By Job Osazuwa
May 2 was a special day for Mr. Shola Oshunkeye and his amiable wife, Funsho. And the memory of that unique Sunday would remain with the couple for a long time.
It was the day that relatives and friends converged on 27, Abel Chima Street, Ayobo, Lagos State, to rejoice with the husband and wife, who clocked 65 and 60, respectively.
The celebrated media guru and 2006 winner of the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist of the Year award could not conceal his joy. He was seen moving from one table to the other exchanging pleasantries with virtually all the guests. He intermittently danced, displaying youthful agility, to the admiration of all.
Taking a cursory look at how God had been with him and his household, Oshunkeye said he had every reason to remain eternally grateful to his creator.
The activities for their birthday began at Hephzibah Ministries, Ayobo, where the celebrators went to give thanks to God for sparing their lives in the last six decades.
Oshunkeye said: “It is the glory and grace of God, and the confidence I have in Him that has kept me healthy and going all these years. In good and bad times, in lack or sufficiency, I am thankful to God, which has given me peace of mind.
“At 65, life has taught me to always be humble and to dearly love God. I am not perfect but I strive to present myself to God in a manner that will be acceptable to Him. Anybody could fail you, but God can never.
“I also thank my wife whom I met on August 14, 1977, in Surulere, Lagos. She has accepted me with all my imperfections and vice versa. The journey has not be that smooth but God has tremendously blessed us.”
He also told the reporter that nothing could separate him from his love for journalism, though he was initially trained as a science technologist and worked with the Federal Government: “I didn’t like the slow pace of things in the federal service then. So, I went to the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ) in 1989 for my post-graduate programme. It was there that I met the great Mike Awoyinwa and that was how the journey began. The late Dimgba Igwe, Tunji Bello, Segun Babatope, Dele Momodu and many other seniors and my contemporaries impacted my life positively. And my best friend too, Femi Adesina, who has been a stabilising force in my life, especially using the word of God as a weapon.
“Even out of paid employment and supposed retirement, I am now busier. I am into consultancy. I am writing one or two books at the moment. I still interview people and do different types of writings. I am a reporter and will continue to report the good, the bad and the ugly till I die.
“God has helped me to do big stories as a reporter. God always programmed me to be at the right place at the right time, which really helped me in my practice.”
He won the CNN overall award (African category) for his TELL Magazine article “Niger’s Graveyard of the Living,” which was chosen from among 1,530 entries from 43 nations across the African continent. Apart from the CNN awards, he also clinched the Nigerian Media Merit Award in 1996 and many others.
“When I was doing the award-winning story in Niger Republic, I wept twice. It was worse than a horror film seeing dead children everywhere,” he recalled.
He advised journalists aspiring to leave a mark in the profession to work harder than they were doing. He lamented the lack of in-depth reporting by the traditional media houses.
“They need to work very hard. There has to be a new resolve among younger generation of journalists to bring back the glory of the profession. Mr. Awoyinfa used to tell us those days: ‘Seek first the kingdom of news; and every other thing will be added unto you.’ If you do your work very well, people will recognise you. Nobody can hide a shining light under the bed.
“Let us do everything according to the ethics that guide the profession and earn respect from the society,” he counselled.
One of the celebrants’ children, Temitope Oluwaseyi Oshunkeye, told the reporter that 65 looked good on his father’s journey on earth. He said his father had achieved a lot in life that his entire family was proud of. He said the celebrant’s love for quality education was non-negotiable.
He also described his father as an open-minded, blunt person who would never pretend over any issue. He stated that his siblings and he were privileged to be raised by responsible parents who did not spare the rod whenever they erred.
“I will continue to cherish his way of life, which has influenced me in so many ways. He is one person that is very focused, accommodating and loving. At every given opportunity, he preaches love, tolerance and patience. Having family members around and rejoicing with one another makes him ever excited.
“Looking at his career life and business, he believes in integrity, honesty and transparency. He is not selfish with whatever God has blessed him with. It is easy and common of him to mentor the people under him and guide them to grow.
“More importantly, he puts God first in everything he does. He corrected and is still correcting us with love. When he needed to flog, he did so without hesitation, but his actions were for our own good. As typical Yoruba parents, we received from our dad and mum all the types of chastisement one could think of. And thank God that we are all better for it today,” he said.
In his exhortation, the assistant pastor at Hephzibah Ministries, Kunle Faloye, said that the Oshunkeyes loved God and were not found wanting in doing his work.
His words: “Life is not all about eating and drinking, but fulfilling one’s purpose in life. No one can really be fulfilled without acknowledging the giver of life. You will get to a certain stage in life, and then you will understand that money cannot answer every man’s need.
“The giver of life is Jesus. If you have not known, it is time to accept Him as your Lord and personal saviour.”