Friday, 1 May 2015

Part 2: City People Publisher’s 50th Birthday Exclusive | How I escaped Gen Sani Abacha’s bullet on 3 occasions – Seye Kehinde + Greatest Lesson life taught me @ 50


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The SK with the GDA

Today we continue with the second part of the exclusive 50th birthday interview with City People Magazine Publisher, Dr. Seye Kehinde who clocked 50 last Friday, April 24th, 2015. This part two is a never-told-before hot tale excusive brought to you by your Africa’s number celebrity encounter blog Asabeafrika. The amiable publisher for the first time told us the story of his several near death encounter under the regime of late Nigerian Head of state General Sani Abacha as he was one of those who played prominent roles in the anti-military journalism of the era. We equally backed our report with some of the epic political stories that brought about a death warrant on the City People publisher’s head during that gloomy era. Enjoy the excerpts.
Dr. Seye Kehinde to Asabeafrika....'Great People like Mike Awoyinfa & Late Dimgba Igwe inspires me'
Why Abacha wanted my head
You were one of the very few journalists who rattled the late General Sani Abacha’s regime with your articles and reports which were direct to the heart of the military junta of that era. Could you recall some of your near death experience during the time?
There were so many, I can’t limit it to one or two experience because they were so, so, so many because at that point it was quite challenging. There was even a time they declared us wanted that they asked people for a fee, that if they see us they should inform the nearest police station. The news was on NTA and few other media platform and that was the time we decided to go underground and from that point onward we ran both THE NEWS and TEMPO as guerilla publications. And it was very challenging but very exciting too and one learnt a lot of lessons from it because it made me know that once an idea has come, there is no stopping that idea because the military did everything humanely possible to make sure we don’t come out but we kept coming out every week without failing because we were not operating from a conventional point of view, it was from an unconventional point of view and we continued to survive until that era passed away and that made me know that you don’t need money to get so many things going, all you need is an idea which time has come and you put passion to it because we were very passionate about it, we didn’t use to go home we used to just move around and all that, we didn’t have an office. We operated in a very hap-hazard manner but believe you me, we sustained the publication all through the period the military was in power.
“There was even a time they declared us wanted that they asked people for a fee, that if they see us they should inform the nearest police station. The news was on NTA and few other media platform and that was the time we decided to go underground and from that point onward we ran both THE NEWS and TEMPO as guerilla publications”.
The ABACHA Story that made SEYE KEHINDE become THE MOST WANTED MAN in Nigeria
Day I came face to face with Abacha’s goons
Can you recall just two or three near death experience you had with the military goons?
Ah! So many times, like I said there were so many experiences. There was a time we were at the Concord Press where we went to print and the security people came and they wanted to arrest us, Mr. Bayo Onanuga and I were there together. That was even the first edition of TEMPO and it was so agonizing because when they met us, we pretended as if we were just journalists that we were packers in the press hall and they got us to pack the maiden edition of TEMPO, we packed into their truck and they took it away. It was after they had left the place they now realized that the two of us were actually the two people they were looking for because they got information that we were printing there; so, they stormed the place and met us in the heat of production but we pretended as if we were packers, we quickly rolled our shirts and trousers and we started doing as if we were machine operators and all that; so, by the time they set their eyes on copies of TEMPO Magazine they said we should pack everything into their truck and we did but while we were packing the publication into the truck, we disappeared and by the time they knew we were the ones they were looking for it was the following day after information went round that we were actually there but they didn’t get us. 
Dr. Seye Kehinde to Asabeafrika...'I dont believe in acting big and drinking champagne like a big boss'
There was also a time the police stopped me at a check point and they decided to search and they searched my car and they found so many documents and that was the time journalists were being arrested during the crazy days of General Sani Abacha and of course if I didn’t play fast one on them at that time I would have been taken to the military cantonment or any of the junta’s gulag but of course I played a fast one and I set myself free from that ordeal. There are so many, there was even a day they stormed our former office at THE NEWS, the one at Ogba near NIJ (Nigeria Institute of Journalism), I think Sweet Sensation (Eatery) occupies the building now. I think they came specifically looking for me because they heard I was in the building. So, they stormed the building and they created a barrier at the gate and they said everybody should come out, that we should come out one by one that they wanted to ransack the building looking for me and all of that. I don’t know where I got the raw courage, initially I wanted to stay back but I said ‘if I stay to the end, I will probably be the last person they will be looking for and they will eventually get me but if I go now that the search is fresh, I could escape’. 
Dr. Seye Kehinde with Owu born billionaire, Aare (Dr.) Bolu Akin-Olugbade
So, immediately the line-by-line thing started I joined them. Of course I collected an ID card belonging to one of the staff and of course I immediately change my countenance because I am a very casual person, I don’t like being extravagant and I was casually dressed that day. So, what I simply did was to roll my sleeve, changed my shoes to slippers. I just joined the queue. Of course, at a point, they will say ‘next person’ and they will look at the ID card and try to match it with the face. They kept doing that, kept doing that, kept doing that until they got to my turn. They looked at the ID card, looked at my face and matched me to go and I left. Of course all the staff knew what was going on; so, immediately they saw me going, they were like “Ah! This people have really missed” and that was how I escaped. 
Dr. Seye Kehinde to Asabeafrika....'How i survived Abacha's Killer Squard was an act of God'
So, it was much later again like the Concord Press experience that they knew the person they were actually looking for was within the building but by that time, I have escaped. So, there are so many close shaves I have had, so many. So, many close shaves I have had with death but I was able to make it away without a slight hurt. Because I just believe there was nothing we did wrong at that time for anybody to be harassing us and all of that, I mean there was no any reason for me to willingly hand over my self to them for terrorism. Yes, if they had arrested me on their own strategy without my knowledge, then, no problem but not that I will willingly just walk into them, why will I do that? I don’t see any advantage that will give to me because we were just doing our job.
“So, what I simply did was to roll my sleeve, changed my shoes to slippers. I just joined the queue. Of course, at a point, they will say ‘next person’ and they will look at the ID card and try to match it with the face. They kept doing that, kept doing that, kept doing that until they got to my turn”
But were you using Juju or any diabolical mean to escape your assailants?
No, it was just a luck I have. I have had so many close shaves with death and terror but for some reasons, God has been very faithful and I will just walk out of it and I think by nature I am not somebody who is usually afraid of things like that. I just take it in my stride and I try to make the best out of it.
Dr. Seye Kehinde with His Excellency, Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN)
I am doing a book on role models
Do you have a role model?
I have had so many role models, so many of them. For some time now I have been trying to do a book on people who have inspired me up in the course of my life and I have to learn different things from different people; perseverance, humility and ability to build up others, to create other people, to influence other people. I can go on and on with names of people who I have seen or people who I have had encounters with and who changed my life, it is a long list, it is not one, two or three persons. I mean I have had so many, so many people, not only physical role models but those whose books I have read and they have inspired me and prepared me. I thank God that I have started reading very early in my young life and that enabled me imbibe so many leadership principles from people because even if you don’t meet somebody in flesh, if you read the person’s ideas, opinion and articles and all that, it would influence and shape you in a way.
“Like I always tell people, if I want to drink Champagne I can buy Champagne on my own and drink. So, I don’t need to attend all the parties in Lagos for me to be able to drink Champagne. If I want to drink wine I can go into a wine shop and get one and drink but some people don’t see journalism from that perspective and I guess we all have different views but the school I belong to is the school where one has to be serious minded in what we do because what we do is a very serious minded business”
Dr. Seye Kehinde @ one of his event with Lagos state first lady, Dame Abimbola Fashola
Why I work so hard….
One popular allegation against you is that you work so very hard, it is a very popular opinion about you. You conduct interviews and even transcribe the interviews side-by-side other administrative works. Why do you overwork yourself?
I think my dad (Late Gilbert Ademolu Kehinde) shaped me that way, he works all nights. Then I read one of Awo’s book and it was written there, it is actually a speech delivered in the 1950s, he said the biggest problem with our youths is that they sleep too much; then, he analyze sleep and equally analyze the hours a young man who is still virile could sleep and I think that thing stuck in my brain straight away. So, from my days in Ife (Obafemi Awolowo University) I have always been a book warm. In fact some people who see me now will ask that ‘how come I was able to soften up?’. If I didn’t go into journalism I would have probably gone into academics because I was very close to all my lecturers, the Doctors, the Professors in Ife at that time and at other instructions I studied. I was too much into academics and candidly inclined to academics. I was surprised myself that I never ended up in academic because I love reading and I love writing and all of that goes hand in hand, writing, reading and research. 
Dr SK to Asabeafrika...'I work hard with no rule for fitness but it is now a priority @ 50'
So, if I had wanted to go into academic it wouldn’t have been a big deal. So, that culture of discipline has been there for me and I believe that journalists are like footballers or athletes, if you do not constantly horn your skills you will go rusty I don’t want to go rusty at fifty something. I mean, why should I write one story now and be procrastinating for three days, four days to a week before I write another one; then I will no longer be a journalist. I will probably be an arm chair person but I want to be alert, I want to be fit, I want to be able to horn my skills at all times. I get touched when I see old foreign journalists who travel down to Nigeria to come and source for stories. Some of them in their 60s, 70s and 80s and they come into a country where they don’t know anybody and as they are interviewing you, they are asking you if you know anybody that can link them up with someone higher they want to meet and they are working with deadline. They just have maybe 48 hours to spend in your country before they go back to their country to file their reports and I am here still in my 50s and I will now say because I am the publisher I wont file in stories.
Dr. SK to Asabeafrika 'Greatest Lesson @ 50 is to always plan ahead'
Dr. Seye Kehinde with Veteran Journalist Akogun Tola Adeniyi (L) with a guest
And of course, the likes of Mike Awoyinfa and the late Dimgba Igwe showed us the way that if you are leaving your house in the morning, one of the first things Mike Awoyinfa will take with him is a tape recorder. For me, that is the kind of person that has a passion for what he does, those are the kind of people I want to emulate not people when you ask them when last did they do an interview, they will say ten years ago. I mean I am a reporter and I will continue to be a reporter because that is what makes the whole thing exciting meeting new people, taking people’s views and getting to know why people do what they do. I am not one of those who went into journalism because of the fancy side of it, no, it is a serious job. I read all of Awo’s books on journalism, I read all of Zik’s books, and these are guys who were very instrumental to the independence of Nigeria. The nationalists and the journalists; so, if you reduce the pedigree of a profession that is instrumental to the independence of a country to butter and bread or drinking of wine and champagne, I am very sorry for you. Like I always tell people, if I want to drink Champagne I can buy Champagne on my own and drink. 
Dr. Seye Kehinde with Billionaire Lagos Prince & Boardroom Guru, Adekunle Ojora
So, I don’t need to attend all the parties in Lagos for me to be able to drink Champagne. If I want to drink wine I can go into a wine shop and get one and drink but some people don’t see journalism from that perspective and I guess we all have different views but the school I belong to is the school where one has to be serious minded in what we do because what we do is a very serious minded business. Because a lot of people depend on what you write, so, your information has to be right and of course you are always a role model to people coming behind. Don’t also forget that you are dealing with people’s egos and reputations. You have to be on your toes at all time because running a news room is like a general running a platoon or a captain of a football team, you must be athletic and as the leader of a team you must be ready to compete with your team. What I do here is to compete with my team, go out there and bring the information and I will also go out and get the information and at the end we compare notes and that is why most of my guys here (City People) cant say I am exploiting them because before you get here, you will meet me. By the time you say you are going home, I am still here working. So, people will say to me ‘you overwork yourself’ but I want to experience what my staff go through and I belief the future of this profession belong to those of us who are innovative and hardworking. We can not let the internet culture take over journalism because journalism is different. E-journalism is just an aspect of journalism that is being developed with much potential for development. I don’t see how I will be part of a culture that will not pay attention to books or encourage scholarship for people to develop serious minds. I know my pedigree and where I am coming from, so, I also want to develop my terrain and let people take it from there. So, it is not about seeing Seye Kehinde with one governor or the other, our brand of journalism is much deeper than that.
Dr. Seye Kehinde with wife, Mrs. Funke Kehinde (M) and a female guest
Why I want to have an exercise regime
What other thing do you do before now that you can’t afford to do again at 50?
I don’t think there is any; for me 50 is just numbers.
What of exercise?
I want to try and do more of that; that is the only area I think I am lacking. Because of the kind of person I am, I work too much and I don’t give room for exercise. So, I am seriously looking at the day of the week that I can take time off even if it is just for two, three hours to do some exercise, jogging and all of that because it also helps, it refreshes you and makes you fit.
Governor of Ogun state, His Excellency, Senator Ibikunle Amosun with eminent Nigerians conducts the cutting of Dr. Seye Kehinde's 50th birthday cake with family
What do you think journalism will be like in 50 years from now?
In the next 50 years I don’t think it will be the way we practice it today. I think everything is going to move online. Why I said so is because the new generation of readers we have now, I can call them the online generation or the facebook generation, they are not open to the rigorous developmental nature that we went through, they are not inclined to it at all. We are seeing this generation now, what about the generation coming behind? They are even going to be worse. The kind of generation we have now; one; they don’t even study history any longer in schools. They don’t study Yoruba, Hausa or Igbo and I remember the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo said before you become a good Nigerian you must be a good Yoruba person, you must be a good Hausa or Igbo person because your base forms your identity but unfortunately the new generation of youths don’t even know history of Nigeria talk less of knowing the history of the world. But in my own generation we read history and it helped to shape our orientation about life. But today history as a discipline becomes optional, how can history be optional for a group of people? If you don’t know where you are coming from how would you know where you are going?. So, in the next 50 years and even before then and with the emergence of a generation that is fastidious to I-phone, I-pad and other handy communication gadgets, journalism will move online but of course great scholarship will sustain it.
Dr. Seye Kehinde with Ogun state Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun
Greatest Lesson I learnt @ 50
So, what has life taught you at 50?
It taught me a lot, life has taught me to be humble and it also taught me to take life more serious because you realize that if you come into this world and you do not realize what makes the world thick, you will just come and go and that is why the likes of Bishop Oyedepo and lots of preachers will always talk about finding your purpose in life, define who you are. Know what you have passion for, what are your dreams and how are you planning to achieve them. If you don’t know all of that, you will find yourself flowing with the world and before you know what is happening, you have wasted so many years but if you know specifically what all of these is about, you will know how to plug yourself into the society you belong to. Like you are asking me now, what will journalism be in 50 years? You need to be able to think ahead, in ten or twenty years, how do you prepare yourself? How do you position yourself? Because the world is all about positioning, you must know what is going to happen in five years. I was reading somebody’s autobiography last night and he was saying there that he comes up with a 5 years plan for himself every year and after every 5 years he reviews it to assess his achievements and that for me is instructive.
One of Dr. Seye Kehinde's controversial storiees in the April 25 (A day after his 19th years birthday) 1994 edition of THE NEWS Magazine that got him into trouble with government of the day
The majestic 50th birthday cake depicting his love for books and biros

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