Barrister Kingsley Osadolor was born some 45 days before Nigeria’s independence; on August 15, 1960. He is a journalist, lawyer, broadcaster, thinker, author, scholar, and philosopher, among other things. At The Guardian newspapers, a paper of records, which redefined journalism practice, Osadolor was a factor, rising like a meteor to, first, man the East and Southern African beat, between 1987 and 1990-two years after joining.
And further to his roundedness, his expertise is not just in the written press. He is a co-anchor, Good Morning Nigeria, (7 a.m.–9 a.m. Weekdays), a market-leading Current Affairs programme, incorporating general and special interest news reports, newspaper review, and incisive conversations on burning issues, with high-profile guests, on the network service of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), famed Africa’s largest television network.
He has been commissioner for information in his native Edo State (Jan. 2011-Jan. 2013); and Special Assistant to a Minister of Information (May 2005-May 2007). Like many of his colleagues at The Guardian, who were excellent bridges between journalism and scholarship, betwixt ideation and praxis, and across intellection and a diurnal display of same, Osadolor has been a notable voice at lectures, seminars, workshops, and much else. On this score, he particularly shares a beat with another former The Guardian notable, Dr. Reuben Abati, who has an equal breadth taking scholarship pedigree.
After his primary and secondary education in Benin City, he became a foundation scholar (studying Mass Communication) of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka between 1981 and 1984. By June 1984, he had emerged with a First Class, the overall best graduating student of the ivory tower and his class valedictorian. To date, Osadolor remains the first and only graduate of Mass Communication to have emerged as the best overall graduating student of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, since 1960, according to THISDAY.
Always in search of knowledge, seven years after he left Nsukka, he went to the University of Lagos, Akoka, to study law in 1991, and in 1996 he graduated with a second class upper division and repeated the same feat at the Nigerian Law School in 1997. He was called to the Bar in 1998. He had his LL.M at Unilag in 2010.
While studying law, Osadolor had already established himself as a journalism guru. Employed by The Guardian Newspapers in 1985 as a reporter, his sterling performance saw him climb the success ladder in quick succession.
Media Career Adventure:
Recalling his first day at the newspaper, Osadolor in an interview with THISDAY said: “I wasn’t altogether a stranger when I joined The Guardian immediately after my youth service in August 1985. During my service, my articles were being published in the Op-Ed section of The Guardian. In fact, from late 1982, while I was still a student, and before the debut of The Guardian, my articles, mostly on sports, were published in The Nigerian Observer, Nigerian Tribune, The Herald, and Satellite based in Enugu. By 1983, I was also writing news analyses that were broadcast on Radio Bendel. Each news analysis earned me N8, which was a lot of money at the time. At 50 kobo a meal in the university, N8 was three square meals for at least five days. Or, it could buy two ‘packet’ shirts behind Mandilas in Lagos. It could take me, by Peugeot 504 saloon car, from Benin, through Onitsha, to Nsukka, and back.”
However, considering the newspaper’s trail-blazing prestige and reputation at that time, Osadolor believed that The Guardian was the place to be.
“Sometime in April 1985, before my NYSC ended, I came to Lagos to submit my application at The Guardian. I met the Features Editor, Tommy Odemwingie. It was the weekend after Marvin Hagler blasted Tommy Hearns with a third-round knockout in a middleweight title fight. The newsroom was abuzz with chats about the fight. Odemwingie hinted that The Guardian was planning on starting a weekly magazine, like Concord Weekly, Newswatch, Newsweek, and TIME.
“I was thrilled by the prospects of a weekly magazine because that would, I thought, allow me to follow in the footsteps of the inimitable Lance Morrow and TIME magazine which had made lasting impressions on me. So, I told Tommy (who, by the way, is an uncle to former Super Eagles striker, Osaze Odemwingie) to pass my papers for the forthcoming magazine.”
Continuing, he says: “Immediately after my youth service, I came back to Rutam House. The African Guardian magazine hired Fred Ohwahwa and me as its first editorial staff, other than a handful who were redeployed from the newspaper. We were, therefore, involved in the incubation and delivery of the weekly news magazine which hit the newsstands in January 1986. I was posted to Harare, as East and Southern Africa correspondent, under the auspices of The African Guardian, in September 1987. I was recalled three years later and appointed Deputy Editor of The Guardian daily newspaper. Subsequent appointments followed.”
Road to Guardian:
Guardian newspaper, in the 80s, was reputed for recruiting the best and the brightest, showcasing writing excellence, a puritanical presentation style, and at the best as a laboratory of words. The Guardian was not just evangelical with the elasticity of letters, but was theatrical in reasoning, evening up to quality in creating awareness, in the provision of education, and in classic entertainment-the traditional trinity of a now fast fading journalism responsibility.
Second, because of The Guardian outlook, Osadolor, who finished with not just a rare First Class in Mass Communication, from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 1984, was the best overall graduating student at the University, plus being a Federal Government and a Foundation Scholar; found a home at The Flagship (the tagline of the illustrious newspaper)-just as the epistemic managers and helmsmen, including Felix Ibru, Stanley Macebuh, Lade Bonuola, Femi Kusa, Onwuchekwa Jemie, amongst others, found an asset in him. The dialectics converged, therefore, leading to a twenty-five-year sojourn in the Rutam House home of the newspaper.
In those years, he was prodigious, revealing his erudition in not only wise, witty, and elevated prose, but in the management of talented writhe of writers, aside from a passel of support staff. He was Reporter-Researcher (1985-1987) at The African Guardian magazine; Correspondent, East and Southern Africa based in Harare, Zimbabwe (1987-1990) for The African Guardian magazine and The Guardian newspapers; Deputy Editor, The Guardian (Daily) (1990-1992); Editor, The Guardian on Sunday (1992-1997); Member, Editorial Board (1997-1999); Deputy Editor-in-Chief/Deputy Managing Director (April 1999-Dec. 2000); Legal Adviser, Member Editorial Board, and Columnist (2001-2005, 2007-2010). His legal responsibility followed his qualification as a lawyer, with, again, a top-notch Second Class Honours, Upper Division, at the University of Lagos in 1996. He additionally graduated from this university’s School of Post-Graduate Studies in 2010, with a Master’s Degree in Law.
Feats at Guardian:
Osadolor recorded many firsts at the media house. He was the first and the only journalist in The Guardian to rise from being a reporter to become a member of its board of directors; the first and only deputy managing director in the history of the newspaper since 1983.
In his private capacity, he has consulted for various organizations and agencies. He also served in the public sector; between 2011 and 2015, he served as the special assistant to the Minister of Information, and between 2005 and 2007, he was Edo State’s commissioner for information.
A Successful Journalist:
For the past 35 years, Osadolor has been consistent in his calling, and he is arguably one of the most successful journalists of his time. “Journalism is a sacred calling. We can locate journalists as prime actors in the broad media function of informing, educating, and entertaining,” he says as he talks about what it takes to be a successful journalist. As drafters or chroniclers of history, journalists owe a sacred duty to present and future generations. To appreciate what I am saying is to recognize the true worth of quality journalism of which scrupulous gatekeeping is an essential feature. To be a good journalist, therefore, I would say that a keen interest in public affairs, which translates to a desire for a better society, is the single most important aptitude,” he said in an interview with THISDAY.
He points out that journalism is not a refuge for the jobless but a passion derived from the heart. He adds that journalism is knowledge-driven. He suggests one other thing, saying: “The successful practitioner should have, on the one hand, general knowledge, and on the other, specialized knowledge. General knowledge enables you to navigate the gamut of issues; while specialized knowledge makes you an expert in given fields of journalistic coverage.”
In addition, he explains: “Another very important quality is integrity coupled with fairness. There is a limit to which a scoundrel can blackmail anyone. There is also a limit to which a partisan can ply his trade, because the audience is very discerning and judgemental, and if a segment of the audience rejects you, then you have lost your influence over that segment.
“Perhaps nothing does more damage to a journalist and his product than reputational harm arising from integrity deficit. If media manipulators believe that you have a price, you are worthless no matter the price tag. Nothing challenges or rattles a media manipulator than the realisation that you are not his errand boy.”
In 2014, Osadolor moved from print to broadcasting and currently co-anchor, Good Morning Nigeria, a current affairs programme, on Nigerian Television Authority. His transition from print journalism to broadcasting caught many by surprise.
“The truth is,” he discloses, explaining his transition from print to electronic. “I have never been a stranger to broadcasting. Two of the persons who influenced me tremendously in broadcasting were Willis Conover of the Voice of America Jazz Hour, and Ernest Okonkwo of FRCN. For my 300-level industrial attachment, I went to Radio Bendel, and as an intern, I worked as a reporter, news analyst, and sports commentator. And while I was SA to the Minister of Information, my work also overlapped. So I have always been an electronic media man.”
As a barrister, Osadolor admits that the primary incentive for studying law was the quest for knowledge and the acquisition of additional tools to better navigate life in general and to enhance his journalistic engagements. He was influenced by an elder brother of his long-time friend, Osaro Isokpan, who studied law.
“I always knew that a first degree alone in mass communication would not suffice. After I returned from Harare in 1990. My encounter with Osaro Isokpan sealed the deal,” he acknowledges. “The more conversations he and I had, the more persuaded I was to study law. There were obstacles as the evening programme at UNILAG clashed with my production hours at The Guardian, the six-year duration of the law programme was like an eternity and ill-advised policy that forbade first-degree holders from pursuing, through direct entry. But I navigated like a determined heart and overcame.”
Osadolor as a media practitioner is also a family man, married to his wife, Jane for 29 years after a 10-year courtship. Theirs was love at first sight.
“We got married in 1991. We are blessed with a son and three daughters. Our son is a mechanical engineer. The first daughter is an economist with a passion for fashion, photography, and new media. The second daughter is studying law and the ‘baby’ of the house is also in school. They are all avid consumers of media products. But none has shown any interest in becoming a journalist.”
Reflecting on clocking 60, he admits, “As human beings, one continues to aspire. I give thanks to Almighty to have enabled me to record my modest accomplishments. I look forward to acquiring more knowledge and also contributing to the body of knowledge. I have a number of book ideas, which I hope to actualize. I equally look forward to returning to teaching. The greater motivation for me is to be a catalyst for change through the instrumentality of my profession.”
Membership of Professional Bodies:
Osadolor is a fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, a member of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), and then a member of the Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria (ACSPN).
–“Osadolor: My Exploits as a Journalist”. Article inside THISDAY newspaper. 2020-8-16.
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–Osadolor’s social media accounts