Tella: Time-tested Titan Still Standing Tall  

Saturday, 12th October 2019 is a day to remember for Alhaji Liad Tella as well as his family, friends, colleagues, associates and vast army of mentees. That was the day the don, who recently retired as a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Mass Communication, University of Ilorin, was turbaned as the Asiwaju Musulumi (Leader of the Faithful) of Iwoland by His Imperial Majesty, the Oluwo of Iwoland, Oba (Dr) Abdur-Rasheed Adewale Akanbi, Telu I.

For many people who know him, it was a well-deserved title to a great man who has devoted his life to the service of God and humanity through the instrumentality of the newsroom, the classroom and public service. As one of the most accomplished media practitioners in Nigeria today, Alh. Tella stands out as an epitome of professionalism, excellence, resourcefulness and integrity. Little wonder that his virtues endeared him to his publisher and acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election, Chief M. K. O. Abiola, to whom he was a close confidant and dependable aide for several years till Abiola’s death.

Though my personal relationship with this amiable media mogul only blossomed when he joined the services of the University of Ilorin in 2009, I have always known him as one of the leading lights of Iwo and Osun State, apart from being a maternal uncle. As Deputy Editor of the National Concord, he graciously gave me a letter of introduction to the then Dr Is-haq Oloyede in 1994, a letter I never delivered because I felt it was unnecessary. I was struck by his attention to details when he asked of my age in his expansive office to determine whether he would refer to me as a boy or a young man; he used the latter.

As many people attested to through the volumes that had been written in honour of a Titanic figure who blazed the trail and left indelible imprints in the hearts of all those who came across him, especially in his inspiring media and academic careers spanning over 45 years, the sheer force of Tella’s terrific personality, his passion for humanity, his zeal for the deen, his academic and professional integrity, his moral uprightness, his commitment to social justice and public good all set this fine editor of editors apart in a class of his own.

Born on March 3, 1950, Liad Tella, who had solid educational foundations in Iwo, Akure, Osogbo, Ibadan (UI) and Lagos (UNILAG), started his journalism career in 1978 at the foreign desk of Daily Times and soon became the Chief Correspondent of the medium. He later joined The Punch newspaper where he soon made his mark and was promoted News Editor and later Acting Editor, briefly. He would later join the Concord newspaper in November 1984 as Foreign Editor where he rose in the system to become News Editor, Deputy Editor and later Manager, Research, Manpower Development and Training as well as General Manager, Sales and Circulation. In 2000, Alh. Tella assumed duty as Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of The Monitor newspaper, Ibadan. As a journalist, he had interviewed scores of world leaders including former Presidents Hussein Habre of Chad, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Yasir Arafat of Palestine, Julius Nyeyere of Tanzania, Hilla Limann of Ghana and Afis Asad of Syria. He had also had one-on-one sessions with King Hassan II of Morocco, King Mohammed Hassan of Jordan, former British Deputy Foreign Minister, John Rifkind and ex-United Nations Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

The prolific columnist, who had extensively written well-read columns for Daily Times, The Punch, National Concord and Daily Newswatch over decades, covered the Chadian Civil War and the Western Sahara POLISARIO-Morocco Liberation War. Known for service and humanitarianism, he had served on the United Nations Information Mission to the Middle-East on Israeli-Palestinian conflict and on the National Committee for Action against Apartheid. He was also the National Treasurer of the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria and Chairman of Oodua Printing Press for years. Apart from being the pioneer Chairman of the Osun State Pilgrims Welfare Board and Chairman of Osun State Broadcasting Corporation (OSBC), the trail-blazing Tella also served as the pioneer Federal Commissioner of Policy, Personnel Management and Finance (PPMF) at the National Hajj Commission (NAHCON), Abuja.

Besides teaching and researching and enriching the Mass Communication students of the University with his rich experience of the press industry, which included his monitoring and editing of reports from BBC, VOA, Reuters and other international media, Alh. Tella contributed immensely to the system by serving as Honorary General Manager of UNILORIN Press for 10 years, member of the Library and Publications Committee and member of the University of Ilorin Distant Learning Committee.

As a matter of fact, Alh. Tella was able to revolutionalise the operations of UNILORIN Press as it was through his efforts that we started to produce Unilorin Bulletin at the revamped press when I served as Head of Corporate Affairs and Editor of the Bulletin. Adding value to wherever he finds himself has been the hallmark of this successful patriot and media scholar since his early years as Chairman of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria, Western State Area Unit ‘B’ in the mid-70s  and his stint as Vice-Chairman of the Lagos Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists in the early 80s. His footprints on the sands of time are inerasable.

It was indeed in furtherance of giving honour to whom it is due, including Alhaja Samirat Abidemi Oriolowo (Iya Suna of Iwoland), Alhaji Khalid Gbadebo Badrudeen (Mayegun Musulumi of Iwoland) and Barr. Abdulwaheed Olajire Ayinla (Aare Musulumi of Iwoland), that Iwo became a Mecca on that October day to remember. Dignitaries who graced the occasion included the National Leader of the All Progressives Party (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who was represented by a former Minister of State for Defence and ex-High Commissioner to Ghana, Alhaji Musiliu Obanikoro; the Governor of the State of Osun, Alhaji Isiaka Oyetola; the former Governor of the State of Osun and Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola; the Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof. Is-haq Oloyede; the Pro-Chancellor of Osun State University, Mallam Yusuf Ali, SAN; the Chief Imam of Iwoland, Alhaji Abdulfatahi Olododo; the CEO of Sharaftell Earthwork Services, Alh. Adeyinka Tella; members of the League of Imams and Alfas in the Southwest, Edo and Delta States, many staff members of the University of Ilorin and several media professionals.

Given that the reward for hard work is more work and resourceful people are not tired when they retire, this consummate scholar and garlanded Asiwaju of Musulumi is poised to use his new office to advance nation building and community development in the years ahead. For this time-tested Titan that still stands tall and makes the community/nation proud, being crowned Asiwaju is a befitting title for an icon of excellence and Leader of the Faithful by a leading monarch in a historic city that takes the lead in scholarship and leadership.

Congratulations, sir!