Journalists should write; those who have done so should write more. These were loud admonitions at the launch of Azuh Arinze’s two commendable books – Success Is Not Served A La Carte and Encounters: Lessons From My Journalism Career – last Sunday.
Bunmi Aborisade, a good friend and colleague is one of the Nigerian journalists who have compelling stories to tell, and I’m glad that he has chosen to document his journalism and political experiences by way of ‘Pains of Exile’, the book that is being presented on this occasion of his 60th birthday.
Bunmi might have gone through painful experiences, including quite unfortunately, the assassination of his mother, Mrs. Emily Omope Aborisade – aka mama Thatcher – while he was on exile in the United States. Bunmi’s mother was a radical, principled and influential grassroots political leader whose killing remains a mystery, but should not, in a country where lives are valued. May her soul continue to rest in deserved peace.
But, my dear Bunmi, what would have been more painful for us, is if the killer squad of the Sani Abacha regime had succeeded in their mission to exterminate you in the aftermath of the events that followed your brave decision to take your journalism to a different political level by publishing and editing the June 12 Magazine as a fighting tabloid for the validation of the results of the June 12, 1993 elections and the swearing-in of Bashorun MKO Abiola as the winner.
You did this, not because you were acting on behalf of politicians as the Abacha junta believed, but because you chose to pitch your journalistic tent in the camp of fighters and advocates for the termination of military rule, for which June 12 was to serve as an important stepping stone.
For you, the Bunmi I know, such display of courage was not surprising. After all, one of the enduring impressions of you I continue to have of our early days at the Ekiti Parapo College, Ido-Ekiti, was how you would chase a snake while others scamper for safety, grab it, stretch it and smash it to the ground. I have seen a number of expert snake killers, but you remain the only one I had ever seen perform such feat.
If we should reverse the logic, you were the snake that threatened Abacha and he chose to chase, grab and smash you. And I knew how close the junta was to succeeding. Abacha’s agents grabbed you, threw you into Colonel Frank Omenka’s lions’ den called DMI in Apapa, Lagos and made you to spend time in the dreaded underground cell where you met many other Nigerians who were being wasted away. When they made up their mind to release you on ‘bail’, they asked you to produce a surety who would replace you, should you violate the terms. I was your nominee and I gladly accepted for three reasons – you were a friend fighting a just cause, you were a journalist standing for press freedom and it was my
obligation as the then chairman of the Lagos State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists. I made my way to DMI, Apapa and signed all the documents. It was a waste of time reading the contents which obviously were meant to be my own pre-detention papers.
Part of the condition was that you would not make public your experience or disclose what you saw. But as soon as you came out you decided that you owe those suffering Nigerians you had seen in chains the obligation to tell the world about them and of course you were not going to be silent on your harrowing experience. Your accomplice in chief in this regard was the equally radical, principled and indeed revolutionary Wale Adeoye who interviewed you and got your stories published by The Guardian. Once that happened you became a ‘wanted dead or alive’ activist. I do recall that I also had to ‘house’ you in the same NUJ premises and offered needed resource support on the eve of your dawn departure for the first leg of your exile in Ghana leaving behind a pregnant wife, who we rallied to take care of with Lanre Akinfemiwa, our friend and colleague at the Vanguard newspapers serving as the coordinator in chief. The rest as they say is history, but one which we will now gladly read in your book.
The summary is that even though you are tabling before us your ‘Pains of Exile’, we are happy that you are alive to celebrate the pains. I’m also happy to preside over this memorable event as the chairman since I could easily have become the alternate ‘wanted dead or alive’ on the account of the documents I signed at DMI.
However, if you had sought my opinion on the title for the book, I would have suggested that ggested ‘Victories of Exile’ because in the final analysis, yours is the songs of victory – victory of being a catalyst of the mass movement that eventually defeated the military and victory exemplified by the fact that you left Nigeria simply as Mr. Bunmi Aborisade and today we are celebrating you as Dr. Bunmi Aborisade. Isn’t it good that you surmounted all obstacles to attain academic excellence in Mass Communication in the United States?
Thank you Bunmi for your journalistic courage. Thank you for being a true hero of our democracy. Congratulations
I welcome you all to this occasion.
Being the speech I just read as the Chairman of the virtual 60th birthday celebration of Dr. Bunmi Aborisade and the presentation of his book: ‘Pains of Exile’ today Sunday August 30, 2020