By MIKE AWOYINFA
HE laughs to live and lives to laugh. His world is a world of laughter, laughter and more laughter. Laughter like a brook flowing gleefully across the path of stones and thunder. Laughter cascading like Victoria Falls. Laughter illuminating the darkness of our country to bring us hope, light and joy.
My son, brother and friend, Femi Adesina is a man of laughter and a man of peace. Some say they have not seen him angry. But twice, I have seen him transfigure into an angry man. The first transfiguration was when as deputy managing director of the Sun, some people below him were trying to undermine him. At a board meeting, he erupted like the impetuous Peter in the Bible. And I was so proud.
The second was when he was contesting to be the President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors and there were pressures for him to step down for another candidate but he would not sell his birthright for a mess of pottage like Esau.
Today, I am here to celebrate one of our own. A good man. A humble man. Our beloved Femi Adesina. The man who has just been appointed the Special Adviser (Media and Publicity) to President Buhari. The first man to get an appointment under this new administration. In marketing and in life, being first means a lot. Everybody remembers the first man to step on the moon but nobody cares about the second or the third.
It was in the late ‘80s when a young man walked nervously but confidently into my office where I was Weekend Concord’s pioneer editor. We had just created this Saturday newspaper making waves in the country. And suddenly arrived Adesina who had just come out of the university and jobless. He was armed with an impressionistic piece he had written about the “People of Pepple Street,” a street in Ikeja where Fela and his people lived a hedonistic life of sex, music and marijuana. With that, Femi Adesina instantly became a part of Weekend Concord’s “new journalism” school where reporting was an art and reporters were required to write straight from the heart like poets, novelists and sculptors of news, turning the ordinary into extraordinary, elevating news and features into the realms of the sublime. We did all that and more. We elevated the ordinary man on the street and even put beggars and lunatics on front page for the right reasons. We celebrated the wedding of two beggars living under the bridge. On a Saturday before Easter, we put on front page, a lunatic Rastafarian who wakes early in the morning, ringing his bell and telling Nigerians to “repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.” Our reporter Omololu Kassim followed at dawn this itinerant prophet and cornered him for an interesting interview. We went after stories that the mainstream papers ignored. We also resurrected the big stories of the week and gave them depth and further illuminations. Journalism was one big laughter and we laughed all the way as we created our brand of human angle journalism. Weekend Concord was the place to be. Ask Dele Momodu, Sola Osunkeye, Aliu Mohammed, Ben Memuletiwon, Chika Abanobi, Yetunde Francis, Sanya Oni, Sunday Umahi, Femi Adesina, Eric Osagie, Omololu Kassim, May Ellen Ezekiel, Sam Omatseye, Wale Sokunbi and Lat Ogunmade. The late Dimgba Igwe was there as my deputy. And Dr. Doyin Abiola was our “mother hen.” It was a great time to be a journalist, an unforgettable period of youthful exuberance. For us, journalism was an adventure. You just had to go and look for something new and dramatic. It wasn’t just about reporting what government officials said. It was journalism of the people, for the people, by the people. We provided a platform for the common people to talk and to taste stardom.
Unknown to me, Femi Adesina, a student of English from the then University of Ife had been following my writings on campus and teaching himself journalism based on reading the articles of the journalists he adored. In the world we live in, every kid wanting to go far needs a roadmap and a role model to emulate. Without a Diego Maradona, there would be no Lionel Messi today to follow his path and take football on a higher plane.
When I was mentoring Femi Adesina, little did I know that this young man would follow my footsteps, occupy every position I have occupied and even rise above me. To God be the glory. Today, another son, Eric Osagie whom I also mentored has taken over from Adesina as the MD/Editor-in-chief of the Sun. To God be the glory! In those days, it was said that Osagie and I used to decide the front page of the paper at the beer parlour. Ha ha ha ha ha ha! I can’t stop laughing! As editor, I had to learn to manage star writers who all wanted to hit the front page as many times as possible.
At the 60th birthday party for my younger brother Otunba Wale Awoyinfa recently, Femi Adesina surprisingly showed up. It was there I decided to do this column. I remembered my son Jide Awoyinfa had earlier interviewed Femi Adesina for a journalism book he is writing. He had also interviewed Sam Omatseye, Dele Momodu and Steve Nwosu. Of the journalists he interviewed, Jide said of Adesina: “He is the man that really knows you in and out.”
It was from interviewing my son that I arrived at the above headline: “The world is his laughter.” Let me leave you with the portrait of Femi Adesina from the eyes of Jide Awoyinfa.
“Uncle Femi Adesina is a very unique man. A man who is always happy, always smiling, always laughing. You can hardly see him angry. You can never read his mind because he always laughs out everything. If I ask him a question, he would start by laughing and laughs all through his answers. That kind of person, you will be able to relate with him. He draws you in. He treated me like a friend and like a son. I approached him first being scared and nervous. But the way he laughed made me relaxed and I was able to ask him questions without being intimidated. He has this friendly looks. He encouraged me. When you have this character, doors open for you. I am not surprised the way he is moving up and up. The sky is his limit.
“I had come to interview him but he also had questions for me. He asked me: ‘Are you really interested in journalism? Is it because of your dad? Do you have the passion for the job? Journalism is a good job. It is not about what you studied. It is about your interest and flair for journalism. I like your courage and interest. Keep it up.’
“He said things that really encouraged me to choose journalism as a career. That to make it in journalism, I needed to work hard, to read widely, to open my eyes, to sharpen my nose for news, to be creative. I was so proud when he mentioned my dad as the one who taught him a lot of things in journalism, such as the art of casting headlines.
“To Mr. Adesina, everything is funny. Anything you say to him is funny. He doesn’t need to go to a comedy show to start laughing. Laughter comes to him naturally. For him, life is a joke. He takes life easy. Even if he has a problem, you will not know. In just two hours of interviewing him, I learnt so much. There is something magnetic about him. He is a natural magnet. He just keeps drawing people around him who all like him. You just end up liking him.
“He told me I need to sacrifice a lot. I need to be hardworking: ‘Don’t let your father’s image overshadow you. Go out there and carve your own niche. Create your own brand. Acquire as much knowledge as possible. Knowledge is a principal thing. Be humble.’
“I was with him for two hours and it was like ages. Within two hours, I learnt a lot. His story is a testimony. If you are humble, God will elevate you. That is what I have learnt from Mr. Adesina. When I was leaving, he gave me something generous which I will not like to mention. I wish him the best in his new assignment. I know he will not disappoint because he is a man who has paid his dues. Anytime you see me laughing, just know that I am borrowing from Uncle Femi, a man whose medicine is laughter. Laughter, they say, is the best medicine.”
Femi Adesina: The World Is His Laughter…Tribute To A Son By #RSWithMikeAwoyinfa – Entertainment Express
By MIKE AWOYINFA