ABIOLA WILL RISE AGAIN!
Every journalist who has been in the editor's chair remembers the unforgettable day when your time comes and you are told you are the editor—a newspaper editor!
It's a thrilling moment. A defining moment. A moment of eureka that continues to bring you smiles for the rest of your life, each time you remember it.
The wonderful, erudite woman who gave me the opportunity to realise my full potentials as a newspaperman is Dr. Doyin Abiola, wife of the great Nigerian martyr and President-elect MKO Abiola. She was my managing director and editor-in-chief at the Concord Group of Newspapers.
I remember that day in 1989 when she called me into her office to break the news. She had been toying with a newspaper, a fresh paper, a paper that would blaze a trail in the Nigerian newspaper market every Saturday. She had pondered over the paper and had come to the conclusion that I fitted into her profile of who should give birth to the paper.
In a world that resists change, my senior colleagues in the top management of the paper tried to talk her out of it, on the grounds that such a paper might not sell. Some even suggested to her that I was not yet matured enough to be an editor. But a well-grounded woman, Doyin stood her ground, rebuffing them, saying: 'Don't mind them, oja re. Can you please give me a dummy, Mike?'
To the uninitiated, she was asking for a prototype of what the unborn paper would look like. And like a pregnant woman, it was my task to carry the baby and give her an idea of what the paper inside me looks like. My job as the Features Editor of National Concord had prepared me for editorship. There is no better training ground for editorship than a Features Editor. It is a position of leadership, where you are thrust into the management of journalists, leading them, showing them the way, teaching them, inspiring them, mentoring them, creating ideas, assigning stories, executing the editorial duties and getting a feedback. For me, the features section was a paper within a paper, which I tried to enliven. I tried to turn it into the soul of the paper and created a compelling reason for readers to look for the paper. Every day, there was a feature story to look up to. I aimed for stories strong enough to lead the paper but confined to the features section. That was the trick. That was what drew attention to me. In whatever position you find yourself, do your best, aim for excellence. As Martin Luther King Jr. puts it, 'If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed.'
I was not Michelangelo. I was simply Michael Awoyinfa doing his best and enjoying what he was doing. My little effort was recognised and appreciated by my readers and my boss who uplifted me by the grace of God. Because I believe, promotions come from above, from God. Now, this column is starting to read like a memoir. My memoir.
Luckily for me, my twin brother, Dimgba Igwe and I had just written our first book, The Art of Features Writing—a 'how-to' book of feature writing whose forward was written by Dr. Doyin Abiola herself, a newspaperwoman who was once the Features Editor of Daily Times in its glorious days. The funding for the publishing of our book, The Art of Features Writing was made possible via the MKO Abiola's legendary generosity. He gave us a cheque of N83, 000, which was more than the gross annual salaries of the two of us as editor and deputy editor of Weekend Concord combined! Indeed, a lot of money in those glorious days of innocence.
From day one, Weekend Concord soared into the skies as a runaway success story. Right there at Weekend Concord, my boss had been nudging me to write the story of this paper that broke all the rules, that made the difference in my life and the lives of those who loved the paper. I owe Dr. Doyin Abiola two books: the book on Weekend Concord and a book on Chief MKO Abiola, the man whom history would not allow us to forget. The man who should have been 73 this week, but the enemies of Nigeria did not allow him to live long. At 73, Abiola, a tall man, should be standing tall with the tallest men of today's world: super statesmen like the inimitable Nelson Mandela whose ascent to power in South Africa inspired Abiola to insist on his mandate. But like John's Brown Body, he 'lies a-mouldering in the grave' and his soul is marching on.
My beloved brethren of Mike Awoyinfa's Saturday Church, my sermon today is the sermon of the only child. The subject of the only child is as ancient as the Bible when God sent His only begotten Son to come and save the world. But what did they do to God's only Son? He was mocked, ridiculed and killed on the cross of our collective shame.
The only child has been the subject of psychological research. For over a century, a psychologist by name Granville Stanley Hall was the authority on the only child. He made the whole world to believe that 'being an only child is a disease.' And that the only child is spoilt, brash, selfish, rude, misfit and over-pampered. Yes, I can understand the over-pampering but not the other attributes. Thank God, recent researches have debunked all these claims and the only child has come out clean as a normal, intelligent child, just like any other. The Clintons have an only child, Chelsea, who recently got married. The daughters of two cerebral couples like the Clintons and the Abiolas must definitely be brainy. Beloved, if you are marrying, marry a woman who has brains! Don't marry a nitwit. Otherwise your only child could be a nitwit! May God forbid!
So important is the issue of the only child that TIME magazine featured it recently as a cover story. That is the kind of journalism I resonate with. Right from my Weekend Concord days, I have been a reporter and a student of life, studying human beings and telling through the human angle's lens the story of Nigeria —the way we live and the way die. Every Saturday, we resurrected dead stories and breathed new life into them. For us at Weekend Concord, 'it's never over until is over.' Indeed, to us then, the news is never over until we have reported it in Weekend Concord, giving it our unique slant. My saddest story in Weekend Concord was carrying on cover the tragic death of my close friend, MEE Mofe Damijo, with a banner, OH MEE! I love you wherever you are today! And thanks for the Volkswagen Beetle you left for me on your way to America in pursuit of the Golden Fleece! Thank you for being one of my star columnists at Weekend Concord before you started your Classique magazine, where I loaned you the new Bashorun, Dele Momodu.
At Weekend Concord, Dr. Doyin Abiola and her only daughter, Doyin were our No. 1 fans. I remember the little girl of yesterday, how she came to our office one day to tell us that Weekend Concord is one paper that makes her mother happy all the time. It's so sad that the paper is no longer on the street. If only we can bring back the hands of time.
But then, don't let us distract from the sermon of today, which is about the only child. The news in town is that the only child of Chief MKO Abiola and Dr. Doyin Abiola is about to get married. To God be the glory. We thank God for playing the role of a Father to the fatherless girl. We thank God for watching over her all these years without her father. Brethren, let the wedding bells ring from South to North, from East to West. Let Nigerians come out in all colours to celebrate the wedding of MKO's beloved daughter. He was a great man and a good man. He joined others to celebrate their own weddings. So, we should celebrate with the Abiola family.
One look at Doyin is all it takes to see this is Abiola's daughter indeed. Abiola's daughters have a way of looking alike, irrespective of their different mothers. The man's blood is just too strong. Doyin is a chip off her father's block. Like her father, she is smart, very numerate, generous and outgoing. She read economics and has a master's degree. She is young, gifted and black. She wants to be the governor of the Central Bank.
It shall be so, in Jesus' name. She will be greater than her father. Her mother, my boss, will live to see her grandchildren and great grandchildren. It shall be well with mother and daughter. It shall be well with all other Abiola's children.
My prayer is that all the children would come together as one. May they not bring down their father's name. May they be the ones that would revive their father's businesses.
Deep in my mind, I believe that Abiola will rise again. Yes, he will. Concord will rise again. Nigerians will once again eat Wonderloaf rich with milk and honey. Abiola wanted Nigerians to read, hence he established Abiola Bookshop. I say, these dry bones would rise again. Abiola wanted to banish hunger and poverty from Nigeria. I say, God will answer Abiola's prayers. May Abiola continue to live in our hearts. May his compassion inspire us to give to the poor and the needy, who are in the majority in this great country. May God forgive those who cheated Abiola out of his electoral victory. May God bless Nigeria.