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Columnism: A Journey Through Commentary In Nigerian Newspapers By Olawoyin Oladeinde Olamide

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Olawoyin Oladeinde Olamide
First, a confession: I am a sucker for the written word –-beautifully
crafted words. With the kind of acumen many students reserved for
Mathematics and English Language, I devoured stuff written by Nigerian
newspaper columnists all through my elementary school days, through my
years at the College. Perhaps, I would have had better grades in
secondary school if I had devoted a substantial part of my time (and my
brain too!) to studying school texts rather than following newspaper
columnists. The decision to study Mass Communication, and ultimately
Journalism, has its root in this rather weird antecedent.

Now,
I must say that if you are a columnist, I do not need to agree with you
or your submission. My mind is an open field of ideas where zillions
can dwell without chaos. Just give me an incisive analysis, brewed with
beautiful, orgasm-inducing sentences and you already have me as a
follower.

So, my romance with Newspaper/Newsmagazine
columnists began in my elementary/secondary school days when I would
stay glued to very old editions of Drum and Spear magazines, which were
subscribed to by my newspaper-loving uncle, “egbon Dele”. Then old and
contemporary editions of daily newspapers such as Daily Times, Sketch,
Tribune, New Nigeria and Concord were also a delight to read as I became
educated on the various ideologies of our political elites, in their
attempt to convince –and ultimately confuse!– the Nigerian people.

In the Nigerian Tribune, I discovered Tai Solarin’s ‘State of the
Nation’, ‘Ayekooto’ by Bisi Onabanjo as well as ‘Periscope’. I also
discovered ‘Wakabout’, a column in the Lagos Weekend, then the most
popular weekend paper. There was Ndaeyo Uko’s column in the Daily Times
which was a blend of humor, satire and beautiful prose; Doyin
Osagie-Okojie’s Vanguard column titled ‘Lipstick’ as well as Doyin’s
husband, Chris Okojie’s column on the back page of Vanguard newspaper,
titled ‘Outraged’.

The late 80’s and early 90’s
witnessed the boom of soft-sell magazines like Prime People, Vintage
People, TopLife, Hearts, Heritage, Hints, Hentertainment, Sweetheart
among others. Writers of note in this genre are those who dealt with
music, movie, entertainment, fashion and showbizz from a sensual,
less-serious and fascinating perspective. There was Toni Kan and his
risqué lines in HINTS Magazine. And there was Reuben Abati, too, in
HINTS. There were genuine articles like Helon Habila, Goke Jaiyesimi,
Maria Adejare, Kemi Koleosho and Kayode Ajala.


The late May Ellen
Ezekiel’s ‘MEE and You’ column in Classique magazine also thrilled me,
and of course, Richard Mofe-Damijo’s ‘Adlib’ column. Entertainment and
fashion magazines like Fame, Global Excellence, Treasure, City People
and Climax also thrilled me and I grew to like the writings of Femi
Akintunde Johnson (FAJ Live), Seye Kehinde, Bode olowojoku, Mayor
Akinpelu, Dele Momodu ‘Bob Dee’ (PENdulum), Steve Adikaibe, Ojo Oriolowo
and Funke Egbemode.

The period of oppression under
the tyrannical regimes of Buhari (déjà vu!), Babangida and, the very one
I witnessed as a teenager with some level of consciousness, Abacha,
created a lot of psychological challenges for teenagers like me. There
and then at Igando, I would haul sacks of sawdust from the Alimosho
Multipurpose complex down to our house, all in a bid to ‘power’ our
‘Abacha stove’. The psychological oppression was real. But we were
practically helpless. We only had ‘soldiers’ in columnists who took on
the government on behalf of the rest of us. It was therefore plausible
that one would be less fascinated by beautiful prose and become more
concerned with punchy, no-holds-bared submissions detailing our fears
and anxieties. I read many stuff by the fearless Dele Giwa, whom I never
met alive. Dare Babarinsa of TELL magazine was the numero uno of style;
ditto Kunle Bakare, Wale Olomu, Tosan(Motoring), Desola Bakare and
Kunle Ajibade of The News.


There were others: Yakubu Mohammed, Ray
Ekpu,Bayo Onanuga, Dan Agbese, Dapo Olorunyomi, Okey Ndibe, Sonala
Olumhense, Paul Nwabuikwu (before he joined government and disappeared
from the radar), Peter Claver Oparah, Luke Onyeakakah, and Levi
Obijiofor. There was Edwin Madunagwu, Odia Ofeimun, Biodun Jeyifo,
Michael Egbejumi-David, Mobolaji Aluko, Stanley Macebuh, G.G Dara and
Godwin Agbroko.
In contemporary times, THE NATION
newspaper arguably parades the most incisive set of columnists. There is
Sam Omatseye, the irreverent critic whose poetic style is a
delight…anyday, antime! There is Olatunji Dare, the master satirist;
Olakunle Abimbola, that amazingly brilliant, witty writer; ‘Sheikh’
Mohammed Haruna, the mobile encyclopedia of newspapering; Ambassador
Dapo Fafowora; Segun Gbadegesin, the culture icon; as well as Gbenga
Omotoso, the humorist. There are others: Tatalo Alamu (Snooper), Idowu
Akinlotan (Palladium), Segun Ayobolu, Femi Orebe, Femi Abass, Jide
Osuntokun, Waheed Odusile, Steve Osuji, Yomi Odunuga, Femi Macaulay and
Ropo Sekoni.

Before we witnessed that infamous editorial
kerfuffle at PUNCH, I had favourites in Wale Adedayo, Casmir
Igbokwe(MUSINGS), Azubuike Ishiekwene(AZU), Joseph Adeyeye (that dude
who, twice or more sef, referenced our very own Nairaland!), Baba Tunde
Fagbenle, Doyin Abiola(Sunday Punch), Jonathan Power(that Oyinbo man
with big vocabs!)and Gani Fawehinmi, who also briefly wrote for Punch.
Ditto Festus Keyamo. Today, I admire the writings of the hypercritical
Henry Boyo, Abimbola Adunni Adelakun, Tolu Ogunlesi, Sabella Abidde, Ayo
Olukotun, Niyi Akinnaso among others.

VANGUARD still has a
reader in me because of the exceptionally brilliant, analytical and
equally gutsy newly appointed DG of the NBC, Mallam Ishaq Modibbo Kawu,
whose column has now been rested. The eternally ‘combatant’ Dele
Sobowale, Tony Iredia, Ochereome Nnanna (Modibbo Kawu’s nemesis!), Owei
Lakemfa, Odia Ofeimun and Kola Animashaun(VOICE OF REASON) are others I
still follow.

Although while growing up, I had issues
comprehending the contents of highly technical, hyper-serious GUARDIAN
columnists, I had favourites in pundits like Reuben Abati, unarguably
the most popular public intellectual pre-2011. Other notable columnists
are Edwin Madunagu, that rabid marxist, Levi Obijiofor, Banji Adisa and
the unrepentantly technical Luke Onyekayekah who wrote mostly on MDGs.

NIGERIAN TRIBUNE had Festus Adedayo, the immediate past media assistant
to Oyo state governor; Wale Okediran; Lasisi Olagunju, earstwhile media
assistant to governor Oyinlola; the Old (and not the latter day PDP
cry-baby!) Ebenezer Babatope and a host of other columnists. Today, I
still read Tony Afejukwu’s ‘In & Out’ and, sometimes, Aare Afe
Babalola’s pieces.

THISDAY also paraded some of the most
brilliant young intellectuals in the mid 2000’s. They include wordsmiths
like Simon Kolawole (LIVE), Yusuf Olaniyonu (The Polity), Ijeoma
Nwagwugwu (Facts Behind the Figures), Akin Osuntokun, Dele Momodu
(PENdulum), Olusegun Adeniyi (The Verdict),Chidi Amuta, Bolaji
Abdullahi, Waziri Adio, Bisi Ojediran(Tolling Bells) Eniola Bello
(Eni-B) and others. Femi Falana also writes occasionally.

THE
SUN also had and still has good columnists in UNILORIN’s very own Olu
Obafemi(Reflections), the late Dimgba Igwe(Side view), Mike Awoyinfa
(Press Clips), Femi Adesina (Kulikuli), Steve Nwosu (Frank Talk), Amanze
Obi (Broken Tongues), Lindsay Barret(From other side), Shola Osunkeye,
former CNN African journalist of the year(Random Notes) and others like
veteran journalist and IBB’s former Press Secretary, Duro Onabule(Today)
as well as Funke Egbemode.

Northern Nigeria has always been
at the receiving end of the somewhat negative misrepresentation of the
‘other’, occasioned by the dominance of the Nigerian press, otherwise
known as the ‘Lagos-Ibadan press’, by southerners. DAILY TRUST
newspaper, however, seeks to balance the equation with its array of
brilliant columnists like Mohammed Haruna(ex-Media Assistant to Head of
State Abubakar Abdus-Salam); Mahmud Jega, that master of colloquialism;
Adamu Adamu, the humourist and Tunde Asaju, the satirist. Others like
Sanusi Abubakar, Jideofor Adibie, Kabir Mato, Bala Muhammad, Idang
Alibi, Garba Deen Mohammed, and Muhammad Al-Ghazali (Ghazalism) are
beautiful columnists too. LEADERSHIP newspaper also has the irreverent
Sam Nda-Isiaha, Hannatu Musawa and other informed columnists.

Today, I must admit that the quality of commentary and column writing in
Nigeria has declined. What we call commentaries today are beer-parlour
gossips written in the most disgusting language – especially on social
media. But even in the middle of this elevated mediocrity, there are
analytical columnists worthy of commendation. May their source(s) of
muse never run dry!

Oladeinde Olamide is a Mass Communication expert based in Ibadan.

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