By Funmilola Olukomaiya
Iconic and renowned journalist, editor and author, Mr Kunle Ajibade is an Omoluabi who served as a reporter for various media houses – a Senior Correspondent for The African Concord, Assistant Editor with The African Guardian, and then assumed different editorial and management responsibilities in the now rested Tempo and A.M News titles, before becoming the Executive Editor of TheNEWS magazine and P.M.News.
Ajibade who turned 60 on the 28th of May 2018, was today honoured in a two in one celebration: the first session, a one-day colloquium put together by Friends of Kunle Ajibade at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, Lagos.
According to the organisers of the event, “It was his work in the Nigerian media in the dark days of the brutal military rule that saw him crusade on the side of social justice and running against the murky essence of the vicious Abacha military regime.”
Ajibade was arrested on spurious charges and “jailed for life” in 1995, after a kangaroo and contrived judicial process, in similar vein to the encounters of other journalists like George Mbah of Tell magazine, Chris Anyanwu of The Sunday Magazine (TSM) and Ben Charles Obi of the Weekend Classique about the same period.
His experience of arrest, imprisonment, and subsequently release from the gulag of military dictatorship after three harrowing years are chronicled in his memoir, ‘Jailed for Life: A Reporter’s Prison Notes’, which won the Victor Nwankwo Book of the Year award in 2005. He is also the author of ‘What a Country!’, which details Nigeria’s travails under a cruel and repressive rule.
The colloquium which was themed: “A Bright Future for Nigeria and How to Get There” was chaired by a veteran journalist, politician and former governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba. It was led by Prof. Wole Soyinka.
Chairman of the occasion and former Governor Chief Olusegun Osoba who is also a veteran journalist, commended Mr Ajibade on his strides in the media industry, particularly in the area of investigative journalism.
Osoba couldn’t help but emphasize the efforts, sacrifice and quality of work and professionalism portrayed by Ajibade, through his in-depth stories that were responsible for exposing corruption and the pervasive manner of the military administrations in the 90’s.
Obari Gomba, an English lecturer at the University of Port Harcourt read a poem in honour of the celebrant while Mr Odia Ofeimun, a veteran poet, polemicist and author read the welcome speech at the colloquium.
World renowned writer and Nigerian literature Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka while addressing the audience described Kunle Ajibade as a respectable doyen of journalism in the country, one who was prominent during the military regime where he fearlessly and tirelessly fought through his pen, and carried out investigative expoze about the activities of the government.
Soyinka affirmed that Ajibade was one of the major pillars of the field of Investigative Journalism in Nigeria while adding that he demonstrated that through his immense contributions to its development.
Soyinka in his speech decried the rate at which journalists across the globe were being murdered, while attesting to the fact that the number of investigative journalists who were killed in the course of duty are more than the journalists who died covering the war.
Notable guests present at the colloquium are Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Executive Governor of Osun State, Mr Sam Amuka – Publisher Vanguard Newspapers, Alhaji Sani Kabir, Mrs Joke Silva, Omoba Yemisi Shyllon, Mr Idowu Obasa, Mr Lai Babatunde (SAN), Senator Babafemi Ojudu, distinguished members of the Ejigbo Eagles’ Club, Omoyele Sowore and a host of others.
Speakers present at the colloquium are Dr Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu; former CBN deputy governor, Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, Ms Ayisha Osori, Mr Owei Lakemfa, Mrs Ayo Obe, Mr Femi Falana(SAN).
Chief Olusegun Osoba moderated the cutting of the birthday cake after the celebrant of the day, Mr Kunle Ajibade gave a ‘Thank you’ speech, where he appreciated his wife, Mrs Olubunmi Ajibade for being a virtuous woman, a strong pillar for him to lean on, and a wonderful mother who raised their children well, while he was away in detention. He appreciated her dedication and undying love for him and was grateful to Ikene-Remo town for producing and giving him one of their finest women as a wife.
Ajibade went ahead to appreciate everyone present and the organisers of the event for their show of love and kind words spoken about him.
Senator Babafemi Ojudu closed the event by giving a vote of thanks on behalf of Friends of Kunle Ajibade.
The second session of the event put together by Friends of Kunle Ajibade is a Cultural Evening/Poetry Reading at the Freedom Park, to start by 5:30 pm.
The Cultural Evening/Poetry Reading is to comprise tributes, readings and music, involving poets, solo saxophonists, drummers and other performance artistes.