By Abdulwarees Solanke
Joke Kujenya is a fantastic female journalist who has put more than three decades into the penpushing craft.
She’s also gone round most of the big newspapers in the country, dead or surviving, with many awards and laurels to her credit.
She’s has been involved in so many development projects and programmes as a media consultant.
I met her the first time in the starting days of Thisday when most of my colleagues in the dead National Concord, then under Late General Sani Abacha’s lock and keys, trooped to the new newspaper to find refuge.
Frequently, we reach out to each other for professional advice. The last time she was involved in a programme I midwifed in Voice of Nigeria was the commemoration of Nelson Mandela International Day last year as a discussant.
I had invited Egbon Lanre Arogundade and Dr. Bisi Olawunmi as guest speakers.
Petite Sisi Joke, a widely travelled journalist, enriched the discourse with her discerning insights as a well grounded journalist and development activist.
Two days ago, we got chatting again. Her reference to me as ‘all rounder’ humbled me. Well, I had a little answer.
‘All rounder ke!’ I shot back at her and continued, ‘Well, if you say so, it’s because I went round the media and sat to learn at the feet of many all rounders.’
It was great to have the benefit of sitting in the news room of Nigerian Tribune and BCOS as an intern in 1987, stopping briefly at the wooden Punch in Onipetesi in 1988 where I met Chris Mamah and Dipo Onabanjo, sojourning with The Envoy in Sokoto under Emman Usman Shehu.
Do you know what it takes to be tapped by Liad Tella, charged by Nsikak Essien, nurtured by Tunji Bello, Sam Omatseye and Victor Ifijeh with the opportunity to understudy Frank Igwebueze and Waheed Odusile?
Yet, I sat with masters like Segun Babatope, Sunday Alabi, Iyiola Faloyin, Kayode Komolafe and Dayo Aiyetan on Concord Editorial Board, apart from visitors like Mike Ikhariale, Chuma Ifedi, Jim Unah and Duro Onabule.
Add the experience at Monitor where Femi Abbas and Segun Dipe were my supervisors.
Can you fault my Unilag upbringing where Azu, John Momoh and Dr. Soji Alabi were my class or course mates?
Add these to my grooming in Brunei Darussalam as a Commonwealth Broadcasting Association scholar in public policy and what you get is a small, smiling and genial product called Abdulwarees who always experiments with the styles of his many masters.
He’s just a fortunate boy at the right place, at the right time, meeting the right people who want to reproduce themselves in me.
In trying to meet their high standards, I’m also able to meet expectations of brothers and sisters like you who think I always have something in the kitty when all I have are the gems I picked from the minds and brains of my masters and stylists.
Dear readers, this is an example in professional grooming. Whatever you are, you’re a mere product of some other producers.
You’re created raw, to be nurtured and burnished by others, to be toughened, stretched or straightened in the hands of some other craftsmen in your trade.
In the hands of true masters, the experience is not always sweet, in fact mostly sour. In trying to reform or recreate you into their own mould, they unleash on you their chisels and hammers.
You have to be baked in their furnace to come out brownish. But many are those interns who do not understand their masters. So they cannot withstand their pressure. They buckle under their weight or their masters lose patience in them.
So they either run away or their masters abandon them to their fate, never to reach their full potentials.
When a product is well formed or made in the hands of better products, the tendency is for that product to have a premium market value.
What this requires is patience in the hands of gruelling masters. When your masters are hard on you, they only wish you become their equal or surpass them in worth or value.
Good masters have a challenge. They don’t easily get a replacement. Yet, they wish their value endures. But the endurance or sustainability of the wealth and worth of a master is in the number of his successors.
A master is not a success he cannot name or number his successors.
On the celebration of Professor Olatunji Dare’s 75th birthday on our WhatsApp platform a few days ago, those of us who graduated from the University of Lagos Mass Communication Department went into reminiscences on the legendary teacher of journalism.
In the process, it was not only Professor Dare that was celebrated, everyone including our most detested came to our memory.
In fact, we confessed that it was many years after leaving Akoka that we got to understand and appreciate the styles of our hated ones.
Some of our masters may be too futuristic and so, what they teach may seem unattainable. Today, the future is never too far.
The lesson here is never detest a mentor or teacher when he complains about you or rejects your effort. It’s because he wants to lead you into a future that you don’t see.
All teachers, masters, mentors and guides, no matter their approach or temperament drive at the same goal: having a finished product, a reliable successor, one who can step into their big shoes should they exit the system or leave the world.
So, when a master is hard on you, it is for your good. However, the luck I’ve had in my career as a writer is that all my masters are my brothers and friends. They are even my fathers, always trying to pave the way for me. This is a grace from Allah that my masters treat me as their adopted son.
While growing under each of them, I never groaned or complained about them, never gossiped about them. Today, I thank the Femi Adesinas, the Dele Alakes, the Segun Babatopes, Nsikak Essiens, Liad Tellas.
I acknowledge Tunji Bello, Sam Omatseye, Victor Ifijeh, Isaac Okorafor, Kayode Komolafe, Niyi Obaremi, Akin Ogunrinde, Taiwo Ogundipe, Lanre Arogundade, Femi Abbas and many others who went through my scripts in the early years.
I appreciate the late Ladi Lawal, Callistus Oke and Abubakar Jijiwa for finding worth in my work and for always being ready to give me platforms to express myself at different junctions of my journey in journalism. At many instances while seeking big opportunities, the references they wrote on or for me were always superlative. Here is a toast to all my masters from the classroom to the newsroom.
I thank them all.
Abdulwarees, a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Diplomacy and Management and Assistant Director, Strategic Planning and Corporate Development in Voice of Nigeria; he also volunteers at Muslim Public Affairs Centre MPAC Nigeria as Director Media & Strategic Communications.