It was a great time to relive old memories on Monday when family, friends, and associates of Dapo Olorunyomi, the publisher of PREMIUM TIMES, gathered in Abuja to honour him.
The occasion was the launch of a book of essays titled ‘Testimony to Courage’ in honour of the journalist and activist.
The book, edited by Chido Onumah and Frederick Adetiba, has over 90 contributions from a spectrum of Mr Olorunyomi’s teachers, colleagues, associates and mentees.
Among the contributors were former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu, pioneer Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu and former Governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola.
Others were four professors, Biodun Jeyifo, Ropo Sekoni, Umaru Pate, Lai Oso, and frontline activist, Femi Falana.
A co-author of the book, Chido Onumah, set the ball rolling at the well-attended event.
He said the book was conceived in November 2017 during Mr Olorunyomi’s 60th birthday. He said the subject (Mr Olorunyomi) did not know about it until ‘some few weeks ago.’
“Our aim of coming together today is to celebrate courage, integrity and the finest tradition of investigative journalism,” Mr Onumah added.
In his keynote address, the Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, described Mr Olorunyomi as both a ‘destroyer’ and a ‘builder’- a builder of democratic and social change; and a destroyer of hegemony.
He recounted the role Mr Olorunyomi played in the establishment and transportation of equipment of Radio Freedom, an opposition radio station, in the mid-90s during the Sani Abacha military dictatorship.
The governor praised Mr Olorunyomi for his ‘pivotal role’ in the transformation of Nigeria from military dictatorship to representative democracy.
“Dapsy risked not only his freedom but his life to ensure that Nigeria became a democratic state,”Mr Fayemi said. “One thing that happened in Dapo’s time is that they threw away the caution and exhibited fearlessness. Few intellectuals can claim to rival Dapo Olorunyomi in intellect and courage.”
Reviewing the book, human rights activist, Chidi Odinkalu, said the name ‘Dapsy’ has now been ‘concreted.’
He noted that contributors to the volume include renowned academics, media executives, journalists, activists and politicians who offered insights into Mr Olorunyomi’s patriotism, courage, brilliance and acts of generosity through different phases of his life.
“The remarkable thing highlighted by almost all the authors is that they like Dapsy’s outstanding humanity,” he added.
Shortly before Mr Odinkalu’s review was the opening remark by the chairman of the occasion, Kabiru Yusuf, publisher of Daily Trust newspapers.
He praised Mr Olorunyomi for his dynamism and penchant for mentorship.
In her remark, a former senator, Chris Anyanwu, said Mr Olorunyomi deserves a national honour for his role in the entrenchment of democratic government in Africa’s most populous country.
For Olusegun Adekunle, a permanent secretary who represented the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, Mr Olorunyomi’s “generosity, humanity and courage’’ set him apart.
Osinbajo, Tinubu pays tribute
After Mr Adekunle, Sunday Dare took the stage as the representative of former Lagos Governor, Bola Tinubu.
He read one of the eulogies Mr Tinubu penned for the PREMIUM TIMES publisher.
It said Mr Olorunyomi “reminds us of our past struggles as he blends nostalgia with the pains and of the struggle for better Nigeria. Through his works, we sent the military packing and entrenched democracy.”
Babafemi Ojudu, representative of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo described Mr Olorunyomi as “a very good friend of the vice president.”
He said the vice president could not make it to the event because of other pressing assignments.
“Dapo will ensure that every one that is yet to be spoken to as a subject in a story is spoken to before he publishes.
“I didn’t even know he would live up to 60, because he lived so dangerously,” he said to the excitement of the audience.
Mr Olorunyomi’s appreciation
In his remark, Mr Olorunyomi thanked the essayists, organisers and attendees of the event.
He, however, described the remarks by various speakers as “hyperbolic”, saying he could not have achieved anything without his friends, families and colleagues.
“It is a great exaggeration about me all these things said here today. All I have done is really about the team I work with. I only contribute a little to the work.
“Truly my team are those that deserve to be celebrated,” he said.
He also urged Nigerian parliamentarians to help in building a strong and accountable media.
Mr Olorunyomi was a co-founder of The News magazine which carried out ‘guerilla journalism’ during the Sani Abacha dictatorship. He and his wife, Ladi, were arrested by the dictator and had to flee the country.
While on exile, he continued to be involved in media advocacy, working with different organisations. He returned to the country to work as chief of staff to the pioneer chairman of the anti-corruption agency, EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu.
Mr Olorunyomi was a founding member of the now rested Next Newspapers where he worked as the head of the investigations team.
After Next Newspaper was rested, he co-founded PREMIUM TIMES alongside the newspaper’s Editor-In-Chief, Musikilu Mojeed.