By Lekan Otufodunrin
May 1987. I sat down in front of him not knowing what he was going to tell me about my application for a job as a journalist at The Punch newspaper.
The week before, I was in the office, then in Mangoro, looking for a job on the recommendation of another editor who couldn’t hire me because he didn’t have a vacancy.
While waiting to see the editor of the newspaper, Alhaji Nojeem Jimoh, the former Prime Minister of the Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo passed away and I took the initiative to join the journalists at the Apapa residence of the late statesman, near our residence in Ajegunle, to write a story from the dignitaries’ condolence messages which impressed the editor and which were published. He asked me to join a senior correspondent responsible for covering condolence visits.
“We are offering you a job,” the deputy editor, Mr. Ademola Osinubi, informed me at the time. Before I could finish my thank you response, he shocked me with the extra details.
“You will be reporting from Abeokuta as Ogun State Correspondent,” he said as he waited for my expected reply that I would prefer to be in Lagos, with an answer.
“Don’t worry. You can cope. We’ve seen your reports and the editor has approved that you should resume at Abeokuta.
“You will have an office of your own. There is a telephone and a radio to send your story to Lagos. We recalled the state editor. You are from Ogun State. Do not worry. Congratulations,” he continued, leaving me with no option to decline the offer.
Long story short, this is how The Punch’s longest-serving Managing Director/Editor, Mr. Osinubi, whose term ends April 30, 2022, ‘coaxed’ me into starting my 14-year journey at The Punch.
I join many others in congratulating him on his 45 years of meritorious service to The Punch in various capacities, beginning with that of journalist.
I have many fond memories of my interactions with MD as we called him before I left in 1999.
When I was tired of being a state correspondent, he was the one who called me to ask if I wanted to go back to Lagos, although I had no discussion with him. From the political office assigned to me, I gradually evolved to become the Group’s editor-in-chief.
When I was suddenly removed from my role as group editor and risked not getting the financial support promised earlier by the company for a three-month training in the UK, it was rest assured that I will get it before it is too late to miss the opportunity.
What I learned in Cardiff has allowed me to continue my career until now.
After leaving The Punch due to circumstances beyond his control, Mr. Osinubi took an interest in my projects and once officially approved a generous amount to support a motivational newsletter for journalists that I once published. (I promise to resume posting soon online)
Incidentally, the lead story of the issue he called me for was “Before You Quit Journalism”, which he said reminded him that he had made a major mistake in his career development by accepting a job offer at the Corporate Bank.
In many ways he was nice to me while I was at The Punch and I’m not surprised that at some point I was considered one of the “Osinubi boys”.
He seems very gentle, but can be very firm when he wants to and I am aware that other colleagues have reason to believe that he was responsible for some unpleasant experiences they had at The Punch.
Like any mortal he had his faults, but what no one can deny is that his contributions to the making of The Punch, which I joined at a time when wages were due, to become the number 1 newspaper Nigeria’s undisputed are invaluable.
He will be remembered for his loyalty, dedication, commitment, steadfastness, sacrifice and more whenever The Punch’s story is written.