How My Path Crossed with the late Bola Ige

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Interviewed by Funke Olaode

How did you get into the pen profession?
God directed my path. I had been writing from my undergraduate days in the University of Lagos. Interestingly, my articles were published on weekly basis even without the editors knowing who the writer was. I kept on writing till I left Unilag. After youth service I got a job as a press information officer with an embassy but was still in the business of writing. One of the days I visited the editor of Tribune Newspaper, Mr. Folu Olamiti, he just asked me ‘Femi, when would you start working with us’? I told him frankly that working as a journalist was not on my agenda. He insisted that I had to come in and start working. I eventually joined Tribune as a Senior Staff Writer. I left the newsroom in 1996 to serve my God. I am currently a Senior Pastor with The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG).

Why did you choose Mass Communication?
Finding satisfaction with what you do is important. I can write non-stop for 24 hours.

How do you derive satisfaction from a low income profession?
I have never used money as a yardstick. I remember when I joined Tribune then in Ibadan and looked at my pay slip, I just shook my head. My monthly salary was N360. This was 1992/93. I just smiled when I compared it to what I was earning in the Diplomatic Service in Lagos. But it was a question of interest and I never bothered about the money. A lot of people even envied me leaving a lucrative job to work as a journalist. The profession took me to people that matter. More than anything, in whatever profession you find yourself, be the best.

How did you cope after turning your back on the vibrancy of Lagos to embrace Ibadan, a calmer environment?
I know a number of people who would love to stay elsewhere, if they can escape Lagos. Even though I was born in Lagos, staying in Ibadan has been wonderful.

How did your path cross with the late Chief Bola Ige?
I never knew he was reading me. There was an incident that brought him and Chief Ayo Adebanjo to The Tribune to address all the senior editorial staff members. All of a sudden, Chief Adebanjo said there is someone that has that assured them that the spirit of Awolowo was still in the paper. He mentioned my name and the managing editor of The Tribune then, Mr. Biodun Oduwole pointed at me and I stood up. That was the beginning of my relationship with Chief Bola Ige.

How did you manage the relationship considering the age difference?
Chief Bola Ige was a very wonderful person. I proof-read one of his books. I also wrote a book on him ‘The Portrait of a Giant’. We were so close that when I was naming one of my children he personally came and people were surprised. He was a very good man who left a good legacy.

What fond memories of Bola Ige do you have?
There is a particular thing I would never forget about him. He was not fond of giving money to people unnecessarily. But he knew how to make you feel important. He would introduce you to anybody. I remember that I went with him to Federal Palace Hotel in Lagos when politics was about to start. All politicians of note converged on that hotel: The likes of Prof. Jerry Gana and so on. He just sent his driver to pick me that I would accompany him to Lagos. I obliged and came to Lagos with him that year. That afforded me the opportunity to meet many dignitaries in Nigeria.

How did you take his sudden exit?
I had a scheduled appointment with him early in the morning before going to his hometown in Esa-Oke. I never knew something terrible had happened. But my landlord then who knew I was close to him broke the news to me. His death taught me a lot of lessons – that it is good to be good; that one must continue to be good. I am so happy about Bola Ige’s legacy of ‘Education for all’ which his two surviving children, Mrs. Funso Adegbola and her brother Arch.

Muyiwa Ige have continued to propagate through the annual Bola/Atinuke Ige Scholarship Awards for pupils from humble backgrounds. About four years ago, I had the privilege to be invited by the Nigerian Union of Journalist (NUJ) Oyo State Chapter to deliver Bola Ige Memorial Lecture under the chairmanship of Amb. Yemi Farounbi. I said it openly that it would be a good idea if we could have an institution called Bola Ige University.

At what stage did you quit journalism for the pulpit?
I left the news room in 1996. But I have not quit writing totally because I still write books: I write for myself, I write for others and I proof read. As a pastor, I must have a good pen and a good book to read. The profession has been a blessing to me.

What other passion do you have?
I have always had a passion for writing. If I hadn’t been in journalism, I would still be in the writing business.