Olufemi Oluwole: A journalist remembers his contributions to the profession, political arena

A review of Olufemi Oluwole’s autobiography, The Acts of Men by Adewale Oshodi.

WHAT better way can one look back at a profession that has brought one fame and satisfaction than to document one’s exploits?

It is, therefore, no surprise that Olufemi Oluwole, a journalist par excellence, has decided to publish his memoir, The Acts of Men, to, among others, share with the world how, through his pen, he was able to make positive impact for humanity sake.

Or how else can one describe the input of a journalist to the revelation that tele-evangelists were engaging in ‘miracles stories,’ which forced the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) to blacklist some preachers, while the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) also banned programmes showing miracles by religious leaders on most public television stations.

Or even how his medium, New Treasure, gave an inkling that the military junta of the day murdered the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, MKO Abiola, in detention on July 17, 1998 after a cup of tea.

What about the cover story that was said to have angered Aso Rock (and President Olusegun Obasanjo himself), where Oluwole’s medium reported the president’s travelling spree in what was said to be an ‘economic and investment’ drive had cost the country over N48 billion. The title of that report, ‘How President Obasanjo wasted N48bn in his first six months,’ is sure to give any leader ‘political headache,’ so OBJ’s reaction was not unexpected.

While these are some of the works through which directly or indirectly the author was privileged to be a part of, he, however, didn’t find himself at that enviable height in his profession by accident.

The early chapters of the book take the reader back to how Oluwole began mastering stringing of words together, while even in secondary school to make a nice read.

In the first chapter of the book, Oluwole details his exploits at Healthcare Magazine, where he first got the opportunity to work in the media. This is so interesting because he was just 16 years old at that time and was barely out of secondary school when the publisher, Dr Bola Olaosebikan, offered him his first job, and it was there he learnt the rudiments of journalism.

At Healthcare Magazine, he traversed every area of journalism – advert, circulation, marketing, production, graphics and design and editorial.

From Healthcare magazine, Oluwole reveals how he joined forces with others (mostly from Healthcare Magazine) to start Healthlink Magazine, before moving to Chief Segun Runsewe’s weekly newspaper, National Network Newspapers; the Weekend Concord, The Source magazine, and later New Treasure before sojourning in politics, when he took an appointment as an aide to Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi.

Oluwole’s appointment as Senator Afikuyomi’s aide exposed him to the seat of power, and he documents this in chapter eight of the book.

In chapter five, Oluwole records one of his major contributions in politics when he narrates how he, alongside others, particularly Matthias Okubo, helped defend Lagos from the onslaught of President Obasanjo’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to take over the state in 2003. This was a period when Obasanjo was determined to wrestle the South West away from the Alliance for Democracy (AD).

The author recounts that weeks before the April 21, 2003 election, the two candidates, incumbent governor, Bola Tinubu of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and his rival, PDP’s Engr Funsho Williams (of blessed memory), had been slugging it out on the pages of newspapers.


“The polity had been so heated with allegations and counter allegations of clandestine moves to massively rig the elections. It was left for political gurus in the two major parties to checkmate one another. I took the job, along with Matthias Okubo and helped to put a stop to what could have been fatal for the AD.”

During the election, as one of the 20 aides to Senator Afikuyomi, Oluwole, alongside others, was assigned to all the various local government areas on election day.

“The Lagos State Coalition Centre for the governorship election was at the main auditorium of the Queens College in Yaba, and he [Afikuyomi] assigned Matthias and me to resume there by 5:00a.m, to monitor situations and movements. Matthias, as a politician, was well known, but no one would recognise me since I was not a politician but a journalist.

“The collation of results from all over Lagos would not start until 10pm and party reps were not expected until 7pm. The resident electoral commissioner, Mrs Kemi Odebiyi and her entourage were not expected to arrive at the venue until around 8pm. I was within the premises of the school with Matthias moving from one place to the other, throwing tantrums and patting old acquaintances.

“I sat in one corner watching different politicians ‘come and go.’ Then I saw PDP bigwigs arrive one after the other before the electoral officers. Chief Bode George, Demola Seriki, Modupe Sasore, the late Ademola Adeniji-Adele, and so many others arrived, which gave us an inkling that something might be in the offing. I sat there thinking that whatever they came to do that early, they might be checkmated if I quickly relay this to Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi. I called the attention of Matthias to this unusual early arrival of these stalwarts and we agreed to quickly inform Afikuyomi.

“It was this singular act with Matthias to quickly implore Afikuyomi to leave whatever he was doing to join us at the Collation Centre that stopped the PDP-sponsored machinery in Lagos from perpetrating any nefarious activity at the collation centre. I sincerely think that if we were not there and did not act quickly, Governor Bola Tinubu would have kissed his seat goodbye like all his Southwest colleagues.”

Another of his contributions in politics is documented in chapter 10, The President’s Quest, when President Obasanjo tried to push the third term agenda.

Oluwole, working for Afikuyomi at the National Assembly complex at that time, highlights the behind-the-scene intrigues and how the constitution amendment agenda to allow for a third term failed.

Of particular interest were Afikuyomi’s role in the abortion of the amendment of the constitution and the series of death threats that followed.

The book also immortalised the good deeds of some of those who have transcended to the world beyond; human rights activitsts, Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti, MKO Abiola’s physician, Dr Ore Falomo; the controversial National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) boss, Saka Saula, among others.

Through the 20-chapter book laced with pictures and articles to serve as evidence to his claims, Oluwole has been able to tell the story of his sojourn in journalism and the political arena.

He, therefore, says, “One thing is certain, at each stage of the journey when I realised that ‘I had lost the right path,’ I reminisced with conviction that the tortuous road was not the act of God but ‘The Acts of Men.’”

The book is recommended for all lovers of autobiographies, students of communication, cub reporters, and those who find themselves in political circles, as they will definitely learn one or two things about political strategies.

 

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