By Omoniyi Ibietan
Multimedia award-winning journalist, founder of Premium Times (and other entities in that group), the man who gave me my first ‘award’ in writing by simply stating: “Niyo! Please don’t stop writing”, a rarer enabler with an uncommon relational spirit, Oyedapo Oyekunle Olorunyomi is solidly 65 today.
In my essay in TESTIMONY TO COURAGE, an anthology published in his honour when he turned 60, I had described my relationship with him as a PHENOMENOLOGICAL ENCOUNTER. It is still so. He cannot tolerate authoritarianism. He bursts them with clinical dialectical precision. It was he who anchored the cover story: HAS IBB GIVEN UP? An incisive of the failure of that regime and its arbitrariness, which led to the proscription of National Concord Magazine which curated that history.
At his 60th Birthday celebration in Abuja, attended and chaired by Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON, Vice President of Nigeria, Sani Zorro, former President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) testified jocularly to Dapsy’s capacity to burst irritants and those without sense of justice: “whenever we thought everything was settled, Dapo will just burst everybody.” We all laughed.
The Vice President too ‘accused’ Dapsy, in an equally jocular manner that Dapsy got him into trouble a couple of times back in the days but he said to all of us that Dapsy remained one of his most cherished friends, whom he would never take for granted.
Dapsy is unashamedly radical, evidently sometimes iconoclastic. He just wants every one to feel great and happy and he has used the pen to seek happiness for the largest number of people he has encountered.
Dapsy was in the group of the most radical student leaders who met at University of Port Harcourt in the late 70s/early 80s, to proclaim the Choba Declaration. He and his comrades had rallied others to form the National (Interim) Organization of Nigerian Students (NIONS), as a frontal resistance and counterpoise to the proscription of Nigeria Union of Students. It was NIONS that was forerunner to National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). Dapsy as those close to him call him, handed to my generation NANS Constitution and its Charter of Demands for implementation. I don’t if we were as fantastic as them. We certainly made an attempt to keep the fire burning.
At various times he was a student at University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) where he took degrees of BA in English Studies and MA in Literature. He was also at Oxford and Washington Universities. Dapsy has been everywhere, doing all things good, humanistic, lifting, pro-progress and challenging unfreedoms.
Other than my early sojourn in social entrepreneurship and volunteerism, largely in the Niger Delta, Dapsy gave me my first job as Regional Media Researcher for Freedom House (Nigeria Project). I was in charge of Niger Delta region. From there I became an instructor at my alma mater, the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ) and while I was preparing to take my first salary, the appointment came to be Special Media Advisor to the Federal Minister of Information (later Information and Communication). He was one of the three persons whose advice I sought. “Take it, Niyo”! He commanded. Just as the Late Prof. Alfred Opubor, had commanded.
I am happy I did. It was the grace we leveraged to enlist Nigeria in the comity of nations with real community radio services, thus, we removed or at least covered part of the reproach and contempt upon Nigeria.
Indeed, Dapsy has brought Nigeria so much honour. In 1995, the World Press Review offered him the International Editor of the Year Award. The following year, the PEN Centre gave him Freedom to Write Award. Same year in 1996, the National Association of Black Journalists conferred on him, the Press Freedom Award in New York. And right here at home, the premium Diamond Award bestowed on him the Diamond Award for Media Excellence’s Lifetime Achievement. Just last year, he received the globally-reverred Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) International Press Freedom Award. Unarguably, Dapsy is contemporary Nigeria’s most celebrated journalist.
Happy birthday sir. Thank you for being a great enabler. I wish you many more years of joyous celebrations.
Dr. OMONIYI IBIETAN is a political communication scholar, media strategist as well as strategic communication and multistakeholder relationship management specialist.