Television, Nigerian Television Authority, Channels Television, and Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State. I have featured 129 times on different programmes across the aforementioned electronic media channels between January 19, 2004 and October 7, 2015.
However, it is not only the silver jubilee of my media engagements that I am celebrating on this page today. I am equally commemorating three years of my being a guest writer for this ‘numero uno’ and best among equals newspaper, The PUNCH. I became a columnist with this newspaper in October 2012 though my first article in The PUNCH dates back to Friday, November 3, 1995. It was entitled: “Saving our universities.” Again, my record shows that to date, 194 of my articles have been published in this newspaper.
I deem it a great privilege and no mean feat to have had so many publications in a wide range of newspapers and magazines spanning over two decades. More so, as I have never earned my living as a journalist. I am a writer, a prolific one at that, but not a journalist, in the strict sense of the word. Reading and writing are both, for me, passion and vocation. My mainstay is development activism conducting researches and training for a wide range of clientele in the thematic area of democracy and good governance.
While writing and my media advocacy in general have given me modest fame, they have not brought me financial fortunes. This is very much against the grain of public opinion that fame equals fortune. One burden I carry as a writer with a measure of name recognition is the incessant demand for money by some of my readers. I have been inundated with requests for financial assistance by many, both the poor and needy. Some through text messages, others through telephone calls while some other mailed me for material support. Those who do not beg me for money ask me to assist them in getting gainful employment. How I wish I have the capacity and capability to assist them all.
Writing is taxing, intellectually challenging and time-consuming, if one intends to come up with a well-researched and stimulating article. Much as it is, I derive immense joy penning my thoughts for public consumption because of the passion I have for the art. Every published article of mine is like giving birth to a new baby after the birth pangs of a mother. Every time I see my name in print, I derive indescribable joy. For instance, August 14, 2012 will remain indelible in my mind as my commentaries were published in five different newspapers on that day alone, inadvertently though, namely Thisday, The PUNCH, The Guardian, The Nation, and Nigerian Compass. Indeed, my byline is my lifeline!
As a mature writer, I am conscious of an eternal truth that every of my published thought is history in making as generations yet unborn will get to read it. I am therefore obsessed with ensuring that the ideas and ideals I push out stand the test of time. I rarely discuss people in my writings. I focus more on issues. I dwell on developmental challenges. I advocate for quality education, health, roads, and general infrastructural development. I demand the rule of law. I hold governments accountable to the fulfilment of their electoral promises. I use my writings to enlighten, educate and sensitise the general public, both on the demand and supply side, that is, the government and the governed.
It is disheartening that some people believe that commentary writing is a sheer waste of time. To them, writing or media advocacy will achieve nothing as many of our leaders are believed not to read newspapers, watch or listen to our local TV and radio stations. Some ask, how much are they paying you for all these writings? Yes, I could make do with money, but sincerely speaking, I am not writing for the sake of bread and butter but to share ideas, impart lives and leave behind a noble legacy.
To the very few people who have stood by me, encouraged and appreciated my writings, and still do, this past 25 years, I say a big thank you. I appreciate the management of The PUNCH for the unique opportunity to use this platform to ventilate my views on topical national issues. To the editor of this column, I say kudos for diligently helping me dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s, every week since 2012. Aluta continua, victoria acerta!
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