Celebrating The Father Of TABLOID Journalism @ 60 •How MIKE AWOYINFA Changed TABLOID JOURNALISM Practice

Mike Awoyinfa, the creative Nigerian Journalist who turned 60 recently had been the centre of attraction in journalism circle these past 3 weeks or so. And rightly so. All his younger colleagues dub him The father of Human interest journalism in Nigeria . They also call him ‘father of Tabloid Journalism’ in Nigeria . Even Segun Osoba, easily the greatest reporter to have emerged on Nigeria soil, who incidentally chaired Awoyinfa’s 60th birthday formal party also concurred that Awoyinfa was a greater reporter. Segun Osoba edited the first truly Nigerian tabloid paper, The Lagos Weekend. So also did veteran Sola Odunfa, another remarkably great reporter and editor. These 2 gentlemen from the Daily Times stable, long before Clement Okosun, have a right to claim that they interpreted tabloid journalism for our Doyen of all time, Dr Ismail Babatunde Jose, whose ever fertile mind created the Lagos Weekend. But Awoyinfa under the influence of Dr Doyin Abiola created a new brand of tabloid journalism with the publication of the Weekend Concord. Weekend Concord was simply a different brand from the Lagos Weekend in terms of intellectual quality and richness of editorial materials. But they served different ages and different readerships. But in the days of Lagos Weekend, no other paper came close to it in its special and dedicated brazen quality.
It is thus settled that Mike Awoyinfa, the taciturn journalist of the staccato style of writing became the father of modern tabloid journalism in Nigeria, and perhaps in African continent. And because Awoyinfa had the singular fortune of mentoring and training several journalists of his era, Awoyinfa stands tall today as the reference point in tabloid journalism.
More than that, Awoyinfa also humanised tabloid journalism, a feature that distinguished him from several journalists of his era. In short his brand of tabloid journalism, enriched by unusual humanism, stood him out as the father, the creator and innovator of human interest journalism in Nigeria . Last Wednesday, Seye Kehinde, the ever creative Editor-In –Chief of human interest Celebrity magazine City People and a disciple of Mike Awoyinfa organized a Seminar to celebrate Mike Awoyinfa, and created an intellectual environment for journalists all over the country to learn about the journalistic exploits of Mike Awoyinfa.
The array of discussants and paper presenters at the one-day Seminar included journalism heavy weights like Femi Adesina, the Deputy Editor of The Sun newspapers, Sam Omatseye, the Chairman, Editorial board of The Nation, Sola Oshunkeye, and the fire spitting Chief Executive of The News, Mr Bayo Onanuga. Prince Emeka Obasi, the Orator owner of Business Hallmark and the Provost of The Nigerian Institute of Journalism Dr Mrs Lizzy Ikem also took their seats on the presenters table.
I must say it has been a long time one saw such a galaxy of the best minds in Nigerian journalism gathered to discuss their noble profession while celebrating one of their own. Awoyinfa’s twin brother by another mother, eloquent Dimgba Igwe was also present in full force to introduce the man who had come to be acknowledged as the best headline caster in Nigeria. Sam Omatseye in his poetic rendition lazed with uncanny intellectual embellishments threw the first punch. It was a lecture paper in its entirety. Femi Adesina, the Sun’s deputy editor took his listeners on the long journey of the beginning of the beginning g. His enrolment in Mike Awoyinfa’s tabloid journalism school in 1989 and the everlasting impact on his career. Bayo Onanuga, the stormy petrel of Nigerian journalism and a one-man-riot squad, the CEO of The News magazine challenged Nigerian newspapers and their reporters to brace up for the challenges of technology that may throw newspapers worldwide into oblivion. He warned for effect that those young journalists who have no passion for journalism should quit.
Prince Emeka Obasi, the orator, went philosophical and admonished journalists to read and read, so as to be head over shoulders higher than their readers. Sola Oshunkeye the multiple award winner eulogised the tabloid emperor as he recounted his hey days as a student of Awoyinfa’s tabloidism. Mrs Ikem PhD, the longest serving Provost of Nigerian Institute of Journalism would want younger journalists to learn from the experiences of the old, and enrich journalism profession and raise it to higher pedestal. Mike Awoyinfa has thus become a study in Contemporary Journalism. And it was so good that journalists are celebrating their own in a country where you are only given a mention after you are dead.
This writer would like to commend Aremo Olusegun Osoba who despite his being 2-term governor of Nigeria ’s most educated and civilized state continues to identify with his primary constituency of journalism. Same kudos to Dr Doyin Abiola, (nee Aboaba) who was the employer of many of media celebrities like Awoyinfa, Dimgba Igwe, Dele Momodu, Seye Kehinde, Sola Oshunkeye, Dele Giwa, Ray Ekpu, and many many more, and who has remained a mother of journalism in Nigeria. It is difficult to believe that the youngish looking Doyin Abiola was in the University of Ibadan 47 years ago…the year Femi Adesina was born, and the year even Mike Awoyinfa was a mere 13 year-old!
Nigeria journalism would have a great future if the likes of Michael Awoyinfa multiply in its fold. Nigerian journalists must imbibe the culture of creativity, the culture of excellence, and the culture of integrity and hard work which had combined to make Mike Awoyinfa a doyen even at a relatively young age of 60. Mike Awoyinfa has become a model, an institution, and a school for the younger generation of Nigerian journalists. Surprisingly, Mike remains humble and admirably unassuming and sees all he has achieved as the handiwork of the Almighty. Mike, step forward and take a bow!!!


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