It was a celebration of his commitment to and passion for journalism yesterday when a book, Voices from within: Essays on Nigerian Journalism in Honour of Sam Amuka, was launched to mark Amuka’s 80th birthday in Lagos.
There was also a lecture delivered by the CEO of Independent Newspaper Limited, Mr. Ted Iwere on the topic, Today’s Newsroom, Tomorrow’s Newspaper: How to survive and thrive in the internet age.
The double-barrel event attracted a long list of media professionals and dignitaries. They included Aremo Olusegun Osoba, Prince Tony Momoh, Aremo Taiwo Alimi, Chief Philip Asiodu, Chief Ayo Adebajo, Bisi Olatilo, Senator Bode Olajumoke, Lade Bonuola, Odia Ofemun, Fred Agbeyegbe, Chief Philip Asiodu, Dare Babarinsa, Debo Adesina, Lanre Arogundade, Mike Awoyinfa, Tunde Fagbenle, Dele Momodu, Chief Rita Lori-Ogbebor, Nosa Igiebor, Demola Osinubi, Frank Aigbogun, Louis Odion , Gbemiga Ogunleye, Mideno Bayagbo, Gbenga Adefaye, Mohammed Fawehinmi , Emeka Opara, Prince Henry Odukomaiya, Taiwo Ajayi-Lycet, Muyiwa Adetiba, Kunle Oyatomi, Joe Ajaero, Prince John Momoh, Oma Djebah, Fidelis Anosike, Sam Omatseye, Sam Nda-Isaiah, Gbenga Makanjuola , Albert Horsfall, a former member of the House of Representatives, Mrs. Abike Dabiri; and Publisher of The Source, Comfort Obi.
Different speakers that included colleagues and mentors took turn to talk about a man they had known for years and has practised journalism, rising from being a reporter to a publisher, giving all he could to ensure that journalism is given its right of place.
One constant point that ran through their comments was Uncle Amuka’s virtue of being humane as reflected in his exceptional love for humanity, especially in the way “he does his job, interacts and treats his colleagues and subordinates.”
Opening the floodgate of tributes was the Chairman of the book launch, Aremo Olusegun Osoba, who reminisced on their days at Daily Times and how they have moved from that point to being best of friends with Amuka influencing him to pick some of his habits and lifestyles.
He said that though Amuka was his senior with just four years, he is seen as a father figure in Osoba family. He rolled out the many firsts of the man who is eighty but still be called Uncle Sam by all his admirers. He also noted that it was Uncle Sam that breathed live into cartoon journalism making more people to appreciate cartoon.
Osoba described him as a reluctant celebrant because it took intense persuasion to get him agreed to stage the celebration to mark his eightieth birthday with a book.
Osoba noted that Amuka was not given to frivolities. According to him, he is not one of those people who lavish their time on partying.
He recalled that when the Vanguard publisher clocked 70, he (Osoba) wanted to organise a party in his honour, but he turned it down. The former Ogun State Governor was, however, happy that everyone had an opportunity to celebrate Amuka at 80.
Amuka, he said, deserved the honour bestowed on him through the book presentation. “Amuka’s columns were witty and thought-provoking. I still remember a particular edition of his column in The PUNCH. Its title was ‘Thank God’. So, I want to thank God for Amuka’s life.
Since her mother died at 109 last year, I know he will live to see 110 years,” he said. According to Osoba, people unfairly associate Amuka only with The PUNCH and Vanguard, denying him credit for several other initiatives he pioneered in the media industry. “The secrets of Amuka’s longevity are that he is a gentle man; he is not envious of others; while materials things do not mean anything to him. If you come to his house and say, ‘I like this artwork’, he will give it to you. All his art collections are with friends,” Osoba said.
The editor of the book, Mr. Lanre Idowu, thanked God for making the day possible and also for Uncle Sam for showing up because the celebrant had objected to the celebration because he felt that celebrating when many media organisations find it difficult paying salary is not appropriate.
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who presented the book, said Amuka’s virtues were worthy of emulation. According to him, younger journalists should draw inspiration from his wisdom and professional conducts. Saraki’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Mr. Gbenga Makanjuola represented him.
Tony Momoh, who also worked with Amuka at Daily Times, said he (the publisher) represented everything noble in journalism. Recalling their relationship during their early days in the sector, he said Amuka had contributed immensely to the growth of the profession. Momoh said, “Amuka has always been my boss.
When I joined the Daily Times, I was an assistant editor while he was the deputy editor. As the deputy editor, he used his position to contribute to the development of the profession.” To the Channels Television founder, Amuka is a mentor in several ways.
He said he had learnt a lot from his professional and personal lives. In his tribute, elder statesman, Chief Ayo Adebajo said Amuka upholds ethics with tenacity in his media practice. Adebanjo observed, “Amuka mirrored the society with his column without compromise. He impacted on the society positively because he was fair and honest.
Unlike many columnists we have today, who you can easily predict their positions, Amuka’s column was educative, honest and it did not pander to any interest.”
He recalled that the ‘birthday boy’ was among the media team that drove the success of the National Democratic Coalition, during the June 12 struggle. In his lecture, the Managing Director of Independent Newspapers Limited, Mr. Ted Iwere, said the Nigerian print media must reinvent itself to survive threats from social media. Iwere called on media managers to urgently restructure newsrooms and reporting in order to take advantage of the opportunities presented by technology.
According to him, the Internet is both a threat and a blessing to traditional media. He said media organisations that failed to embrace changing methods of handling news contents could be consumed by the onslaught from social media.
According to him, the role of a reporter has changed from traditional reporting to news analysis. Editors and reporters, he said, must retrain in digital methods and tools to remain relevant to modern new demands.
The old “print first digital second” should be reversed if traditional media must remain relevant, Iwere said. He argued that media organisations could not continue to treat their websites as alternative platforms. The question, he said, was whether traditional media could make sufficient money from online presence.
He said it was possible for media organisations to remain commercially viable if they separated “commodity news” from “premium news.” While online “commodity news” could remain free, he suggested, “premium” content should be monetised.
A chief from Warri and the representative of the Olu of Warri, Madam Rita Lori-Ogbebor, said though she was delighted about the many good things about the celebrant, she was not surprise because he is a true son of Itsekiri, reason the Olu of Warri sent her for the programme.
On his part, former Minister of Information, Prince Tony Momoh, stated that Uncle Sam has always been his boss listing a number of places they both served with the celebrant as his boss.
The Head of Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Dr. Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika, who reviewed the book, said there could not have been a better way to honour the media icon.
When the celebrant was invited to give a brief talk at the tail end of the programme, rather than give a talk, probably overwhelmed by the good and kind words dished out, he asked everybody to stand up and he prayed that everybody in the hall would be eighty and above. “May you have great tributes showered on you when you are still alive,” and he left the podium. The action drew wide applause and loud ovation that shook the hall to its base.
To view pictures from the event, visit http://theelitesnigeria.blogspot.com/