For me, reading A Reporter and His Beat is an adventure through familiar territory. Yinka Fabowale, one of Nigeria’s most accomplished and award-winning journalists, has given us a comprehensive insight of a reporter on the beat in Africa’s greatest country.
Behind the glamour and the headlines are the rigour and energy-sapping daily experience. The journalist is the chronicler of history in a hurry. It is more so in Nigeria where the beat can be a heated place and where the journalist’s byline can also be a byword for trouble.
I thank Fabowale for the privilege of writing the Foreword for this important chronicle from a leading figure in our noble profession of journalism. This is an honour that I appreciate greatly.
The author has given us a book of 40 chapters divided into seven parts, all detailing his experience as a journalist of more than three decades. The scope of his experience is wide and the people he has interacted with are the giants of the profession.
He learned the ropes having to endure some truly challenging experiences. He has worked with many icons of the profession and those have made a difference in his journalistic experience. At the Lagos Horizon, owned by the Lagos State Government, he worked with my old classmate, Soga Odubona, and he experienced the unsparing editorial dictatorship of Tunde Odesanya, a no-nonsense taskmaster who belonged to the old school. “As a greenhorn, I found the editor, Odesanya, very disagreeable,” he wrote. “He loved to make you bake a pie you could not finish eating and kept you on the millstone until your knuckles bled.”
He was soon to learn that most editors are like Odesanya. The editor cannot afford to run his paper on a democratic basis. Deadlines must be kept. Papers must go to bed. The editor is the captain of his ship and in this, he shares the responsibility with no one.
It was also at the Lagos Horizon that he came in contact with Agbeke Ogunsanwo who became the Director of Information for the Lagos State Government. The steady terrain of the Lagos Horizon was to provide for him a stable staging post for his leap into the mainstream of Nigerian journalism.
When he moved to The Guardian, he was no longer a fresh sailor at sea; he was a veteran of sort.
In his three decades peregrination in journalism, Fabowale has rubbed shoulders with the aristocracy of the Nigerian Press. He was at The Guardian when the legendary Lade Bonuola was in command, and there, he worked with many generals including Femi Kusa, Eluem Emeka Izeze, Gbenga Omotoso, Kingsley Osadolor, Debo Adesina, Bayo Oguntimehin and Mrs. Harriet Lawrence.
The Guardian gave him opportunity to hone his skill as a writer and build his confidence as an ace reporter. Now, he has come of his own. Fabowale is his own man.
It is not surprising, therefore, to read his ringside comments on Nigerian contemporary history and his encounters with Chief Bola Ige and his unforgettable wife, Honourable Justice Atinuke Ige.
It was while he was a Chief Correspondent in Ibadan, the old war camp of the Yoruba people, that he came to embrace the concept of living history, meeting the likes of Dr Omololu Olunloyo, Chief Lamidi Adedibu, Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN), Senator Lekan Balogun (current Olubadan of Ibadanland, his brother, Senator Kola Balogun, Professor Tam David-West and the late Chief Layiwola Balogun).
This book is also a testimonial about the state of Nigerian journalism from a veteran who has traversed different publications. After his stay at The Guardian, he was at The Sun, and TELL. He has come to realise the power of the press and its innate weaknesses.
He was on the beat when General Sani Abacha and his goons were on the prowl and journalism became one of Nigeria’s most dangerous professions. Now that Nigeria is enjoying civil rule, Fabowale is reminding Nigerians about those heroes and heroines who paid the price so that our country can enjoy freedom from military rule and dictatorship.
This is a book of history, of journalism, and a testament about courage and determination. The style is mellifluous and accessible, flowing with the milk of humanness and the penetrating surefootedness of a seasoned athlete. No wonder it is such romance with good language and the capacity to convey information in the garment of truth and unpretentiousness that has won Fabowale so many laurels in his chosen profession. This is a great work. It is worth your time and investment.
Babarinsa, a columnist, is Chairman, Gaskia Media Ltd and co-founder of TELL weekly newsmagazine