During his university days and time in Kebbi State as a corps member, Abdulrasheed Akogun had always fancied a career in journalism, in this interview with KAYODE ADEOTI, the publisher of Fresh Insight newspaper debunks the allegation that he is serving the interest of some politicians in Kwara State. Excerpts:
What actually informed your decision to go into publishing business?
Well, my publication (Fresh Insight) is a child of necessity; it was something I had nursed for years. When I was a student of Kwara State Polytechnic, I was publishing a newsletter, though I was a student of Mathematics and Statistics in the school but I had flair for publication. In 2008, I secured an appointment with Legend Magazine, the medium was in Lagos and I was their correspondent in Kwara State, so I was freelancing, I wasn’t getting paid but I was happy my write ups were worthy of publication. Afterwards, I secured admission with the University of Ilorin. I was able to contribute to many journals and many other news medium. Also, when I went for Youth Service in 2013, I was posted to Federal Government College, Kebbi but I wasn’t contented with teaching so I went to NTA in Kebbi where I met the News Director, I discussed with her and she graciously allowed me in on probation. After a month, I was asked to transfer my Place of Primary Assignment (PPA) to the media house. I also had privilege to pioneer a TV programme named Corpers’ Forum, I was the anchor. It was an hour talk show where we invited personalities to discuss topical issues. After my NYSC, I was retained in 2014. I wanted to be closer to my people so I had to resign, I got to Ilorin in October and I secured a job with National Pilot Newspaper in November. The medium National Pilot accorded me the opportunity to experience what newsroom looks like in the real sense of it, I was able to learn from senior colleagues in the office. I registered with Media Consultancy Firm in March, 2015. I started publishing magazine monthly, the first edition was named Kwara Insight but we later decided to give it regional outlook so we replaced it with ‘Fresh Insight’ to the glory of God, we’ve been able to interview many personalities like Are Afe Babalola and many others. Recently, we transformed from magazine to newspaper and a fortnight publication.
What is your take on the allegation that your paper is free because it’s been sponsored by your father and some political bigwigs in the state for political agenda?
With the school of thought I align with, it will be hard for any politician to sponsor my publication. I’m opinionated; I’ll always say my mind regardless of the environment. I’m not the type of the personality that will tell you what you want to hear, I will say my mind according to my conscience, if you’re sponsoring me, definitely if there is a news item that doesn’t go well with your personality, I must publish it. I don’t have a no-go area. I’ve realised we have so many publications, even the national dailies are no more selling. Print journalism is gradually fading out, new journalism is taking over, but we saw a loop hole we can bridge, our people love reading, especially news items that they can easily relate with, but the economy is hard, some cannot afford N100 a day. If I sell the paper for N100, it doesn’t cover the cost of production not to talk of paying staff. People will not buy, not that they don’t have interest in the editorial content but talking of scale of preference, feeding will take precedence over any other thing. We also realised that if we are able to guarantee sustainability, and unmatched editorial content, that is when we can start selling. Basically, out target is to sustain the medium through adverts, and we’ve been able to minimally achieve that. My Dad, a veteran journalist has been very supportive, however, he’s a kind of dad that support anybody that comes his way. I must make it clear, I’m solely responsible for the publication, the day I made up my mind to publish, I had N20,000 in my account and I needed N140,000. I have been in town for a while, so I was able to rally round my friends who have the same ideology of youths being job providers rather than job seekers; they raised the money. When people saw the newspaper, they did not believe it had no sponsor. With our editorial content, we’ve been able to show that we are 100 per cent pro masses, anybody, personality, organisation that align with yearnings of the masses will definitely be friend of Fresh Insight. We have been able to prove that Fresh Insight doesn’t, and will not have permanent friend or enemy. The ideology of the publication is to give the public what they yearn for and I can boldly say that our medium is the only publication in Kwara State that has no political affiliation that is not attached to personality or money bag.
Are you also denying the fact that Otunba Taiwo Joseph is one of your major backers?
Otunba Taiwo Joseph is like a father to me, he is someone I personally respect and cherish. He has supported this publication with adverts. I did a publication in December 2015 for His Excellency, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed on his birthday; I approached many people to congratulate him, only few showed up. Otunba Joseph told me something I will live to remember and to tell generation yet unborn. He said, I am giving you this advert, not because of this publication but to support your dream of not wanting to be a job seeker but an entrepreneur. He added that what he needs from me is consistency, he advised me that it will never be easy but when the going gets tough I must never shiver, not under any circumstance. However, OTJ has never for once seen my publication and question my stories. Also, Dr. Muideen Akorede, the Senior Special Assistant on Media to the Governor has been supporting me through adverts. I have also gotten advert from Chairman, Sobi FM, Mallam Lukman Mustapha. He told me when I shared my aspirations with him that he will be supporting me with advert because I have not come to him to beg for money.
How will you rate journalism profession in Kwara?
From time immemorial, Kwara State has stamped its feet in the map of journalism. People like former governor of Ogun State, Olusegun Osoba and several leading lights in the profession all started from Kwara, that is to say, we have good hands coming from our region. Talking of investigative, human angle reports, we’re better off in that, also talking of award winning journalists, after Lagos, Kwara should come second, reason for this is not far-fetched, more than 80 per cent of the practitioners here are not in it to make money, they are practising it for passion, whatever one does and passion comes first, such effort should be celebrated. Also, if pen pushers are upright enough, Kwara State would have been better. We would have been putting our leaders to task.
Would you say government has been fair to the profession and practitioners?
I must say with sense of humility, government has not shown the kind of respect that is expected for media practitioners that is why some of our journalists are running to places like Lagos and Abuja, that is where the pay and recognition are.