Last Wednesday 25th March, 2015 saw myself and 11 other members of the great Alpha Club (including the Lord Mayor) travel from the auspices of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-ife, Osun state all the way to Lagos state to induct the MD/editor-in-chief of the Sun Newspapers as Patron of the club. We left Ile-ife around 10am and after so many traffic logjams (which is usual in Lagos), gridlocks and our driver having to negotiate the road with the city hustlers, we got to the Sun Publishing House around 4:30pm.
The Sun Publishing Limited is located idyllically at No. 2, Coscharis Street, Off happyhome avenue, Kirikiri Industrial Layout, Apapa, Lagos state. Looking at the company from the tall walls surrounding it, you think it has a small space until you enter and see the large expanse of land. At the far left, there’s a 3-storey building which is the administrative building. This is where the Managing Director also has his office. Right in the centre is the building which contains the newsroom, where all the daily news & stories are collated and arranged for publishing. All the rooms are well lit up with air-conditioning systems and this coupled with the serenity in the reception, the leather couches and large LCD television displaying at a corner of the tiled room could almost drive a weary man to sleep.
The members of the great Alpha club were quickly ushered upstairs to the office of the Managing Director/Editor-in-chief, Mr Femi Adesina, for the short induction process to take place. Mr Steve Nwosu, the Executive director of Corporate Services of the company joined us in the office. Mr Femi Adesina gave a short speech of his appreciation of how members of the Alpha club have deemed it fit to bestow upon him the honour of Patron of the club. He made allusion to the statement in the Holy Bible (new testament) that ‘a prophet is not valued in his own country’ but expressed his joy in the fact that Alpha club, an organisation in his own alma matar have recognised him.
After that, His eminence the Lord Mayor of the great Alpha club, Mayor Arigbabu Abayomi stood up to give a brief introduction of the club and expressed the main reason for the courtesy visit. The Deputy Lord Mayor of the club, Alphite Gbenga Odelola rose up to also speak on the achievements and pedigree of the club which has been in existence since 1968 in the then University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University. Thereafter, the induction process took place.
Femi Adesina’s 29-year odyssey in journalism has seen him traversing radio, television and print media, from a Youth Corps member at LTV 8 in 1986, to a Current Affairs Officer, Radio Lagos between 1988 and 1989, and Features Writer, Vanguard Newspaper, 1989 to 1991.
In May 1991, he joined Concord Press as Senior Staff Writer, rose to become Chief Correspondent, and later Deputy Features Editor. By December 1995, he was promoted Features Editor of National Concord. Within the next four years, he became Deputy Editor, and ultimately, Editor, National Concord.
With the demise of Concord Press after the travails and death of the publisher, Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola, in military detention, Adesina joined the Nigerian Tribune as a visiting member of the Editorial Board between May 2001 and September 2002. He was part of the team that set up The Sun Newspaper in January 2003. He was pioneer editor of Daily Sun between June 2003 and June 2008.
Under Adesina’s editorship, Daily Sun won many reputable media awards, and in 2007, he was named Editor of the Year, by the Nigeria Media Merit Award (NMMA). The newspaper also became the nation’s highest circulating daily within a few months of hitting the news stands.
In July 2008, he was promoted Executive Director, Publications, and Deputy Managing Director/ Deputy Editor-in-Chief in January 2010. He became Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief in December 2013. Adesina was elected President, Nigerian Guild of Editors in March 2013. A 1986 graduate of English Studies from the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife), he has attended various journalism trainings both nationally and internationally, and is also an alumnus of the Lagos Business School.
Five years ago, I was fresh from high school and looking to gain admission to Obafemi Awolowo University to study law. I began to read many books, including newspapers. My father laid the foundation of reading newspaper in my family, as he buys at least two dailies everyday since even before I was born. I remember my dad was using his last penny to buy newspapers at a time when Nigerian judiciary was on strike & they weren’t getting paid their salaries. That was the extent of his love for news (I call it obsession though). He used to buy Nigerian Tribune & Daily Punch, later he added The Nation and then Daily Sun. At times he adds magazines like Encomium or City People. Growing up, I read the now defunct Tell magazine a lot courtesy my dad!
While in high school, I immediately became the best student in government and history and if you needed the name of any Nigerian law-maker, you could be sure I would tell you including his or her traditional title. It was that ridiculous, but its all thanks to my dad for whetting my appetite in that line. So I came across Femi Adesina’s column around early 2007, he was the daily editor of The Sun News then. He was using just a tiny space in the middle of the tabloid for his column. Later he became Executive director for Publications and started using the whole backpage for his Friday weekly column. I kept on reading all those years, I was his biggest fan. Little did I know my two sisters were feeling the column too until one day we all became vocal about the man’s writing prowess.
To me, Femi Adesina is the best columnist in Nigeria today and one of the best ever! I’m saying this objectively as someone who has been an avid reader of Nigerian newspapers for years and has studied many great writers & essayists like Sam Omatseye, Bola Babarinsa, Okey Ndibe, Mike Awoyinfa, late Dimgba Igwe & co. I so much admire all these men too and Nigeria may produce another analytical & research writer in the class of Dimgba Igwe. I miss and love the man!
What struck me in Femi Adesina’s write-ups and style was its similarity with late Rev. Martin Luther King. I had read the autobiography of the man and several notes written by him and here I was reading a Nigerian column that made me remember MLK. Femi Adesina’s anecdotes and wordplay mesmerised my heart. I saw punchlines that could make Nigerian politicians change for the better. I saw a powerful man in the making who could affect people’s mind with his writings. I saw a man who’s one with his pen and above all, I saw a man specially anointed by God to just go and be journalist. Femi would use wordplays like ‘fishes begin to leap for joy, lions begin to roar in happiness and birds begin to fly in the sky’. He was just in control of the style and that was what endeared him to my heart and I’m sure millions of other followers who read his column.
I first sent a mail to him in late 2009. I asked him to write an autobiography. Looking back, I think I made that request because I was reading several memoirs then (My life by Bill Clinton, Tell Freedom by Peter Abraham, Long Walk to Freedom by Madiba) and I felt Femi could also make a larger impact if people knew how he started and how he got inspired too. I could not have expected a reply to the mail in my widest dreams but then, Femi was gracious enough to reply me and said he would consider my request. That day is one of my happiest days ever. From then on, we became pen pals and by 2010, he invited me to his office. I couldn’t go because I had just gotten admission to university then and was just settling down.
I met Femi physically for the first time last year, May 2014. It was another memorable day for me. Later I brought up the idea of inducting him as a patron of the great Alpha club and the house welcomed the idea. That was what led to the events of Wednesday, March 25, 2015. For us in the Alpha club, it is a great pleasure to have such a great man as a member of our family. We give all glory to God!