The Return Of Funmi Iyanda
By Babafemi Ojudu
She is back. I had a chat with her a couple of days ago. She had just had an interview with Mr Musiliu Akinsanya alias MC Oluomo, the leader of the NURTW in Lagos.
She got a bashing for her ‘audacity’ from those social media trolls whose brains are full of ants. I however think she has done a fantastic job not minding the irritants .
What stops a journalist from interviewing a personality of her choice. You can choose to watch or not to watch. How dare you legislate on the subject a journalist can treat or cannot treat.
Not even a personality like MC Oluomo who controls and manages the affairs of the ‘bad boys’ in the Lagos space, a man whose connection has grown beyond the motor parks to the Lagos sit of power and farther afield to Bourdillon. A man who rose from being a street urchin, an enfant terrible to one who now travels around the world and has his children in top universities abroad.
Shouldn’t such a man’s brain be x-rayed for the world to know what the components are? I have just finished reading a well researched book Festus Adedayo on Ayinla Omowura , the late Apala maestro . The trajectory of his life is not too much different from Oluomo. You can learn a lot of life lessons from the book as much as you will from reading a biography of Albert Einstein.
In the course of my career as a journalist I have seen award winning journalist interview mobsters, murderers and serial rapists. I have seen journalists go behind prison bars to do psycho analysis of hardened criminals doing life.
I remember the popular Italian female journalist Oriana Fallaci . She interviewed people from virtually all the spectrum of life. Head of nations, top academics, terrorists, mobsters and criminals, name it. Her reputation as a bold, courageous and brilliant journalist was made by not restricting herself to only fellows who want their ego massaged. When Oriana sits before you she looks you in the face and rip you apart, no matter who you are. She rents a space in your psyche and unravels it for the world with her questions. Ask Gaddafi, ask Kissinger, ask Ayaatollah Khomeini, ask Golda Meir.
That is the nature of the Iyanda interview which I knew before Funmi left the shores of Nigeria to seek greener pastures abroad some years back. That is what she has brought back with experience and maturity further informing the art of this highly driven lady.
A few days after I came out of Abacha’s prison in 1998, I sat in my living room in Lagos one morning watching a program on MITV. There on the tube arguing powerfully was a hound of a young lady. Her diction , her logic, her ideas and her youth was so fascinating. I had never met her before until that morning.
I was compelled thereafter to do a letter to the anchor as well as the producer of the program asking them to link me up with this very brilliant lady.
Few days after I got a call from Funmi. I commended her for what I saw of her on TV and asked if she could write the way she spoke. Yes, she said. Ok see me in the office I told her. She showed up one afternoon with manuscripts of her writings crying to be published. I went through them and didn’t know when I jumped up dancing. I have found a talent, I told myself.
I immediately created a column for her in our afternoon paper PM News and she immediately became a hit.
Then a partner and mentee of the football legend Segun Odegbami, she brimmed with incisive knowledge of and analysis of sports. I got her another column on the sports pages of the same and thus began her career in print media. A few years later my organisation sent her to the World Cup and Olympics events in Atlanta, USA and Australia. Funmi will later introduce to me her younger brother Olumide, who I found equally talented. I hired him and he too excelled. Olumide is today an accomplished journalist.
I went from there to collaborate with her to put together a program on NTA, New Dawn by Funmi Iyanda. I got her some art works, a microwave oven and other nik and naks to design a set and the program became a success and picked up awards.
When in 1999 Bola Ahmed Tinubu was elected governor and he asked me to put up a team to organise a spectacular inauguration, I didn’t hesitate to have her and others such as Guy Murray Bruce, Asue Ighodalo and three other women who later became commissioners in the state and Minister in Abuja.
Boy with their support and selflessness I delivered a well scripted inauguration that span a week and celebrated our return to democracy without recourse to state funds. We put money in the production of Kelani’s Saworo Ide and screened for the elite as well as the ordinary people of Lagos. We sold tables to corporate bodies and individuals who want to be counted as A-list in Lagos.
Such was our relationship between us that when I had my daughter in January 2000 and named her Morenike, she had hers a few months after and gave the adorable name as well. Both girls are young adults now with huge potential.
A couple of months ago I picked up the news of her coming to Nigeria to premier her movie. I was excited and I put a call through to her with a promise that I will attend. I could not make it but I read the reviews which again testified to the film being Funmilike.
We have spoken a couple of times since and exchanged ideas, bantered and would have been onto something together again by now but for the pandemics.
When Funmi spoke to me a couple of days ago of the bashings she received from some trolls for choosing to dare interview Oluomo rather than some fat ego corporate persons or their idea of the ideal subject I told her to ignore them .
Was that interview worth the bashing you need to have a look at it. Aje(witch), as I used to call her, is back to give glamour, grit and intelligence back to television interviewing again as opposed to the inquisition that a popular television station parades this days.