“This is about Tunmise Adekunle of Thisday Newspapers, who passed on last week due to suspected heart failure. While I am still wondering why a brilliant young man like Tunmise should die now, my heart goes to his relatives, friends and colleagues, whom he has abandoned mid-stream in the mid-morning of his life. It is even more disheartening when one recalls that Samuel Famakinwa, Deputy Editor of Thisday passed on in near similar fashion about six months ago. It also reminds me of the sudden death, several years back, of Orezina Agbodo, the hard-headed, mercurial and gifted business journalist also of Thisday and later of Canadian Oil. This is one death too many of my friends in the journalism industry.
“When I reflect on my relationship with Tunmise, I marvel at how God can make two enemies become two good friends. Let me explain a bit. Tunmise was a damn good writer and an efficient journalist. He was very savvy with Information Technology and so he was probably the last man that would have any excuse for not delivering his pages. He knew his subject well. He knew it so well he became a bit arrogant. It happens all the time with brilliant people, when they allow the applause for their good works to drown their humility.
“Tunmise wrote his marketing communications column with conviction and made no pretences about his position on any issue. He dared you to controvert his story. He regularly disoriented company with his tough, at times coy, questions at media events. He had a good nose for news so he followed up on his stories (one of those who still did). As a journalist, he was not very trusting of Public Relations people. He believed they were always out to “kill” his stories or generally water them down. So, it made him to sometimes breach the code of ethical journalism by writing first and asking questions later. And that was how we met.
“On New Year day, in far away Mbaise, Imo State, I received a text message from him wishing my family and me the best of 2008. But as I moved in and out of coverage area in the village, my reply to his message could not be delivered. As the news of his sudden demise hits home, I feel bad I never got round to re-sending the message after I returned to Lagos. I was so sure I would see him soon, but here we are now mourning his exit from this sinful, difficult world.
“Talking about this difficult world, I think Lagos and indeed Nigeria are the most difficult places to live in the whole world. The stress of living in Lagos is becoming unbearable. The traffic situation, armed robbers and lack of electricity have connived to make life difficult for Lagosians. And this has led to increased stress levels with its attendant health implications. People are dying daily due to all kinds of stress-related illnesses including diabetes, Cardio-vascular Arrest (heart failure) and hypertension. Even young people, like Tunmise, are dying in their prime as they succumb to the wahala of Lagos life.
“One group that are most directly exposed to stress and crime-related danger is journalists, because they necessarily have to move around in the horrific traffic and sometimes late in the night to get to do their jobs. I think something should be done to stem the high risks journalists are exposed to in this country – and I am not talking about such hazards as bribery, arrest, detention, incarceration, intimidation and even murder, which intolerant authorities have employed to cow the conscience of society, the Fourth Estate. But as my late father used to say, “To be able to love thy neighbour as yourself, you must first and foremost love yourself”. Journalists should try and look after themselves a lot more.
“This is not meant to be derogatory, but people should find time to check basic health indicators like blood sugar, blood pressure, heart function, kidney function, etc. One of my classmates, a journalist, has become an embarrassment to his wife because he looks poorly fed, and this is down to poor attitude to feeding. Due to the stress of his job, he drinks more than normal level of alcohol and smokes cigarettes. He claims he oft has no appetite for food. How can he? Individually and collectively (as in the Nigerian Union of Journalists), journalists should take immediate steps to create awareness among themselves about healthy living. They can use their wide contacts to get medical doctors and corporate organisations to facilitate seminars and free medical checks for journalists. On their part, media owners should urgently consider implementing health schemes for their employees, where they do not exist, to cushion the effect of high costs of medicare in the country.
“Coming back to my friend, Tunmise, I believe he did his best in the rather short time he spent on this side. And that is the beauty of journalism; you can become famous at a tender age and you don’t have to own a big mansion, drive a big car or own a fat bank account. The young man did well. I am proud of him, and I am sure his family and friends are too. Yes indeed, we loved him but God, the giver of life, loves him more. He has gone to rest, where he probably will continue his journalism profession, because (as we used to say in Journalism school) while there is no need for doctors, lawyers, engineers, drivers and other professions in Heaven, the angels in the East still need to know what’s happening in the West and other parts of Paradise.
“So long, Brother! The bell has tolled for thee. Till we meet to part no more, God be with you”.
Emeka Oparah, Head of Corporate Communications. Celtel Nigeria. Lagos