By Busayo Onijala
Lagos – Prof. Innocent Okoye on Saturday urged the Federal Government to honour the pioneer Editor-In-Chief of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Prof. Femi Adefela, for his roles in the development of journalism.
Okoye, a Mass Communication scholar, made the appeal in a keynote address delivered at the public presentation and launch of a book “Mind on the Wing’’ held at the NAN Media Centre, Lagos.
The book was written by Adefela as part of activities marking his 80th birthday.
Adefela, a teacher of journalism with long-standing experience as a writer, was appointed pioneer Editor-In-Chief of NAN in 1976 and left in 1985.
According to Okoye, Adefela is being celebrated today not only because of his intellectual endowment and Spartan discipline but also because he was the fulcrum upon which NAN was built.
“Adefela set up NAN’s regional, states, districts and even rural editorial offices.
“Credit of setting up the first foreign bureaux of NAN also goes to Adefela. They were in London. Washington, New York, Moscow, New Delhi, Belgrade, Cairo, Abidjan and Harare.
“In deploying reporters to the foreign offices, Adefela was not only professional but detribalised. He also kept the spirit of the constitution and reflected federal character.
“Adefela accorded training of journalists a very high priority.
“Adefela accorded training of journalists very high priority. He sent correspondents on attachment to AP, Reuters, TASS and UPI.
“He also frequently invited journalism scholars from Baylor University, Waco, Texas and University of Lagos, to run workshops for NAN journalists,’’ Okoye said.
He added that Adefela spared no effort to ensure that NAN was the driver of journalism in Nigeria and indeed, the West Africa sub-region.
Okoye said that an award to recognise outstanding journalists was set up by Adefela just to motivate the staff.
“Winners of the awards received twenty naira which was a substantial amount in those days,’’ he said.
Okoye urged the agency to do something tangible to remember Adefela on a continuous basis in NAN and in Nigeria as a whole.
Chief Bisi Olasope, a former Chairman of NAN, who gave the opening remarks, described Adefela as a very humble and simple man who prioritised excellence.
“His simplicity is beyond what you can expect. Throughout my period with him in broadcasting, we never had a cause to quarrel.
“His humility is also beyond description. He has set a good example which we all should emulate,’’ Olasope said.
The book which was reviewed by Dr Bisi Olawunmi, consists of 92 pages.
Olawunmi described the book as a collection of poems reflecting the writer’s thoughts on a wide range of issues facing mankind.
According to Olawunmi, one can say the book is star-studded.
NAN reports that each poem in the book bears a message of its own.
However, a common thread runs through most of them, beginning with the birth of a star and ending with an encounter with the brightest light and the discovery of the shining way.
The poems seek to provoke further thinking and discussion on man’s ever- changing environment and his perception of some of the challenges currently facing humanity.
Chief Olu Falae, the National Chairman, Social Democratic Party (SDP), described Adefela as the nicest person he had ever known.
“He is patient, kind, generous, a noble-hearted and an extremely brilliant and analytical person, ‘’ Falae said.
He recalled that they were school mates at the Government College, Ibadan for their Higher School Certificate programme.
The Presenter of the book, Chief Jide Adebayo, described Adefela as a role model, a mentor and a disciplinarian.
“During his days as editor-in-chief, reporters must be sure of every bit of the story they filed and would not do anything to make NAN apologise.
“We cherish his capacity, his high sense of duty displayed as the pioneer editor-in-chief of NAN’’ Adebayo, a former Executive Director, Marketing in NAN said.
He advocated the institutionalisation of the lecture by both NAN and NAN Alumni to promote the ideals and philosophy of Adefela
The Managing Director of NAN, Mr Bayo Onanuga said he never met the celebrator, saying that the reputation of the celebrator in NAN was so good that many people talked about him.
Onanuga described Adefela as “a great hand and a grand master’’ in journalism.
“ I am here to pay homage to him. I will continue to ensure we keep the standard of the agency higher. The agency is 40 years and we will continue to give journalists a lot of training and retraining.
“ We shall continue to keep the flag flying. I wish you many years in good health and happiness,’’ Onanuga said.
In his response, Adefela said he had had a lot of wonderful experiences, noting that the most wonderful in recent times was the book launch.
“I have never dreamt of this type of situation. I want to say a big thank you to all of you and my former colleagues in NAN.
“I left NAN more than 30 years ago and after this, they said a lot of good things about me.
“I thank members of NAN through the Managing Director, Mr Bayo Onanuga.
“NAN is part of me and I am part of NAN. We thank the managing director of NAN for the good works he is doing.
“We pray that God Almighty will assist him to record more success during his tenure,’’ Adefela said.