(Vanguard of Sunday, August 23, 2009)
If you needed proof of how powerful the media is, it was right there for you to see for yourself when last week Thursday, August 20, the media came out in full force to make a statement, a statement of fact that without the media, what they show those who read them in print and listen to them on radio and watch them on television, no democracy anywhere in the world can work. Oh yes, it was a great and memorable outing.
Not because a book on me and three others by me were being presented, but that the Nigerian Media hosted it, and were present in such huge number that many friends of the media shouted and yelled and clapped at the mention of the biggest names in the industry, names they had always only heard of, or seen in print or on television. They were there for everyone to see and behold — the fathers of the media, the owners of the media, the managers of the media, the foot soldiers of the media.
It was easily the biggest concentration of media owners, media practitioners, media veterans at any one spot to honour their own, me. A list of them will fill this column. A live broadcast of the event by AIT…, the huge coverage of radio and television stations, and the print media after the event… The proof of the pudding was right there in the eating.
I was overwhelmed by the presence of my fathers in the media, those of them who have pioneered the growth of journalism since the 40s. Chief Tony Enahoro promised he would be there, but sent Dr. Robson Momoh to represent him. But the one who was the oldest of them all was Mr. Leban Namme who was deputy managing director to Alhaji Babatunde Jose in the 60s and 70s and later became chairman of the board of the newspaper in the late 80s
He is now above 85. Standing by the more than the man-size book rotating on an electronic axis, Mr. Namme spoke on newspapering over time and the beauty publishing has become through the use of computers, improved printing presses and lots of other modernizing influences. He put his finger on the main problem the press still faces today, the cost of production and distribution.
The chief host of the event was Chief Ajibola Ogunshola, President of the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria and chairman of the Punch titles. He spoke after the chairman of the occasion; Gen Yakubu Gowon had set the stage. Gen Gowon drew attention to the power of the press and the need to mould the people of Nigeria together so that this great country would more fully play the role nature has bestowed on it.
He saw Nigeria as the trigger of a gun which if pulled would shake the continent of Africa that has the shape of a gun. Chief Ogunshola’s speech gave reasons why yours sincerely was being celebrated but I cannot report them here so that I do not translate into a lizard telling the world how he was praised, which would amount to the self praise which I told you last week I have no reason resorting to because of what my media family had planned to do for me.
You may have seen all of it in the print and electronic media. Our Royal Fathers were also there from Benin, Lagos and Afenmai and some of them were our colleagues, key among them being Prince Edun Akenzua, the inimitable columnist of the Post and later Observer, who led two others to represent the Oba of Benin. Among the friends of the media who came, aside of Gen Yakubu Gown, Former Head of State who chaired the occasion, was Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, former Head of State and two-time presidential candidate of the ANPP.
I had a letter from Gen Abdul Salaam Abubakar why he could not make it and also from Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who has a United Nations assignment to cope with. I also received a call on behalf of Chief Ernest Sonekan and this was followed later with a letter and a donation.
But the serious issues of the day came after the author of Tony Momoh, A National Bibliotherapist and Cultural Engineer had explained how the book was conceived, researched, written and published. He spoke about me, which the book is all about, and what bibliotherapy means, which is fully explained in at least two chapter s of the book. Well, as one who for the first time, saw the word bibliotherapist the time the proposal to do the book was made in 2002, I was interested in a sentence from the address that the author of the book, Dr. Oshiotse Andrew Okwilagwe gave.
It said, “The advocates of bibliotherapy have suggested alternative terms such as bibliocounselling, bibliopsychology, bookmatching, literatatherapy, library therapeutics, guided reading, biblioguidance, bibliodiagnostics and biblioprophylaxis.” Waoh. Turenchi! But I was relieved by the next sentence which said, “Bibliotherapy is the use of printed information to solve various human problems”.
The reviewer of the book, Dr. Reuben Abati, chairman of the Editorial Board of the Guardian and a scholar in his own right, took on the author on the claims he made in the part of the book which is highly academic. Abati later climbed down from the intellectual horse where only he and the author and others in the same school will have a lot to debate, and told of many things I did when I was growing up and which form the first part of the book.
The whole hall exploded with laughter when he read part of the book where I preferred big words to the simple way of communicating. One such occasion was when I wrote to my brother about me being in utter delirium as far as financial responsibility was concerned and that he should save me from that state of impecuniosity.
My brother had replied that he had an idea about my need but unless I called a spade a spade and not an instrument for scooping igneous rock from terra firma, he would not respond to my needs. I had then written another letter to say, Brother I am broke, and he had sent me five shillings. That reference to what harm we do to draw attention to ourselves while growing up, brought Prince Bola Ajibola, former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, to the stage.
He said he thought we had a few things in common which he listed, but said he was also into these bombastic versions of simple expressions. I did not fully catch the rib-breaking versions of simple expressions that our legal icon also memorized on his way through life, but I thought I heard him saying something about those who live in glass houses not throwing stones. The version I have in the book published is “Dwellers of glazed edifices should not catapult with igneous rock”.
The rib-breaking did not start and end with what was in the book. The anchor team, in order of seniority, was comprised by Soni Irabor who had to cancel his visit to the United States to do us this great honour, Bisi Olatilo, my neighbour, whose 24 hour TV channel, Biscom World, has taken a lot of his time; and Patrick Doyle who opened the occasion brilliantly before his colleagues came, as he did with the publicity when he interviewed me on his programme on Silverbird Television.
Of course, Ali Baba came in as the master of them all, and did what he knows best. More beautiful speeches came from Sen Victor Oyofo, Justice Constance Momoh, chief hostess and the presenters Jimoh Ibrahim leading the media owners. My community even presented the book through the Daudu of Auchi who accompanied Alhaji AH Momoh, the Otaru of Auchi. Two other traditional rulers from Etsako were also there, Oba Dirisu of Okpella and Oba Danesi of South Ibie.
Although campaigns were being rounded off for the rerun ordered by the courts in an Edo North seat in the House of Assembly, the Comrade Governor Adams Oshiomhole and Senator Yisah Braimoh were represented. What a crowd of monitors, what an outing! Sam Amuka came in on Friday morning and told me, “Tony, what happened yesterday can never be repeated. You can die now if you want.” Don’t worry, Sam, I am still around for a while.
(Published in Vol. 3 of Democracy Watch, A Monitor’s Diary by Tony Momoh, pages 370 – 374; Lagos, 2011).