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My father introduced me to journalism, says Akinadewo

Published by Tribune on Fri, 10 Aug 2012

Gabriel Folajimi Akinadewo, a journalist, columnist and writer, is the Editor of the Nigerian Compass. With experience spanning from the defunct National Concord, The Comet, The Nation and now the Nigerian Compass, he is set to launch his book entitled 'Here Comes the Commander-in-Chief', a collection of his witty columns, soon. An alumnus of the University of Lagos who is widely travelled, Akinadewo speaks on how leaders should cultivate the habit of reading to change the society.HOW did your career in journalism start'It is not coincidental that I am a journalist today. Decades ago, my father told me that I was going to be a journalist. In fact, he introduced me to journalism. My father, Archbishop I.M. Akinadewo, is a journalist, publisher, accountant, proprietor of schools, administrator, prophet and community leader. In the 1970s, he was publishing four newspapers Nigerian Monitor, Sekstape, Everybody's and Sporting News - in Ibadan, the then capital of the defunct Western State. Later, we moved to Ondo and after my secondary school education in the early 1980s in Ondo, he started publishing the Nigerian Monitor again and I was heavily involved in the production, editorial content, sales, advert and circulation. It was more or less a state newspaper, covering Ondo, Akure, Okitipupa, Owo, Akoko and some towns in the old Ondo State. There was a time I even edited the newspaper before going to the University of Lagos. So, what I am doing today about production deadline, exclusive stories and others are not new.You are launching your book soon and going through it, it is like a crusade against the rot in the society. What informed your kind of writing'As a Christian, I know that Isaiah 58 says: 'Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet and show my people their transgression'. Critics are like the engine room of any society. They must keep the machinery of the state running by pointing out vices in the society.So, you are a crusading cleric'Well, it runs in the family. My grandfather who died in 1979, Saint B.A. Adekahunsi, was a crusading cleric. He was the Chairman of Spiritual Workers' Union in the Western Region. If you get to Ondo town today and ask for the house of Baba Oluso (Shepherd father) in Sabo area, you cannot miss your way. Spiritually, God used him mightily to alleviate the suffering of the people and save the society from tormentors. He even took the spiritual battle to as far as Ghana. My father is doing same today in Ondo. We, the children, grew up to know our father as a prophet. So, in my journalism career, I cannot but follow their footsteps.How come that despite crusade by columnists and prophets, the society has not changed'If we go down the Biblical lane, there were just two persons in the Garden of Eden, a couple named Adam and Eve. They didn't need to toil or labour. Everything was provided for them. Despite God's warning, they committed a crime. So, if only two persons could commit a crime in a comfortable place like that, what do you expect of about 170 million people in Nigeria or more than seven billion people in the world' People must commit crimes because God Himself in Genesis 1: 4 separated light from darkness. In today's world, there are children of light and children of darkness. That is why we have law enforcement agents to maintain law and order but it is even bad now that some of those mandated to maintain law and order take delight in breaching the law. The duty of a critic is to continuously alert those in leadership position to what they are doing wrong or what is going wrong around them. And there is no sentiment about it. You remember that Elijah in the Bible would point to King Ahab and say something like 'you and your father's household are the problem of the land'. A crusading columnist must be bold and courageous. So, what has been the challenge'Well, as a journalist, writing a column is not easy. And for an editor to be writing a column is even more tasking. You can't just afford to write anything because of your readers and if you don't satisfy them, you know what that means. There was a time I was really busy and I repeated my previous columns for four weeks. The text messages I got from some readers were abusive. I have not deleted them from my phone. Damn abusive text messages. I had to reply them, apologising in the process. Also, all readers want their responses to be published. There are some responses that cannot be published, you understand what I am saying. Some of these responses are libellous, so to say. What I do is to try and appeal to them that such replies cannot be published. Readers will always react the way they feel about how the society is being governed by those elected or selected to rule them. Are you saying the readers are wrong in their responses and that is why you are not publishing them'No, that is not the issue. If I get over 200 text messages on a particular column, you don't expect me to publish all. I will just pick. Then, like I said, some of the responses are libellous. When you are referring to a President or governor as a thief, a responsible columnist or journalist will never publish that. You know in their eagerness to get mentioned, readers will say all sorts of things just to abuse those they suspect are making life miserable for them. It is the duty of an editor, as a gate keeper, so to say, to edit such responses and where they cannot be edited, to just leave out and take the abuses from the readers. I need the readers to continue to enjoy my column and buy the paper, so you have to do what I call a balancing act.Have you had any brushes with security agents'No. In writing a column, there is a way you can tell somebody to go to hell and he will look forward to the trip. Because columnists want to sanitise the society does not mean that we should be reckless. You can write on vices in the society without touching on national security.What informed the title 'Here Comes the Commander-in-Chief'' The book has about 115 columns and I picked the title from one of the columns. But that is not to say that it is the best column. I wrote that column in the build up to the 2011 election when former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and others were trying to wrest power from President Goodluck Jonathan. I elaborated on the enormous power of the President in a country like Nigeria and why it would be difficult for them, given the reality we know, to remove him from Aso Rock.Are you saying that by that column, you supported Jonathan during the election'The column was a practical manifestation of the power and resources an incumbent would deploy to retain his seat. When you read it, you will understand where I am coming from.Which is the best of the 115 columns'Readers will decide that.Why publish the book now'A major tragedy of this society is that our leaders don't read. Some have attributed it to the coming of the internet and social media. I disagree. Anytime I go to the United States, I go to bookshops and you won't believe that hundreds of Americans will be seen buying one book or the other. If our leaders can develop the reading culture, I think the society will be better because in this book, there is no aspect of our social, political, economic, spiritual and cultural lives that is not touched. Do you know that in the New York Police Department, there is a laundry section' Do we have that in the Nigeria Police Force (NPF)' How will you have a sane society when those mandated to ensure that sane society are not psychologically balanced' When you get to Ojota, Lagos, you will see some area boys collecting egunje (bribe) for security agents. What is responsible for that' Some churches are not better than night clubs and they will be shouting the name of Jesus Christ. You will find that in the book. This is a country in which some people have perpetual injunction, which means nobody can arraign them. These are societal challenges that our leaders, if they can cultivate the habit of reading, will find solutions to through columns.How'Columnists go down historical lane to tell the society how such challenges were solved in other climes. That is what you will find in my book.Going through the columns in the book, you will find out that I don't just criticise, I proffer solutions.What is the target audience'Everybody. The language is simple, very simple. Even primary school pupils can read it. That is the way a society can be reformed.Start from youths. I started reading newspapers from primary school. By the way, I attended four primary schools. In Ibadan, I attended Ebenezer African Church School and later Ayodele Nursery and Primary School. When my father moved to Ondo, I attended St. Stephen's Anglican Primary School and later C.A.C. Primary School, Oke-Isegun. My father would buy all newspapers then, Daily Times, Daily Sketch, Nigerian Tribune, Herald etc. My siblings and I would, at times, go to Barracks Road, the distribution point for vendors in Ondo, to get the papers on time. On the road, we would start reading.I remember that while in Form 2 at St. Ambrose Catholic Grammar School, Olorunsola, Ondo, I sent an opinion to Daily Sketch and it was published. There was nobody I didn't show this paper in Ondo. I was so delighted. Newspapers were sold for 20 kobo then. When I showed it to my Government teacher, he was so happy that he bought two copies and gave me one because the one I was showing people belonged to my father. Today, even graduates don't read again. Everybody is into yahoo yahoo. No society can develop like that. So, this book can be read by everybody.Who are you dedicating the book to'My parents of course. My father, Archbishop I.M. Akinadewo and my mother, Superintendent General Apostolic Mother M.A. Akinadewo. She died in 2010.
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