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As a young Mafoluku, Oshodi, freelance Disc Jockey in the early 1980s, I always dreamt of being a prose writer, like Sonala Olumhense. SO as he is profoundly hailed, was an engaging storyteller with his Punch column essays and reports: Did you remember the sad human interest story of a young Lagos girl named Betty, whose legs were amputated because of a serious auto wreck on the then Carter Bridge, in Lagos? Did you ever read his THESE TIMES COLUMNS in the Punch and later at The Guardian newspaper. Those essays and how he brought stories to life with his writings, influenced my desire to become a prose writer and reporter.
“These times”, I am an unashamed protégée of S.O: Nigeria’s most celebrated syndicated Journalist and writer.
My early days of transformation from a hustler and follower of Nigeria’s iconic Disc Jockey, Stagger Lee, a Mafoluku resident and widely beloved party starter and entertainer, began after I joined The Punch newspaper as a bohemian Health reporter, fresh from Times Institute Of Journalism. Sonala was also a Mafoluku resident. My rise from Health Reporter to City Reporter and Entertainment Freelance journalist was rapid. A few years after I joined the Punch, Alhaji Najeem Jimoh, the acting Editor “ordered me” to return to the Punch and became the Entertainment Editor.
Sonala’s Flat at Mafoluku, became a temple of weekend newspapers critiques. The sessions which began Saturday mornings at ten always featured the best writers and reporters musing in his living room. Sly Olumese, SO’s younger brother, my daring partner in creative writing arguments, gathered Saturday’s papers; we would analyze, criticize, munch, brunch, lunch and empty SO’s kitchen and refrigerator, still arguing about contents, presentations and Nigeria…. Sonala’s home became “camp creative writing”, a morning muse, an elixir to our weekend rendezvous, where young writers unleashed everything life from their minds.
I am, to these moments, blessed to be a part of that brood of writers. The days of our lives continued when I became the Entertainment Editor of The Punch. S.O later left the Guardian to nurture a new magazine: THIS WEEK MAGAZINE. The magazine birthed another Life magazine, rich in pop culture, entertainment and other breezy contents. It was named MIDWEEK. SO, assembled the cream of rascally young entertainment writers to bring the product circle to life. He sent his best man, Tunji Lardner Jnr.to recruit me at the Punch. Tunji came to the Punch, asked that I walked downstairs with him. He stood in front of the building and told me that Sonala asked I moved over to Midweek. Which 23-year person old would refuse an opportunity to be a part of an exciting challenge? I didn’t regret that move. I signed onto the caravan of creative writers at THIS WEEK. I was posted to the Midweek section, alongside with Toyin Akinosho.
But MIDWEEK died at birth. Sonala left THIS WEEK org to start another breathtaking and trendy metro weekender, CITY TEMPO.. Lagos was becoming a mega-metropolis, SO felt we needed to provoke Lagos with our creative writings and engaging news presentation of the City, blow into the emerging megacity, a breath of fresh air. So he gathered a collection of renegade writers and dedicated spirits such as Uzor Maxim Uzoatu, Chido Nwakanma, Ada Momah, Late Stanley, Toyin Akinosho, Gbenga Daniels, Mallam Okwechime Abdul ( Later day Ndubisi Okwechime) and others… we were a bunch of young writers with burning desires to live free and just write; creative bohemians. Sonala provided us with the platform to independently challenge ourselves and produce the best contents. We were ready to change the tempo by reporting an emerging megacity of Lagos. S.O allowed us to be human, wild and crazy with our unique hybrid synergy of youths: our editorial contents were breathing, rich and smoking. You could feel the pulse of the City in every edition of CITY TEMPO with incredible stories……
Sonala Olumese, lives in New York as Nigeria’s most widely celebrated and known syndicated columnist. I will reserve other escapades for his 70th birthday. But these finest minutes, please Salute my mentor on this unique milestone, this day and these times.
Thank you “Baba SO’!.
Happy 67th birthday.
Stay With Me!