Today is my birthday which I dedicated to a great mentor, Chief Akanni Aluko, the recently deceased Publisher of the defunct Third Eye Newspapers with whom I share the day.
Chief Aluko died two weeks ago and I attended his burial programme in Ibadan on Thursday, July 21, 2022.
I knew Chief Aluko by reputation long before I formally met him and worked for his newspapers 27 years ago. He was a famous society figure and the song Juju maestro , King Sunny Ade Waxed in his honour was the toast of my generation in our growing years.
Our paths crossed however, after late Gen. Sani Abacha government shut down the Guardian Newspapers where I was deputy editor of the Sunday title.
Although I got an offer to work at The Telegraph of London and actually travelled to London and interacted with the newspaper’s Foreign editor on the offer, I decided not to work abroad because of my then young family ..
Third Eye newspaper, then considered as a rag tag sheet devoted to laundering the Abacha regime, was headhunting for tested editors to repackage itself. Through Mr. Folu Olamiti ( now Sir Olamiti), my evergreen mentor who was then an executive director at the Nigerian tribune Newspaper, I accepted an offer to be the pionerr editor of the daily Third eye and joined a professional team in the rebranding and repackaging of Third eye to a professionally reputable daily publication.
I joined Third Eye with a crop of reputable senior journalists from The Guardian including Fred Ohwahwa who became the editor of the The Third Eye On Sunday, Taju Kareem, Taju Adigun, Bruce Malogo and other alumni of The flagship.
The repackaged Third Eye Newspapers roared to a beautiful take off and blossomed in no distant time to an editorially respected and commercially viable publication
The Publisher, Chief Aluko , allowed reasonable editorial independence and facilitated marketing opportunities for us. One such big catch was the Publisher’s close friend and then Minister of Works under Abacha, late Major Abdulkareem who approved substantial Ministry of Works adverts for Third Eye.
At Third Eye, Chief Aluko made my stay in Ibadan comfortable with an official car, a rented house in New Bodija, GRA and freedom to travel for business.
It was at The Third Eye that Chief Aluko and Sir Olamiti, introduced me and the then editor -n- chief ( later managing director) , Mr. Yinka Adelani to the International Press Institute (IPI). The Publisher and Mr. Olamiti were already members and they got me registered in 1995 and introduced me to the opportunities for attending IPI World Congresses.
When the Guardian was reopened, Fred and others returned to Rutam House. I remained but would later leave on amicable terms.
I parted ways with Third Eye but not with the amiable publisher who sustained our father-son relationship until his death.
The last time I saw him physically was when I honoured his invitation for a church programme in his native town, Ilesa, Osun State. I still cherish the photograph I took with him , Sir Olamiti and King Sunny Ade at the occasion.
Chief Aluko continuously monitored and commented on my professional progress and family matters. My mail box is full of his admonitions.
When I stopped receiving his routine messages on messenger mid last month, I should have known something was wrong. But I didn’t notice the stoppage. His sudden death was so devastating and saddening.
His memorable messages to me are so loving.
When I told him I was thrilled to share birthday date with him, his response was a gentle rebuke:
“Oloriewe, how a u ? U goofed on your July BD mates. Because of your Publisher’s low profile, U did not know u share d same date 23July with me Editoooooo!”
When he wanted me to get former Governor Abdulfattah Ahmed of Kwara State to support his church project in Ilesha, he had said:
” I am mobilising for d completion of Our Church am undertaking for God. Pls approach our Oga Gov Fatai on our behalf for help. We need N25m now for completion. Ur publisher has been out for over I6yrs , canvass for him to achieve God’s work Ask odas too . May Allah bless u.Thank you. I spoke to Sir Folu Olamiti about it he said you will handle it especially since almost 18years ì have been sick. Please handle it with him. Allah bless you. .Akanni Aluko”
When my son got married in 2016 he simply wrote to me:
“Baba+Mama Congrats. E ku ipalemo. Eku Orire”; to which I had responded instantly: * Oga, God bless u sir. My family can never forget your positive role in our life esp when my family was very young and was faced with challenges of life.”
But perhaps the most exciting message from him was when I was elected into the IPI Executive Board in Vienna, Austria, last September. He fired :
” Baba Raheem, congrats on your election to the Board of the IPI in Vienna The election has confirmed you as a very mobile international journalist of great repute
Allah bless and uphold you for carrying the Nigeriam flag very high Well done
Monatan Iwo Road Ibadan”.
I thanked him for the goowill nessage abd he fired another shot:
“We Thank God. Congrats we are proud of you God bless and keep you very safe always. More Blessings.
Again, I responded instantly:” I must thank you for my IPI journey whch started at Third Eye, Sir.”
I give glory to the Almighty God that I was able to attend Chief Aluko’s burial programme in Ibadan
My deep condolences to Mama Kofo, Chief Terry Alabi and the entire family of Chief Akanni Aluko.
Happy Birthday, Sir. May the Almighty God grant you eternal rest. Amen.
OLORIEWE RAHEEM ADEDOYIN