By Femi Adepoju
Before that sunny afternoon in the newsroom of Weekend Concord, the only information I had about this man of Igbo extraction was that he was a Muslim. One of the few from that part of the country.
However, something played out that afternoon in the newsroom thirty years ago, that not only exposed who the man Ude was to me, but I also got a training that has helped me in headline casting in my almost 30 years of journalism practice.
The experience of that afternoon later turned out to be one of the life long legacies I got from the Editor of Weekend Concord then, Mr Mike Awoyinfa in the art of headline casting as an intern under his tutelage.
It was that early training on headline casting from Mr Awoyinfa, that later equipped me with the skill needed to make a meaning of the sophisticated headline casting experience I received from Mr Bayo Onanuga and Mr Dapo Olorunyomi in the 10 years I worked with them in The News Group.
It was a full house in the newsroom that Thursday afternoon because it was our production day.
The usual upbeat production day activities was on. The Editor, Awoyinfa was in his office and Mr Dimgba, his Deputy (may his soul rest in peace) was also busy in his own office too.
Among those in the office that afternoon were: Aliu Mohammed, Shola Oshunkeye, Femi Adesina, Blessing Okpowo, Ose Oyemedan and Sunny Umahi who later moved into my one room apartment with me in Mafoluku. May his gentle soul rest in peace.
I was discussing a story idea wit7h Waziri Adio who was also a co-intern, when the Editor emerged from his office and asked everybody to come around him.
He informed us that the cover story for the week was an interview with one Abdulazzez Ude who was doing poultry business in Iraq.
”The interview is ready, but I have issue with the headline. We need a catchy and inviting headline that would compel readers to buy even when the personality focus of the interview is not known on the streets”
Such was the training Awoyinfa gave us then. You must be able to write about an unpopular or common personality in a compelling way that readers won’t have a choice but buy the newspaper. He would also not encourage a beat reporter. As far as he was concerned, there are good stories on the street that will make good reading instead of wasting away somewhere in the name of covering a beat. That later helped me, because when I later found myself doing the beat assignments, I never waited for press releases. To the glory of God, I was able to dig out stuffs to the admiration of my employers.
Back to the Thursday afternoon newsroom scene. The Editor gave us the task to suggest headlines, out of which the most suitable would be picked.
After giving us the task, the Editor retreated to his office. Then the brain cracking exercise commenced.
Everybody went to work, headlines of different shapes came up. Three times the Editor came to the newsroom to compare individual suggestions with what he was able to put down too.
After the third attempt and none of the suggestions was found useful, he retreated yet again, to his office.
About five minutes later, he took quick brisk steps out of his office to the newsroom, holding a paper in his hands. He announced in his usual soft, gentle and cautious voice: gentlemen, I think we have an headline.
Placing the paper in his hand on the newsroom table, he said, check this out.
Written on the paper was the headline: ABDUL AZEEZ UDE: Nigerian Who Makes Millions Selling Chicken In Iran!
And that was it. No one could fault the master of headline casting himself.
We all agreed with the headline and that was what Weekend Concord took to the market that weekend.
That experience continue to play up in my memory whenever I am casting headlines.
Needless I mention that the story amplified the personality of Ude.
He had not been magnified in the media like that Weekend Concord cover story.
Was still hoping there could still be serious media attention on Ude, been an uncommon Igbo Muslim, until news of his demise days ago.
May his soul rest in peace.