By Ajibola Abayomi,
May 23, 2018.
His initiative led to the formation of the foremost journalists association in Nigeria known today as the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).
Arguably, it is the most popular union/professional body in the country, but ironically, very few journalists know or care about the history of the NUJ including those holding offices in the union.
As curious as the latter day journalists are, only a few know the origin of the union from the perspective of the man that put his life and thoughts on the line to birth the NUJ in 1952 in Lagos.
His name is Chief Olu Oyesanya of blessed memory, the first Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Press Council (NPC).
He, with other like minds heralded a movement that gave birth to the NUJ under the draconian British government in Nigeria by leading others to defile all odds to own a body by themselves to conquer fear and intimidation.
Alas! Oyesanya, took a bow and journeyed to the world beyond at his country home in Sagamu, Ogun State in October, 1999 at the age of 76.
What a colossal loss to the Nigerian media that a hero left just like that without an asset named after him either by the NUJ or government.
Although, references were made to the efforts of the retired director of information in a book authoured by Pa Jola Ogunwusi, the former National Secretary of the NUJ titled: The History of the Nigerian Press, but there are more to that.
Incidentally, history repeated itself on May 12, 2018 when the Chairman of Lagos State Council NUJ, Dr Qasim Akinreti, once again did the unusual by reconnecting the union with its founding father when he brought the children of the deceased, Mr Adebayo Oyesanya and Mrs Sade Okogwu to the congress of the union where they shared the memories of their dad with several Lagos journalists.
It was a day to behold as the Council toasted to his 94th posthumous birthday with a befitting cake and agreed with the family to organise activities to further promote the union and properly document his place in history.
Engaged by TheLead Online, Adebayo recalled with nostalgia the personalities of his dad and what propelled him to found NUJ.
According to his son:, “He was a victim of oppression by the British government during the colonial rule. On several occasions, he was arrested and detained ditto for other journalists for writing about Nigeria’s independence and reporting the truth.
“Lawyers had to defend him at the court on many occasions. When he had oppoutunity to travel to England, he saw the way the journalists’ union called National Union of Journalists (NUJ) was being respected.
“As professionals, their salaries were being increased and there was rapid promotion for the members because of their professionalism and agitations.
So Oyesanya decided to replicate that back home in Nigeria. “As at that time, there were too many people hawking journalism in Nigeria, but by the virtue of forming the union, those ones were screened out due to the NUJ code of conduct.”
Adebayo said, immediately, his dad formed the union in Lagos, he travelled to America for further studies because he was working with an American agency then.
“Later, he took up diplomat appointments overseas before returning home years later which created a vacuum so to say in the union. Before my father died, there was a columnist that even wrote that one Onabanjo founded the NUJ and my father laughed.
“I have noted that in journalism, seniority don’t count much. In law, we have something like Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).”
On how he wantrf his dad to be remembered, he said: “I look at the Secretariat of the Lagos NUJ, it has been named after late Ladi Lawal. Also in Abuja I noticed one of the halls was named after one journalist as well but they forgot the man that founded the NUJ in the entire Nigeria from Lagos State. Not only that, my father established the Nigerian Press Council.”