The Chronicle Gambia

The Toyin Falola Interviews – A Conversation With Alao Adedayo, Part 1


Toyin Falola

This month, The Yoruba Studies Association of Nigeria will be marking its 50th anniversary. It is a remarkable moment for the Association, those who developed the foresight to make it grow over the years, and the enthusiasm of its current members. The Toyin Falola Interviews is glad to be part of this anniversary. As part of our contribution, we devote the interview on Sunday, October 17, to an extensive conversation on promoting Yoruba languages and cultures. The prominent editors of Yoruba Studies Review, Professor Arinpe Adejumo of the University of Ibadan and Professor Tunde Akinyemi of the University of Florida, as well as the accomplished writer, poet and translator, Professor Akinloye Ojo, will interview Alao Adedayo, the brain behind the leading Yoruba newspaper and television station, Alaroye.

Every ex-colony faces one horrible challenge: the survival of its cultural identity, and this situation is more aggravated by the scarcity, if not absence, of individuals who are interested in lending a hand of rescue to this identity. This condition is usually occasioned because people have weak foundations of their cultural traditions in an environment where colonial values are placed above their indigenous ones. The preservation of ex-colonized people’s identity would not have experienced such arduous problems provided that they have individuals who would drive their heritages into the subconscious of the forthcoming or younger generations.

However, the problems persist because those who know their past are first ostracized from serving as socialization agents to the younger ones by creating an alarmist narrative, so much that they are devoid of the requisite knowledge and understanding to transform the lives of their people following the dictates of contemporary development. When this is practiced repeatedly, the people’s cultures suffer abandonment, and their identity is suppressed gradually and furtively. In all these uncomfortable conditions, it takes only the courageous ones to stand up and then stand out in their rescue strategy to save their identity from potential damnation.

Photo: Ifa Work Source: Daily Advent Nigeria

In the case of the Yoruba culture, Mr. Alao Adedayo is one of the illustrious sons of the Yoruba people who decided to face-save his ancestral identity by establishing a newspaper business that would project the aspirations of the people, their challenges, and also make known the different philosophical ideas that are etched in their language. The vibrant young man trained as a journalist and immediately became a significant figure in the Nigerian journalism industry. He began his news reportage sojourn in the printing form at about 1985, when he was barely 25 years old. This means that he had a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve, and he did not give in to distractions that could swerve him away from the lofty dream of being an instrument of change for the cultural traditions of his people. Establishing a journalism firm in an indigenous language in a postcolonial environment is like staging a powerful protest that does not enjoy enough patronage by the people. This is because even when the government of the ex-colonies does not mandate anyone to use or discard a particular language as the language of their business, the realization that people craved for their imperialist’s language could pressure indigenous languages out of vogue.

Therefore, the emergence of the Alaroye Newspaper served different purposes to preserve the Yoruba identity in a world constantly evolving into what supported imperialist establishment than others. Meanwhile, the preservation of the culture was necessary for different reasons. There is a consensus that many ex-colonies have beautiful cultural traditions and history that are worth looking into only if the people would have a marvelous compass and goodwill to embark on such a journey. Consequently, it would be discovered that a people’s power lies in their cultural traditions because they are not only disposed to seeing the world from that perspective, they also draw a large part of their moral and spiritual philosophies from the template of their indigenous structures, which were bequeathed to them by their ancestors and past generations. When the people’s language now becomes entirely strange to them because it is neither used as an instrument of education nor employed in the execution of commercial engagements, they would express ideas that are not grounded in their indigenous epistemology. For that reason, they would not be expressing themselves in whatever engagement they have but would be projecting a different cultural agenda. Mr. Adedayo is against such an end, and he decided to fight it with his Alaroye newspaper industry.

The promotion of news in an indigenous language seeks to achieve something outstanding and marvelous, and that is the idea that it would have a broader readership. Many people with their cultural knowledge do not need an extensive educational background to understand the orthographical system of their language. Because they have residual knowledge of their cultural traditions, they flow effortlessly when it comes to sharing or consuming information that is relayed in their indigenous language. For this reason, more people are involved in the dissemination of information that concerns their people. And under this reality, more people become very powerful in deciding the political and economic process of their environment. This means that the empowerment that indigenous language usage brings cannot be undermined, making the people who use it more powerful than can be readily explained. This explains why the Alaroye has been a massive success since its foundation in 1996 to contemporary time. More than it could be thought of, promoting the Yoruba language through a newspaper industry has helped win more people’s attention in issues associated with their sociopolitical state.

In addition to this, a multi-ethnic country like Nigeria needs a constant reminder of their diverse cultural traditions, which can only be guaranteed by outlets that project their heritages only in the way they have done by the Alaroye newspaper industry. We should be informed that even in academics, there is a need to redirect the people’s interest towards a line of research. In the case of the Alaroye, the exploration of the Yoruba language and their culture attracts potential researchers into knowing more about the traditions. Through the rendition of cultural practice in their columns, interested persons would want to dig more about their cultural identity, which would always bring numerous economic benefits to the people whose culture is explored. The fact that the newspaper industry uses the Yoruba language as its instrument of communication increases its cross-border significance because individuals in the diaspora community derive a measure of pride when they come across their language and culture being preserved and packaged into something ethereal. In essence, no one needs additional information about an identity of a newspaper outlet that projects the language of the people.

Photo: Iyere (Piper guineese) Source: Keepklen

More importantly, the Alaroye has been very informative. Apart from the educative purposes that it serves among the people, this indigenous newspaper forum has helped to paint messages in a tangible and creative form. No one can deny that an alien language cannot fully represent a sociocultural experience the same way their indigenous language will. In essence, the idea of relaying the people’s day-to-day experiences in their mother tongue helps to drive home the necessary points that need to be made in some instances. One needs no soothsayer to predict that the people would massively receive such a newspaper outlet. It is apparent that they relate to it more than they would relate to journalism that ostracizes their cultural experiences through language use. Some issues and matters are understood only by people who share similar cultural experiences with the language of instruction, which non-members of the identity cannot correctly understand. Because of their strangeness to outsiders, they would not be adequately depicted in the language that is not indigenous to it and would, therefore, potentially lose interest in them. But for such an opportunity that Alaroye has provided, such news gets aired to people in their preferred language.

Alao Adedayo is the brain behind the evolution of Nigerian journalism that centers on indigenous language use. Through the persistence of his dream, he has expanded the frontiers of journalism to encourage others who share a similar ambition. In essence, he can be seen as a courageous fighter and a fantastic person with uncommon foresight. The rise of the indigenous newspaper industry, which he championed, experienced a series of challenges that toppled him consolidated the conclusion that he was ready to withstand every temptation that came his way. For a project that he began in 1996 and which suffered immediate downfall, Alao’s rejuvenation of such a project attests to his commitment and determination to make his presence known in that domain. Although it would appear that he was dedicated to such ambition so that he would achieve personal success, it is essential to emphasize the fact that some dreams, while they appear to grace the dream of the dreamer with success, also help in the transformation of a people or social group. Such is the case with Mr. Adedayo’s Alaroye newspaper. Obviously, it is evidence of success for the pursuant of the dream because it has expanded widely and extraordinarily. In the same vein, it remains a shining success for the Yoruba people because it represents them and projects their culture beyond the shores of their cultural geography.

Even when the newspaper industry overshadows many other significant feats associated with this outstanding individual, it cannot eclipse them generally from relevance because they also speak for themselves. One of the most significant additions to Alao’s journalism career is that he is also a writer. Although it would appear that being a journalist draws one close to being a writer, it cannot be overemphasized that not all journalists understand the art of creative writing. This is because writing requires creativity and organization that supersedes what can be found in journalism. For this reason, it takes an extra amount of creativity and zeal to become an author. Despite the challenges involved, Alao also falls within the category of Nigerian authors because he has written a couple of books. In one of his books, Ọrọ Kan, Owe Kan, which loosely translates to “One Word, One Proverb,” the cultural particularity of the Yoruba people is explored. From the book, one discovers that Yoruba people freely use aphorism in their conversations. It is so because they have a moral and linguistic purpose for using their expressions in such ways. Elders in conversation employ proverbs because they assume that they have more knowledge and experience at their disposal, which they share with the younger ones at every conversational possibility.

Ọrọ Kan, Owe Kan educates the readers about the importance of moral fabrics in society and establishes the position of every individual in the development and evolution of their people. It is apparent that the proverbs employed in conversation situations are used for various reasons. One of them is to educate the audience about the moral architecture of the Yoruba society. To do this, the elders deploy different sayings to reinforce their argument about the need for a strong moral character. They encourage younger ones to be hardworking without having to spell it to them.

In most cases, the meanings of proverbs are left for the voyeuristic and exploitative interest of the listeners, who are expected to do some findings to associate what is being said in the context of the conversation. This is the foundation for the book’s title, Oro Kan, Owe Kan. Proverbs also tell history, and Yoruba elders do not undermine the place of history in the building or development of their civilization. This is usually because, through the knowledge of history, a younger generation would understand what has been done by their forebears and would thus be keen on building an additional legacy that would outlast them so that the succeeding generations would also find something vital to leverage and work on.

Photo: Sango Festival Source: OU Tour

Another defining work of Adedayo is Ọmọ Yoruba Atata, a creative work that educates readers about the Yoruba. It is grounded in the philosophy of the people as it talks about the characteristics of anyone who shares that identity. Among many other things, it is established that Yoruba people value the philosophical concept of “Ọmọluabi,” where Ọmọluabi designates the term used to refer to individuals who are morally upright, emotionally intelligent, mentally stable and ideologically sound. Although such a concept helps construct individuals who would become important to themselves and their society, it does not indicate that not being an Omoluabi automatically extradites an individual from their Yoruba identity. However, what it does is that it places some form of dishonor on the individual because they have become a liability to their culture. Beyond the showcasing of Ọmọluabi as someone who is considered as Ọmọ Yoruba Atata (a good representative of the Yoruba identity), the book emphasizes how morality works in the construction of a collective identity that projects the carriers in good descriptions. It is worthy of reiteration that being a good referent of the Yoruba culture encapsulates being the ethical ambassador of the people in whatever position the individual finds themselves.

While it appears that Alao helps in the preservation of Yoruba ancestral legacies in these works, he has also written books that indicate he is a conscience of his Yoruba identity, and this can be immediately spotted in his work, Yoruba, Nibo La n Lo? (“Yoruba, where are we going?”). This book serves as a self-reflection message for the people aware of the Yoruba people’s progress in history and contemporary times. It appears that looking at the history of the people, they were so advanced that they maintained a beautiful and unique trajectory for themselves before they came in contact with the European and Arabs who came for expansionist agenda. However, the situation became scarier as the colonial system of the imperialists was introduced to them. That period saw the underdevelopment of the Yoruba culture because not only did it experience deliberate putdown by the colonialists, but it also became stagnant because it was not promoted as it used to be. The situation abated with the acquisition of independence under the white administration, but the ugly incidence raised its head again as the neocolonialist structure overtook the terrain of their governance. This affected the Yoruba people a lot, putting a question mark on their trajectory of development. This is the issue that the writer seeks to address in this book, Yoruba, Nibo La N Lọ?

Having made all these accomplishments, it is indisputable that eminent personalities in Nigeria and beyond feel the impact of Mr. Adedayo and his revolutionary ideas. Because they are aware that he has a broader reach, there have been series of accolades and tributes that he has been accorded in recent history. And because news circulation to the grassroots has remained a powerful instrument in shaping people’s opinions, his newspaper became very active in the public court of justice by providing people with the necessary information they need to navigate their existence. Considering the role that his newspaper played in agitation for the unjust annulment of the 1993 presidential election, which came to the favor of Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, it dawned on the Nigerian government that the power of the news circulated by Alaroye is influential and imposing. The combination of the fact that a Yoruba man had been denied of his political mandate and that the military leadership trumped a democratic choice of the people worked in the fuel of the newspaper as it became widely received by an audience that appeared thirsty of whatever information shared in the medium.

The Alaroye newspaper continues to dominate the market, an indication that its management board is especially tactful, market-ready, and innovative because the survival of journalism in the country, especially in an era when increasing interest is shown to the English language more than other languages, sustaining the people’s interest requires a different level of creativity. Such creativity enables the newspaper to explore different areas of stories that activate the readers’ voyeuristic experiments. For example, the expansion of the Alaroye newspaper to give room for Iriri Aye Alaroye holds the people’s interest because it explores issues that happen around the world from which people can learn and then use the knowledge to navigate their own lives. This is not only the creativity introduced to the Alaroye newspaper. It is garnished with more entertainment news that makes people take the industry as their go-to source whenever they want to be abreast of happenings around them. His entertainment news features Nollywood stars and music artists, and their stories always attract people who want to be informed about their progress.

Meanwhile, Adedayo’s success story is mixed with various experiences of challenges and trials. He did not become the beacon of hope for the indigenous Yoruba journalism he has been known for today without having his shares of rugged experience which stretched his very creative ingenuity to the limit. Raised in Abeokuta, schooled in Ado Ekiti at the University of Ado Ekiti, Ambrose Ali University, Edo State, and the Lagos Business School, the combination of toughness and persistence made him come out as victorious and also helped him attain his position of social importance. His journalism expertise does not come without corresponding sacrifices in different forms. For example, he began his career in journalism at the Lagos State Broadcasting Corporation (Radio Lagos), where he was test-running his knowledge and experience of news reportage. Eventually, he worked at the Federal Radio Corporations of Nigeria (FRCN) and Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), where he was very active and instrumental to their collective success. Mr. Alao Adedayo is a success not only in the career he chose and developed, but he is also a loving husband and responsible father. He has advanced the Nigerian journalism industry to a very impressive degree, and he is highly invaluable to the Yoruba. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Yoruba Studies Association of Nigeria, I once again congratulate them and the visionary leadership of Alao Adedayo, our first-rate town crier.

Would you please join us for a conversation with the publisher of the Yoruba national Newspaper, Alaroye, Mr. Alao Adedayo?

Sunday, October 17, 2021

5:00 PM Nigeria

4:00 PM GMT

11:00 AM Austin CST


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