Mike Awoyinfa: A People’s Journalist at 70

By Lanre Arogundade

Through FF – Femi Falana – and before him the likes of Alao Aka-Bashorun, Gani Fawehinmi and Kanmi Ishola-Osobu, the ‘People’s Law’ sobriquet has been popularised.

But People’s journalist? No one has been so named to the best of my knowledge. Yet, I cannot think of any better way of acknowledging the humanism in Uncle Mike’s journalism than to rate him as a People’s Journalist as I felicitate him on his 70th birthday.

Be it in the choice of stories for his reporters to pursue, the kind of issues to address in his columns, the style of presentation and the audacity and fluidity of his headlines, the take away from his editorial odyssey is that the people matter, and should always matter. It is the same approach for the books he has authored, co-authored, edited and co-edited.

As Editor of Weekend Concord, quintessential gentle man Uncle Mike, was able to bring the best out of a corps of enterprising journalists who exuded the same enthusiasm for the human side of life, irrespective of who they were reporting: the man or woman on the street, the man or woman in the boardroom, the man or the woman in entertainment, etc.

There was no discrimination in his newsroom. Any reporter that gave him the news that conformed with his journalistic purpose would hit the front page. He also welcomed such stories from outside his immediate newsroom, and I’m happy I was a beneficiary though operating from the Features desk as Features Editor of National Concord under Editor Nsikak Essien. I recall his excitement on the two occasions I told him I had interviewed Fela Anikulapo Kuti. ‘Oh, you interviewed that man, what did he say, have you written the story, write it now”. And twice, my Fela story led the front page of Weekend Concord.

If Weekend Concord, at the peak of its journalistic glory hit a weekly circulation figure of over half a million – yes, over 500,000 copies, it was due to the pursuit of merit and excellence in journalism of and for the people.

Uncle Mike’s was therefore a journalism uprising that brought out the best – not the beast this time around as Fela sang – in his newsroom lieutenants – the Dimgba Igwes, the Dele Momodus, the Wale Shokunbis, the Femi Adesinas, the Aliu Muhammeds, the Eric Osagies, the Shola Oshunkeyes, the Dele Fashomis, etc.

The impact that these distinguished journalists have subsequently made in the larger media and journalism world can make us to conclude without any fear of contradiction that there is indeed a Mike Awoyinfa school of People’s journalism.

Thank you Uncle Mike for your indelible journalism pen-prints.

Happy birthday.

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