I hope you are sitting down. This will take a while.
Today is not Taiwo Obe’s birthday, that would not come up on until Saturday, July 16th.
But the story I want to tell cannot wait. And I do not want it to disappear into the deluge that is bound to break the internet on Saturday.
I would probably do the needful on that day, but Saturday is an eternity away.
Taiwo Obe is a prophet. He is the one who has been chosen to save journalism in Nigeria, both from self-inflicted ailments and external viruses.
While some of us have known that the Nigerian press is on the verge of a major crises over ten years ago. It was Taiwo who decided to do something about it.
He did not whine, and he did not flinch. He recognised very early that majority of practising journalists and an army of aspiring ones, are not mentally-equipped for the journalism of the future. And that most of them, like the dinosaur, would whither, and become extinct.
The Igbara Oke -born, Ibadan – bred, Enugu -trained Commonwealth Professional Fellow decided that if Journalism is sick, then there must be a place to treat it.
And The Journalism Clinic was born.
First as a group on LinkedIn, where some of us took our worries about the profession to cyberspace. And like a seasoned conductor, Taiwo moderated proceedings and turned the page into a Masterclass in dissecting, and treating ailments identified by discussants.
So profound and intense were the discussions of one of the threads that a book was born!
(Future Tense: Travails of NEXT and Nigerian Newspapers in the digital age. And you can find this on Amazon.
Emboldened by the acceptance and with a zeal to save his beloved profession. Taiwo moved TJC from the blogosphere to Terra firma. Putting a face to the idea, putting a structure to the dream.
First by creating the Everything Journalism, a one- stop shop for training Journalists for the challenges of today, and the anticipated changes of the future. Second by bringing some of the best journalism teachers in the world, like Dan Mason, was a masterstroke in forcing journalists from their self imposed cocoon to face the reality of a changing world where the traditional journalist is a relic, as modern journalists require multi-media expertise and an healthy curiosity gap to remain relevant.
So, from Lagos to Ibadan to Enugu to Port Harcourt to Abuja and to Kaduna. This Fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors pound the newsrooms to spread his message of salvation, providing the tools for the survival of journalists caught in a vicious circle of modern slavery and a shrinking influence as the readers move on to more modern sources of information, as well as multiple platforms of telling real stories.
And with the power of institutionalised gatekeeping gone forever with the advent of Mobile Journalism. TO, through TJC, with roots firmly rooted at The Hub in Surulere, ably supported by some of the most progressive companies in Nigeria,( UBA, Airtel, NLNG), has continued to push back the wall of contented ignorance enveloping the profession, and providing an option of the blue or the red pill, one is an escape from ignorance, the other is the entrenchment of mediocrity.
I have a feeling that sooner than later, TJC would outgrow its humble beginnings. And when it does, we shall be there to urge on the man who dares to march where others, either out of ignorance, or an oversized ego, dread to walk.
Happy birthday in advance, my friend and Mentor.
Ikan Mo Fe, eji lo wole to mi
Ejire orosun Omo edunjobi.
Igba odun, odun kan.
My Ten Kobo.