LKJ, My Mentor, My Professional Father. Rest In Peace By Kunle Oyatomi

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Kunle Oyatomi

There was a case that affected me in my early years in journalism profession. I was a correspondent with LAGOS NEWS, a daily evening newspaper established by Papa Lateef Kayode Jakande. LKJ as he’s fondly called. That was after he left the office as Governor. Specifically I was posted to Alausa, the Lagos State Government Secretariat . At that time, Captain (as he then was) Mike Akhigbe was the sitting Governor. May God rest his soul. He enjoyed the support of that newspaper until he became so angry with a certain report I did. The storyline involved the Military President, Ibrahim Babangida and Obasanjo. OBJ spoke about the hashness of IBB’s Structural Adjustment Programme on the country’s economy and advised him to allow it to have ‘human face’.

Akhigbe was uncomfortable with Obasanjo’s comment and he gave an interview to counter it where he hit back at OBJ that Obasanjo knew where to meet IBB and discuss with him. So, why did he choose to go to a ‘market place’, to talk to Mr. ‘President’. He spoke hard and tough. The report was used generously by nearly all the newspapers covering Alausa, the following day …. It was a lead story in LAGOS NEWS.

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Reactions followed. Akin Aduwo, a Commodore at the time, was Akhigbe’s boss (he was his ADC at a time), didn’t like the manner in which Akhigbe got at OBJ. According to him, when ‘Generals joke, Captains don’t even smile. He said Akhigbe was off the track. Dodan Barracks also objected to the governor’s comment on OBJ. The pressure was much and to douse the hoopla, Akhigbe had another media chat. He tactfully chose the media he wanted to speak with. He denied his earlier report, hiding under the usual excuse of misrepresentation. He sent a rejoinder to Lagos News. Jakande summoned me and I met him with undeniable evidence: My report and reports in other newspapers. Yes, Akhigbe was our ‘friend’, (courtesy Prince Bayo Osiyemi). He usually supported Lagos News with Advertisements. That’s more than enough reason for me to be sacked. But LKJ refused to be confused on sentiments. The Managing Editor at that time spoke to him and wanted us to publish a rejoinder. Journalism in LKJ’s vein prevailed. He asked me to go ahead with my job. LKJ was not moved by what the newspaper will lose in revenue. He said the Governor can stop his patronage if he so desired. I grew taller that day.

That was not the first time he stood firmly behind me professionally. This time, it was also in Dodan Barracks, where I covered before Alausa. I reported an exclusive story on where the government kept dethroned President Shehu Shagari and his Vice, Dr Alex Ekwueme. The then Chief Press Secretary to IBB withdrew my accreditation for that particular report in LAGOS NEWS. LKJ stood by me, and picked his pen to write a powerful editorial titled ‘Jagunmolu of Dodan Barracks’ in response to CPS Duro Onabule who earned a chieftaincy title of Jagunmolu of Ijebu Ode. This was a man in whose my journalism career grew.
May he rest in peace.

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