A Journey Through Commentary In Nigerian Newspapers, By Olawoyin Olamide
Today, I must admit that the quality of commentary and column writing in Nigeria has declined. What we call commentaries now are beer-parlour gossips written in the most disgusting language – especially on social media. But even in the middle of this elevated mediocrity, there are analytical columnists worthy of commendation. May their source(s) of muse never run dry!
First, a confession: I am a sucker for the written word – beautifully crafted words. With the kind of acumen many students reserve for Mathematics and English Language, I devoured stuff written by Nigerian newspaper columnists all through my elementary school days, through my years at the College. Perhaps, I would have had better grades in secondary school if I had devoted a substantial part of my time (and my brain too!) to studying school texts rather than following newspaper columnists. The decision to study Mass Communication, and ultimately Journalism, has its root in this rather weird antecedent.
Now, I must say that if you are a columnist, I do not need to agree with you or your submission. My mind is an open field of ideas where zillions can dwell without chaos. Just give me an incisive analysis, brewed with beautiful, orgasm-inducing sentences and you already have me as a follower.
So, my romance with newspaper/news magazine columnists began in my elementary/secondary school days when I would stay glued to very old editions of Drum and Spear magazines, which were subscribed to by my newspaper-loving uncle, “egbon Dele”. Then old and contemporary editions of daily newspapers such as Daily Times, Sketch, Tribune, New Nigeria and Concord were also a delight to read as I became educated on the various ideologies of our political elites, in their attempt to convince – and ultimately confuse! – the Nigerian people.
In the Nigerian Tribune, I discovered Tai Solarin’s ‘State of the Nation’, ‘Ayekooto’ by Bisi Onabanjo, as well as ‘Periscope’. I also discovered ‘Wakabout’, a column in the Lagos Weekend, then the most popular weekend paper. There was Ndaeyo Uko’s column in the Daily Times which was a blend of humour, satire and beautiful prose; Doyin Osagie-Okojie’s Vanguard column titled ‘Lipstick’ as well as Doyin’s husband, Chris Okojie’s column on the back page of Vanguard newspaper, titled ‘Outraged’.
The late 80’s and early 90’s witnessed the boom of soft-sell magazines like Prime People, Vintage People, TopLife, Hearts, Heritage, Hints, Hentertainment, Sweetheart, among others. Writers of note in this genre are those who dealt with music, movies, entertainment, fashion and showbizz from a sensual, less-serious and fascinating perspective. There was Toni Kan and his risqué lines in Hints magazine. And there was Reuben Abati, too, in Hints. There were genuine articles from the likes of Helon Habila, Goke Jaiyesimi, Maria Adejare, Kemi Koleosho and Kayode Ajala.
The late May Ellen Ezekiel’s ‘MEE and You’ column in Classique magazine also thrilled me, and of course, Richard Mofe-Damijo’s ‘Adlib’ column. Entertainment and fashion magazines like Fame, Global Excellence, Treasure, City People and Climax also thrilled me and I grew to like the writings of Femi Akintunde Johnson (FAJ Live), Seye Kehinde, Bode Olowojoku, Mayor Akinpelu, Dele Momodu ‘Bob Dee’ (PENdulum), Steve Adikaibe, Ojo Oriolowo and Funke Egbemode.