By Tunde Olusunle
Non-initiates marvel at the peculiarity of the rapprochement which subsists between media practitioners, even when they differ in opinions and even political disposition. My very good friend and brother Segun Ayobolu served as Media Adviser to Bola Tinubu now President, when the latter was governor of Lagos State. Within the period, I was engaged in the Olusegun Obasanjo/Atiku Abubakar government, handling various briefs. Even at the height of the antagonism between the Lagos State Government and the Federal Government following the stoppage of remittance to the accounts of the Lagos government by the Obasanjo/Atiku milieu, the relationship between Ayobolu and I remained nonplussed. As Babatunde Fashola succeeded Tinubu in Lagos, Hakeem Bello took over Ayobolu’s earlier schedule. Bello and I have a very long relationship as this piece will yet unravel. Monday July 10, 2023, Tinubu appointed Tunde Sarafadeen Rahman as Senior Special Assistant to the President, (SSAP), on Media Affairs.
Ayobolu, Bello and Rahman like me are all alumni of the Daily Times of Nigeria Plc, during its glorious years. We shared the newsrooms in our various departments, Ayobolu and Rahman being on the political beat. Bello and I oscillated between the features and literary subunits of the erstwhile newspaper colossus. We split loaves of bread and packets of biscuits between ourselves while perspiring to meet production deadlines. We patronised the same bukaterias abutting our *Agidingbi,* Ikeja operational base. We congregated at proximate bars in revelry on days our pockets were enhanced by our “weekly transport claims” or when any in our broad network of friends and colleagues was paid his “travel allowance.” Such was the camaraderie we built between us.
Indeed, next time you hear call-and-response chants like “Wine on Wali,” “Turkey on Tukur,” “Fanta on Falae,” “Salad on Sarumi,” between Rahman and I or select alumnae from our generation, please ask questions. These are rhymes and rhythms spun out of our several social outings in our younger years as *Timesmen,* as graduates of *Daily Times* are referred to. Borrowing from the lexicon of media practice, we designated specific evenings for “briefings.” Anyone from our coterie of friends and colleagues whose wallet was appropriately “inspired,” could call a ‘briefing.” Across the gate of the *Agidingbi,* Ikeja home of the *Daily Times* was our popular watering hole which we christened *White House,* after the exterior visage of the facility. A standard “briefing” consisted of prescribed quantum of assorted beverages, escorted by processed aquatic protein served with spicy, simmering gravy. The aborted “Third Republic” dominated popular discourse those days and the names of key actors fuelled our poetic instincts. Rhymes and sounds so generated, elicited the chorus “O yes ooo” from the “audience.” Ayobolu, Emeka Nwosu, Gboyega Okegbenro, Lawal Ogienagbon, Yemisi Fadairo, Ohi Alegbe who will usually join us from his workplace, remember too well. This was the manner of bonding we shared those good old days.
Rahman, Bello and I have an additional point of intersection. We are all alumni of the University of Ilorin, (Unilorin)! I graduated in 1985, Rahman in 1987 and Bello in 1988. Bello and I studied English and thus in the same faculty, not forgetting the various extracurricular interests we shared. Rahman studied political science and was in the Faculty of Business and Social Sciences. Rahman and I are equally knitted by the fact of bearing the same first name, *Tunde.* Ayo Akinkuotu, (onetime features editor of *Daily Times* and later in *Tell* magazine), graduated from Unilorin in 1980. Yet another notable alumnus of the “Unilorin/Daily Times mafia” is Gbenga Ayeni who was then Nigeria Correspondent of the London-based *West Africa* magazine then owned by the Daily Times octopus. My classmate and brother, he is today professor of communications at the Eastern Connecticut State University, (ECSU), in the United States. Longserving Chief Executive Officer of *Thisday* newspapers, Eniola Bello, is equally part of the Unilorin/Daily Times project.
This piece is a celebration of Tunde Rahman, a very astute journalist who has paid his dues in the profession for more than three decades now. He has deservedly earned recognition at the highest levels of governance in the country having been named a senior aide to the President. It was important to lay the precedence above, however, to underline the specie of multilevel entanglements which develops and is sustained over time and space, beyond the perimeter of the newsroom. Yes, the security services revel in their *espirit de corps* in the course of their dealings. Professional amity, however, is probably stronger and deeper in the media. Journalists are probably the best exemplars of that section of Nigeria’s old national anthem: “Though tribe and tongue may differ/In brotherhood we stand.”
Tunde Rahman began his journey in media practice as a cub political correspondent with the Ikeja, Lagos-based *Lagos Horizon* newspaper in 1989. He moved over to the Lagos office of the *Tehran Times International* as Nigerian correspondent, the following year. After garnering further experience in the profession, Rahman joined the *Daily Times of Nigeria* for a decade-long duration in 1991. Within the period, he served variously as political correspondent, before being elevated Deputy Political Editor in 1996 and deployed to Abuja. This was as the burgeoning federal capital territory settled gradually into its personality as the new hub of federal administration. He rose to become substantive Political Editor in 2000. The star-studded, pan-Nigerian political desk of the *Daily Times* in the 1990s, featured notable professionals like Ayobolu, Nwosu, Basil Obi and Bayo Oladipo, among others.
A restless quester for new challenges, Rahman made a detour to *Punch* newspapers, one of Nigeria’s oldest surviving privately-owned media concerns, in 2000. He operated first as Deputy News Editor of the publication for one year, before becoming Assistant Editor of the newspaper behemoth between 2001 and 2003. He was designated substantive Group News Editor of the *Punch* in 2003, a position from which he exercised oversight over every news item which featured in all the publications. This included the weekend editions in the newspaper stable. His schedule of duties devolved into human resource management and training of personnel in a rapidly evolving technology-driven media industry.
In 2004, Tunde Rahman undertook yet another decade-long odyssey in *Thisday* newspapers, one of Nigeria’s most vibrant tabloids. The newspaper chain has survived the *abiku* syndrome symptomatic of many such initiatives over time in the country. He was promptly engaged as Deputy Editor, *Thisday* in 2004 and was to be retained in the position until 2010 on account of demonstrated, painstaking on-the-job professionalism. For a brief stint between May and July 2010, he signed *Thisday* in his capacity as Acting Editor. He was thereafter appointed Editor of *Thisday on Saturday* from 2011 to 2012. For two years after this, Rahman was reassigned Editor, *Thisday on Sunday.* He thus became one of very few professionals in the *Thisday* behemoth whose imprimatur was on every major tabloid published by the organisation.
Rahman ventured into newspaper proprietorship in 2014 when he founded *Western Post* newspapers. His vision was to try to fill the vacuum created by the extinctions of publications like the *Sketch,* *Third Eye* among others, with primary focus on reporting the South West of the country. He bravely steered the publication for two years before he was engaged as Media Adviser to Tinubu in 2016. He managed the brief for seven long years which most plausibly affirmed the confidence his principal reposed in him. Very notably, Rahman managed his relationship with his colleagues in the media very diplomatically in the course of the recent electioneering. He took full cognisance of the fact that just like him, his friends and colleagues had jobs to do in burnishing the images of their principals, while throwing jabs in the direction of his boss.
Tunde Rahman began his elementary education at the AUD Primary School, Iwo, Osun State in 1970. He proceeded to Baptist High School in the same community for his Ordinary Level School Certificate and Higher Level School Certificate respectively, from 1977 to 1984. His liberal, broadminded, bohemian disposition to issues, is probably a product of his early multi-religious exposures. He graduated with an honours degree in Political Science from Unilorin in 1987, and received requisite professional training at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, (NIJ), Lagos in 1991. He obtained a certificate in Business Issues and Development from the Lagos Business School, (LBS), in 2005, and a masters in communication studies from the Lagos State University, (LASU).
Just last year, 2022, the knowledge-gobbling Rahman completed studies for the award of the Masters degree in Business Administration, (MBA), from Leicester University. A knowledge-thirsty professional, he has attended international conferences in Saudi Arabia, China and India, over the years. He has equally participated in workshops, seminars, and similar meets at home in Nigeria in Lagos, Abeokuta, Jos and Abuja, among other places. He has visited numerous countries across the globe, as something of a permanent fixture on the entourage of his employer. He belongs to a number of professional associations including the Nigerian Union of Journalists, (NUJ); Nigerian Guild of Editors, (NGE) and the Investigative Reporters and Editors Incorporated, (IREI) USA. He attended the recent, very successful June 2023 biennial convention of the NGE in Imo State to interact with his colleagues.
Rahman is a consummate family man. He can, work-permitting, be found savouring the ocean breeze on the beach with his wife and three lovely children. He is reputed for his loyalty and commitment to friends and relationships. He is said to be in the habit of calling up colleagues and associates simply to check up on their welfare and to offer support within the limits of his own provisions. His constituents back home in Iwo, speak well of him for reaching out from time to time. Rahman’s extensive professional interconnectivity within the Nigerian media space will benefit his boss tremendously on his present assignment.
▪︎ Olusunle, PhD, poet, journalist, scholar and author, is a Member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, (NGE)*