FAJ at 60: Salute To Industry

Industrious? Yes, but also no! No, in a positive sense I should quickly say, for FAJ – Femi Akintunde Johnson – is actually an industry. It is tempting to describe him as an industrious industry. But, even at the level of compliment, FAJ would not tolerate such tautological overkill and I have been a good student of his to know that. More on this soon.

There is the known FAJ; and the unknown FAJ. The known FAJ is the entertainment writer and editor of FAME magazine’s fame. And of Encomimum magazine’s fame too, co-managed with KB – Kunle Bakare. Embedded in this known fact is the unknown one that FAJ and KB led Encomimum magazine to embrace journalism of social relevance espoused by the NUJ New Trend movement in the late 80’s up to the 90s. In 1995 and 1997 the Encomium Chapel members turned out in reasonable numbers to ensure that the ‘Change 95’ and ‘Leap 97’ platforms on which I twice ran for the chairmanship of Lagos NUJ, triumphed. FAJ and his team therefore were part of the strategies and actions that ensured that military dictatorship as it affected freedom of the press was resisted. Soft-sell is the genre in which their journalism is classified, but hard were the punches they teamed up with us to throw at the military dictators. Talk of the unsung heroes of democracy!.

If we add the period of campus activism to the Lagos NUJ days and the period after, it could be said that I have known FAJ fairly long enough. However it would turn out that I didn’t know him that enough. This latter part of knowing him started when he inspired the formation of the Network for Media Excellence as a WhatsApp platform to facilitate discourse on making journalism better. The informed exchanges on the platform were sufficient to convince me that FAJ deserved to be invited to the validation roundtable of the Nigeria Media Code of Election Coverage by the International Press Centre, IPC, in 2018. The unknown FAJ soon unravelled at the roundtable as he was the chief corrector of syntactic and semantic errors. We had no choice but to enlist him to clean up the final document. Seeing him in such grammatical bright light at the forum, it was to him I also turned for the final reading and correction of the manuscript of my book, ‘Media and Elections: The Professional Responsibilities of Journalists’.

When during the period of Covid-19 lockdown in 2019, FAJ informed me that he was running a Basic Skills Academy in English language, I did not hesitate to enroll as a student knowing there would be much in stock. Along with few other colleagues I went through the Basic, the Intermediate and the Advanced classes for a combined fees of not more than N30,000. In terms of the knowledge acquired as a speaker and writer of the English language from FAJ and the other coaches – Muyiwa Akintunde and Tokunbo Ojekunle, the courses are worth millions in value besides making the lockdown period a productive one for me. But that is another unknown FAJ for you – always contributing to excellence without making fuss about material benefits.

Later today, FAJ will be presenting four books to mark his 60th birthday including a work of poetry and a detention memoir. Now if this is not industry, then I will have to return to FAj’s class for the sole purpose of learning more about the definition of industry.

Here is saying happy 60th birthday to FAJ, undoubtedly a great man of productive industry.

Many happy returns.

Lanre Arogundade

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