Former staff members of PUNCH Newspapers on Wednesday unveiled a book titled “OUR PUNCH YEARS,” said to be the “reminiscences and insider accounts by former editors and staff of Nigeria’s most widely read newspaper at 50.”
The over 400-page book was written by 38 ex-punchers who gave accounts of their memorable experiences while working at The PUNCH.
At the unveiling event held at NECA House Auditorium, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos, the editor of the book, Lekan Otufodunrin, said the history of the successes of PUNCH Newspapers would be incomplete without recalling the roles played by former staff members at various critical times.
Otufodunrin said, “We reached out to as many former staff members as we could and invited them to contribute to the goal.”
He said ex-Punchers shared their good, exciting and not-so-pleasant experiences in the book as the contributors had the option of writing on any aspect of their stay in PUNCH.
“There is a lot to read in this book, including the formal and dramatic way some persons joined The PUNCH, their growth, and the positions they held, as well as office politics and many more,” he said.
A former Deputy Editor-In-Chief, The PUNCH, Gbemiga Ogunleye, who gave the welcome remarks, noted that PUNCH being 50 years as an organisation “is not a small achievement.”
“The book we are about to present is not the story of PUNCH. The story of PUNCH is yet to be told. What we are presenting today is a book chronicling the experiences of 38 former staff members of The PUNCH, titled ‘Our PUNCH Years.’ The book documents the memorable experiences of accomplished journalists,” Ogunleye noted.
He said the book was strictly dedicated to the founding chairman of The PUNCH, the late Chief Olu Aboderin, saying “It is our contribution to the 50th anniversary of The PUNCH Newspapers.”
Quoting the book editor, Ogunleye stressed that the years spent in the company “contributed significantly to our career journeys and we have chosen to document our experiences for posterity.”
The event had in attendance the Chairman of Punch Nigeria Limited, Mrs. Angela Emuwa; Managing Director, Mr Adeyeye Joseph; General Manager, Digital and Publications, Mr Ademola Oni; the GM, Corporate Services, Mrs Olufolakemi Gbemuotor; Company Secretary and GM Subsidiaries, Mrs Omolara Ogunleye; Editor, The PUNCH, Mr Adedayo Oketola; Editorial Board Chairman, Mr Abiodun Sonowo, and Editor, Weekend Titles, Mr Olusola Fabiyi.
Also in attendance was the immediate-past Managing Director of Punch Nigeria Limited, Mr Ademola Osinubi; the President of the Nigeria Guild of Editors, Mr Eze Anaba; the Editor, Daily Independent, Mr Yemi Adebisi; the Executive Director, Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, Ms Motunrayo Alaka, as well as numerous media players and representatives from various media houses, including Ray Power, Guardian Newspaper, etc.
While speaking, the PUNCH chairman, Emuwa, said it was an honour for her to be present at the occasion, adding that it was a time to celebrate PUNCH’s journey as media professionals and to reflect on the journey so far.
“Gatherings like this are golden,” she said. “PUNCH is 50 this year and it has been such an interesting and exciting journey. But what is most profound about this journey is that we could never be here without you – you, ex-Punchers, you, current Punchers, you, our hard readers and friends, you, our critics, you, our contributors, past and present, and anyone in this room who has made that decision to be part of this iconic train. Here is where I say Ubuntu: We are because you are.”
Emuwa reminisced the sacrifices and prices PUNCH staff have had to pay that contributed to ethical journalism “that respects and promotes rights of the people, holds the government to account and amplifies the voice of the minority while doing the core journalistic (duty) of keeping the people across the spectrum informed; we stand here today, tall!”
She said for 50 years, PUNCH had had to forge alliances for the greater good and had taken noble pathways.
“Tomorrow, someone else will be standing here, and will have this much, and more to say,” she added.
The Managing Director and Editor-In-Chief, Joseph, appreciated the organisers of the event and the ex-Punchers who invested good time to contribute to the book.
“First and foremost, I would like to thank the organisers for putting together a very good event. I would also like to thank especially all the contributors who invested, and travelled back in time to put down the recollections of their time at PUNCH,” Joseph said.
He said he always told his colleagues during meetings and discussions that they all had responsibilities towards society.
Joseph said, “The very burden of responsibility is that PUNCH is a very credible media voice in Nigeria. We consider ourselves to be the number one newspaper. I also always say to them that as a newspaper, we have a huge (responsibility) to society. It’s not in the constitution as media scholars would say, but it is generally acceptable that the media has a role to play that is only slightly different from the roles played by the executives, the legislature and the judiciary.”
According to him, that role includes holding the powerful to account, and ensuring that the voices of the voiceless are not only heard on social media or other media channels but also in the corridors of power.
“But in addition to all of that, I say to them always that, see, you are also custodians of a legacy, a legacy of very strong pro-people journalism that has placed PUNCH in good stead over the years.
“That point is particularly important to be stressed here today because those who contributed and invested their prime, their sweat, and their blood into building that legacy are the ones who came together to put this book together. Without you, and your contributions, there wouldn’t be us. To you all, I say a very big thank you,” he added.
Joseph described the book as “a collection of the perfections and imperfections of one of the most enduring media brands in the country.”
Femi Adesina, former spokesperson for ex-President Muhammadu Buhari, also congratulated The PUNCH for standing tall for up to 50 years and still counting.
“I congratulate the contributors of the book and I congratulate The PUNCH at 50,” he said.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, also later arrived at the programme and gave commendable remarks.
Earlier, the Assistant Director in the Ministry of Information, Mobolaji Odumade, who represented the commissioner, conveyed Omotoso’s goodwill messages.
Odumade quoted Omotoso as saying, “It is my pleasure to join other well-wishers on the occasion of this unique goodwill presentation. I appreciate the depth of time it has taken the participating experts of PUNCH Newspapers to come up with such a masterpiece. This publication underscores the relevance and immortality of the intellectual endeavours of the writers in their PUNCH years. It equally highlights the willingness of these accomplished journalists to document their memorable and insightful experiences to serve as a reference for this generation as well as upcoming ones. This is indeed worthy of commendation.”
He noted: “It is quite refreshing to note that there are still individuals and organisations that are spearheading the entrenchment of the reading culture. This publication is an attempt to show an appreciation for the platform that has produced the best in the journalism profession. It is indeed a laudable way of marking the 50th anniversary of PUNCH Newspapers, the first choice in the country.”
Former presidential candidate and publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, spoke about the role PUNCH Newspapers played during his early and recent days of activism.
Sowore said, “There are lots of activists that are supposed to be here today because PUNCH represented us in the 90s. In my way, I was a student activist at the University of Lagos but if not for PUNCH Newspapers and Vanguard, I probably wouldn’t have graduated from the university.”
The programme also featured a panel discussion on Sustainability in the Digital Age by Media Managers.