By Jamiu Folarin— On Wednesday 8th February 2023, after completing a ten-day intensive training ahead of a national assignment, I was about to leave for another engagement when I received a call from Dr Niran Malaolu, the CEO of Boot Communications (owners of the first private radio station in Ogun State, Rockcity 101.9 F.M). “Jamiu, how are you? How is your family? Please, I want to see you. Is that possible today?” This will be the second time Dr Malaolu will personally put a call through after my exit from Rock City FM as one of the pioneer staff over eight years ago. The first call was around 2017 but we could not reach an agreement. As I stepped into the Asero office of the station, I recalled with nostalgia my experience when I was a star reporter with the station. The ups and downs, the battles, the wins, the threat to life, the contributions to democratic rule, and disruption of the broadcast ecosystem in Ogun State.
As I sat face-to-face with Dr Malaolu to listen to why he summoned me, I recalled how I got employed as a rookie reporter some weeks to the completion of my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Gombe in 2008. During the service year, a friend, Ismail Babalola called to ask me to join the new radio station as a journalist. I had nursed the ambition for years, deliberately developing my skill and capacity to become a journalist. However, I declined because a year before the proposal, I changed my mind to become a journalist in favour of working in a tertiary institution as an academic staff. My decision was primarily influenced by my experience during the workshops organised by the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) in 2005 and 2006 at Peninsula Resorts in Ajah, Lagos State. One of the workshops which focused on journalism ethics witnessed attendance from media stakeholders in Nigeria. I was shocked while listening to the experience of journalists in attendance giving justification why a poor salary package, welfare package and other factors will practically make it impracticable for them to adhere to the ethical principles preached at the workshop. I then asked myself: “Is this the type of profession you want to join?”. I decided to have a rethink and in my mind I settled for a profession in academics but I was still passionate about journalism.
This was the reason I initially turned down the offer from my friend to try my luck by applying to be employed as a reporter at the new radio station in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital. When he persisted with the calls, I decided to embark on an 18-hour journey from Gombe to Abeokuta to attend a job interview at Rock City FM. I decided to attend the interview for two reasons. First, I had not visited my family for 10 months since I proceeded on the one-year mandatory service at Mallam Sidi Camp in Gombe. So, it was an opportunity to say hello and thank my parents for investing in my education. Secondly, I had never attended any job interview before. I considered my attendance as an opportunity to have the experience of a job interview to put me in an advantageous position in the future. I attended the job interview without the intention of taking up the job.
I presented myself for an interview at Rock City FM, and after about three questions, the Director of News and Current Affairs, Mr Tokunbo Oloruntola, stopped the interview when I showed him published news stories and articles with my bylines in national newspapers. He said: “If you could get published in national newspapers as a student, then you should be able to work with us.” He requested my certificates. While perusing them, he requested for my NYSC discharge certificate but I said I was still serving. He asked: “where?” I replied: “Gombe”. He said being a new radio station, they intend to employ a reporter who will be fully on ground. He promised to keep a space for me till the end of my service year. I was happy with the result. The result of the interview was the validation I was really looking for. Some days before my planned return to Gombe, I received a call from Mr Oloruntola asking me to come to the radio station. He informed me that the management has decided to offer me a temporary job and on probation until I finish my service. So, I was in a dilemma whether to accept the offer or not. Aside from the passion that continued to attract me to journalism, my favorite lecturers in the tertiary institutions I attended were those who had years of practical experience before joining the academics. I consider them as role models. This influenced me to have a change of mind to accept the job offer with a caveat that I must exit after ten years to become a lecturer.
In preparation for my academic career, I obtained a postgraduate form of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) to pursue a Masters programme in Mass Communication. After a rigorous screening exercise including a written test, I was offered admission. I intended to pursue the M.Sc programme together with my new job, but the demand of the job forced me to suspend the programme for six years. In 2014, I renewed my intention to pursue the postgraduate programme and with the approval of the management I commenced my postgraduate study. A year after, I had to resign from Rock City FM to have the opportunity for a “spiritual rebirth”. I also spent about a year as an Assistant Manager at Sweet 107.1 FM before finally getting a job at Crescent University, Abeokuta.
It is now seven years since I left Rock City FM. So, when I was in the boardroom of the station on Wednesday 8th February 2023, Dr Niran Malaolu said: “Jamiu, I want to give you an assignment. I want you to be part of our flagship radio programme, the Daybreak Show.” This assignment is coming at a time when I have a heap of assignments and responsibilities on my hands. I asked him to give me some time to think about it. Given my commitments to many courses, it is not a decision I will take so quickly. I had earlier informed him of my commitment as a researcher and lecturer in the university. Being a friend to Dr Kola Adesina, the Head of Department of Mass Communication of the university, Dr Malaolu put a call through the HOD to inform him of the assignment he wanted to give me. It was then that Dr Adesina said he offered me a job when I applied for a lecturing job at the university because of my first interaction with him when I covered the first convocation ceremony of the university as a reporter from Rock City FM. He recalled that I declined the “transportation fare” offered to me. He said that he suspected that I had the intention of writing a negative story from the event, that was why I declined. He reported that he was shocked when he listened to the news about the convocation on the radio station, noting that it positively reflected the event. That was why he did not hesitate to offer me the job when I applied. Dr Malaolu also rolled out many of the good work we had done together to make Rock City FM truly the voice of the people. With a sense of fulfillment, I narrated some of the ups and downs during the period and how the history of Ogun State will not be complete without mention of the radio station.
My sojourn at Rock City FM did not come without disagreements, complaints and grievances. It is inevitable in every organisation. There will always be right and wrong decisions with their consequences. Whether a decision is right or wrong is always relative depending on many factors. I hold dearly the principle and lessons from the maxim that everything happens for a purpose. Building the foundation of my career at Rock City FM really enhanced my academic career, the same way I added value and was proud to be part of the success story of the radio station.
On Wednesday, 15th February 2023, exactly a week after the offer to join the flagship programme of Rock City FM, I returned to the boardroom of the station to inform the CEO of my acceptance of the assignment on a part time basis. I will therefore be joining the station’s Daybreak Show team to dissect issues of national importance, set an agenda for positive change, provide a platform for citizens to be active participants in the governance of Nigeria, and be a catalyst for solutions to challenges bedeviling the nation.
MY STUDIO SIGNATURE: My name is Jamiu Folarin. I’m a journalist by calling, a lecturer by choice; investigation/research is the umbilical cord of cementing the relationship between the town and gown.
SIGN-OFF: Do not create a problem for every solution. Lets be part of the solutions to the challenges confronting our nation but not to be part of the problem. Do not consciously or unconsciously make yourself available as an instrument of propaganda. Verify all information that comes your way. With this mindset and action, we will get to the promised land and birth Nigeria of our dreams. Good morning Nigerians.
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