This month he attained the golden age, precisely on May 9. A purpose-driven journalist that he is, Mr. Lekan Otufodunrin decided to use that day to further impact aspiring and budding journalists, who converged on the Nigerian Institute of Journalism hall, Ogba, in Lagos, for a 50th Birthday Lecture focusing on ‘Re-inventing Journalism: The Case for Conscious Media Career Development in Nigeria’.
Before I met him two years ago, I had known him by reputation through my involvement in Campus Life, a weekly pullout in The Nation Newspaper. In 2010, I stumbled on a book written by him, and I bought it. The book ‘Purpose-Driven Journalism’, which gives insight on how to fulfill purpose in journalism, struck a chord in me.
Thanks to Uncle Richard Akinnola, I got to meet Mr. Lekan in 2012, when I needed to resolve what was for me a vexed issue as urgently as possible. Mr. Richard had sent me a text message containing two people’s phone numbers, recommending that I speak with them. That evening I called Mr. Lekan and explained the matter to him. He gave me useful feedback, and asked that I come to see him in his office later. Since then, he has been a mentor to me.
Although it took me unawares that he was organising a lecture to celebrate his 50th birthday as I only learnt of it that day, I made effort to attend the programme. Before I got to the venue, he had given his lecture, but I met presentations by other guest speakers.
“If you bring a sense of purpose to bear on what you do, people will respect you for what you are,” he said in a chat I had with him at the end of the event.
Asked why he organised the event, he said “I want to make a point that media career is important, and this is what I want to do more. I don’t want to look back years later and say ‘I am ashamed of journalism’. I want to be proud of it, but the only thing I can do is to make my own contribution.
“Journalism has been a substantial part of my life. I am writing a book called ‘Journalism of My Life’. I am going to publish it very soon. It showcases what God has sent me to do right from when I was in higher secondary school. As the library prefect in my higher secondary school, I edited a newsletter.”
Currently the managing editor, online, The Nation, Mr. Lekan graduated in 1985 and worked in The Punch from 1987 to 1999. “I started journalism as a state correspondent. For four years, I was in Abeokuta, Ogun State, and those were days when there were no gadgets; when you go cover an event and you would dictate every word to Lagos.
“I am glad that God wants me to be a journalist and I have been a journalist. We have initiatives such as Journalists for Christ and media trainings. I pray that God will spare my life so that I can still be of help. If I got help in the past, why should I not help?”
He sure has a word of advice for budding journalists: “My advice to them is to take the job very seriously. If God wants you to be a journalist, don’t grumble about it. Give it your best because you are writing your testimonial every day. Somebody said there is nothing you do that never gets rewarded. If today you work in an organisation and they are not paying you well, you are going to move somewhere else where they are going to pay you very well. I know people who people called and said ‘you must work for us, how much do you want?’”
Asked if he would still do journalism if he had the opportunity to come to this world again, he enthused: “Yes, I will gladly do journalism. What journalism enables you to do many other professions do not give you. We influence a lot of people. You write an article somebody reads it and his or her life is changed.”
After the chat with him, I went to town to speak with some of the participants at the event.
Mr. Jide Orintunsin, a journalist based in Niger State, who I later discovered had Mr. Lekan as his best man during his wedding, said: “Lekan Otufodunrin is a man of many parts depending on how you get to know him. To me, he is a brother and a friend and a confidant. I came all the way from Minna today to celebrate God in his life. Lekan is one man who is ready to discomfort himself in other to add value to you. He is ready to go extra mile to see that your life is better. Lekan is a man who is ready to spend his last kobo to improve you. He was my best man 22 years ago and he has been a factor in stabilising my home. I remember when I was transferred to the North; Lekan was the one taking care of my family here in Lagos. One thing I know is that he is going places, he is going to be a global personality that will be read all over the world. He is yet to start, and I know that God will take him higher in Jesus name.”
“Uncle Lekan is someone that I can describe as one of the last men standing in Nigerian journalism as far as ethics, commitment and uprightness are concerned,” said Ms. Betty Abah, executive director, CEE-HOPE Nigeria.
“He is one of the few men that people can stand up and say that this journalist has not compromised. We call him the editor of editors. He is someone who is also a good representative of Christ. He is the president of Journalists for Christ. For many of us he is our model; he really challenges us. There are many people he has directly touched. He mentors a whole generation of students. If we emulate his life, Nigeria will be a better place. I wish him 50 more years on earth,” she said.
‘FEMI tweets @asufemi
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