Chief Bode Alalade
Mac Emakpore,Poju Atobatele, Bayo Adewusi and Banji Ojewale extol the contributions of the late Bode Alalade to journalism
When Chief Bode Alalade died on October 9 at 75, there followed a mixed reaction that brought forth two schools. One grieved over the amiable broadcaster’s departure, saying it marked one more phase in the staggered extinction of excellence in electronic journalism. These mourners referred to the death of two other distinguished performers, the affable Ikenna Ndaguba and the matronly Stella Bassey, to push the view that, finally, the apocalypse had come for the profession.
The second school of thought has been in tears, too. But they are tears of joy, very much like the one who would speak of a half full cup of water rather than one which is half empty! This class is celebrating Alalade because by their reckoning he died not leaving behind an industry of orphans. He didn’t take his prime trade mark of mentorship, passion, thoroughness, professional discipline and news room conviviality to the grave.
Indeed, Alalade had all these and most likely more. He exhibited them where he worked. However, the broadcaster went the extra mile: he conducted “formal” and “informal” training for younger and serious journalists so they could be of use to themselves, the profession, the society and the generations to come.
You may refer to his post-Nigerian Television Authority Network News and Radio Nigerian days as the period of “informal” training. He was later at some private broadcast stations where through “formal “ training programmes he tried to restore the dying virtues of passion, precision and perfection to a profession that had been taken over by uncommitted lucre-minded men and women. Alalade was alleged to have been humiliated in some of these places. For, what he taught was gibberish to an age that worshipped wealth as an end and held selfless service in contempt.
Alalade made little sense if he taught that the TV newscaster owed it a duty to his/her teeming viewers and the information seekers to report in the newsroom and take part in packaging the news of the day. it was anathema if he insisted that the newsreader should subject himself to the news editor and consult all the variants of the dictionary – Thesaurus, pronunciation, language etc – during production while rehearsing for the news and proofreading.
Now if today’s “professionals” and their nouveaux riches employers didn’t allow Alalade a fulfilling stay, it didn’t matter. Because back then at Radio Nigeria and in the glorious days of NTA Network News (God be blessed for that era!) he had made an indelible mark through exquisite and humble service as a trainer, news manager, news reader and agreeable colleague.
We watched Alalade at close quarters during our time with him at the then NTA headquarters on Victoria Island, Lagos, in the late 70s and 80s. He had a carriage that reminded you of the equally unforgettable Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense in the cinema industry. But in Oga Alalade there lurked no element of suspense.
If it was possible to rehearse 24 hours ahead for the delivery on air Alalade would do it! There was no one, no matter how junior, he wouldn’t consult in order to give the viewer the best the situation demanded. If an Urhobo name cropped up you wouldn’t catch Alalade napping. He had an Emakpore to corner for an accurate pronunciation so “I don’t offend that corner of the viewing public and smear the reputation of NTA.” For a Ghanaian tongue he had an Ojewale, his junior.
Once, the name of Helmut Schmidt, then West German Chancellor, was in the news. Trust Alalade! He went for Atobatele who had studied and stayed in Germany for years. Was it so he wouldn’t offend the diplomatic corps, who in those days never left the TV in order to watch NTA’s Network News?
Alalade matched his professional consummation with a spotless sartorial and facial outlook as if nature had decreed a rhyming policy for everything on earth. He was clean-shaven even as he went on air in flawless flowing agbada that seemed to be a celebration of his Ibadan culture. He had hesitant side boards that hardly threatened the hairless childlike face.
Alalade never gave gratuitous gesticulation or false drama in newscast, as we see today. But you would observe natural smiles run over his rotund Hitchcock – visage. You’d also notice a near speck-free face that, as the years wore on, still refused to acquire warts. He appeared, on account of his avuncular nature, openness and good looks, to enjoy more than a fair share of the company of the fair sex. It was decent relationship forced upon him by the joviality of the newsroom.
We can mourn Alalade because he’s no longer with us physically. This is only human. In the long run, however, our grief is lessened by his life of eminence in broadcasting and by what he offered in turn to society. He taught us to be humble, diligent and studious in our profession. He warned against sloppy approach as we process our findings to inform, educate and entertain the public. Alalade has given his younger and junior colleagues the baton to continue the race, empowered by the rubric that sustained him.
May the legacy endure to build society!
• Emakpore, Atobatele , Adewusi and Ojewale were Alalade’s younger colleagues at NTA Network News.