A Reporter And His Beat – Review

Book Review Literary World Media Media World

By Shola Oshunkeye

A Reporter And His Beat is unique in its simplicity and elegance.

It contains 40 chapters wrapped in 258 pages and spread over seven parts. From the first part to the last, Fabowale displays the infinitive ability of an alchemist and an illustrious mastery of the English language to deliver a compelling rendition of his Journalism…

He uses powerful descriptive imagery and skillfully synthesised the contents of the book in a manner that entices the reader and showcases the book’s timeless significance in a concise yet expressive manner.

A Reporter And His Beat is enthralling in both content and aesthetics. It is authoritative and factual. It is convincing and credible. It lures the reader as it did me, and locked the reader down till he reads the last word of this beautiful memoir.

In the early pages, Fabowale recounts with nostalgia the major developments that define his art and career as a writer, broadcaster, entertainer and occasional academic because he hops in and out of the academia.

And my suspicion is that at the end of your (author) world round as Chief Ebenezer Babatope used to tell us…may be with times you will go into one of the universities. It’s my suspicion and I don’t think it would disturb your writing enterprise.

In the early pages, Fabowale recounts with nostalgia the major developments that define his craft and career as a writer, broadcaster, entertainer and occasional academic in his captivating journalistic journey.

This journey spans over 36 years altogether and still counting. The journey as he reveals in part one started in 1987 when the then military governor of Lagos State Mike Akhigbe rewarded him and 23 other youth corps members with automatic employment for winning the National Youth Service Corps merit awards for the 1986/87 service year.

The moral I try to bring out from here is that of commitment and hard work which pays tremendously. And actually it has paid up for him and I congratulate you my brother.

Fabowale was employed as an information officer with the Lagos State Ministry of Information and Culture. Despite being a purely civil service outfit, the job offered a near perfect ambience for the young journalist to horn his writing skill.

It also exposed him to other critical aspects of Journalism and the newspapering business like proof reading, column writing, feature writing, arts and literary review. In addition to the God factor which he profusely underscores in the book, other success factors that crystallized from the author’s early encounters as captured in the early parts of the book are integrity, thirst for requisite knowledge, constant reading, ability to man the library because research is the oxygen of effective reporting.

You have to have information because before you can do a copy that tells the story in an effective manner. He underscores that. He also underscores adequate preparation for opportunities because if opportunity comes and you are not prepared, it will all flop and end in a failure; and still the resolve to succeed against all odds.

For instance it wasn’t long before the bosses of our author recognised and rewarded his talent and contribution, while one of the bosses became so enamoured with the budding writer that she encouraged him while in the employ of the Lagos State Government to be stringing for a publication in the stable of Daily Times.

Another one struggled very hard to have Fabowale in his department. He was then editing Lagos State Today. While that struggle was going on, Lagos Horizon was born and Fabowale was one of the five journalists that were selected based on excellence to go and midwife the new paper.

The author felt like a rock star at Lagos Horizon. But because of the adulation, the praises by his bosses who kept nudging him that this place might be too small for you, he succumbed to the call and pressure that The Guardian was the place to be. So he obeyed his heart, followed his heart and went to The Guardian.

The Guardian unlike Lagos Horizon was a different ball game. Like any young reporter, my brother went to The Guardian and he was intimidated by the array of superstars that he met there. I mean you are talking of walking into a Newsroom and you are seeing the likes of my oga Chief Babarinsa, oga Gbenga Adefaye; you are seeing Stanley Macebuh, Ambassador Fafowora, Prof Olatunji Dare, Prof Osofisan and others.

But he felt encouraged that to be treading this same path that these giants and icons tread, it means God has something for me here. So with determination, he made up his mind that The Guardian, Rutam House was the place to be.

And this was a time when you have the legendary Lade Bonuola uncle Ladbone as the Managing Director and our irrepressible Uncle Femi Kusa as the Editor. This was The Guardian that bred superstars like Eziuche Ubani, Osita Chidoka, Othman Shodipe, Harriet Lawrence and many more stars and columnists who no sane president can dare ignore. I am talking of people like Onwuka Jemie and so on.

However my brother surmounted this and made his mark. But how can a budding star walk in the hallowed space of The Guardian in those days without encountering and passing the tyranny of editors who in their perpetual race against time to produce clean copies now ask reporters and afflict them with the fear of deadlines.

How do you deal with editors who in the words of Fabowale “loved to make you bake a pie you could never hope to finish eating and keep you on the millstone until your knees buckle and bled.

But in subsequent chapters, the author revealed how he scaled the hurdles, regained his confidence and began his unassailable flight to the zenith of his career, the career he loves so much and that has brought him fame and honour globally. The trajectory saw him traverse Nigeria’s landscape with super confidence of a colossus wherever he berthed whether at The Comet which later transformed to The Nation.

He as also at TELL and that is why our oga patapata at the top, Chief Dare Babarinsa is here today. I was at TELL too. We all learnt under his (Babarinsa) tutelage; or The Sun or FM 90.1 Ibadan captured in chapter 31 where he anchors the station’s flagship show.

Fabowale has been unstoppable. He has acquitted himself as a well rounded journalist, a veteran very much at home with the digital revolution in modern Journalism. Readers would do well to read chapter 32 where the author dwells on digital Journalism and the amazing performance of veterans.

I don’t want to call you a veteran because you are still very much active. I also don’t like people calling me a veteran because I believe reporting is the oxygen that sustains us as Chief Babarinsa would say we are getting younger on the beat.

The author does not restrict himself to telling his story. He does so in color and with elan. He takes the reader through a pictorial excursion into his activities on the field where he met and interviewed many important Nigerians, movers of events in our country, relieving memorable moments with colleagues in media houses where he worked especially The Sun.

I enjoy the pictorial reportage. The only problem I see here is that some of the pictures were not clear enough. The colours were not clearly separated and well defined. In subsequent prints you can improve on that. Otherwise the journey so far has been excellent.

Writing with panache, Fabowale devotes copious space, actually six chapters from chapter … to 13 for Ibadan, a city that J.P. Clark described as a city of running … of dusts and gold… scattered among seven hills like broken china in the sun. The reason for such generosity and devotion by the author is understandable.

Having been acquainted with the author for some years, I can vouch for his integrity, commitment to the Lord. I can say with all boldness that he is a Christian and that is why here I use the example of Goshen. I likened Ibadan city to Goshen, a city of fertility and prosperity where dream becomes reality. So I call it your own Goshen or Canaanland where your career came to full bloom through divine connections, professional satisfaction, main stories that you did that define you as a great journalist in our country.

Professionally it was in Ibadan that Fabowale met, interacted and had trustworthy relationship with many makers of history in our country. We have some of them here today – Dr Fayemi, Chief Babarinsa, and a whole lot of others here who have contributed to the development of our country. The list is inexhaustible.

After taking the readers to the sky in his top Journalism, devoid of any turbulence, Oyeyinka Oludayisi Fabowale lands his jet smoothly to the roaring applause of readers with the recap of his coverage of the 2014 Ekiti election. This is captured in chapter 10 of part 7.

Though registered and recognised by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, his mission to Ekiti almost ended tragically with the gestapo style invasion of their hotel in Ado Ekiti the state capital by hooded, overzealous security operatives especially the DSS who arrested them and almost made them to miss covering the votes.

In the estimation of the hooded goons, Fabowale whose only weapon is smart phone, pen and jotter was taken as some political agent or thug and was made to sit on the bare floor for hours while the elections were going on. The recap may scare away rookie reporters but they need not fret, he assures us. Rather they should sink their teeth into the profession and try like Yinka Fabowale did to establish and make a great impression on the sands of time.
They need not to fret, rather they should suck in every detail granted by Fabowale … in the election coverage 101 model has underscored the hell journalists go through in a country where most politicians don’t lose elections because losers will always believe that they were rigged out and the winners will always want a landslide.

The author is saying that the rookie or young reporters should read this book and imbibe those… that gave him the courage to do all that he has done in all his assignments, most of them very dangerous assignments, especially those coverings that he did during the terrible years of Abacha, where journalists became like common criminals and we were chased everywhere like rats.

So A Reporter And His Beat provides a veritable tool not only for political reporters but also for persons in communication business who have chosen reporting as their …

There is another chapter on Ekiti titled ‘Ekiti: Cutting the nose to spite the face’. the author in chapter 17 went into the travails of the former Governor Dr John Kayode Fayemi who is with us this morning.

After being robbed of his victory at the polls, the Court of Appeal sitting in Ilorin, Kwara State in 2010 restored his mandate. And in the four years that Governor Fayemi was at the helm, he gave a textbook definition of what good and responsible governance should be. And I think he deserves a round of applause.

Unfortunately the author notes that the four years that the good people of Ekiti enjoyed under Dr Fayemi which remains unparalleled in history was given a sorry bent when in another election by cruel irony, the opposing Peoples Democratic Party introduced a faulty concept into Nigerian politics, stomach infrastructure. And they refer Dr Fayemi as acada governor who does not give sisi like somebody I know.

I know that my in law is not an acada governor who does not give sisi. He is generous in his heart in the service of Ekiti. Fayose successfully used stomach infrastructure to hoodwink voters. Eventually Dr Fayemi a good leader had to have his second term postponed or delayed.

By the way, for those of us who may not know, stomach infrastructure is euphemism for votes buying and other electoral frauds. After enduring the four years of PDP, the good people of Ekiti however got wiser and voted Fayemi back and his great deeds endure even till now.

The reader will enjoy this brilliant account from page 104. the author did not restrict himself to his odyssey in Journalism. He also went on a spiritual excursion emphasising clearly the God factor in everything that he did, which is why he said he had to follow his heart when he was at a crossroads as to whether he should continue with Lagos Horizon or go to The Guardian. At the end of the day when he decided to go to The Guardian, it was based on his unshakeable faith in God that whatever land his feet touched will be blessed for him and he would prosper and he actually prospered.

There is also Ibadan where he was led to do great stories that define his essential Journalism where he was also led to important people in our country that helped him to get all those great interviews. This is not also mentioning his prowess in literary activities which he exhibited in the literary review of many newspapers especially The Guardian and The Sun. He also did some in TELL.

TELL is a great institution. It is painful that it had to go the way it went. But I still believe it is alive. That is one great institution that should not have experienced any hiccup. Like I recalled somewhere last week, in Abuja where some people were so funny about the state of Nigerian Journalism and the contribution of the Nigerian journalists and the trend became disturbing.

You can imagine fellow journalists going to functions saying that we are lazy, this and that. And I stood up and said in reply to one guy who said that a reporter in TELL walked up to the editor and had the temerity to query the editor why he chose a particular headline. I laughed first and got angry. I said the TELL that I worked in nobody, not even directors, owners of the company would impose headline. It’s a collegiate system…

I said it’s a bloody lie that a reporter in TELL would walk up to the editor and say the headline you cast is wrong and the editor would tell the reporter that we had to cast the headline that way because you know TELL also needed money… What rubbish is that.

lt behoves on all of us to dispel such information immediately anytime it arises and give what is correct because of the danger that people might walk away with wrong impressions.

There is another chapter on Philosophy talking about the values of man and all that.

I will conclude that the riveting memoir by my brother Yinka Fabowale not only comes highly recommended to Mass Communication or Journalism students. It should also be a golden compendium for communication scholars and experts, policy makers, journalistic professionals, associations, media owners, media houses, marketing communications practitioners and concerns even politicians who desperately hide what journalists seek to expose even those who seek to harm us, even security operatives who like playing cat and mouse with journalists.

Above all, I strongly recommend A Reporter And His Beat to all who seek knowledge, and I dare say that no library is complete without a copy or copies of A Reporter And His Beat.

So I advise that journalists in the house should get knowledge. Buy a copy or copies of A Reporter And His Beat and read.

When a journalist dies without writing a book, a library is gone.

* Oshunkeye is a serial international award winning journalist and a former CNN Reporter of the Year.

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