By Kayode Oladeji
Aside reading and being involved in some other stuffs, one of the things I have gained from this lockdown (though I still travel when it’s necessary), is the opportunity to reflect the past. Expectedly, mostly of my recollections evoke a mixed bag of feelings; a potpourri if you like.
So, these days, I too, like the late South African activist, Steve Biko, “I Write What I Like”.
Aso Rock, Nigeria’s seat of power, is a place where many Nigerians of all callings, including journalists, long to be. In fact, some even do the unthinkable, just to be there. Why? Well, your guess could be as good as mine.
As I recall today, I was, once upon a time, posted to Aso Rock, as the State House Correspondent in Abuja, sometime in the 1999s, during the military era by my Editor-in-Chief, Alhaji Raheem Adedoyin who later became a Commissioner in Kwara State. This was however never to be. I will come to this later.
By the way, how did I come across Alhaji Adedoyin? Our paths crossed in the course of my journalistic voyage when I was a Reporter with the Third Eye Newspapers where he was the Editor.
Even though, I never had any close contact with him, I never knew he had taken notice of me through my stories which usually hit the front page, almost on a daily basis, and which often enjoyed extensive reviews by the famous broadcaster, Peter Okodua on OGBC Radio.
At that time, there were three of us bearing the same first name – my humble self (Kayode Oladeji), Kayode Lawal and Kayode Ekundayo. Quite unforgettably, a day came on which I knew how valued I was, when, on that day, I received a call from the Third Eye newsroom: “It’s your story we are waiting for” Gbam! As at the time I got the call, I hadn’t any story for the day, let alone writing any.
In my characteristic manner, and I don’t do kurukere (a euphemism for eye service), before any oga. In fact, I hardly visited the headquarters in Ibadan. I relied on God and my works which were appreciated. God bless Mr. Yinka Adelani, who was then the Managing Director at Third Eye Communications and Chief Akanni Aluko, the Publisher. Without lobbying for it, I was promoted twice within one year! And, on a number of times, Chief Akanni Aluko personally dashed me money in appreciation of what I was doing for his organisation, then. Mr. Tommy Adegbite, the ace Photo Editor of the Nigerian Tribune, witnessed such on two different occasions
Then, how and why Aso Rock? Alhaji Raheem Adedoyin one of the brilliant journalists in the country hails from Kwara State. As a patriotic citizen of the state, he had been invited to reorganise, repackage and rejuvenate the Herald Newspapers owned by the state, by giving the outfit, a new face. Immediately, he resumed there, I was one of the reporters he believed could help him realise his vision, so he contacted me to join the organization; but I was reluctant. For about three months, Oga Adedoyin and I, were on it. He was convincing me that I should not allow the paltriness of the salary to discourage me. In addition, he said Kayode Lawal and Kayode Ekundayo were already in line. He never knew that the more he pestered me, the more shilly-shally I became on the offer. This was because I had another offer. However, after doing my own inner searching on the two, I settled for Raheem’s Herald.
.About two years down the line with Herald, I got a call from my Editor-in-Chief (Raheem Adedoyin), on one fateful day, summoning me to his office in Ilorin. This was around 96/97(I can’t remember vividly). I must confess, I didn’t have the faintest idea of what was in the offing. When I got to his office, he threw the bombshell: “Well, straight to the point, Kayode, you know Aso Rock, the State House in Abuja, is a strategic place that requires a good and capable journalist as a face of any medium, so in this wise, we have decided to transfer you there as our State House Correspondent and you shall be resuming next Monday. Already, your relocation and other inconvenience allowances are being prepared. They shall be ready by the time you are going next week”.
Anyone who had encountered him before would admit that Raheem is a smoothie whose words could be pungently persuasive. Surprisingly, however, I was not excited at the offer at all; and he could read it from my silence and my face which must have been laced with insouciance.
Of a truth, my inner spirit didn’t quite agree with the offer as it never freaked me while he was telling me. No doubt, he meant well for me; but I didn’t like the offer. Why? I didn’t and still don’t know. He read me very well that I did not like the posting. Sounding a little bit agitated, I think he wondered why I would want to throw away an opportunity given to me on a silver platter.
He quipped, “You seem not to like it. Let me tell you, Aso Rock is a place many Reporters lobby to be and here you are, not showing interest. Anyway, I am giving you one week to think about it and get yourself prepared for it”.
I thanked him as I left his presence with a very heavy heart, back to my base in Osogbo. When I got home, I told my wife about the posting and how unsettled I felt in my spirit. We prayed that the will of God should prevail.
Let me quickly add, here, that the Correspondent who was there, Lanre Onilu had crossed to another organization.
On the Monday I was told to report back for my onward journey to Aso Rock in Abuja, something inexplicable happened. I went with a cloudy and burdened mind, not knowing what would happen. Should I say as fate would have it, as I was about entering his office, I noticed unusual discussions in hush tones; the Editor-in-Chief had resigned his appointment!!!. I did not believe what I heard.
Eventually, I found myself in his presence and before I could say anything, he said to me briskly in his usual candour: “Kayode, there is a new development as I just left this job. So you should go back to your station and if the new management so desires, they may post you there”.
On the one hand, I was happy that the posting never materialised (only God knows why I felt so) and unhappy on the other hand because of the high-wire developments that affected Alhaji Adedoyin’s position.
In any case, I went back to my base and for me it was an Aso Rock posting that never was. Maybe because it never excited me, I did not tell any of my colleagues about it. If I had done that, many of them would have tried to persuade me on the propriety of taking a plunge. That I never wanted. If I shared it with anybody, it was years later.
Alhaji Adedoyin’s gesture was purely on merit as I can’t remember calling or patronising him in any way; my works did! Good enough, Adedoyin was (and still is) a thoroughbred professional who had eyes for merit and goes for nothing less, in whatever circumstance; and yours truly, too, doesn’t settle for mediocrity in any guise. God bless you, Sir.
I feel both humbled and proud by the fact that even after I had left the Herald, when I had my 40th birthday, he led a powerful delegation from Kwara state to grace the occasion.
My experiences, here and there, have shown that it is not where you are as a journalist that matters but who you are. This is because for some journalists, their “cover” or what makes them to be “superhero” of sort, is their media outfits; the moment they are out of such organisations by whatever means, they become irrelevant.
By the special grace of God, anywhere in the world, I can hold my own and regardless of whom you are, I can square you up, grit for grit, except I choose not to. I mean it and I am not sounding off.
Last line: Not all Writers can report and not all Reporters can write. As for me, I thank God, I can do both.
Thanks for your time!