Saluting Bonje at 60, By Lanre Arogundade

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At UNIFE……Great Ife…..that period in the early 80s, the students’ socialist movement was fairly large; and all shades of Comrades displayed their ideological and political prowess in ways that suited their fancies – some through mouthing slogans, some through incessant polemical wars against those labelled reactionaries or right wingers.

Amidst it all, one Bolaji Adigun stood out for his few words and wit. And so at socialist caucus meetings prior to the sittings of the Students Representstive Council, he would wonder aloud whether we needed hours to brainstorm over how to tackle pending thorny issues. Pointing fingers here and there he would summarise: “Look these people are not as intelligent….once the matter comes up, Taye or Muyiwa will first speak, well Sango can come in and Lanre will bring in his sweet mouth and if the matter is then put to vote we would win”.

As his words always showed, seeking solutions in the most efficient way was Bolaji Adigun’s fort. He was also an efficient dodger of bullets and we saw that when the authorities decided to move against some of the comrades playing leadership role when NANS of which I was President embarked on boycott of classes to protest hike in school fees in 1984. Bolaji Adigun was one of those whose rustication was announced for allegedly being responsible for my recalcitrance. But to our shock, he was unperturbed. What he said shocked us the more: “It is Bolaji Adigun they expelled and not me. My name is Bolaji Adebiyi, go and check the University records”.

Outside student unionism, Bonje, as I would later fondly call him, distinguished himself as a campus journalist and it wasn’t accidental that he embraced journalism upon graduation. Of course, no one would doubt that he has distinguished himself professionally despite some time out in government. That he’s the Managing Editor of ThisDay and Vice president, South West of the Nigerian Guild of Editors serve as testimonies.

Bonje’s intellect has been a great asset over the decades of our close associateship as evidenced in the leading role he played in the Lagos NUJ in the 1990s particularlyunder the umbrellaof The New Trend movement. As a matter of fact, himself and Tunde Aremu were among the prime movers of the idea that I should contest the Lagos NUJ chairmanship so that we can give the union a radical and intellectual orientation in line with The New Trend movement’s philosophy of journalism with social relevance.

Also, what one cannot but admire in Bonje is his ability to argue factually even if you are on opposing sides of an issue. If it is a legal matter, he would quote from relevant laws despite not being a lawyer.

It is with joy in my heart that I welcome Bonje to the sixth floor, even as I fear that this write up may yet draw some jibes from him. When we meet later today, I will be surprised if he doesn’t taunt me by saying: “Mr. former Chairman of NUJ, I read all that lengthy grammar you wrote just to say happy birthday to me. Anyway, thank you sha, but where is the gift”.

Bonje will always be Bonje.

-Arogundade is Executive Director International Press Centre and former Chairman, Nigerian Union of Journalists, Lagos State Chapter

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