There was a rain of tributes yesterday for the publisher of Premium Times online newspaper, Mr. Dapo Olorunyomi.
The occasion was the launch of a book, titled: The Testimony to Courage, edited by Chido Onumah and Frederick Adetiba. The book has over 90 contributions from Olorunyomi’s teachers, colleagues, associates and mentees.
It is a book of essays conceived after Olorunyomi’s 60th birthday in November 2017.
Contributors to the volume include renowned academics, media executives, journalists, activists and politicians who offered insights into Olorunyomi’s patriotism, courage, brilliance and acts of generosity through different phases of his life.
Among the contributors are: former Lagos State governor Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu; former Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola; renowned academic and writer, Prof Biodun Jeyifo; retired lecturer and columnist, Prof Ropo Sekoni, Umaru Pate, Lai Oso and activist lawyer Femi Falana (SAN).
In his keynote address, Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi, described Olorunyomi as a builder of democratic and social change and destroyer of hegemony.
“Few intellectuals can claim to rival Dapo Olorunyomi in intellect and courage,” Fayemi said.
The governor hailed the Premium Times publisher for his “pivotal role” in transforming his role in the military era to present-day contemporary media.
Tracing Olorunyomi role in the establishment of Radio Freedom, an opposition radio station in the mid-1990s, Fayemi said: “Dapsy risked not only his freedom but his life to ensure that Nigeria became a democratic state.
“One thing that happened in Dapo’s time is that they threw away the caution and exhibited fearlessness.
“The media in the 1990s became democratic activists and was instrumental to the return to civilian rule in 1999.
The governor expressed concern about the role the media plays in the current democratic rule compared to its fierce reporting in the military era.
He said the media needs to help produce informed citizens.
“The quality of interviews in the media has sadly declined,” Fayemi said.
The governor urged the media to rise up to the occasion, saying it has “greater role” to play in the current era of fake news.
Mr. Sunday Dare, who represented Asiwaju Tinubu, said: “What will Dapsy’s life be without courage, which we are here to celebrate?”
Quoting Asiwaju Tinubu, he said Olorunyomi “reminds us of our past struggles as he blends nostalgia with the pains and of the struggle for better Nigeria. Through his works, we sent the military packing and entrenched democracy”.
He read out Asiwaju Tinubu’s essays and contribution in the book.
Dare, who described Olorunyomi as his mentee said: “I also benefitted from the illustrious life of Dapsy.”
Senator Chris Anyanwu, who hailed the initiators of the book for their courage in celebrating Olorunyomi while still alive, added that the Premium Times publisher deserved a national honour.
She praised him for investing in the future generation of investigative journalism.
Mrs Anyanwu described the book as “so engaging” and “so rich”.
“The time to wake up for young journalists is now. Dapo has done his part. It’s your turn now,” she said.
Olusegun Adekunle, who represented the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, said the book documented the life of a great man.
He noted that the principle of generosirty, humanity and courage set Olorunyomi apart.
Senator Babafemi Ojodu, who represented Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo said: “Dapo will ensure that everyone that’s is yet to be spoken to as subject in a story is spoken to before he publish.
“I didn’t even know he would live up to 60, because he lived so dangerously.”
Mr Chidi Odinkalu, a former Chairman of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), who reviewed the book, traced the roots of Olorunyomi.
He said: “Combining contributions from different authors, you can easily see a biographical sketch.”
He said Olorunyomi’s name was sent via telegram by his father.
“He did six primary schools in six years and has lived everywhere in the country.
“The remarkable thing highlighted by almost all the authors is that they linked Dapsy‘s outstanding humanity.”
Odinkalu lauded the brains behind the book as he gave a breakdown of how the essays were collected.
The former HNRC chief said the book, which has 93 essays, was collated to reflect three different phases of Olorunyomi’s life.
“The essays were collected from a journalistic point of view, political foray and from his mentees,” he said.
He said contributions came from Nigerian men, women, northerners and southerners, Muslims, Christians and traditional worshippers and a few atheists.
The professor also pointed out that the book reflected the true diversity of Nigeria as no part of the country was left behind in the contribution of essays.
He also lauded the design of the book.
Odinkalu highlighted the essays from various contributors, advising the audience to read the “405 pages Mr Odiahs’s essay” which he described as apt.
He said essays from other colleagues of the celebrant, like Musikulu Mojeed, should be included in the next edition of the book of essays.
Beyond pouring encomiums on Olorunyomi’s achievements over the years, Odinkalu described the book as a phenomenal contribution to Nigeria’s political history and civic activism.
He said testimony to courage should motivate Nigerians to celebrate people who have inestimable passion for humanity just as Mr Olorunyomi.
The celebrant described the remarks by various speakers as “hyperbolic”.
He said: “It is a great exaggeration about me all these things said here today. All I have done is really about the team I work with. I only contribute a little to the work.
“Truly, my teams are those that deserve to be celebrated.”
Olorunyomi thanked various contributors to the essays and the guests.
He also urged Nigerian parliamentarians to help in building a strong and accountable media.
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