NOT the Lagos politician that you probably know, but a scholar who has had to work his way up to professorship. He clocked 60 on Monday, May 15, 2023, and the world literally stood still for him. In the course of his appreciation for the honour accorded him on the occasion of his 60th birthday, Professor Jide Jimoh, who is my friend of some 19 years or thereabout, began to recount some of the special favours friends and relations had dispensed to him.
The intimacy between Prof. Jimoh and me had been unmistakable and even peaked in scholarship and reasonably in practice. No other scholar has had to co-author any work on conflict-sensitive journalism-related projects with him than I. We had our convocation at the University of Ibadan on the same day in 2015 following the successful completion of our doctoral programmes at the same Institute of African Studies where, from different perspectives, we have had to focus on Nigerian newspapers’ reportage of conflicts. Till tomorrow, we both remain the darling trainers of the staff of Voice of Nigeria, VON; having been commissioned to run a training session in Lagos and being found duly dutiful and competent with substantial generational advantage, we were quickly signed up further to move on to Abuja for another session.
JJ’s 60th birthday celebration at the faculty could not have been better themed, focusing on our shared scholarly path of conflict-sensitive reporting. No less inviting and enhancing was the composition of the team assembled for the panel session. It was reasonably reflective of the versatility and wide striving of the celebrant. On hand to deliver were the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian, Martin Onoja; Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Bishop Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, Professor Muyiwa Popoola; former Head of Political Science Department at LASU and member of the editorial board of The Guardian, Professor Sylvester Odion-Akhaine; and yours sincerely. The session was chaired by the Dean of the Faculty, Professor Sunday Alawode while it was moderated by Professor Rotimi Olatunji, former Dean of the Faculty of Communication and Media Studies when it was still known as the School of Communication. It should interest us all that Prof Jimoh, like Odion-Akahaine, is a member of the Editorial Board of The Guardian. Prof. Jimoh is also currently away from LASU on sabbatical leave to Ajayi Crowther University. Though, not on the panel, Mr Francis Onaiyekan, another member of The Guardian’s editorial board, was in attendance all through the session.
Though the Chief Host of the day as the Dean, Alawode still took up the gauntlet to offer didactic opening remarks on conflict-sensitive journalism helping the entire audience with substantial examples of how some Nigerians conducted themselves during the just concluded 2023 General Elections in Nigeria. Over with the Dean’s invaluable remarks, Professor Olatunji took charge as the moderator and got Professor Odion-Akahaine to speak on the essence of conflict.
Pointedly he asserted that conflict may not always be bad, as it may yield some good dividends too especially where and when debates and disagreements are healthy. Professor Popoola went on to note how the factor of political economy may affect the conduct or interface of the media with conflicts. He made a rigorous effort to exemplify how conflicts manifest dangerously in the media and offered possible alternatives. From Martin Onoja, who has seen it all as a reporter, editor, and now managing director, came the practical experience of the inseparability of ownership of media and their conduct especially about conflicts to which their owners are a party. He lamented how it has become increasingly difficult over the years to remain in the business of newspaper publishing with incessant hiking of the price of newsprint resulting from the sliding Naira-Dollar exchange rate.
The intervention from yours sincerely was from the angle of a solution, invoking the principle of solution journalism, which is a component of conflict-sensitive journalism. I offered that remaining in business was fundamental but that the difficult times such as we are enduring called for creativity, which may inevitably imply a combination of business and social campaign approaches. I added that media organizations may also consider reactivating the age-old wisdom of Bashorun Abiola (may Allah be pleased with him) of pooling resources together to run training programmes as well to do deliveries and maybe printing with satellite printing facilities now made possible by technology. The celebrant was all ears all through the session and commended the panellists for doing him a great honour.
In addition to deft planning and execution well managed by the threesome of Dr Lade Atofojomo, Dr Noheem Thanny and Miss Khadija Yusuf, HODs Dr Lade Sanni and Dr Julius Adeyemo were gracefully seated all through together with the rest of teaching and non-teaching staff including the Faculty Officer, Deputy Registrar, Mrs Ogunshote, as well as many of our students.
Quite interestingly, the better half of the birthday boy, Mrs Helen Jide Jimoh, arrived at the event with several family members, friends and neighbours.
As the current Head of the Journalism Department to which Prof Jimoh belongs, I later had the honour of appreciating all panellists with a pack of gifts for each member of the panel.
Tunde Akanni, PhD, is an associate professor and Acting Head of the Journalism Department at LASU.