MY PUNCH voyage began 22 years ago. It was an unintended journey that was planned to be short and snappy but went on and on and on. However, as the saying goes, when God says “yes,” no one can say “no.”
Earlier in 1990, I had joined the profession of journalism. First, working at The Nigerian Economist Magazine and later at Policy Magazine, both based in Lagos. But the real breakthrough and the most auspicious platform emerged when I joined PUNCH, arguably the most courageous and independent newspaper of our time, in 1999.
For more than three decades, I committed myself to serve God and humanity through advocacy, writing for a better Nigeria with an uncommon passion for truth. It is a delight that in all these years, I did my best without considering material possessions and physical comfort as my main objective in journalism. A small plaque atop the desk in the Oval Office of the White House during the Presidency of Ronald Reagan reads: “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.” This became my guiding principle in journalism.
But it was at PUNCH I finally found a clear expression and a solid fulfilment of my core values in journalism. First as an Editorial Board member and later as a senior member, assistant chairman and eventually, as the newspaper’s Editorial Board Chairman for an unprecedented period of 11 years.
And leading the Editorial Board, we won awards in editorial writing year after year – virtually every year without losing our heads. Rounding off nicely on our winning streak, The PUNCH Editorial Board just won the DAME award in editorial writing and was a runner-up for NMMA for 2021.
It should be mentioned that an ideal Editorial Board should consist of bold and independent thinkers from strategic disciplines. Intellectuals who are ready to read and think until they hurt. On The PUNCH Editorial Board, we were passionate, strong, bold, and courageous. We studied very hard and researched harder. We engaged, dared, and challenged the powers-that-be, but never compromised on integrity. We were never given to the syrupy sentimentality of ‘Big Men’ and untouchables.
But we were not also foolhardy or vain. For 11 years, there was not a single libel case arising from our ever penetrating and scathing editorials. We painstakingly avoided dumb mistakes because we had an uncommon and unusual fidelity to truth, evidence-based and facts-led editorial writing. Most importantly, we never used the platform for the furtherance of any pecuniary interest or hidden agenda. We never pandered to any sectional political interests or whims of any Nigerian Big Men. We believed that as “societal judges,” journalists should not have a cosy relationship with power holders. We took heed of the saying: “Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.” And so, watching us closely and believing in our sincerity and competence, we were granted the right by The PUNCH Board of Directors and Management to run the most autonomous Editorial Board any newspaper anywhere in the world can boast of for 11 good years. We were never bothered putting our lives on the line in defence of liberty and the promotion of truth.
Personally, my adherence to the old Baptist Church doctrine helped. Far from what we have now, my father, a first-generation Baptist pastor in Nigeria, opened my eyes early enough to certain civilised values in life. He trained us, his children to love all, but to conquer the spirit of fear, shun sinful materialism and not to worship anybody, but God. I am so proud of him and his worthy legacy.
In staying true to my conscience, too, I am also privileged and proud to be an active crew member of a ship, PUNCH, well designed with uncommon capabilities to defend threats to human rights, champion good governance, true federalism and advance the cause of democracy in Nigeria and elsewhere. And over time at PUNCH, I also had the unique honour to work and interact with the best and courageous minds in the journalism profession and media business in Nigeria.
In truth, PUNCH is a challenging, exciting, and enriching place to work. Challenging because there is no hiding place for mediocre workers. Exciting because dedicated members of staff are mostly not denied their dues. Enriching because of the inestimable workplace experience that comes with both. Strikingly, these explain why ex-Punchers lead and excel wherever they go. We are trained to be hardworking, ethical, daring, courageous and independent. As a Victorian Era poet, William Ernest Henley put it in a poem, Invictus: “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” Everyone takes responsibility for their action or inaction here.
Yet, as the Scripture says, “For everything, there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven,” a season is ending, and a new time is setting for me. While this formidable ship is still cruising on the high seas and ever battle-ready, it was time for me to sign off. On January 4, 2022, I arrived at my seashore, and I disembarked safely at bay, holding my head up after 22 years at PUNCH and 31 years altogether in journalism. Now, I am ready to move on to the next phase of my life, believing, very strongly too, that the Good Lord, as usual, will order my steps to greater and greater heights for the glory of His Holy name.
Indisputably, my PUNCH years will be remembered and cherished as one of the most astonishing and rewarding periods of my life.
My joy is full as the Lord has rewarded me with “peace that passeth all understanding,” terrific health and a lovely family. Many thanks to everyone that contributed to the success of this overwhelmingly impressive voyage.
Segun Adediran is former Chairman, PUNCH Editorial Bord
Contact: [email protected]