Activists Celebrate Bunmi Aborisade @ 60, Laud His Heroic Contribution

Activists Celebrate Bunmi Aborisade @ 60, Laud His Heroic Contribution

…Say His Exploits in Courageous Journalism, Pro-Democracy Struggle Will Remain Indelible   Activists, friends and well wishers were full of loud cheers for Dr Bunmi Aborisade, Mass Communication Scholar, Journalist, Human Rights Activist, Researcher and Teacher, who recently clocked 60, eulogising his heroic exploits in Nigerian Journalism and the epic struggle for democracy. At a

…Say His Exploits in Courageous Journalism, Pro-Democracy Struggle Will Remain Indelible  

Activists, friends and well wishers were full of loud cheers for Dr Bunmi Aborisade, Mass Communication Scholar, Journalist, Human Rights Activist, Researcher and Teacher, who recently clocked 60, eulogising his heroic exploits in Nigerian Journalism and the epic struggle for democracy.

At a highly attended virtual event, which also featured the launching of his 350 page book titled, “Pains of Exile,” many speakers saluted his doggedness and effrontery in the face of a rampaging military onslaught.

Publisher of the June 12 Magazine, which championed the validation of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election, won by acclaimed businessman, Mr Moshood Kasimawo Abiola, he suffered under the dungeon of the Abacha junta before fleeing first to exile in Ghana and later to the United States.  

Recalling how Aborisade, a professor of Mass Communication at the City University of New York, in a display of courage, would “chase after a snake, grab it, stretch it and smash it to the ground while others scamper for safety,” in their formative years at Ekiti Parapo College, his former classmate, Mr Lanre Arogundade, executive director, International Press Centre (IPC) narrates that, “If we should reverse the logic, you were the snake that threatened Abacha and he chose to chase, grab and smash you. And I knew how close the junta was to succeeding.

Abacha’s Agents

“Abacha’s agents grabbed you, threw you into Colonel Frank Omenka’s lions’ den called DMI Directorate of Military Intelligence) in Apapa, Lagos and made you to spend time in the dreaded underground cell where you met many other Nigerians who were being wasted away.

“When they made up their mind to release you on ‘bail’, they asked you to produce a surety who would replace you, should you violate the terms. I was your nominee and I gladly accepted for three reasons – you were a friend fighting a just cause, you were a journalist standing for press freedom and it was my obligation as the then chairman of the Lagos State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists. I made my way to DMI, Apapa and signed all the documents. It was a waste of time reading the contents which obviously were meant to be my own pre-detention papers.

“Part of the condition was that you would not make public your experience or disclose what you saw. But as soon as you came out, you decided that you owe those suffering Nigerians you had seen in chains the obligation to tell the world about them and of course you were not going to be silent on your harrowing experience. Your accomplice in chief in this regard was the equally radical, principled and indeed revolutionary Wale Adeoye who interviewed you and got your stories published by The Guardian.

“Once that happened you became a ‘wanted dead or alive’ activist. I do recall that I also had to ‘house’ you in the same NUJ premises and offered needed resource support on the eve of your dawn departure for the first leg of your exile in Ghana, leaving behind a pregnant wife, who we rallied to take care of with Lanre Akinfemiwa, our friend and colleague at the Vanguard newspapers serving as the coordinator in chief. The rest as they say is history, but one which we will now gladly read in your book,” Arogundade recounts in a moving tribute.

Assassination of Bunmi’s Mother

According to him, “Bunmi might have gone through painful experiences, including quite unfortunately, the assassination of his mother, Mrs. Emily Omope Aborisade – aka mama Thatcher – while he was on exile in the United States. Bunmi’s mother was a radical, principled and influential grassroots political leader whose killing remains a mystery, but should not, in a country where lives are valued. May her soul continue to rest in deserved peace.

“But, my dear Bunmi, what would have been more painful for us, is if the killer squad of the Sani Abacha regime had succeeded in their mission to exterminate you in the aftermath of the events that followed your brave decision to take your journalism to a different political level by publishing and editing the June 12 Magazine as a fighting tabloid for the validation of the results of the June 12, 1993 elections and the swearing-in of Bashorun MKO Abiola as the winner.

“You did this, not because you were acting on behalf of politicians as the Abacha junta believed, but because you chose to pitch your journalistic tent in the camp of fighters and advocates for the termination of military rule, for which June 12 was to serve as an important stepping stone,” the former chairman, NUJ Lagos Council said.  .

While extolling celebrants’s journalistic courage, Mr Arogundade, who was chairman of the event, however said if Aborisade had sought his opinion on the title of his book, he would have suggested a different title that conveys the story of his songs of victory.

Songs of Victory

“If you had sought my opinion on the title for the book, I would have suggested “Victories of Exile” because in the final analysis, yours is the songs of victory – victory of being a catalyst of the mass movement that eventually defeated the military and victory exemplified by the fact that you left Nigeria simply as Mr. Bunmi Aborisade and today we are celebrating you as Dr. Bunmi Aborisade. Isn’t it good that you surmounted all obstacles to attain academic excellence in Mass Communication in the United States?” he concluded.

Also showering encomiums on Aborisade’s salutary path, Convener of #Revolution Now protest, Mr Omoyele Sowore says, the inspiration to float the online publication, Sahara Reporters came from him.

“When I met Bunmi in New York and he told me how many jobs he was doing to survive, I pondered at his resilience and wondered how I would cope. I suggested that he started a news publication but he threw back the challenge to me instead, because he felt he was too hard pressed with his numerous jobs to have time for editing a newspaper.

“Bunmi is also very good at nurturing and oiling relationships. He’s always there to engage and share ideas with you. He also ensures he was fully connected with developments back home in Nigeria,” Sowore narrates from his home in Abuja, the federal capital where the court has restricted his stay as part of the bail terms for his release.

Gains of Pro-Democracy Struggle

Also commending Aborisade for his courage in publishing the June 12 Magazine, Dr Dapo Thomas, a former special assistant to ex Lagos State Governor, Mr Bola Tinubu, lamented how the post 1999 civilian administration has been largely taken over by “charlatans and miscreants,” who made little contribution to the struggle for democracy.

“It’s unfortunate that despite the contributions of people like Bunmi to the pro-democracy struggle, he has not been a beneficiary. The stage has been largely taken over by people who made no contribution to the struggle,” Thomas who’s also a senior lecturer at the Lagos State University (LASU), observed.

Reviewing the book, “Pains of Exile,” Rasaki Ojo Bakare, a professor of Choreography and Performance Aesthetics, Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, says Bunmi’s vision is driven by strong conviction.

“If there is anything I know about Bunmi Aborisade, my friend of over forty years – it is the fact that while he may not always be right on all issues, he is consistently himself. Real, genuine, outrageously courageous, and far from being careful even though he is never careless. When Bunmi is fully convinced about a matter, nothing else matters but his conviction.”

Personality Traits

According to Bakare, who’s also commissioner for Arts and Culture in Ekiti state, “These personality traits of this enigmatic author reflect so much in the book under review. In “Pains of Exile”, Bunmi Aborisade tells the story of his modest contribution to the democratic struggle in Nigeria. The book speaks of his arrest and detention, his exile years in Ghana and the United States of America and his transition “From Newsroom Through Barricade to Ivory Tower”.

He explains that the fifteen chapter book details chapter by chapter, the different events that dominated the author’s life from the June 12 1993 struggle through his sojourn in exile in Ghana and the United States.

The first chapter of the book which is titled “A Call to Service: From Daily Times to the Barricade” tells the story of the early inspiration Bunmi received from the Nigerian radical groups as a university student which prepared him for a career in journalism and calling in rights and political activism.

The second chapter titled “Setting up June 12 Magazine” explains how the June 12 Magazine was established by the author and three other colleagues to complement the June 12 struggle and to agitate for the validation of the annulled June 12 election believed to have been won by Mr MKO Abiola.

In chapter 3, the author chronicles the story of his arrest and detention during the June 12 struggle at the Ikeja Military cantonment. This chapter is titled “My Arrest and Detention at Ikeja Cantonment” 

Meeting Diya’s Aides

Chapter four, under the caption – “At the Directorate of Military Intelligence” narrates the encounter of the author with the Director of the Directorate of Military Intelligence, Col. OO Frank, his meeting with General Oladipo Diya’s aides, his evangelism activities at the detention camp and meeting with a nine year old boy, Fola Mokolu, who was arrested when the Junta could not arrest his father.

The fifth chapter of this book is titled “Fresh from the Gulag” and is on the release of the author from detention and the media attention that greeted his release, his imminent re-arrest, and Journey through NADECO route to Ghana, are discussed in this chapter.

In chapter six, “Three Years in Ghana,” the author writes about his three years in exile in Ghana, his involvement in Nigeria’s democratic struggle from Ghana, media and social activities, as well as his arrest after attacks from the Nigerian community in Ghana for criticizing the Abacha Junta. This chapter also narrates Bunmi’s relationship with co-exiles, his linking up with NADECO abroad, Close shave with Armed Struggle and eventual departure to the United States of America.

Sojourn in the US

Chapter 7 captures the arrival of the author in Tucson, Arizona USA, the search for job and how he could not secure a job in a restaurant because he had a degree. According to the chapter, Bunmi had to remove his degree from his CV to secure a menial job. The chapter also talks about Bunmi’s relocation to New York, working and schooling in New York while still involved in the struggle for democracy back home in Nigeria.

Chapter 8 is the story of how he went back to school for masters and PhD programmes, settling down to raise a family and facing the challenges of combining schooling with family responsibilities in New York.

In chapter 9, we read the story of how the author’s mother was attacked with acid bath in his home state, Ekiti, including the struggle to save her life, her eventual death, burial and the establishment of Emily Foundation in her memory.

In chapter 10, the author captures his involvements in Nigerian pro-democracy activities in New York and how he threw his weight behind the candidacy of Nuhu Ribadu for the presidency of Nigeria which eventually culminated in his appointment as the chairman of Team Ribadu, USA.

Chapter 11 is titled “Going back home”. A dream that may not be realized by many exiles is the focus of this chapter. Here the author talks about his return to Nigeria in 2012 including his teaching appointment at Afe Babalola University, politics back home and his reunion with old friends and family.

Chapter 12, “Adventure in Politics” focuses on the author’s first foray into partisan politics- his romance with politicians at the grassroots and how he found himself in a terrain completely different from journalism and his calling – human rights activism.

Chapter 13 is dedicated to the author’s sojourn in Nigerian academics which he described to be full of intrigues, politics and back stabbing. The author documents in this chapter, his teaching, research and administrative activities in ABUAD. 

In chapter 14 titled “My Night Job, My Second Job”, the author details how he worked day and night to survive and how he worked his way through the American labour market to become a university professor.

The author closes the book with chapter 15 titled “Returning to America”. Here he talks about university teaching in Nigeria and how his return to America was necessitated by his celebrated resignation from Afe Babalola University after falling out on principle with the founder of the University. The author concludes that there is nothing like home and that his exile years were characterized by pains despite his achievement-including his rise to the professorial chair.

“This book, well written in clear and lucid English language, has all the literary qualities that will make it a good read to prospective readers across generations, class and socio- political cravings. The book in style, form and depth of content satisfies all the requirements of a good authorial effort, and it is an important addition to the growing body of works that faithfully document the Nigerian socio-political history,” the reviewer concludes.

Early Life

Born on August 31, 1960 in Ado Ekiti, Ado Local Government; Ekiti State, Philip Olubunmi Aborisade is a human rights activist, author, researcher, teacher and a trained journalist of over a decade experience in print media.

Upon his return to Nigeria in 2012 after 15 years in exile in Ghana and USA following the June 12 Crisis in Nigeria, Aborisade was appointed as a senior lecturer at Afe Babalola University on July 15, 2012 and rose to the position of an associate professor in the same university in 2014.

Academic Appointment

Aborisade was the coordinator of Media and Communication Department, between 2012 and 2014, head of Media and Social Studies Department, between 2014 and 2017 and acting provost, College of Social and Management Science in 2017

Prior to this, he taught for eight years at the State University of New York (Empire State College) and the College of New Rochelle, New York.

He returned to the United States of America in 2017 as a visiting professor at the College of New Rochelle. He was appointed as a professor of Mass Communication by City University of New York in 2018.

Journalism Experience

Aborisade edited and co-published the June 12 Magazine, a pro-democracy tabloid established to agitate for the validation of the annulled June 12 1993 presidential election in Nigeria. He worked as a journalist with the Daily Times of Nigeria, PLC, The Independent Newspaper, Ghana, Arizona Daily Star, USA, and African American Observer, New York.

As a journalist and pro-democracy activist in Nigeria, he was arrested and detained during the June 12 struggle; this forced him into exile in Ghana in 1997. While in exile in Ghana, he was arrested by President J.J. Rawlings regime for campaigning against bad governance in Nigeria. This again forced him to leave Ghana for the USA where he lived till he returned to Nigeria in 2012.

Aborisade was very active in different pro-democracy groups in Nigeria and abroad for the restoration of democracy in Nigeria. He was president of Nigerian Journalists in Exile in Ghana and the pioneer chairman of the New York-based Liberty Forum, a pro-democracy movement to rally Nigerians in USA to support the struggle for democracy and good governance at home.

Schools Attended

A native of Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State; Aborisade had his primary education at Saint Georges Primary School Ado Ekiti, secondary school education at Ekiti Parapo College and later Corpus Christi College, Ilawe Ekiti.  He holds a BA degree in History from Ondo State University, Ado Ekiti (now Ekiti State University), PGD in Journalism from the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ), MSc. in Communication from the College of New Rochelle, USA, MA in Sociology of Media from The New School University, USA and a Communication and Media Technology from Capella University, USA.

His recent research on how technology transforms journalism business through citizen-reporters in Nigeria explored the emerging world of social media (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace etc.) and how they influence news gathering, reporting and distribution. Aborisade’s current research works seek to explore the ambiguous relationship of social media towards hegemony and resistance and how “Stomach Infrastructure” is redefining Political Communication in Nigeria.

He won the year 2000 awards in Profile Writing and International News Reporting of the New York Association of Black Journalists. He is the author of The Citizen Reporters, he co-authored “Everybody Say Ye’ Ye: An organic novel on Fela’s Communication with humour.

His research spans four major areas- technology, media, society, and communication while his research investigates the impact of technology on media, communication and contemporary society. He is published in both international and local journals.

Commitment to Good Governance

Though Aborisade has no interest is pursuing any political agenda in future, he is interested in good governance and entrenchment of democracy in Nigeria. But to exercise his fundamental human right to belong to a political party of his choice, he is a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Ekiti State; Ado Ekiti (Ward 1).

Founder of Emily Foundation for Democracy, a non-governmental organization established in memory of (his mother), the late Woman Leader (Mama Thatcher) of Alliance for Democracy (AD) in Ekiti State who died of politically motivated acid attack in 2003, he is also the Founder of Olubunmi Aborisade Farms, a registered farm located at Igirigiri, Ado Ekiti.  Aborisade, a philanthropist is married to Sonja, a US-based auditor/technocrat and they are blessed with three kids.

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