By TUNDE AKANNI
Not the Lagos politician that you probably know, but a scholar who has had to work his way up to professorship. He clocked 60 Monday May 15, 2023. And the world literally stood still for him. In the course of his appreciation for the honour accorded him on the occasion of his 60th birthday, Professor Jide Jimoh who is my friend of some 19 years or thereabout almost melted down in tears. As he found his fervour for speech again, he began to recount some of the special favours friends and relations had dispensed to him. In particular, he picked on Mrs. Aluko who, for no reason, had chosen to be in the front row at the special reception. It was therefore easy for him to point at him for special recognition. If you were at my convocation ceremony at the University of Ibadan and you ate pounded yam, this is the woman who gave us the special treat. In fact she started serving pounded yam to friends and well wishers before the foregrounding official ceremony ended. Everyone clapped thunderously for Mrs. Aluko.
JJs 60th birthday celebration at the faculty could not have been better themed focusing on our shared scholarly path of conflict sensitive reporting.
Like Mrs. Aluko, like the three other Professors in the Faculty of Communication and Media Studies Lai Oso, Rotimi Olatunji and Sunday Alawode, the current Dean of the Faculty. Barely a week to go, they conceptualized the reception and enlisted the support of colleagues to organize the reception for their jolly good fellow. Almost everyone in the Faculty gave the varying support they could muster. They specifically sought to set up a session that would help to commemorate the path of scholarship Prof Jimoh has emphasized in his career as a matured scholar. That realm is called Conflict-Sensitive Journalism.
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Serendipity! The intimacy between Prof Jimoh and me had been unmistakable and even peaked in scholarship and reasonably in practice. No other scholar has had to co-author any work on conflict-sensitive journalism related project with him than me. We had our convocation at the University of Ibadan same day in 2015 following the successful completion of our doctoral programmes at the same Institute of African Studies where, from different perspectives, we have had to focus on Nigerian newspapers reportage of conflicts. Till tomorrow, we both remain the darling trainers of the staff of Voice of Nigeria, VON, having been commissioned to run a training session in Lagos and being found duly dutiful and competent with substantial generational advantage, we were quickly signed up further to move on to Abuja for another session. Feeling fulfilled with the adventure, we both resorted to a weekend of what we considered a deserved rest in Kabba, JJs hometown. I got the good guest treat that will endure for long especially with the additional flavour and enhancement of warmth flowing freely from an array of our common friends though of Okun stock who had been our professional colleagues and school mates. Over the years, I have had this advantage of extensive relationship with folks from Okun land having done my first degree programme at the University of Ilorin, which is another favourite for Okun youngsters, after the older Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, in Zaria. So the weekend, from Abuja to Kabba, availed me some reunion for instance with the duo of Zak Ejibunnu and Hon. Duro Meseko. Zak was my classmate as an undergraduate at the University of Ilorin while Duro was my contemporary in journalism practice though he worked for Tell Magazine while I was in the employ of National Concord. The professional adventure also availed me the opportunity of meeting for the first time, the chief publicist of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Kola Olgbondiyan, and of course our lil brother and friend whos now a top Customs officer, Comptroller Kehinde Ejibunnu. Comptroller Ejibunnu happened to be the third Ejibunnu brother I was meeting having met Kayode Ejibunnu, also at Unilorin, as a fellow Student Union activist.
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JJs 60th birthday celebration at the faculty could not have been better themed focusing on our shared scholarly path of conflict sensitive reporting. No less invitingly enhancing was the composition of the team assembled for the panel session. It was reasonably reflective of the versatility and wide striving of the celebrant. On hand to deliver were the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of of the The Guardian, Martin Onoja; Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Bishop Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo Professor Muyiwa Popoola; former Head of Political Science Department at LASU and member of the editorial board of The Guardian, Professor Sylvester Odion-Akhaine and yours sincerely. The session was chaired by the Dean of the Faculty, Professor Sunday Alawode while it was moderated by Professor Rotimi Olatunji, former Dean of the Faculty of Communication and Media Studies when it was still known as the School of Communication. It should interest us all that Prof Jimoh, like Odion-Akahaine, is a member of the Editorial Board of The Guardian. Prof Jimoh is also currently away from LASU on sabbatical leave to Ajayi Crowther University. Though not on the panel, Mr. Francis Onaiyekan, another member of The Guardians editorial board was in attendance all through the session.
He clocked 60 Monday May 15, 2023. And the world literally stood still for him.
Though the chief host of the day as the dean, Alawode still took up the gauntlet to offer didactic opening remarks on conflict sensitive journalism helping the entire audience with substantial examples of how some Nigerians conducted themselves during the just concluded 2023 General Elections in Nigeria. Over with the deans invaluable remarks, Professor Olatunji took charge as the moderator and got Professor Odion-Akahaine to speak on the essence of conflict. Pointedly he asserted that conflict may not always be bad as they may yield some good dividends too especially where and when debates and disagreement are healthy. Professor Popoola went on to note how the factor of political-economy may affect the conduct or interface of the media with conflicts. He made rigorous effort to exemplify how conflicts manifest dangerously in the media and offered possible alternatives. From Martin Onoja who has seen it all as a reporter, editor and now managing director, came the practical experience of the inseparability of ownership of media and their conduct especially in relation to conflicts to which their owners are party. He lamented how it has become increasingly difficult over the years to remain in the business of newspaper publishing with incessant hiking, of the price of newsprint resultant from the sliding Naira-Dollar exchange rate. The intervention from yours sincerely was from the angle of solution invoking the principle of solution journalism which is a component of conflict sensitive journalism. I offered that remaining in business was fundamental but that the difficult times such as we are enduring called for creativity which may inevitably imply a combination of business and social campaign approaches. I added that media organizations may also consider reactivating the age-old wisdom of Bashorun Abiola (may Allah be pleased with him) of pooling resources together to run training programmes as well to do deliveries and maybe printing with satellite printing facilities now made possible by technology. The celebrant was all ears all through the session and commended the panelists for doing him a great honour.
As the current Head of Journalism Department to which Prof Jimoh belongs, I later had the honour of appreciating all panelists with a pack of gift for each member of the panel and of course the good woman that offered us all pounded yam, on our joint convocation day at Ibadan.
*Akanni, PhD, is an Associate Professor and Acting Head of Journalism Department at LASU.