The person who actually seduced me into journalism was Mr. Azuka Jebose Molokwu.
Back then, in Saturday PUNCH, his entertainment column was simply the bomb. Then, suddenly, he disappeared to the United States of America, leaving Mr. Femi Akintunde-Johnson, aka FAJ, to continue from where he stopped.
Not long after Mr. FAJ took over, he organised a music quiz competition which I was one of the lucky winners. I can never forget the day I went to collect my prize at their Onipetesi, Ikeja, Lagos office. He invited his then girlfriend, now wife, Madam Iretunde, to do the presentation.
But let’s fast forward. Years later, I also won yet another competition organized by FAME Weekly, and where Mr. FAJ had now become a director. On the day I went to collect my N10, 000 prize money as the maiden FAME Reader of the Month Winner, my career trajectory got altered forever.
My first love had always been Law, but after visiting FAME Weekly at their Eleruwa Street, Wemabod Estate, Ikeja, Lagos office that day, I had to dump Law for Mass Communication.
Anyway, let’s fast-forward again. After being away for two years, studying for my OND in Mass Communication, at OSISATECH Polytechnic, Enugu, it was to FAJ again that I returned when it was time for me to do my mandatory one-year industrial training. In fact, I still have a distinct recollection of how it all happened. I had first visited his office unannounced, but he was not on seat. There was, however, another good man who warmly received me and told me the best time to meet Mr. FAJ. His name is Mr. Starrys Obazei and I continue to be very, very grateful to him also.
On the said day, Mr. FAJ and I finally met. Looking as stern as ever, and very slim then, he listened with rapt attention as I briefed him on my mission. Thereafter, he asked me to resume immediately, thus igniting my whirlwind romance with journalism.
The first set of stories I wrote, even as an intern, made it to the cover of the magazine. Among them were “Ezeife Carries .5m Naira Cash In Car Boot” (to buy plots of land in Ajah), “10 Most Beautiful Houses in Lekki,” “NDLEA Raids Suspected Drug Baron’s Hotel, Alesh in Ajah,” and so on.
Shortly after, and impressed with my performance, Mr. Kunle Bakare, also one of the directors, offered me an automatic employment. It is, however, interesting to note that despite spending only 3 years-plus at FAME Weekly, I enjoyed rapid promotions. The streak continued even when we crossed over to Encomium Weekly, which I did not only eventually become the editor, but till date remain the longest serving editor (8 years).
One reason I will never stop talking about Mr. FAJ’s goodness to me is this – he could have turned me down and thus killed my dreams. But he never did. Rather he provided me wings to fly and also a huge canvas to paint my stories.
One great lesson he equally taught those of us who were reporters then, and which he constantly drummed into our ears, was that “all efforts must never prove abortive.” A reporter must therefore always get both the story and its authentication – no matter what.
A very fearless, fecund and brilliant mind, he always made his position on any issue known – and usually upfront too. As an editor, Mr. FAJ was difficult to please and unapologetic about that; but I sincerely owe a large chunk of whatever I have become today to him and Mr. Kunle Bakare.
Thanks so much for reading and see you again next Saturday.
– Azuh is a journalist, bestselling author and publisher of YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine